Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interim President

So continuing my tale from yesterday...that opening sequence by my pal 'D' was amazing. I was very impressed. I felt sorry for the sad sap who had to follow that opening act. I mean how do you top a burning ship, flaming zombies and a mystic sceptre wielding drake engulfed in an aura of lightning and fire? Yeah you'd have to be crazy to GM the group after that.


I decided the best thing to do with my part of the game was to not even try to one-up my buddy but instead go low key and focus on plot and investigation. We know what just happened. Now why did it happen?

I borrowed an idea I've used for many years but which I've had more at the forefront of my thinking since reading the game InSpectres by Memento Mori. Essentially, instead of creating a story or plot and having the PCs ask questions until they guess the 'right' answers (and having to drop clues if they don't see what I want them to see), I went with the idea of setting up certain events and ideas and letting the players questions and decisions actually establish what was happening.

So basically, now that I was DM my Gnome was an NPC. Established as a Bard of sorts (regardless of his actual class - loved that) I figured he knew a little something about the local lore. He described a legend he had heard as a youth that involved a rod of magical power similar to the one they had seen the dragon creature holding.

"The Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm was once the prized possession of a Baron who ruled these parts many generations ago. He would flaunt the power of his Sceptre, which could make lightning and fire, thunder and smoke and could carry him away on bolts from the sky. He invited nobles and merchants to witness his great and terrible magic and always noted he would never actually use such power on friends. As such he had many friends.

Finally the King of the time, wary and weary of the stories of the Baron and his Sceptre, paid the man a surprise visit. The King was accompanied by his wife the Queen and the loveliest of his daughters. So smitten was the Baron by the Princess's beauty that he showed off as never before. The storm he brew was so bright and terrible it destroyed his keep and him with it. The King and his family escaped but just barely."

That was all the Gnome knew. Soon the PCs were discussing and debating what they believed to be happening and eventually decided to interview the Merchant, the First Mate and the Merchant's assistant, the learned Young Woman. The players asked the usual questions as to what the Sceptre was doing on the boat, where had they obtained it, what were they going to do with it, etc.. They believed some answers and not others and soon painted a picture of what happened that they explained to me as the DM (kind of in reverse of what you'd normally experience in an RPG investigation).

The Merchant obtained the item in the market place of a far away nation for a fraction of what he thought it was worth. He showed it to his assistant, a young woman studying ancient art and artifacts as part of her journey to become a respected sage some day. The Merchant hoped she would evaluate the price they could get for the item but she recognized it as likely being the Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm. She recommended they buy it but bring it to the Duke or King of their land to keep it safe or dispose of it. The Merchant was none to happy with the idea but was convinced there would be a reward for bringing it in.

The Paladin's feeling was that the drake or dragon might well be a demon sent by the old Baron's restless spirit to retrieve the item. The Thief seemed to know of the ruin of a keep three days Northeast that may have been the Baron's home. When asked, my Gnome could not confirm this but said he did know there was a ruin there and that many travelers say its haunted. That was all the team needed to decide to head for the ruins in hopes of finding the beast and the stolen scepter.

On the way I threw in an un-random encounter (as my friend Shawn called it - "Watch out! Its one of Adam's un-random encounters. This isn't just some wandering monster. It might mean something." lol). Basically the PCs get a bit lost on the way to the ruins and discover the ground has been shifting beneath their feet. Eventually they discover SodDobbies (or Soddy Trow, as the Gnome called them), a cross between goblins and stray sod.

Another Adam signature move it seems; I sometimes create original monsters that sound like they could be from folklore but aren't exactly.

As the party battles the little bugaboos, the Ranger figures out a way to get his bearings using the road and the position of the Sun as guides. As more and more of the SodDobbies are defeated (driven off or slain), the easier it becomes to find the correct path. Eventually the creatures also drop hints and cryptic, rhyming clues as to how to get into the dungeon beneath the ruins so we'll stop beating the tar out of them. I guess it worked since we proceeded forward. We did manage to obtain a few faerie magic items and weapons to help us in our final battle however.

A battle I will describe tomorrow in the final chapter of 'The Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm'.

Barking Alien


  1. Uncertain, possibly distorted , amorphous hearsay, or perhaps gelid 'facts'. Great way to keep the PCs guessing and the GM's options open. This can be very fun in certain instances, especially in a one-shot, I've found. Utilizing this method to determine say: a 'demonic' beings vulnerabilities, a legendary artifact's location, the true motivations of the PC patron, etc... is particularly entertaining, ime.

    Soddy Trow:
    The missing link to vegepygmies?

    Looking forward to the revelations of the next installment.

  2. I am stealing your beasties for a project developing in my head. Do you have any additional information you would like to share about them?

    As DM you carried the ball the farthest here - you had to follow up a cool kick-off and set up an exciting climax while not boring the heck out of everyone too, and that middle stretch can be the hardest to do sometimes. I usually have no trouble with the beginning and end but that mid-section is where the challenge lies for me so good job.

  3. There will be some reveals in the final chapter or an aftermath post (depending on how I feel and what else I want to talk about) but the other two DMs did make mention of exactly what you're talking about Blacksteel.

    I seriously felt the opening was the best part but the guys said I had the hardest job.

    @Blacksteel - Stealing my beasties? Oh that's it ye wee blighter! Pick a window to go through!

    Kidding. What info do you need? Do you need more creatures? I've got tons of folk and faux faeries. :)

  4. Just curious about details - are they super-strong? Poisonous? Do they eat metal? I don't really need full stats just some notes on what makes them different from a goblin or a kobold or a hill giant

    I'm toying with the idea of a megadungeon or an open table game and I'd like some not-in-the-book stuff to add in if I do. I think little grass-headed monsters would make a fine addition to either the plains or the forest areas.

    Pictures make new creatures a lot more useful so if you have some favorites send 'em my way and I'll let you know how they work out.

  5. The SodDobbies are intelligent (if you're very easy with your definition of the word) goblin creatures about 3 feet in height, garbed in clothing made of thin leather, cast of tree bark or matted leaves.

    Their skin ranges from pale tan to a deep forest green, usually matching their surroundings and even changing color with the seasons. Long tufts of weeds and grass grow from the tops of their heads, sometimes sprouting clover, flowering weeds, reeds and moss.

    Though no physically tougher than standard goblins, they have the ability to hide in the forest as a 5th level thief hides in shadow. Also, when surrounding a group they create a disorienting effect that causes the party to loose their sense of direction. PCs find themselves walking or running pass the same tree repeatedly, backing away to avoid a ditch only to fall into it, etc.

    In addition, they have an armor class 4 points better (up or down depending on edition) because of their camo and disorienting effect.

    They are usually armed with items dropped by victims and if not they have little more than sharp sticks and tree branch clubs.

    Does that help?