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4 things NOT to do when writing for an IP

Rise of the Drow hardbackI’ve had the pleasure of working with several different publishers, making material for use within a number of established campaign settings¬†(Fantasy Flight Games, Frog God Games, AdventureAWeek.com, LPJ Design, Amora games, and more). If you’re breaking into writing and want to work in this field, I’ve garnered a few things from my (still¬†comparatively¬†few!) experiences creating content within the confines of broad, cherished worlds.

 

1. SKIP YOUR RESEARCH
If they haven’t sent you material for research or it isn’t freely available, ask for it. Even if it gets rolled into your pay a little bit, having this on hand will save everybody time in the end, establish that you are professional, and will see that your material resonates with fans of the existing product. Make notes for yourself (I made an entire visual Neo Exodus timeline) and refer to them often. Check d20pfsrd.com to see if any key creatures exist in their setting if you aren’t already intimately familiar with it
‚ÄĒyou’ll be glad you did.

Immersion is the name of the game with this one. Don’t get your feet wet, jump in.

 

WORLD_MAP2. WRITE YOURSELF INTO A CORNER
That timeline should come in handy for this, but a good general rule is to avoid absolutes. Making something that prohibits the existence of another element (undead is the popular one here, but serpentfolk get slapped around like this too) inside of a world is generally something that the original creators have already made a decision about. That’s not to say you can’t break precedent (see below), just that as a general rule of thumb, you want to supplement an existing IP, not complement it.

Write to enhance the setting, not evolve it.

 

3. LEAP BEFORE YOU LOOK
Submit an outline first and avoid surprising the person receiving your material. While the extra content you designed might be fun, there are myriad reasons for why it might not be a good fit (a similar piece might already be in the works, it may be prohibitive because of something you didn’t know about, etc.) and that’s why this part of the process should never be overlooked. If you do end up adding more content or material than originally requested, make certain that it’s inside of the themes and aesthetic already present in your work and the larger library of material.

Clear your big ideas with the people upstairs first.

 

Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 014. BE INFLEXIBLE
You’re playing in someone else’s toybox; if they want the red car, give them the red car and find a new toy. Be prepared for some of your ideas to get shot down or become morphed into things you never anticipated or intended. Try to improve the process by cooperating‚ÄĒcollaboration can cause some truly beautiful confluences and is not to be underestimated. There’s a lot of sayings for that, but we’ll hold off on the metaphors here. Just be open to compromise‚ÄĒyou’ll be pleased with the results.

Be agreeable and things will be agreeable.

003-Bedtime-Candle-q75-544x595

[EDIT] Ryan Macklin has a great blog post that went up earlier this week about pitching your game. It is fantastic and you should definitely read through it for your own sake as a writer. I will point out that when he ‘pitched’ Mythender at me, he did so while dramatically spinning and yelling in my face (which I don’t personally recommend, though it was definitely effective).

 

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 ‚ÄúMeta Thursday‚ÄĚ in the subject line!

 

 

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Rhythmic Nunchaku

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 04Rhythmic Nunchaku
Aura moderate enchantment; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 25,152 gp; Weight 2 lbs.

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 ‚ÄėArmory of Adventures submission‚Äô¬†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

 

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A Design Exercise in 4 Steps from Concept to Mechanics

hobgoblin_leader__storn_cookThe 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‚ÄĒyou 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‚ÄĒI’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).

133-Chained-library-at-Wimborne-Minster-1709x1021Let’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‚ÄĒWe’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‚ÄĒA 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‚ÄĒFrom 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‚ÄĒThis 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‚ÄĒThis 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]
Shield of King RytanRicochet Shield‚ÄĒThis 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‚ÄĒAnother 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‚ÄĒThis 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‚ÄĒFor the equivalent of a +2 weapon enhancement bonus, increase a weapon’s damage die; CL 9th. Good stuff to know. [***fundamental]
Redirect Attack‚ÄĒThis 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‚ÄĒThis 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]

At least he's not weaing skin-tight red leather...

#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‚ÄĒlet’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‚ÄĒthere’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‚ÄĒnothing 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?
gauntlet-12We want something like a¬†cape of the mountebank‚ÄĒactivated 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? ūüėČ

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 ‚ÄúMeta Thursday‚ÄĚ in the subject line!

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Echoing Fury

3

Echoing Fury

Aura moderate transmutation; CL 9th

Slot none; Price 26,312 gp; Weight 15 lbs.

DESCRIPTION

This beautifully crafted heavy mace is fully four feet long, with a broad head split by four rows of studded metal spikes that have withstood dozens of encounters with the enemy. The haft of the weapon is forged from finely lacquered wood bound by steel rings, adding weight to the attacks of this already brutal weapon. The head of the haft is capped by a perpendicular metal band, while the grip is wrapped in the finest leather from the hide of a salamander.

This +2 heavy mace (3.5) / +2 impact heavy mace (Pathfinder) is designed around a the rows of spikes along the head of the weapon. Upon uttering the command word‚ÄĒ‚Äúshatter‚ÄĚ, in the language of the azers‚ÄĒthe mace begins to vibrate gently, becoming fully charged as part of the swift action to activate the weapon.

Once charged, a successful strike from echoing fury discharges its kinetic jolt for 2d6+2 base damage, rather than the standard 1d8+2 base damage. The weapon then immediately begins recharging for its next overpowered strike (dealing 1d8+2 base damage until the beginning of the wielder’s next turn), unless the command word ‚Äúcalm‚ÄĚ is spoken (again in the language of the azers).

