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Mendacious Materials: GMing and Clues – Drinking Horses

Whether you’re running a prepared adventure, using the AaWBlog as part of your table’s story, or running a campaign all your own, clues are likely to play a critical role in the overall structure of the game. The best sessions don’t reveal information right out with a skill check, however, and sometimes incorporating nuanced clues just doesn’t go right. Maybe there’s a very distracting and talkative PC, or the neighbor’s dog was barking during your reveal, or folks were too tired at the end of a session to remember that thing the merchant said; for whatever reason, the progression of the tale isn’t going as smoothly as you liked so what do you do?

gming and clues picture 2Today’s Meta Thursday is for you! Below are some tips and tricks to get a wayward group back on track and busting through important narrative junctures like bosses!

Encourage Investigation and Be Patient
It’s not easy but this is one of the most important elements to using clues in your game. Over the months a campaign can encapsulate sessions can be delayed, memories can be warped, and life can rip attention away from the narrative and obscure the framework you’ve established. So long as the PCs are good about it—writing down important information and working with one another—hold your tongue until the time is nigh (see below).

Welcome to the Clue Farm
Don’t hesitate to give the adventurers plenty of clues! It’s important to remember that not everything you say needs to be relevant to the overall plot (indeed, that’d be counterproductive!), but otherwise be generous with leads and foreshadowing to put the party on the right path.
Two elements are critical when you start handing out plenty of hints, however. Make sure that you spread these out (both geographically in the game and in terms of time) and that each individual clue doesn’t give too much away, needing to be integrated with other clues to really reveal something important. The other priority is that some clues are far more important that others! If you’ve given the PCs a sea of clues they may quickly become lost, so make sure that the really crucial elements are in places and at times that don’t lend themselves to being forgotten (traditionally this comes at the end of a story arch, but any resolved intense situation qualifies).

did you get that thing - That thing that I sent youDid You Get That Thing That I Sent You?
Sometimes it’s going to go right over their heads (why can vary from your own inconsistency or lack of emphasis, or because a player is hungry, owns a smart phone, or is just as human as you). When this happens remember that while the player may have forgotten, the character may not have so give the PCs checks to see if it swims up out of their consciousness and to the forefront of their mind! To keep things lively and discourage parties from using this like a crutch, don’t just hand over these clues—explain around the hint and don’t come out and say it (leave that up to the player).

Playing the Long Game
The most satisfying gaming narratives are usually those that are formed from bits and pieces that coalesce over a period of years, but making clues that don’t give too much away and remain memorable after so long is no easy feat! gming and clues picture 1My favorite method is to weave these into the history of characters—it allows the dropping of hints throughout a campaign without tipping your hand, sticks with the PC in question, and allows more flexibility in their parameters (since they aren’t played through)—but another tack is to have the clues themselves part of a nuanced motif that can easily be incorporated into encounters (whether they be combat, exploratory, or social).
However you do it, as long as they remain disparate at first and seem to be unrelated for most of the adventure, some of the clues you give out to PCs are sure to hit home and make the campaign something truly memorable!

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Mendacious Materials: Remember When Haunt

Remember When    CR 5
XP 1,600
Persistent CE Haunt (100-ft.-radius circle)
Caster Level 5th
Notice Perception DC 15 (to see an object from a childhood memory)
hp 25; Trigger proximity; Reset 1d4 days

Effect When the remember when haunt is triggered, all creatures in its area of effect see a nonexistent mundane object they recall from their youth (creatures can only see their own objects, not each others) and make a DC 20 Will save or become enthralled, focusing their attention entirely on the observed object. Creatures enthralled by the remember when haunt require a DC 25 Will save to end the effect each round to avoid falling into a coma-like deep sleep (which occurs after failure on three of these saves). Succeeding on any of these Will saves immediately discorporates the observed object, ending the effects of the remember when haunt for that creature.

Creatures forced into a deep sleep reach a state of dream-like consciousness state where they are trapped inside of a 100-ft.-square area with a floor, roof, and walls fashioned from impenetrable stone bricks and surrounded by dark whirling tendrils of rancid, putrid shadows. The creature is transformed into a childhood version of itself equipped with common clothing and a short, pointed stick (an improvised melee weapon; 1d3 piercing) though spellcasters find they are unable to recall how to properly formulate spells. Creatures simultaneously affected by the remember when haunt find themselves grouped together in a shared dream consciousness, aware of each other and freely able to interact. While sleeping, these creatures remain unconscious in the real world until the haunt ends (barring the use of a miracle or wish spell to awaken them).

