AdventureAWeek.com is known for amazing adventure modules that captivate PCs and give GMs an epic saga within which to tell their own tales of heroism, redemption, or whatever it is they’re about. Most of these are extremely collaborative works and while many innovations and wonderful encounters are designed in this fashion, it’s extremely rare—almost unheard of!—for a single individual to carry their vision through to the end of a project, personally creating or overseeing all the aspects of production as artist, cartographer, designer, and writer.
But today, we’ve got a right honest auteur adventure that is already kitted out with amazing illustrations, cartography, and more in Into the Wintery Gale!
What do I mean by an auteur adventure?
Justin Andrew Mason (JAM) is a talented artist, award-winning cartographer, fun writer, and great designer—he can do it all! While collaborating with the rest of the AaW crew is inevitable, this module is different from the rest because the creator’s original vision is getting fulfilled in a more comprehensive manner than anywhere else in the many fiefdoms of the RPG industry (not unlike an auteur film, for my fellow movie buffs)!
JAM approached me about this project sometime late last year with the intent of posting it onto the AaWBlog. The boss stepped in though (he just loves vikings) and since then the format of everything has been reworked from the regular blog schedule (magic item-trap-haunt-locale-sidequest-monster) and into a proper adventure, one sure to set all other viking modules into their place.
We could go on singing JAM’s praises for weeks, but encourage you to instead get a look at the Into the Wintery Gale Kickstarter (25% funded in a matter of hours)! Check out the video, peruse the pledge levels, grab your greataxe and get into this bundle of Norse goodness now before the best pledge levels are all gone!
UPDATE (3/29/2015) Our amazing backers have pushed the Kickstarter past ALL of the initial stretch goals! If you haven’t gotten onto this Kickstarter yet, you’d better do it now before it’s too late—vikings raid hard and fast, and this project’s funding period ends on April 9th! As of this update a few of the higher pledge levels are still open, but they won’t stay that way for long!
Last week we met Jurgen the dødelig, a mad little undead that wanders across the Hungering Jungle (and beyond) attempting to bring more adventurers deep into NaeraCull, handing out odd little brochures to anyone that crosses his path.
Today we’re bringing you one of these unique pamphlets!
If you’d like to download a copy of this FREE PDF head on over to the Store page, but AaWBlog Presents: Wonders of NaeraCull Brochures are available on RPGNow.com, DriveThruRPG.com, Paizo.com, and d20pfsrd.com as well!
We’re keeping it short and sweet today; enjoy your free PDF!
[And hey, maybe check out that nifty Snow White Kickstarter the internet is all abuzz over! -MM]
Which Adventureaweek.com adventures would work well as a prelude to Rito della Successione? Since this adventure starts out at level 13, there are a lot of modules you could run! A18: Storm’s Wakeis probably best as the prelude, given that it is at the appropriate level and water-based.
What was your source of inspiration for this adventure? I was part of the Open Design project “Dark Deeds in Freeport”. After pouring through lots of Freeport source material, I found it both odd and intriguing that the opera house and Donadrien were mentioned by name and had their own little section, but as far as I could tell, nothing was ever done with them. I wanted to do something with them. After all, how many adventures prominently feature an opera house? Also, my own home campaign (set in Freeport) was going to run out of source material.
How did the adventure change from your original concept? I can’t answer that completely without providing a spoiler. Let’s just say that there was going to be more carnage and far-reaching effects, but I didn’t want to disrupt the setting.
What is your typical process for fleshing out an adventure like this? Did you do anything different for Rito della Successione? When I write an adventure, I start with a hook. In this case it was the opera house. I then make my maps and write somewhat detailed descriptions of each of the locations. Once I have a firm grasp of the setting, I find it far easier to write the adventure. In this case, though, I had to develop the story first, and make the settings match the plot progression. Other than the opera house, I really didn’t know what other locations I would need before I wrote the adventure.
What tools did you use while writing this adventure? I used Pathfinder rulebooks and almost all available Freeport material. Maps were hand drawn in scientific notebooks, because those have graph paper inside and I can take notes. I also used Hero Lab and PCGen to generate stat blocks for monsters and NPC’s and sample PCs. I always make some sample PCs at level so I can refer to their skill bonuses. This helps to set up the encounters and DCs.
