Expanding adventures by asking questions

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SkinnyOrc
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Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby SkinnyOrc » Sun May 21, 2017 1:12 pm

The old D&D module Caves of Chaos makes a great example for how you can get ideas from asking yourself questions about how and why things in an adventure are the way they are. The end result hangs together more consistently but also has a lot of extra depth and detail.

How did the caves get created? They're mostly tunnels and rooms rather than natural caves. There's also a lot of them close together. They look more like mines than anything else and being so close to the keep probably human mines, abandoned when the ore ran out.

Why would the men of the keep not have found the CoC and destroyed them? If they're disused human mines the men of the keep know of them but haven't noticed humanoids have moved in. This suggests they haven't been occupied for long, the humanoids have been keeping their heads down and the men don't patrol the area much these days.

Why is the keep there at all? The keep is a very strong and expensive fortification that would only have been built if this area was important but it seems to be an uncivilised area with no towns or farms. There is a road that carries on past it so that seems to be what it's guarding.

Why have the men of the keep not been patrolling the area? Most likely is they just don't have the man power. A castle that size would originally have had a strong garrison. But perhaps the importance of the area has declined over the years and the keep is now in disrepair and under manned.

Why would there be so many different humanoid races living so closely together, obviously wary of each other but not in open warfare, and without an apparent overlord dominating them into cooperation. The odd ones out in the CoC are the evil priests as the only humans. They're also the most civilised and organised of the inhabitants. It seems unlikely they'd be there without an agenda but there's no sign they've asserted dominion over the humanoids.

Putting all this together you can come up with a back story for what is going on.

The road that runs past the keep was an important trading route between two civilised regions but the wild borderland between had always been a home to monsters and bandits. To increase trade a strong keep was built to control the area, acting as a base for soldiers to patrol from. The powerful garrison gradually cleared more and more of the surrounding area of danger and trade increased. Some farming even started in the pasture of the valley and an iron ore mine begun in a ravine near the road. The keep was expanded, becoming a full castle with a curtain wall and an inner and outer bailey.

Many years later and one of the civilised lands has suffered badly from war/famine/plague and trade had declined. The keep is still garrisoned but has become something of a backwater. The walls are in need of repair in places and there are too few soldiers in residence to continue the mounted patrols. There has also been a decline in the quality of the nobles and officers assigned there. Few volunteer to go there now so it has become something of a dumping ground for the difficult, the embarrassing and the incompetent. As a result bandit activity and raiders increased. The farms have been abandoned or destroyed and the mines not been worked for some years.

Several months ago a high priest and his followers moved into the old mines and began to construct a temple there. While the ravine is still close to the road it has been reclaimed by the forest and the new activity there is not obvious. The high priest brought with him a magical artefact of some power that exerts a subtle pull on all creatures of evil persuasion. Various humanoid tribes and other monsters have been drawn to the caves and found themselves a home there, without understanding why. While they are uncomfortable living so close to their rivals and even enemies, the pull of the artefact is stronger. Over time the range from which creatures are attracted and the command of the high priest over them is growing. Before long he will have an army capable of assaulting the keep, and with the current state of it's defences it is unlikely to be a long siege. With the keep in his hands an invasion of the civilised lands is only a matter of time.

Okay so that's the backstory. How to change the adventure so the players can learn what's going on and take part in it? Firstly of course you have to play the whole wilderness and keep, not just the caves. This isn't a change to how it already is but some probably skipped those bits. Next the keep has to be portrayed as less shiny, with signs of disrepair, lazy unmotivated guards and officers ranging from jaded to sadistic. Some though might be good men who have given up trying. Then when they get to the caves they can notice signs they were once mines but seem to have been modified recently. Exploring them, if the players themselves don't question why all these humanoids are gathered so close to each other without some warlord dominating them you can straight out say their characters think it's strange. Some of the undead in the priests area can be replaced with monsters completely under the control of the high priest. If these are types odd to find cooperating with humans that should also raise eyebrows. Then when they meet the high priest he can (in classic arch-villain style) explain his plan, but without giving away the source of his power. Then either he might escape or the party might defeat him and take the artefact (which looks like a piece of jewellery). Either way leads to further adventures, the high priest continuing his plan or the priests trying to get the artefact back. Also wherever the artefact is begins to attract tribes of monsters. So if they sell it or leave it in a safe place in the keep (you can ask them what they're doing with their treasure) they may find so many gathered outside it's difficult to get back in, or they might find themselves trapped inside! Note though the monsters won't try to storm the keep if the artefact is within, only if led by someone wielding it.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Dupont » Sun May 21, 2017 8:12 pm

Great post, its fun doing that sort of thing. Its like starting characters, sometimes you have a firmed up idea of a character and sometimes you dont, its just a guy with a sword or a spell book in the right place at the right time and the back story comes later as the character develops.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Robb 1 » Sun May 21, 2017 10:23 pm

I agree great post :D puts a whole new perspective on a classic Module :lol:
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby SkinnyOrc » Mon May 22, 2017 12:31 am

I better say that while mostly this is just the expanding through questions thing, the bit about the monster attracting artefact is from a post on another forum I read a few years back. You could do something similar without that. Maybe the high priest's been putting the word out the old fashioned way, offering a share of the plunder to any who join his cause. The tribes who've answered that call are uneasily coexisting, out of fear of the high priest and his undead, while they wait for the raiding to start.

With or without the artefact, if the party meet the high priest and don't destroy him they're likely to try to alert the castellan to the threat. Which will be an exercise in frustration as he either doesn't believe them or doesn't want to.