After 3d4 minutes the darkness coalesces and takes the form of an adult umbral dragon (CR 14) that spends 1d4 rounds toying with the trapped creatures before attacking them. It speaks with a twisted and distorted yet recognizable voice that each creature hears differently (identical to that of someone they feared or avoided as a child) and the dragon taunts trapped creatures relentlessly (potentially revealing unknown facts or secrets of the creature’s distant past that others, or perhaps even themselves, may not have been aware of).remember when haunt - dragon_black__forrest_imel

When a creature trapped by the remember when haunt is “killed”, their likeness vanishes as a wisp of shadowy smoke and they become conscious once more [though for good effect, the GM should collect the character sheet of PCs who “die” this way, thusly implying the character has actually been killed –JAM]. If any of the trapped creatures verbally commands the umbral dragon to go away, roars loudly and writhes in pain. These commands must be shouted directly at the dragon, and a trapped creature may make such a command only once per round. Each of these shouted commands deals 3d4 damage to the umbral dragon, stunning it for 1d4 rounds (no save). [It is recommended that players actually, physically shout out the commands as their character verbally assaults the umbral dragon. -JAM]

When all trapped creatures are killed by the dragon, the remember when haunt ends and they awaken with their hearts pounding and the lingering sense that they are being watched (the haunt resets after 1d4 days).

Killing the dragon destroys the haunt and the trapped creatures reawaken in the real world, receiving a +3 morale bonus to skill checks and saving throws for the next 24 hours (in this case, treat the remember when haunt as a CR 7 encounter).

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Mendacious Materials: Fare Thee Well Caster Trap

Fare Thee Well Caster Trap   CR 5

Type magical; Perception DC 29; Disable Device DC 29
Trigger proximity (alarm)*; Reset none
Effect teleported above a nearby well (DC 21 Will save negates); 20-ft. fall into water (DC 21 Reflex save negates; DC 10 Swim check to stay afloat and DC 20 Climb check to ascend)
*The fare thee well caster trap is only triggered by the magical auras of active spell effects.

fare thee well caster trapCasting certain spells can give visitors the upper hand in social situations (whether it be to enhance their appearance or make them more skilled at negotiating high society in Mohkba) and using magic of any kind to gain an unfair advantage is looked down upon (when not hosting, of course). Some houses have devised elaborate, non-lethal methods to embarrass would-be offenders and one of the most popular is to use an on-site well to comedic perfection. The magical offender who triggers the fare the well caster trap gets teleported right above the well and dropped, leaving him a soaking mess as he climbs out to the howls of laughter that are sure to ensue from the host and other guests.

 

[Submitted by Rory Toma!]

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Mendacious Materials: Shlyappa Ore

Shlyappa Ore

Aura moderate conjuration; CL 10th
Slot none; Price 500 gp per pound; Weight ½ lbs. per inch
shlyappa oreDESCRIPTION
At first this chunk of rock appears very similar to amber, but far heavier and when looked upon long enough, seems to shift slightly between this dimension and others.

The zwerc of Aventyr live in extradimensional pockets connected to both the planet and the Plane of Earth. Shlyappa ore comes from a conclave of the same name and is highly valued by spellcasters for its magical properties.
When casting a summon nature’s ally or summon monster spell to conjure a non-elemental creature, adding this magic item to the components (which destroys it) the summoned creature gains DR 3/— and the earth glide ability (at a speed equal to half its base speed).
When used to conjure an earth elemental, the summoned creature gains the ghost touch ability and the ability to turn itself incorporeal as a free action for a number of rounds per day equal to its hit dice (ending this incorporeality is a free action and these rounds need not be used consecutively).
When shlyappa ore is used to conjure any other type of elemental creature aside from an earth elemental, the resulting creature gains all of the abilities above and automatically attacks the caster until dispelled or destroyed.

Dwarves of any subtype can consume shlyappa ore to gain the same benefits as a non-elemental creature.
Shlyappa ore is immune to all conjuration magic (if a creature holding or carrying any teleports, the shlyappa ore falls toward the nearest piece of earth). Shlyappa ore cannot be used to forge armor, shields, or weapons.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements — (shlyappa ore only occurs naturally, and only in the zwerc enclave of Shlyappa)

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Mendacious Materials: P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hireling

 

prankster hireling - Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 12P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hireling     CR 4
XP 800
Human barbarian (urban barbarian) 3
CN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception -1

DEFENSE
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 47 (4d12+16)
Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +0
Defensive Abilities crowd control +1, trap sense +1

OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee earth breaker +8 (2d6+6, Crit x3)
Special Attacks controlled rage 11 rounds/day

TACTICS
Before Combat When a P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hireling hears the sound of combat, they rush forward excited to do battle.
During Combat The prankster hireling quickly go into a controlled rage while fighting their way toward spellcasters (hoping to take them out first), making use of Power Attack (earth breaker +7, 2d6+9, Crit x3) and crowd control (gaining a +1 to attack and AC when adjacent to two or more enemies). The type of controlled rage they enter (gaining a +4 morale bonus to Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution, or a +2 bonus to two of those attributes) depends on the composition of enemies; foes that are harder to hit or damage merit a Strength response (earth breaker +10, 2d6+9, or with Power Attack +9, 2d6+12), whereas opponents with more lethal strikes trigger a Dexterity response (AC 18, Ref +4).
Morale When reduced to 15 hp or less the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hireling gulps down their healing potions; if interrupted or out of curatives, they flee.