What is your favorite part of the adventure? I really like the ending. There is a lot going on and needs to be managed carefully by the players. In this finale, they need to use their brains, brawn and skills to succeed.
Tell us about one character, creature, item, or spell which was unique to to Rito della Successione. How did you come up with the idea and what went into the design of this part of the adventure? Grantland Lovejoy is a very minor character, but I think he is the one that the GM and players can have the most fun with. He is a celebrity reporter and interviews the characters near the beginning of the scenario. Their answers to his questions end up in the next day’s newspaper. The short-term reputation effects can be played up and could impact the adventure in a fun, new way. Fantasy paparazzi, anyone?
Is there anything you would change looking back? Any suggestions you could give a DM/GM running this game which could help them through any rough patches? The one thing I would change would be to lower the character level for the adventure. At this level, there are some contrivances to circumvent the power and abilities available to PCs, that would simply not be needed at lower level. I would have also added rules for reputation, and interaction with the paparazzi and the general populace as the PCs could be possible celebrities in their own right, depending on how the interview with Grantland transpired.
Why should someone check out Three Faces of the Muse? This is a great adventure to run when the PCs are ready to visit a big city—perhaps even the capital settlement of the lands they are in. It is an intense investigation that has nothing to do with sewers, and there are some nice hooks to tie ongoing plots from your game into the module if you are so inclined.
What makes Three Faces of the Muse different from other adventures? I like to read the bestiaries and monster manuals to mine ideas. There is a huge amount of grist for a writer to work from hidden in these tomes—I love building on a sentence or phrase in the monster design or ecology. The idea for this adventure was sparked by the boss fight and I chose monsters that fit appropriately with the theme.
Did you put cool stuff in there? As the back jacket says, “this adventure is a chance for minstrels to shine, and not just through diplomacy encounters.” The sites and themes lend themselves to characters with civilized skills and an appreciation of the arts. Three Faces of the Muse also creates unique opportunities for recurring villains that make it noteworthy.
What was your favorite part of the adventure? I had a blast researching the “renaissance man” themes throughout. I am a set designer during the day, so much of the architectural, painting, musical history, and craft in the adventure was already known to me, but I delved deeper into the specifics of each to really understand them and bring them out (I even learned some new technical terms.)
Did you focus on Investigation, Encounters, Puzzles or Dungeons? The whole story is one of investigation—unraveling the how and why, but I definitely spent some time on the encounters and went back after the play test to tweak them. I wanted each to tie into the major themes of the module (even cutting one that felt was a bit repetitive and random) and to have as many unique twists as possible. Some combats require skill checks to get the upper hand, some standard monsters have a nifty thematic effect added onto them, and all contain notes to adjust the challenge rating if need be.
In one sentence, what can we expect from Three Faces of the Muse? Art is beauty, and the most delicious beauty is one that fosters a sense of anticipation—and, for the most adventurous souls, even a bit of danger.
[Editors Note: Michael is not giving himself enough credit—this module is bursting with creativity. Your PCs will be pleasantly surprised time and again throughout, and I would be very surprised if they don’t truly engage with the very rich tapestry that he’s woven together here. Three Faces of the Muse is a must-play and absolutely deserves a look. -MM]
DESCRIPTION This nunchaku is made from two ornate, beautifully wrought metal bars connected by a simple steel chain.
Three times per day as a free action, a monk making a flurry of blows with this +2 nunchaku gains a bonus to hit an opponent based on the number of times it has already successfully hit that opponent. Each time the wielder successfully strikes an opponent with a melee attack during a flurry of blows, they gain a cumulative +1 morale bonus on attack rolls (maximum +4 bonus) and gains 3 temporary hit points (to a maximum of 20 temporary hit points). If an attack misses, the attack bonus resets to +0, but any accumulated temporary hit points remain. The temporary hit points and morale bonuses on attack rolls disappear 7 rounds after the first flurry of blows is resolved.
