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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Random Encounters: Mythical Mountain

Time for another set of random encounter tables! This is the last of the "new" genres, so now I will go back through some genres I've already addressed and create tables for new locations.

As always, the goal of these tables is to allow you to create an interesting encounter in a genre (mythical, in this case) at a specific location (here, a mountain). Hopefully, these tables are reminiscent of classical mythologies, and they inspire you to create a memorable, mythical encounter.

Mythical Mountain

1. A mountain goat with a snake’s head
2. A tribe of tiny mouse people
3. An eagle with two heads: one head spits fire, the other exhales sleeping gas
4. A gigantic earthworm that can eat granite
5. A winged tortoise who speaks only in rhymes
6. A humanoid creature made half of tree and half of rock

Environment feature
1. A dark cave is lit only by a glowing stalactite.
2. A narrow cliffside path crumbles away at the edges.
3. A long canyon is prone to rockslides.
4. An abandoned shrine has an aura of death.
5. A bank of black, impenetrable fog is rolling down the mountain from above.
6. A small spring burbles nearby, and the sound it entrancing.

1. Half-vulture, half-wolf creatures swoop down out of nowhere and attack everyone.
2. A bolt of lightning strikes the creature.
3. The ground shakes, and a deep voice bellows from nearby, "Who disturbs my slumber?!"
4. The creature transforms into a tall humanoid with antlers and ram's hooves.
5. A warrior leaps out, seemingly from nowhere, and tries to slay the creature.
6. The creature begins fading, and hurriedly marks a strange symbol in the dirt.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Troll in the Dungeon!

In case you aren't familiar with Harry Potter, there is a part in the first book (and movie) where a teacher runs into the crowded great hall and shouts that there is a troll in the dungeon. The school erupts in panic and hijinks ensue for the heroes.

This is far from the most interesting or creative way to introduce a problem to your characters, but if you use it sparingly, it is effective. What better way to galvanize your PCs into action than by having an NPC burst in on them and scream that danger is nearby. Bonus points if that NPC immediately faints so that he or she cannot provide any other useful information.

This is a very silly exercise, but here are some more urban fantasy threats that could appear in unlikely locations.

Troll in the Dungeon

1. Zombies in the kitchen!
2. Imps in the chimney!
3. Nixies in the vents!
4. Goblins in the bathroom!
5. Minotaur in the hallway!
6. Efreeti in the back seat!
7. Dragon in the atrium!
8. Vampires in the elevator!
9. Witches on the veranda!
10. Gorgon in aisle 5!
11. Dark elves in the storage shed!
12. Sirens on the sound stage!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Stolen Movie Plots, Ready for Use

So, on one of my favorite RPG blogs (DMing with Charisma), there is an article about designing a game session in 60 minutes. As part of the article's advice for planning a session in an hour, it contains a segment for determining the plot arc for the evening.

Go to your bookshelf, DVD case, video game collection, whatever place you have that stores creative media. Look over what you have and grab a few items with which you’re familiar.[...]Given what you’ve grabbed, consider each and boil it down to its most basic conflict. This is the plot you’ll use for your session [...] For these purposes the heroes and most of the setting are irrelevant. We only want a conflict and perhaps an antagonist, so ignore everything else.
When we look at [The Avengers film] very, very broadly, looking at the villain and conflict gives us “a magician appears to herald and lead invaders”. That’s the sort of thing you want because it gives you a lot of wiggle room.
This is my favorite part of the article, and I come back and read the article in its entirety every few months (or so it seems to me).

In fact, I like the idea so much, that I have spent some time going through a number of the movies on my own shelf and breaking them down in the same way. These villainous plots are suitable for adaptation into an array of settings, and I encourage you to go read the article yourself and then take a look over your own favorite pieces of fiction.

What can you see beneath the surface? What great plot awaits adaptation? I've provided a list of my own (which contains some psuedo-spoilers), but I'd love to hear from you about how you were able to break down your favorites.

Villainous Plots

  1. Invincible warriors search for a magical item. (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  2. A traitor unleashes an army. (The Two Towers)
  3. A hermit tries to steal a magical item. (The Return of the King)
  4. An assassin appears in an unfamiliar land to kill an important woman. (Terminator)
  5. A warrior seeks a power source hidden in a person. (Thor: The Dark World)
  6. A councilor plots to kill everyone who might ever oppose him. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
  7. A war priest seeks information about a powerful weapon. (Star Wars IV: A New Hope)
  8. A merchant army invades a peaceful community. (Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace)
  9. A corrupt politician fabricates a massive war. (Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones)
  10. A prodigious warrior betrays his order. (Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)
  11. A prince plans to wed an unwilling woman. (The Princess Bride)
  12. A skilled assassin seeks fugitives at any cost. (Serenity)
  13. A politician gains the unthinking obedience of the military and seizes absolute power. (Divergent)
  14. A ruthless politician tries to unlock an ancient secret. (Insurgent)
  15. Militant cultists follow a globe-trotting trail to an ancient artifact. (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wandering Traveler

PCs tend to do a lot of traveling, especially in fantasy games. This could be part of the legacy of epic quest stories like The Lord of the Rings and the quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his knights. It could also be because we want our games to have a large scope, covering many different lands and cultures.

Or it could be that we just want an excuse to use the Ice Troll Berserker and the Sand Dragon in the same adventure.

At any rate, until PCs get to be quite powerful, travel generally entails walking or riding across the lands. And on those travels, the PCs are likely to meet other travelers. After all, the world is a big place, and unless there is a very good reason, travel would not be uncommon. And when travelers meet, the least they can do is exchange rumors as they pass, right?

Wandering Traveler

1. A merchant caravan hauling exotic spices and oils from a faraway land
2. A minstrel with a broken lute
3. A vagrant beggar wearing a tattered red cloak
4. A priest/priestess willing to bestow blessings upon those in need
5. A con artist trying to sell worthless trinkets as magical charms
6. A patrol of royal knights who are in a hurry
7. An adventuring party with darkly mirrored members
8. A dragon with injured wings


1. The monarch of the neighboring kingdom has fallen ill.
2. Dark elves are preparing to wage war.
3. An unnaturally powerful storm is on its way from the coast.
4. A cyclops has been seen in a forest a day's travel from here.
5. Gnome explorers have uncovered the City of Stone Mothers.
6. Wood elves are falling into comas with no explanation.
7. The mayor of the nearest town is offering a bounty for locks of dwarven beards.
8. Local halflings are holding an eating contest to choose their new leader.