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Designer Spotlight: Michael Allen and Twin Crossings!

Twin Crossings cover v1Which modules would work well as a prelude to Twin Crossings?

I wanted to write an adventure that would give the PCs a reason to travel beyond Rybalka. To get out and see some other parts of the Klavek Kingdom. The PCs are 4th level now—this gives them a chance to see some of the eastern Klavek Kingdom. Any of the Rybalkan peninsula adventures work well as prelude to Twin Crossings, and as we establish the fact that there is an east-west caravan between Cherr’s landing and Mokhba (with Rybalka in spitting distance—giant’s spitting distance at least) there is a way for the PCs to reasonably go back and forth.


What was your source of inspiration for this adventure?

I loved Raymond Feist’s Rise of a Merchant Prince and the character of Silk in Edding’s Belgariad. I always wanted to explore these themes in an adventure one day. Indeed, my rogue PC in a campaign of War of the Burning Sky set up businesses in the war torn cities of that world. One day I’d like to do an AP on these themes, and this was a great way to test out some of my ideas on a smaller scale.


How did Twin Crossings change from your original concept?

The caravan rules changed three times. I originally wanted the players to be able to build their caravan almost like a PC, using all of the information they found along the way to make it as efficient as possible. In the end, the calculations for determining the PCs’ profitability were almost automated. Information and player choices still had an impact, but it became more organic rather than an ongoing math problem.


What is your typical process for fleshing out an adventure like this? Did you do anything different this time around?

After settling on a theme, I start with the creatures. Monster descriptions usually inspire encounters for me. If its a classed creature or NPC, I might have an idea of what role I want them to fill in a combat, but I usually wait until designing that combat before building them. Once the encounters are roughed in, I make sure there is a good mix of varied challenges, a spell combat here, a hazard/terrain enhanced combat there, a beefy damage dealer combat over this way.

The challenge here was the flowchart of the adventure. I wanted to give the PCs a way to chart their own course, but I also didn’t want to have them totally bypass any encounters (it is a waste of space—every word is precious).  I think I came up with a good solution in the end—indeed one of the last encounters in the adventure is entitled No Monster Left out.


aaw-free-5What tools did you use while writing Twin Crossings?

I’m a big fan of Paizo’s NPC Codex, and the NPCs in the Gamemastery Guide. I can usually mine those for ideas for my classed characters—especially mooks.  I can easily swap out feats, weapons, spell selections, and even change up the races or modify stats on some of the stock builds there to customize opponents. It allows me to save time for the truly important custom builds (or converting to 3.5).  I would rate NPC compendiums like this as high on the priority list of any GM looking to have some ready resources at their fingertips.


What is your favorite part of the adventure?

There is a lot of background and rumors for the PCs to discover. The opening scene of the adventure has many opportunities for some in-depth role play as well as some skill based challenges. These opportunities continue throughout—and I enjoyed tying the success or failure of these moments into the PCs overall success.

Tell us about one character, creature, item, or spell which was unique to this adventure. How did you come up with the idea and what went into the design of this part of the adventure?

Confession time—I went over word count on this adventure. It crept up on me. Part of it was the extra background and role play moments, part of it was underestimating the word count on providing stat blocks for both systems (which I did not have to do for the Pathmaster contest).  The unique magical items were included in a detour quest the PCs have an opportunity to go on during their journey. While the PCs still have a chance to discover these magical items (and all of them are still included and have an impact in the adventure) we had to trim back much of that quest to save on word count. Fortunately, we are releasing the full side quest here on the AaWBlog! All of the items in this cache spring from an idea I had around an engineering battalion led by a mage-engineer, and help the PCs make a lasting impact on travel in this new area of the Klavek Kingdom.  I think the most fun I had was beefing up the legend and history for release in the blog posts—I hope you enjoy the tale of the last stand of the Lost Battalion on the blog.


diceIs 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?

My play testers were bloodthirsty gits. The adventure contains some suggestions to the GM on how to handle the rivalry between the two competing caravans early on so bloodshed doesn’t break out too early. In the end my group still activated the encounter with their rivals early. Don’t sweat it too much if this happens. It is not a game breaker—and I ended up satisfied that the flowchart still allowed the PCs to get back on track.

Which adventures would work well after the players conclude Twin Crossings?

PCs should be close to leveling to 5th after this adventure and if you beef up the adventure with a few random encounters or side quests will likely do so.

A-6 Bear Trouble could easily be relocated to the mountains of The Knee on the Vladen Peninsula where the new town of Svest is located. There will be a call for mercenary bands with the opening of new overland trade routes to Cherr’s Landing, and the discoveries made in the mountain passes…

B-7 Beauty and Blood could be set in Aventyr in the woods of the Vladen Peninsula with a little bit of renaming of the geography.  

B-9 Curse of the Full Moon could likewise be set in the Eastern Klavek Kingdom; Locate the town of Rooknest somewhere between the mountains of The Knee and Cherr’s Landing.

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