Recipe for Adventure

Hey, game masters, ever wonder what the heck you’re going to run next game? Sometimes a little research can make it all come together. For what it’s worth, he’re how I made my last adventure.

Start with an Idea and an Internet Search

Throw your idea into a search engine and see what comes up. Or just jump right to Wikipedia and start your search there.

My idea: Nicolas Flamel, alchemist. NicholasflamelI knew he was a big name in alchemy and used in a number of fictional works (Harry Potter for one). Wikipeida tells me more.

I find that according to legend he A: Discovered the Philospher’s Stone and B: Found the secret to eternal life. What’s not to like about that?

There’s a bit about his gravestone and where he was buried in Paris. More research finds that the graveyards of Paris were all dug up and the bones of SIX MILLION PEOPLE put into catacombs, really old limestone mines that undermine the city of Paris.

Now, if you live in Paris, this is old news to you, but to me it’s the best thing ever. After inhaling the very great Wikipedia article on the Catacombs of Paris, I search for “Catacombs of Paris Movies” because why not? And I find As Above, So Below. I love movies, so I rent it (Amazon Prime) watch it, and take notes for the adventure.

  • Giant walls made of bones and skulls
  • Unlit, but still hot candles that show someone is down in the catacombs
  • Women in white robes and face paint singing
  • Crawling over bones
  • “To Get Out Go Down” said by an out of touch person that the characters knew years ago
  • Growing fear
  • Dead end except for brackish water that can be swum through to reach hidden chambers
  • The undecayed corpse of a crusader knight
  • Collapsing passages
  • Having to move, and the only way forward is also down
  • Entrances that vanish
  • Panic in the dark

And so on. I filled up every square centimeter of a page while watching. I would pause the movie to jot down a note. I used maybe 1/5 of my notes, but it was great to make all of them. The movie helped me improv the adventure in the catacombs.

as above so belowMy game isn’t set in the modern day like As Above, So Below was, but so much translated to my 1895 setting (play testing the Yellow King RPG). If I was running D&D or 13th Age or a Cthulhu game, almost all would still work. I’m not saying the movie is the best horror movie ever (there are serious flaws), but it is so damned stealable for great catacomb crawling adventures. Plus Perdita Weeks and the rest of the cast do a great job, and I found it watchable.

Watching movies as game prep!

Putting it Together

I used a player’s backstory (I think my sister is a werewolf) as the hook, and had the sister connected with an NPC, Pascal Saccard, who vanished into the catacombs after reading “The King in Yellow” and researching Nicolas Flamel.

1200px-DJJ_1_Catacombes_de_Paris
Not a movie prop, this is real.

I had a number of scenes straight from the movie, including having the players find Pascal in an unreachable space. I played him as remote and haunted. He would answer yes or no questions with a nod or head shake, then stare at the limestone wall. He told them to “go out you must go down.”

I needed Flamel in the catacombs, and hey, he “found eternal life,” so of course he’s a vampire.

I ran through the game system’s mental hazards and listed those I thought we’d hit: looking at / reading the King in Yellow, seeing things that can’t be like the passageway they just crawled out of vanishing without a trace, and so on. I looked up what I could do with a cave in, and made notes so I could find it in play.

Actual Play

In play, the cave in was more fun because despite me making the roll harder for the people in the back, the one in the middle failed, so the freaked out person in the back crawled screaming over the middle PC, shoving his face down into the bones while the roof caved in.

Cave ins,  underwater swimming in the dark, odd visions, and worse took a toll. By the time they confronted the crusader corpse, they were pretty depleted in fine horror movie fashion. The meeting with the vampiric Nicolas Flamel gave them the clue they needed for the next game. He doesn’t like the Yellow King any more than they do, so he advised they track down all the copies of the play and destroy them.

A good time was had by all.

Gods and Icons Upgrade Pack

We’re hammering out the final sections of the Gods and Icons Upgrade pack, a 13th Age roleplaying game supplement that adds to Gods and Icons. So what’s in it?

