PRECONCEIVED CHARACTERS ARE BOTH blessing and a curse. When generating a new character, I tend to always go three d6 in order. I don’t do this because I’m some elitist slime or because I don’t care, it is simply that I’ve played ever class there is out there, and if I’m allowed to custom build my own character then I’ll always build the same one. It’s like going to my favorite expensive restaurants, I love going, but I always order the same thing.
Not to say that it isn’t bad to play a favorite character, but as a role-player, it isn’t just rules crunching that makes a game fantastic, but exploring the character that has been put out in front of me. Besides, the fact is that when it comes time to game, a character’s stats really don’t become that much of a factor. A player who knows how to use his head is always going to waste any super-character out there if the player relies solely on his ability scores to keep him alive.
People think that I’m full of it when I say that ability scores don’t matter. This isn’t a video game, just because you aren’t strong enough to lift the castle gate doesn’t mean that there isn’t another way inside. Hell, the goal of the game is to get inside. Yes, using your 18/00 STR is an easy way inside of the castle, but the key word is EASY, and if we really wanted it to be easy would we be playing the game?
There are more then just ability scores that can make a super character, there is also magic items that can contribute to the problem. You know, I’m a player too, and I want to have fun and it is really fun to add super magical items to a campaign! We do want people talking about our stuff, who doesn’t? We have access to some really cool stuff and so what if we sometimes get a wild hair up our butts and allow a player to find something so cool that it blows everybody’s minds (and usually the challenges as well), but once we commit to exploring something of this nature, then we have to be man enough to deal with the consequences, either by increasing the games difficulty, or by devising some method of keeping the object in check.
In the long run, it really isn’t Super Characters that are the problem, but a lack of balance. If we allow one character to possess to much power, then what does he need his fellow players for? We have to distribute the wealth, that is more important then curbing perfect characters. If a game isn’t balanced, then somebody is going to get upset, and rightfully so! D&D isn’t a spectator sport, we need to look at our party before we add treasure, and figure out who needs help and who doesn’t. If somebody is struggling to keep up, then we need to balance the game. BALANCE!!! That is one of the hardest jobs of a Dungeon Master’s, because this balance will be differently defined each and every time. Newer editions have tried to figure this one out on some mass scale, and you just can’t! It is impossible! There is no magic formula to aid you but your own judgment.
A Super Character is one that disrupts the balance. Players will always try to make them. They will fake die rolls, attempt to trick you, or even resort to down-right bullying to get their way. Many of the gamers who try to do this are either stuck. They have some preconceived notion of what their character is suppose to be, such as a Ranger or a Paladin, or they only want to play a specific class or a race. Others swear to god that you simply can’t play a character unless it has at least two scores above a fifteen. Still others don’t play the game to Role Play, but to crunch monsters. All of these are legitimate excuses! And we’ll have to have to meet halfway on some things, but I stress HALFWAY! This does not mean that we simply cater to their every demand. If we do that then we’ll just lose the respect of the players, and that should always be avoided for everybody’s sake.
I’m not going to tell you that all characters are playable, because obviously that isn’t the case. A character has to have at least one ability score of 9 to qualify for a class. If this isn’t the case then we can either quickly reroll all of the stats again.
A new role-player may also want to try a playing a specific class that he hasn’t gotten to play yet. This is cool! We can either move numbers around to fulfill the class or race, or we can just write in the bare requirements, it is up to you and your game. In the long run, STATS really don’t mean all that much, and as a DM we will be testing abilities from time to time, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t intend for the player to fail from time to time.
If a player is really bitching about having low stats, and it is effecting his game, then we should compromise with him. We aren’t going to give him everything that he wants, but if he isn’t having a good time because he’s a crunch master then there isn’t anything wrong with compromise, just keep in mind that we need the game to be balanced. Try to get the player involved in his “underpowered” character, give him some ideas that might help him with figuring the role-playing out. Say we get a Min-Maxer who always has to play a Paladin, well, instead of just giving him the min-requirements of the class, we’ll just tell him that maybe this character wants to be a Paladin, and strives to live up to the code. Heck, he might actually believe that he IS a paladin! Always try to encourage role-playing in experienced gamers, and when you do “fix” a stat, never go above a 15. That should be a hard limit! We will make an exception only for a player who wants to try playing a specialty class for the first time, specialty classes are suppose to be rare, that is one way of making a natural paladin or illusionist more exciting.
