All RPGs and Storygames by Tod Foley are now available at DrivethruRPG and RPGnow. Bring these games to your table!
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If you are after six interlinked adventures set in the Lonely Mountain area which concern the Dwarves of Erebor and the Men of Dale, this is the book you want (you might alsp want the *Erebor* supplement, but it isn't necessary). The adventures can stand alone or you may prefer to make them a plot arc within your campaign, starting in the year 2956. With Smaug dead, there's a new air of hope in the region and this doesn't suit Sauron one little bit, especially with that meddling wizard Gandalf interfering... so he has hatched another plot. These adventures are all about thwarting various aspects of his latest scheme.
We learn of some of the key players behind these schemes and a bit more about the overarching plot... but if you want to run the adventures as stand alone ones, that's perfectly possible too. The party may never see the full picture, but they'll certainly have an influence on affairs nevertheless. There are suggestions of how to weave the adventures into your campaign, particularly if you intend to run all of them... and then we're off!
It all begins with The Silver Needle, where the party gets a chance to thwart some bandits who want to steal a wondrous artefact that's in Dale. But what are those orcs up to? Investigation proves it's a bit more than a simple heist... but it all begins with a traffic accident that throws chance travellers together as they wait for the obstruction to be cleared. Various individuals are introduced to give colour to the scene, and there are suggested topics for conversation that make the scene come to life, and may provide useful information as well. In due course, the party can attempt to seek out a bandit leader called Longo who has been plaguing the area, if they don't decide to do so themselves, someone will ask or even hire them to do so. A journey over inhospitable ground and even a swamp ensues... and so does a good scrap, during which they'll find out who Longo actually is. Back in Dale, things are coming to a head as his heist is concluded successfully and it's up to the party to do something about it!
Next comes Of Hammer and Anvils, where Bain himself needs a hand. It all begins in Dale and indeed most of the action is there although it eventually leads to Erebor. Poor Balin is attacked and the party gets the chance to save him. It appears that there's a concerted effort on his life, because he is attacked again, successfully. There's a conspiracy in progress, and the party can investigate... but every decision has consequences.
In Dungeons Deep throws the party into a potential quarrel between Erebor and Dale. It's all down to some long-lost treasure that's come to light, but it all begins with a missing scholar, who the party are asked to find. This adventure is a good one for making contacts with significant individuals, but there is plenty of combat as well, never fear, even though the final resolution takes place in a formal council meeting in which the party will be expected to participate. Then, in Sleeping Dragons Lie, the party ends up dealing with one that most definitely isn't asleep, but is annoyed and about to wreak destruction on Erebor. The party is commissioned to slay him before he can cause much trouble, however they have rivals in their quest... and there's other odd stuff going on as well. Watch out for the moving stones! There's an excellent climatic battle scene to round this adventure off.
Next, Dark Waters sees the party in Lake-town preparing to enjoy the festival of Dragontide. But the sculptor of a statue of Bard that is to be unveiled has gone missing, and his apprentice asks the party for their help in locating him. There's a lot of investigation, as one might imagine, but the party will findthemselves fighting for their lives as well. Layers upon layers mean that several people will have to answer for their actions - if they survive long enough.
Finally matters come to a head in Shadows in the North. Balin is warning of trouble, but is himself under the influence of malign forces. Danger is everywhere and the party needs to prioritise their response. By the end many personalities (who the party will have met if they played all the adventures) will have revealed their true colours and, hopefully, be brought to an accounting. The hand behind all the plots is revealed and the party has a chance to put paid to the entire plot. This is quite an edge-of-the-seat adventure, everyhting piling up at once and needing to be dealt with.
This is an excellent plot arc, exciting and meaningful and would make a good centre to a campaign, or a fascinating thread running through a campaign, as you see fit. Save the world from Sauron. Again.
Join Ang, J.T., and Matt for a discussion about the nature and use of session zero! Will this pre-game preparation be enough to keep these gnomes out of the stew?
Download: Gnomecast #55 – Session Zero
Follow Matt through the hills of West Virginia. Maybe. If you can.
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The Game Designerâs Toolbox: User stories, or how to help a player get a grasp of new content - by Anatoly Shestov
This story has been told before, way back on the Treasure Tables forums, before they became You Meet In A Tavern, before that site also went defunct. Since none of those places exist anymore and I doubt the story got caught by the wayback machine, and since it was well received back in the day, and since I anticipate this being relevant soon, I will again share the story of the Evil Mules.