STATISTICS
Str 18, Dex 13, Con 17, Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 12
Base Atk +3; CMB +7; CMD 19
Feats Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack
Skills Acrobatics +4, Climb +10, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (local) +5
Languages Common, Klavek
SQ rage power (surprise accuracy)
Gear potions of cure moderate wounds (2); Other Gear mwk earth breaker, mwk studded leather armor, 62 gold

The vast criminal organization of the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R.S. have many different kinds of members, ranging from the lowliest of pickpockets, informants, and thugs to the most professional and elite assassins, spies, and grifters. P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings are one of the most common, little more than thugs with an appetite for power and lack of wits enough that they’ll do whatever they are told to in order to attain it.

 

5E RULES

Use the “Berserker” NPC or the “Bandit Captain” NPC with the following changes: change STR to 18 (+4) and INT to 9 (-1), change Skills to Athletics +5, Intimidation +4, under Actions increase the Hit bonus of all attacks to +7 and increase the bonus to damage for each weapon (scimitar 1d6+5, dagger 1d4+5).
[Submitted by Tim Snow!]

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Mendacious Materials: Uncovered Contraband!

uncovered contraband sidequest mapAfter the party fight their way out of the ambush it is probably in their best interest to vanish from the scene, as Mohkba’s guards can be rather zealous when investigating disturbances possibly related to the dreaded Cultus Sanguineus. Adventurers that dally for 1d4+2 minutes or longer are questioned and if rude or uncooperative, scanned for magic (which can lead to a meeting with the Sanctioned Arcane Practitioners, none of which are known for their friendly demeanor). Even disguised PCs have a 15% chance of being stopped and queried.

After meeting back up with Jesker and relating the news about the false shipments, the old wizard sends the party out to gather more information about where the real cargo went. A DC 15 Diplomacy check to gather information garners rumors of horrid smells coming from a building just northwest of the Trade Yard. Questioning the harbormaster for the day with a DC 20 Diplomacy or Intimidate check convinces her to reveal where other possible shipments were said to be going (an accompanying DC 11 Intelligence check deduces the same results as a successful check to gather information). Failure on this check doesn’t make the information inaccessible, but to get it the PCs have to shell out a 30 gp bribe. PCs that happen to be in the area have a 30% chance to receive a DC 18 Perception check to notice the odor, though any member of the party that has the scent ability automatically gets to attempt the skill check and gains a +10 circumstance bonus.

Adventurers that don’t find the building with their noses take 1d4+2 hours to pinpoint its location, arriving to find two P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings [Tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday! -MM] waiting outside the entrance. When the PCs approach, the criminals yell at them to back away unless they are ready for a beating (and should the party leave, the sentries don’t give chase and return to casual conversation).

blood thrallEngaging either of the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings in combat prompts one of them to guard the door as the other dashes across the street to pound against the wall of an adjacent building, where two more of the criminals emerge from next round. The newcomers charge out of the doors, moving into flanking position (specifically targeting spellcasters). After these enemies however, there are no obvious or prompt reinforcements and the PCs can safely explore the area.

The L-shaped building opens into a moderately large room with two doors; going east heads into a sleeping area where a dozing P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. is sleeping. The door on the west wall opens into a much bigger chamber with a table against the far corner and two doors to the north. Going northeast the PCs find a sturdy table covered with scattered papers, and with a DC 21 Perception check the adventurers find an incriminating note similar to the one the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Thugs had. The code being used by the criminals is still extremely complex without additional notes, but the Linguistics check to decipher either is reduced to DC 32 (if Jesker is asked to read the note, he explains that he’s always used magic to overcome language barriers and is just as stumped as they are). The other door leads to a room filled with barrels marked by red Xs, just like the false shipment. There’s a 50% chance an opened barrel awakens a blood thrall within, at which point another 1d3+1 of the monsters rise up to attack!

The smaller building across the way opens up to a small room; if the P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. Hirelings were not involved in combat earlier, they are located here and attack on sight. nail of aura adumbrationThe chamber’s only door opens eastward into a T-shaped area filled with molding hay and animal droppings. A broom and some cleaning supplies—clearly untouched for ages—are all that the PCs find here but heading into the northwest room, and though the contents are magical, the barrels do not show any aura when gazed on with detect magic and one of them has a nailstrom trap inside of it. The final room in the southeast has a hidden trap door (DC 30 Perception check) hiding a cache of stolen goods of various types that totals 3,450 gold in value.

 

5E RULES

A DC 14 Charisma (Persuasion) check reveals the rumor about the building with an odd smell.
A DC 16 Charisma (Persuasion or Intimidation) check coerces the harbormaster to reveal the cargo manifests (and a DC 10 Intelligence check deduces the likely location of the true shipment).
Adventurers that happen to wander near the structure get a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check to notice the strange odor.
A DC 15 Intelligence (Search) check locates the second P.R.A.N.K.S.T.E.R. note (which now require DC 24 Intelligence checks to decipher).
A DC 20 Intelligence (Search) check finds the hidden trapdoor to the treasure cache.

 

[Submitted by Tim Snow!]