Art

We have new art for the gods, great for showing your players or helping you with descriptions.

  • We have three pantheon symbols, one for each pantheon
  • Three new images per pantheon
    • Bright Gods: The Path of Earth, The Path of Heaven, and Perikalo
    • Thirsty Gods: Balamet, Chazda, and Ixtaa
    • Old Gods: Delkrey, The Lords, and Tullet
Path_of_Heaven_v1
Path of Heaven, by Alysha Lach

We also have new creature art for the bestiary (below).

Saints

A short list of saints from all the pantheons. Great for picking names of shrines, NPCs, and bars. St. Schmavic is the patron saint of bars for the Old Gods.

Bestiary

New creatures, most with strong connections to the gods. This is the biggest section of The Gods and Icons Upgrade Pack. A great selection of creatures from level 1 to 12.

Lord Tenebras Noctem 800w
Devil: Lord Noctem by Justin Wyatt

Status

We’re revising it now, and it will soon go to editorial, then layout, then ship.

Format

This will be a PDF.

Races in Numenera & the Cypher System

I love Numenera, but using a descriptor for your race bothers me. It keeps non-humans from having “regular” descriptors like charming, rugged, or lonely. And if they really want to lean into their race, they lose their choice of focus, like murders or masters insects. What can you do?

Numenera Dread Unicorn Games

Don’t use the Racial Descriptor

This is the “Doctor it hurts when I do this,” “Then stop,” solution and the one found in the Cypher System rulebook. You’re PC is a varjellen because you say they are, and you get to use any descriptor you want. You don’t get the varjellen abilities in the core book, you just use your descriptor powers.

I like this for Numenera if you make it optional, and you let your players use racial foci without the descriptor. Some players like to lean into their race.

For the Cypher System, it’s fine if it works for you, but if a player wants to really embody a race, I’ll have to look elsewhere.

Two Descriptors

I’ve heard Monte Cook and others say, “just use two descriptors for each player.” The idea is everyone gets two, and now you can be that lonely mutant you’ve always pined for. After all, real people have more than one adjective.

I like this simple change. I don’t think this makes PC’s too powerful. The descriptor does not scale with tier, so the worst effect would be a little more resilient 1st-tier PCs, not a bad thing at all.

Racial Flavors

You use flavors, from the Cypher System rulebook, to represent a race. This lets a player really lean into their golthiar character. A flavor lets the player choose to add a flavor ability, instead of a standard type ability. Just like type abilities, flavor abilities become available by tier. A player could choose to be a little more golthiarish, and a little bit less glaivish. Those are words.

The character can have access to regular descriptors and foci, yet still be cool because of their race. This allows the player to choose how much they lean into their race. One player might have one race flavor ability, the other three.

The downside is this is work. Unlike the other two solutions we talked about here, you need to come up with a few new abilities for each tier. You can always use type abilities from a variety of types.

I’ve seen a great example of using flavors for races for Cypher System fantasy in Megan Tolentino’s Fantasy Ancestries.

Slithik from The Sun Below adventures for Numenera; Dread Unicorn Games

I put in a racial descriptor and foci in The Sun Below: Sleeping Lady. Maybe I’ll put in a racial flavor in The Sun Below: That’s How the Light Gets In. No promises, but I’m kind of excited to do one.

The Gray World (5E)

The Gray World, On Sale Now!

The Gray World is an introductory adventure for third and fourth level fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons characters. Pregenerated characters are included.

The PCs discover they all have helped out Old Man Gray, a squash farmer. Then most everyone in the village dies with gray vines spurting out their bodies. Some NPCs survive, but not all can be trusted. Can the players solve the mystery of the Gray World before they become plant food?

This adventure showcases the innovations found in The Gods Have Spoken. A perfect pairing!

The Gray World - 5E - Adventure - Dread Unicorn Games