HISTORY A character that makes a Knowledge (history) check to learn about rhythmic nunchaku identifies the following fragments of lore:
DC 15 The first wielder of rhythmic nunchaku was said to travel the lands far and wide many centuries ago. His prowess in combat was legendary, and it is said that he has seen him in unfair battles. fighting on the side of justice. None have ever captured him or claim to have spoken to the mysterious warrior, but tales of the Rhythmic Pugilist persist. DC 20 Each generation has its own Rhythmic Pugilist; the sacred order raises all of their kin to assume the position, and every three years tournaments are held to determine whom will hold the mantle. The finest warriors to rise during this training period receive rhythmic nunchaku, ever ready to take the place of their peer should they fall. DC 25 The Rhythmic Pugilist has never been a man. A warrior cult of female monks carry the tradition maternally, avoiding revealing their gender whenever possible. Their nobility is matched only by their staunch secrecy, and some loremasters know that those who learn of the Rhythmic Pugilist’s true origins often meet with untimely, quiet ends. DC 30 A princess of the realm first wielded the rhythmic nunchaku, taking up the whirling weapon in the name of the oppressed peoples ruled over by her father. She oversaw the fall of his tyranny, and instilled the order of the Rhythmic Pugilist. It has become an honored, clandestine royal organization, its secret known to only a handful of the nobility.
CONSTRUCTION Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, heroism (3.5) / righteous vigor (PF); Cost 12,752 gp 511 xp
Do you have an idea for an enchanted sword, arcane-empowered armor or unique magic item? Take a look at the submission rules and send a brief summary of your proposed enchanted item titled ‘Armory of Adventures submission’ to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with the following:
the nature of the item (weapon, armor or wondrous)
one or two sentences about its appearance
what the item in question does
the components and spell(s) used in its construction
The character in your head (PC or NPC) fits the vast majority of thematic requirements for the game or campaign you’re about to join, but none of the abilities available fit what you want. Homebrew is hardly unheard of, but nobody wants to waste time arguing over some house rules—you need a strong set of mechanics that the GM and other players can fully approve of.
#1) Idea Where do we start? How do we take an idea from our brain and onto the table in an intelligent, responsible fashion? First, obviously, we need an idea.
For today’s purposes, we’re going to be using “Speedball” from Marvel Comics as our example (I was a big fan of his up until the whole Penance business—I’ve even got most of the first run of the terrible solo issues). making up a very basic framework for an equivalent in Pathfinder. For those not in the know, Speedball could basically make himself into a big bouncy ball, redirecting kinetic energy.
#2) Search The first thing to do is see if the tools are there already or not. While the PRD is fantastic, when it comes to designing something for Pathfinder, you should be using d20pfsrd.com. John Reyst and his slew of minions are constantly adding 3rd Party Publisher material (so you know your design is unique), have a more accessible search engine (use those quotation marks, folks) and you can break up results by category (this saves an enormous amount of work vis-a-vis magic items, classes and spells).
Let’s look up some keywords for Speedball’s abilities: “bounce”, “bouncing”, “kinetic” and “redirect”. Whenever possible, we want to mirror or incorporate the established mechanics set up within the RPG in question, so don’t be lazy about looking at what comes up. Most of the page counts shrink as well for some reason, so sally forth!
