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Insidious Inclusion – 5 Duplicitous Tips to Lure Players

Eventually, players get wise to the mimics, the hidden assassins and the unassuming forest trail. Sometimes to move the plot ahead, however, you need to really walk your group into the lion’s den. Even the most experienced player can still fall prey to a number of different ploys to draw them into an ambush, trap or unfortunate surprise; I’ve detailed a few below.

 

Knight-riding1) Appeal to Alignment

This goes without saying for paladins and antipaladins, but characters of every stripe can be called upon to act out their nature. While a great tactic, it’s not to be used too often—it isn’t likely that all the PCs share the same world views and motivations, and arguments arising from these situations can be catastrophic.

 

2) Opposing Obstacles

A bomb is about to explode, but the mayor is halfway across the city and also primed for fatal catastrophe! Sure, it’s one of the older tricks in the book, but it is effective. Watch out for the same sort of trouble you see with the above option, and avoid saturating your game with this. Forcing PCs to one or two logical solutions to being caught between a rock and a hard place too much might take away too much drama from your game, or dishearten players into feeling that their actions lack impact.

 

marbles3) Incentive

The road to hell is paved in gold and good intentions. Even the most cowardly rogue will give in to their greed and make for a dangerous situation if the gold glitters brightly enough. If you’re feeling particularly vicious, go ahead and throw one or two permanent silent image illusions their way. Eventually clever PCs might start throwing rocks at chests to see if their figments before engaging them and we’re back to traps!

 

4) Cover, Concealment, Reach and Grab

In Pathfinder awakened animals don’t go up in CR. So, for instance, an awakened giant lake octopus gains high-level tactics and 2 HD without raising its challenge rating. There’s already been talk about using terrain effectively, but imagine how an intelligent animal (especially big ones) might modify their hunting grounds. Make use of creatures with reach and grab, concealing them and enticing PCs to wander just close enough that they think they are safe (there is the Lunge feat, after all).

 

knights-armor-205) Sweet Poison Pie

Seed your real plots into innocuous happenings. These could be as simple as running into a pickpocket while at the tavern, or a little more complicated. This month the AaWBlog is taking on a bloody theme to match February’s holiday: Cultus Sanguineus. Within this mini-adventure, the PCs are invited to a grand ball. To seed this, the GM might make it clear that one of the more important members of society’s elite is only accessible to the party at high level functions; while there’s no shortage of events like this, infiltrating one is as hard as earning an invitation. When the adventurers finally find a way in, they’ll think they scored the jackpot—nobles to sleight of hand, influential contacts to make and juicy rumors to learn—only to find out differently much too late…

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!

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3 Ways to Play the Long Game

Image_Portfolio_1.14_Fantasy Butch Mapa 03Meaningful antagonists are often one of the lasting, remembering aspects of a story. While not always a simple thing to implement successfully, creating enemies that make an appearance in every arc of a campaign eventually becomes part and parcel to a GM’s toolbox.

If you’re starting from 1st level, try to keep things organic; have a grand plot in mind and provide strings that lead to it. Eventually the means to start these threads—a merchant, mercenary, noble, peasant or other NPC encountered by the party—will provide you with a rogue’s gallery that your players will remember and look out for. Keeping these characters alive is another matter entirely (and is sometimes downright impossible) but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them back. As a matter of fact….

Undead Lord Spectre#1) Back and Better 
The hour you spent painstakingly crafting a critical NPC bit the dust when natural 1s and natural 20s defied probability.
These things happen—don’t panic.

Simply resurrecting an antagonist is always an option, but don’t count out reincarnation or other, less savory transformations. Not everyone needs to become a death knight, mind you, and you should take this opportunity to flex your creativity a bit. If there isn’t a template or other advancement option for that character’s next scheduled appearance, make one that fits your plot! The return of a nemesis will grab your players and with new, unexpected abilities, they’ll be a captive audience.

 

#2) Familiars 
There’s something like 70+ classes legal for 3.5 play that can grant a familiar, and plenty others in Pathfinder (there’s even an Advanced Rogue Talent for it). If none of those are  good for your villain (although they need not be villainous—see point #3). take a look at feats and the like.
The intelligent application of a familiar can allow the antagonist to act unseen and doesn’t have terrible repercussions if the creature is caught or destroyed. This also allows for scaling to occur at a rate equal to the party’s advancement, and unless you’ve played your hand too quickly, the PCs won’t be suspecting every single animal they see to be a potential spy (and if they get that paranoid, it’s probably time to lay off them a bit).

 

#3) Villainous Relativity 
What IS a villain? Is it always going to be Sauron, Morgan le Fay or Jafar from Aladdin?
This, of course, need not be the case.

Keep a list of extra names handy if you don’t have a talent for titling characters on the fly, and whenever an opportunity presents itself, have an NPC introduce themselves. Whenever plausible, have them make another appearance in the game.

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Did the PCs really impress some maturing folks in the village  when they completed their last quest? Have one or two follow them about, emulating them—maybe the party likes them, or grows to compete with them. When things go awry, the NPC turns to resent the group and begins to act in concert against them with your chief antagonist.

What about the inadvertently maligned? The crooked merchant that profited from the thieves’ guild? The vengeful relatives of dead enemies? The offspring of murdered creatures?

Not every encounter needs to be a deeply meaningful and memory inspiring experience—that would defeat the purpose by diluting the overall effect—but if you can manage it, reoccurring NPCs will provide your game with a greater level of immersion.

Next time the PCs order a flagon, have Trevor Gralden, an inquisitive and polite new arrival to the town, bring it out to them; a year later, he might do the same in the armor of an antipaladin, but with chalices full of blood rather than ale.

 

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!

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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
—you’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—collaboration 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—you’ll be pleased with the results.

Be agreeable and things will be agreeable.

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[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 “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!