Archive for February, 2010

One Page Dungeon Contest Entry

There’s this great contest going on over here, where participants create an entire dungeon, but everything must fit on one page: maps, events, traps, story, locales, everything. There are some great entries so far, and eventually all of them will be released in one giant PDF. They choose winners for a bunch of specific categories, like Best Old-school Dungeon, etc. I didn’t try to fit any of the specific categories, but I hope I’ll have a good chance at winning one of them!

Here’s my entry: Velth, City of Traitors. This is one of the cities I’ve been working on as a full setting; I hope to have a nice PDF up sometime in the next few weeks detailing a different, but more in-depth version of Velth.

Long ago, in a war forgotten by even the most learned bards, a king called upon the mountain city of Velth to assist in battle. However, the citizens of Velth had become powerful and wealthy and had much to lose, so, believing victory to be impossible, they turned against their king and countrymen at a pivotal point in the war, barricading themselves in the mountains and abandoning their oaths of loyalty.

The war raged on. Eventually, the king’s armies were defeated, and he mortally wounded. For abandoning their kingdom in its most dire hour, the king cursed the city with his last breath, offering his soul and lineage to the gods if they would deliver justice. As the story goes, Velth disappeared from the mountaintop, along with its residents, treasure, and every trace of its existence. Hundreds of years passed, and the city of traitors was forgotten… until now.

Deep below the surface, in the darkest caverns, a city sits alone, suspended by colossal stone chains above an abyss—abandoned by the world. Some say the city was slowly rebuilt, others claim it simply appeared. Regardless, rumors tell of the mysteries within: unspeakable horrors, priceless treasures—all waiting for any brave enough to enter the City of Traitors.

Waves of Fate

I was reading Michael Crichton’s book Pirate Latitudes (posthumous), and was surprised that he wrote such a shameless pirate adventure. He doesn’t bother wasting words on depth, character development, or complications, preferring instead to focus on the sweetness of ship battles, muskets, and general pirate trickery. I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises for people looking forward to the book, but there is absolutely no pause in all the mayhem: if one paragraph details their escape from danger #1, the next paragraph introduces danger #2, and so on. Anyways, I felt inspired and wanted to translate that kind of hectic, unapologetic, swashbuckling atmosphere into D&D, so here we are.

Waves of Fate is a collection of three short encounters, all taking place on a boat, designed for five characters between the levels of 5 and 7.

The open sea is a dangerous place ruled by giant beasts, unpredictable weather, and fickle tempers, but those adventurous few traversing its many passages and hazards wouldn’t have it any other way; chaos is a small price to pay for the thrills, freedom, and fortune one can find between the waves.

Pirates, merchants, and couriers navigate the water with their own inclinations, but all carry the same understanding: each ship in the blue is at the mercy of Melora and her servitors, and carried by the raging waves and currents into a future that, if nothing else, is often unexpected. So gather your belongings, prepare the rigging, and keep your eyes on the horizon—for there’s no telling where the waves of fate might take you.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)

Example Skill Challenge

In my opinion, the best way to introduce a skill challenge is to weave it into the story you’re telling as a sudden problem or goal they need to reach, and describing the nature of the challenge–all without actually telling them it’s a skill challenge and laying out the complexity, # of successes needed, and applicable skills. You can also limit the number of times a skill can be used (if your players are just using that one over and over), or limit who can be the primary on assisted skills (if that player is doing all of the work), which is why I don’t include hard limits for maximum successes.

Click through to see the example.

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A Timely Undeath

This week’s encounter has a little bonus, a skill challenge added for the players to attempt after the fight is complete. Enjoy!

A Timely Undeath is a standalone encounter designed for five characters between levels 7 to 9.

The swamptown of Brelt is no stranger to death; most of its residents are wanted men and often arrive with problems in tow. Interred in an ancient cemetery that long predates the town, many of these brigands find peace for the first time—until a mysterious necromancer arrived, that is. Now, the cemetery seems to have become insatiable, and there are rumors of dead bodies being seen the marshlands at night. With nowhere to run and death knocking at their doors, the hardened residents of Brelt have begun to panic—because something tells them the end of their lives is only the beginning of their problems.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)

Love in a Bottle

Here’s some Valentine’s Day flavor for your campaign! Also added a level icon and a difficulty/complexity icon to the top, which I’ll do from now on. Both difficulty and complexity are on a scale of 1 to 10; difficulty is how hard the encounter is for the PCs, while complexity rates the technical aspects and to some extent how hard it is for a DM to prepare and keep track of what’s going on. Enjoy!

Love in a Bottle is a standalone encounter designed for five characters around the levels of 14 to 16.

In the streets of Velant, the romantic Veil of Flowers has begun, and love is in the air—for most people. Always forgotten, Bruhelga, a homely dwarven alchemist, has finally brewed up a solution to her loneliness: a powerful love potion. However, thinking the potion to be ale, a gang of bandits drank the lot and have all fallen in love with the dwarf. Fueled by their obsession, these brigands plan to return on the last day of the celebration and take Bruhelga as their own, whether she’s willing or not.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)

Extra Encounters

I was fortunate enough to get two game design credits in December by winning a couple of online encounter-designing contests. I won’t include them here for download because I had to sign some stuff, but here are the links if you want to check them out.

Isle of the Forlorn: A standalone encounter for five 15th-level adventurers. This was a holiday-inspired theme run by Wizards of the Coast – the other two winners were Dave the Game and ChattyDM.

The link goes to the submission thread (mine is near the bottom of the first page; Dave’s and Chatty’s are there as well), but be sure to check out the rest of the entries – there are some really cool ideas in there.

Trevor Kidd from WotC posted a run-through of playing the winning entries with a group, which can be found here.

Krangel’s Workshop: A standalone encounter for five 10th-level adventurers. This was another holiday-inspired theme run by Dungeon’s Master.

Duel over Domana

Duel over Domana is a standalone encounter designed for five characters near the levels of 11 to 13.

As far back as the bards can remember, the plains of Domana have known an endless war between two wizards, Azru and Risham. Night after night, year after year, their ancient duel continues – too equally-matched for a victor to emerge. However, their magic has become more destructive by the day, and the nearby town of Tocasis bears the brunt of every stray fireball, loose monster, and spell gone awry. As the damage to Tocasis worsens, the residents begin to wonder which will reach its end first: the duel, or their town?

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)