In the hands of an azer warrior, the weapon bestows shatter as a spell-like ability usable once per day and does not require any time to recharge between strikes.

HISTORY A character that makes a Knowledge (planes) check to learn about echoing fury identifies the following fragments of lore:

DC 20     Created by the azer master smith Aleksey Kiriyenko more than a millennia ago, this weapon was forged as a means of striking grievous blows against raiders from the Elemental Plane of Earth. Many raids had struck hard against the forges of the azers on the Elemental Plane of Flame, and attention had turned to the production of weapons that could counter their dense physical forms.

DC 25     Wielded by the azer ranger Nikolai Saidova for more than a century, echoing fury gained great fame for the damage it caused against the rock and crystalline creatures that occasionally flooded through temporary portals and gates. In time, the tide of the conflict turned and Nikolai led a number of successful raids deep into the home of the invaders, shattering opponents within their hearths and garnering great mineral wealth in the process.

DC 30     It is said that Nikolai was lost on his last great raid, crushed under a huge rockfall caused by his opponents. His body and famed weapon are said to remain there still, and the azer community will pay a handsome fortune in rubies for the return of the weapon and his remains.

CONSTRUCTION

Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bull’s strength, shatter; Cost 13, 312 gp 533 xp

[Submitted by Jonathan Ely]

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 ‚ÄėArmory of Adventures submission‚Äô¬†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
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Argus Spyglass

Color Spray Scope (CR2)

Argus Spyglass
Aura strong divination; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 18,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

DESCRIPTION

This telescoping spyglass is fashioned from worn brass, the final piece painted a solid red. It is remarkably light and fits over the eye with ease.

Any areas perceived with an argus spyglass are treated as though the wearer has darkvision. Once per week, the red band can be turned counterclockwise, causing a movable field of x-ray vision to penetrate any target area within 1,000 feet. Correctly manipulating the device requires a DC 15 Dexterity check each round to focus the lenses correctly, allowing the user to see through stone, metal, earth, wood and any material save adamantine. This enchantment lasts for 5 minutes, after which the argus spyglass loses all its magical properties for one week.

HISTORY 

A character that makes a Knowledge (history) check to learn about an argus spyglass identifies the following fragments of lore:

DC 10     These enchanted spyglasses are often found not with sailors, but miners. The dweorg especially have made prodigious use of the item, making detailed surveys that maximize their mining efforts.

DC 15     The first argus spyglass was said to have been forged in the Underworld, but not by dweorg. A mysterious otherworldly people are responsible for its creation, but their identity remains a mystery.

DC 20     All the subterranean races place as great a value on the argus spyglass as Upperworld sailors do. The best equipped armies are also keen to add these items to their arsenal, and any one of these buyers would pay a truly handsome sum for one of them.

DC 25     The sailors of the Forever Deep always have one of these on their ships; without it, they are likely to run afoul of the countless dangers in the subterranean waters, be they monstrous or natural hazards.

CONSTRUCTION

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, true seeing; Cost 9,000 gp 360 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 ‚ÄėArmory of Adventures submission‚Äô¬†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
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4 Tips to Stop the Monotony in Random Encounters and Surprise Players

Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 12Everybody can enjoy the nocturnal prowling of beasts, but eventually troll raids can get a little bit stale. When the party goes off-course and the third evening of animal attacks comes to pass, consider a few alternatives to keep your players on their toes. Any NPC could be led to act as a random encounter for the party, hired or tricked by rivals or nemeses, following a falsified bounty or another case of mistaken identity or even simply be opportunistic bandits.

Here are a few of the things I keep around when I’m GMing to make sure my group remains alert and engaged when they’ve fallen foul of a random encounter:

  • Keep a collection of pre-generated NPCs near the party’s level (if you’re trying to save space or ink, keep it to NPCs of a higher level than the party.)
    • Don’t have the time to stat them all out? Do you have old character sheets? These are good to have around for surprise guests at the table or if a player dies unexpectedly at the beginning of a session and doesn’t want to miss out on all the action, but can definitely stand in as mercenaries, bounty hunters or misguided enemies.
      • For some extra fun, get your players to lend you their old sheets; just make sure to reward additional XP, not to give out too many magic items, and of course to change the NPC’s name.Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 12
  • What about the plethora of NPCs here at AdventureAWeek.com? There are¬†dozens¬†of adventures for parties of every level. Bookmark your favorite characters (they all have hyperlinks for both D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder) when you browse through the modules for referencing later!
  • For the Pathfinder players out there, there are three extra suggestions I have for you:
    • ¬†The first is the simplest: get familiar with the NPC Codex. There are characters for every core and NPC class, levels 1-20;¬†I bought a copy and am super happy that I did.
    • The second is a little bit more complex but ultimately worth it: grab File Off the Serial Numbers. Within it, Sean K. Reynolds explains how to quickly strip down a monster and have it act in a different role (turning monsters into monks, clerics, wizards and paladins).
    • Don’t forget about haunts and cursed items! The AaWBlog has been consuming them for some time, and there’s already several in its gullet!
  • Sometimes monsters are unlikely or in unexpected places. If your campaign setting is a place of moderate to high magic, what’s to say an awakened animal (which could quite easily gain fighter levels) or creature far removed from its normal stomping grounds hasn’t taken the territory by chance?

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 08

Whether the party is in a dungeon, on a mountainside, sailing the seas or resting in a wooded grove, if they’re there, there’s always the possibility that similar adventurers or explorers might be as well. Don’t be afraid to challenge your group with some of the suggestions above if things seem to get dull.

 

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 ‚ÄúMeta Thursday‚ÄĚ in the subject line!