Also the whole thing maybe works better if the enemy is stronger and it's infiltration rather than extermination. But with AFF2 outnumbering that's the case anyway unless they're experienced.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Ruffnut » Mon May 22, 2017 7:08 am

This is a good idea
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Lorian » Mon May 22, 2017 7:51 am

Good idea,
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby SkinnyOrc » Mon May 22, 2017 9:49 am

Thanks guys, it was a bit of a brain to screen up chuck, but hopefully it'll come in handy. I've found that process really useful and if you run KotB there's some ideas to think about.

One more idea. I've seen it pointed out before that while the keep part of the adventure has almost too much detail, no one has names! It'd add a lot more atmosphere to go through and give all the NPCs names, or at least have a random name generator ready to go when running it.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Dupont » Mon May 22, 2017 9:44 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:Thanks guys, it was a bit of a brain to screen up chuck, but hopefully it'll come in handy. I've found that process really useful and if you run KotB there's some ideas to think about.

One more idea. I've seen it pointed out before that while the keep part of the adventure has almost too much detail, no one has names! It'd add a lot more atmosphere to go through and give all the NPCs names, or at least have a random name generator ready to go when running it.



What if we all put in a couple of names each to support this. Its almost like a pet project now, with all the conversion work. Almost wants to be in a magazine :D
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Robb 1 » Mon May 22, 2017 10:34 pm

Here's a name How about Jorthan Arkwright purveyor of exploration and adventuring gear for one of the shops? Assisted by his apprentice Grimwald
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby SkinnyOrc » Tue May 23, 2017 12:01 am

Like it, names with an English sound but a little different are perfect. I think you could just go on and call the assistant Granville though :)

The High Priest needs a funny foreign sounding name and of course a suitably evil god chosen from the AFF pantheon.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Robb 1 » Tue May 23, 2017 1:05 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:Like it, names with an English sound but a little different are perfect. I think you could just go on and call the assistant Granville though :)

The High Priest needs a funny foreign sounding name and of course a suitably evil god chosen from the AFF pantheon.


Fair enough G G G Granville it is :D :lol:
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Robb 1 » Tue May 23, 2017 1:26 pm

Ok challenge accepted How about

Thethel Bedermall for the priest this was the name of one of my nastiest Evil npc in my WHFRP campaign he was A priest of Hugamaag my own diety.

The fun was having villagers running at the pcs screaming Ru run it's Thethil ( with a definate TH ) the pcs just laughed and met him it was messy he trapped the main warrior with a table and calmly ripped out his eye while speaking conversationally to the others who were unable to move whilst he did It as he mass paralysed them without breaking a sweat. They absolutely hated him and met him many times but he always escaped taking out many of their npc allies whilst he was at it. Sadly they never got to kill him as by the time I had written it the various players had either split up fallen out etc.
Just to add insult to injury he had 4 vampire henchmen who he could control and an evil jester named Snarff who when he spoke caused mass confusion. As I said my PCs REALLY Hated him.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Dupont » Tue May 23, 2017 2:46 pm

Quander and Pinch, a couple of ne'er-do-wells that always seem to be together. They once owned a shop of some sort in some dismal alley of Blacksand until they got run out of town by someone long forgotten.
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Lorian » Tue May 23, 2017 3:41 pm

Robb 1 wrote:Ok challenge accepted How about

Thethel Bedermall for the priest this was the name of one of my nastiest Evil npc in my WHFRP campaign he was A priest of Hugamaag my own diety.

The fun was having villagers running at the pcs screaming Ru run it's Thethil ( with a definate TH ) the pcs just laughed and met him it was messy he trapped the main warrior with a table and calmly ripped out his eye while speaking conversationally to the others who were unable to move whilst he did It as he mass paralysed them without breaking a sweat. They absolutely hated him and met him many times but he always escaped taking out many of their npc allies whilst he was at it. Sadly they never got to kill him as by the time I had written it the various players had either split up fallen out etc.
Just to add insult to injury he had 4 vampire henchmen who he could control and an evil jester named Snarff who when he spoke caused mass confusion. As I said my PCs REALLY Hated him.

OMG we have someone just like him in our game!
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Re: Expanding adventures by asking questions

Postby Robb 1 » Tue May 23, 2017 5:06 pm

Lorian wrote:
Robb 1 wrote:Ok challenge accepted How about

Thethel Bedermall for the priest this was the name of one of my nastiest Evil npc in my WHFRP campaign he was A priest of Hugamaag my own diety.

The fun was having villagers running at the pcs screaming Ru run it's Thethil ( with a definate TH ) the pcs just laughed and met him it was messy he trapped the main warrior with a table and calmly ripped out his eye while speaking conversationally to the others who were unable to move whilst he did It as he mass paralysed them without breaking a sweat. They absolutely hated him and met him many times but he always escaped taking out many of their npc allies whilst he was at it. Sadly they never got to kill him as by the time I had written it the various players had either split up fallen out etc.
Just to add insult to injury he had 4 vampire henchmen who he could control and an evil jester named Snarff who when he spoke caused mass confusion. As I said my PCs REALLY Hated him.

OMG we have someone just like him in our game!


interesting sounds like fun perhaps they should meet and compare notes :lol:

okay here's some more

Captain Black and corporal Decker Military engineer s over stressed under paid under staffed and under funded charged with trying to maintain the Keep any way they can on a shoestring/non-existent budget.

And not original but how about Chell Puddock blacksmith also known as the Hammer Man very big very strong and very skilled though not too bright

For the down right odd theres the IMPC again from my old WHFRP campaign who were caracertures of myself and my work mates at the time might add them later 8)

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