2007-2008ish. It was game time, 3.5 DnD. The PCs were a troupe of morally gray government enforcers in a point of light in a post apocalyptic world. And I had nothing prepared.
I asked the players what they wanted to do for the session, and the consensus was that they were going to head into the mountains to hunt for trolls so the druid could learn to shapeshift into them. (Yes, base druids can’t shift into monstrous humanoids. He had some splatbook kit/prestige class or something. It’s not important to the story.) I skimmed the Monsters by terrain list while we took a pre-game snack break and noticed that it included mules… They weren’t an appropriate Challenge Rating for the party. Mules are CR two, the party was around level six but I had a moment of Evil GM Inspiration and literally sat at the table cackling in anticipation while the players gave me weird looks.
So, the PCs go into the mountains and discover an abandoned mining town. Buildings stand open and dilapidated, weeds grow in the streets, the occasional skeleton pokes out of the rubble. And milling about are dozens of mules. They chew absently on the overgrowth and eye the PCs warily. The PCs poke around a bit, discover nothing much of interest and try to befriend some mules with handle animal checks without much luck, and try speak with animals abilities and get ignored. The whole time I’m emphasizing the way the mules keep staring at them and acting strange so the PCs decide to infiltrate the mules. The druid changes into a mule and goes up to a mule and starts trying to communicate with it. The mule wanders off, stopping periodically to wait for the druid to follow. After they leave, the party notices that the rest of the mules have wandered off as well. They find themselves in a deserted street waiting for the druid to come back and report. Meanwhile, the druid is on the far side of town surrounded by a small pack of mules all staring at him silently.
The mules press in closer, then without a sound all start to attack. He was the party tank and mules aren’t that dangerous in combat so he wasn’t in much danger, but rather than discover these mules are more dangerous than he thinks, he runs and regroups with the rest of the party. The mules don’t pursue and the PCs keep exploring town, giving the mules a wide berth. Eventually they discover a weird cave that has a pit full of skeletons, strange crude half man half mule statutory, carvings in an unknown language they can’t decipher and a very evil aura.
The PCs have had enough of this and book it back to town, but along the way they have mule haunted dreams and repeatedly encounter mules, all of whom seem to be giving them the evil eye. Bunking at an inn, the party rogue wakes from her nightmares in the middle of the night and heads to the stables to check on her noisome troglodyte henchman (Mike the troglodyte. That’s a different story.) and is startled by a mule which seemingly appeared right behind her! One panicked sneak attack later and an early morning explanation of a dead mule to an incredulous stable master, and the PCs decide that something must be done to halt the evil mule menace that is slowly infiltrating their homeland.
After some amazing diplomacy checks, the local lord grants them a contingent of soldiers and several wagons of salt and they march into the mountains, slaughter every mule they can find, tear the village down to its foundations and scatter the stones, and literally burn and salt the earth for miles (not that that much was growing on the side of a mountain anyway). They also had the foresight to bring a scroll of comprehend languages with them, and translated the script in the cave before effacing it, tearing down the statuary and consecrating it to the priest’s god. The script was the testimony of a villager driven mad and inspired by dark forces relating the story of the village: A dark god had sent an avatar to the material plane in the form of an intelligent infernally virile and darkly evil mule. This scion quickly bred with the local stock and after there were enough of his descendants, in a bloody coup forced the villagers to erect the shrine and sacrifice one another to his dark master.
They never did find any trolls.
In the years since, the evil mules have cropped up now and again in items I’ve created.
- I have created several blank white cards based on them.
- One of the 9 forms of the 5 room dungeon is named after them.
- This entire plot ended up in Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots To Inspire Game Masters. (page 97)
- I can’t believe I forgot to include them in my article about weird fantasy farm animals.
P.S. In case you were wondering: Evil Mules are telepathic, and can understand common but have their own language they use with each other: Donk-ese. They are also prolific and crossbreed with anything they can (despite the fact that mundane mules are sterile). Their progeny have the half-ass template.
P.P.S.S. I take no credit for this and I’m 100% sure he was in no way inspired by my game, but Weebl made a music video about the dangers of donkeys that is appropriate to the topic. Great minds and all that:
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