Bouncing Spell—We’re not really doing anything with this. If I was writing an entire base class, this would absolutely become a part of it somehow, but we’ll stick to levels 1-5 if we go that route, and feats or a simple archetype if not. Greater Ring of Bounce—A cursed item that gives a +10 bonus to Acrobatics check for jumping, but a -10 for any other use, CL 7th. This sounds like something we can use, so we’ll put a star by it to remember, and maybe a note. [***attack ability?] Bounding Hammer—From Pathfinder Companion: Dwarves; on a successful hit with a thrown hammer, the feat makes it land in your square. [*** feat to catch thrown weapon] Roll With It—This goblin feat looks like we’ve struck gold. Take a melee hit, make an Acrobatics check (DC 5 + damage) as an immediate action, success means that you take no damage but move in a straight line (in a direction of your choosing) 1 foot for each point of damage you would have taken, halting after half your speed in movement. Run into something and you take 1d4 damage and go prone, and all that movement provokes AoOs. Worse yet, you are staggered for a round after attempting the feat. [***fundamental] Tumbling Descent—This roof runner rogue archetype ability from Ultimate Combat fills another great gap: so long as there are two surfaces no farther than 10 feet apart to bounce against, they can fall indefinitely with an Acrobatics check (DC 10 + 5 for every 10 ft. increment descended beyond the initial 10 ft. drop) [***fundamental] Ricochet Shield—This is an interesting combat trick; a -2 attack roll penalty to bounce a thrown shield around an obstacle, with a note about range increments for total distance traveled rather than from wielder to target. [***attack ability?] Bouncy—Another goblin feat from the Pathfinder Player Companions; the first 1d6 lethal points of falling damage are automatically converted to nonlethal damage, and you get a +2 Reflex save to avoid unexpected falls. [***the cushion effect] Kinetic Reverberation—This 2nd-level wizard spell lasts rounds per level, allows for SR and a Fortitude save. On a failed save, the weapon striking the target enchanted by this spell takes the same amount of damage it dealt to the target. Doesn’t effect natural attacks. [***fundamental] Impact—For the equivalent of a +2 weapon enhancement bonus, increase a weapon’s damage die; CL 9th. Good stuff to know. [***fundamental] Redirect Attack—This advanced rogue talent allows a once per day redirect of a melee hit to strike an adjacent creature as a free action, requiring the attacker to roll a second time. Definitely high part of our core concept. [***fundamental] Flowing Monk—This guy has quite a bit of what we’re looking for: redirection, unbalancing counter, flowing dodge and elusive target (as well as the Elusive Redirection feat) fit the bill for our core concept. [***fundamental]
#3) Assess Our design ends right here. We could break some of this down and rebuild the pieces, creating a more specific monk archetype (the bouncing goblin, perhaps?) but as it is, a goblin flowing monk with the right feats, a few errant class levels or new magic items and a bright attitude should do it. A lot of our work is done for this guy—let’s assume we make a goblin flowing monk 5/rogue (roof runner) 2. They can flow around attacks via flowing monk abilities (and, of course, the Crane Stance feats), with the Roll With It feat they can redirect movement from a solid hit, they can bound downwards with tumbling descent and slow fall, and on top of all that, jump extremely far thanks to high jump. None of the flowing monk’s abilities prohibit shields, so next level we grab up fighter and a feat for tossing things, keeping a few hammers around for the purpose; if we can manage it, with the impact quality. For good effect, I’d throw in the Mobility feat somewhere to avoid those AoOs.
I’m not at all bummed, by the way. We didn’t even it make it to the repeat of step 2: searching for 3PP material to see what else can be (or has already been) done (hint: Trick Shot from Psionics, along with other Marksman things). That’s one of the reasons Pathfinder is so excellent—there’s rampant versatility even within the core rules. We’ll take another shot at something totally original next time..
#4) Design What didn’t we pick up along the way here? We’re going to miss out on Redirect Attack, but that’s hardly the end of the world. Kinetic reverberation is something we can work with however. Let’s head back to d20pfsrd.com, do a search and click on magic items—nothing shows up, so we’re clear for liftoff. Of course, firsthand knowledge never hurts (ideally I’d be hip-deep in Paizo books for “research”) and I have an example from a Magic Item Monday back in September. While I obviously liked it, we want our goblin flowing monk/rogue to use some kind of impact weapon anyway. We could get the quarterstaff enchanted, but then the shield aspect is gone.
Instead of enchanting the weapon, what about making an enchantment that activates a kinetic reverberation?
We want something like a cape of the mountebank—activated on command with limited uses per day. This is a math problem now [(CL 3rd) x (spell level 2nd) x 1,800 gp] divided by (5 divided by 3 charges per day) = 6,480 gold. It’ll be costly to buy at 12,960 gold pieces (assuming we don’t have a buddy with Craft Wondrous Item), but our goblin flowing monk will now have bracers of rebounding strike that can be activated 3 times a day, granting 3 rounds of weapon damaging, kinetic action(Fort DC 13) with each use.
Maybe next time we’ll get lucky and hit the fields, but today we’re staying in the stables. Now, however, I am genuinely interested in putting together an elusive little goblin monk and am surprised I haven’t already…perhaps that will be something to be see in the upcoming Sidequest Saturdays? 😉
Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays? Send us your ideas (after reading the submission guidelines) to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!