Threes in a stat can be a bad thing! But it does give us some fun things to roleplay. Imperfect characters are fun to play! I had a character with a CON of 3, he was a chicken, and always believed that he was going to contract some crazy illness that would kill him. I always had a backup character, for the day that he did die (which he never did) but I enjoyed playing him. I was always amazed at his survival right along with everybody else!
Players who are all about the crunch have videogames, and it is up to us to encourage the art of Role-Playing and creativity. We can do this with crunch experts, most of the time they just need a gentle tap to get them to leave their comfort zone and explore different aspects of the game. This is a social game, and chances are, the cruncher is still playing just to get out of the house and visit with friends, we shouldn’t punish him for it. If he thinks that he needs 2 stats that are 15 then so be it, after all, it is just a game, and games are meant to be fun for everybody involved.
IDENTIFYING PERFECT CHARACTERS
As I said above, this is all about balance. We need to look at Role-playing as well as Crunch. If a character is struggling with either, then he may need some tips. This is a hobby! True role-players are always striving to become better roleplayers! We honestly don’t need any one-man armies running around who aren’t villains. Look at how your party is behaving, how fast they are going through monsters, and who is doing the killing. If it is just one person, then we need to target this individual. A game can be unbalanced from high stats, magical items, or levels, which all of these things, thankfully, are easy to fix.
In our arsenal we have monsters and magic that can drain stats, destroy items, and consume levels; the trick is to take only what you want, we are looking to achieve balance, not change the nature of the balance. If by attacking a specific character with an ability eating monster, we are only turning other characters into stronger characters then we committed an error. Balance isn’t all of the characters being the same! The party has to identify their strengths and weaknesses within the ranks, we may not be dealing with a super character, but instead, with a player who is just a better gamer.
With this in mind, maybe the problem isn’t that a character is too strong, but that the others are to weak? We need to identify a characters strengths and weaknesses as well, and design elements which capitalize on a specific characters strength, as well as taking advantage of weaknesses within the characters themselves.
We can’t just assume that if one player is chopping threw monsters, that the problem is lays with him because it could be that the problem can be identified with the DM himself! We need to cater to ALL of the players at the table, not just one or two.
BRINGING OLD CHARACTERS INTO NEW GAMES
I enjoy a variety when I write my games, however there is always an ongoing theme or trend. Sometimes I want to explore different aspects of the game and I want to ignore basic rules. For instance, my current game involves world travel and I really don’t want to have to worry if my players can afford it or not, thus they are all loaded! And we are talking filthy rich. Money is not a motivator in this game, and it serves only one purpose, and that is to purchase supplies which aren’t a big deal.
I am prepared to live with this, DURING THIS GAME! Now, say a player wants to take this character and play it again, either under a new DM or even under myself when I have a different story to tell, the size of their wallets is definitely going to be a problem. ALL of my players are loaded at this point, thus what is balanced in this game, may not be balanced in a different one.
Playing an old character isn’t a new idea, and as long as it is of the appropriate level, it isn’t an unreasonable request! I have played several favorite characters under many different DM’s. The key word is BALANCE! What can be a strong character in one game, can be fatally weak under another, and vice-versa. Before allowing a character from another DM or game to enter a current campaign, we first must sit down with the player and talk about this character. What do they hope to get out of it, look over their equipment and question any items that you aren’t sure about. How rich is this person? What is his favorite weapon or spell? If you judge a character as too strong for the campaign, then you’ll need to discuss with the player about limiting it. Maybe, at one time, it was okay to have a +5 Battle Axe of 10d4 Magic Missiles; before he begins play you must make him aware that he must leave this insane tool at home!
If he is underpowered, run a quick one-on-one game where he can earn experience and an appropriate magical item. This will help you get a feel for the character so that you are ready on game-day, rather then be surprised with he suddenly summons Mr. Peepers, his pet Dragon. Let him know up front, what he can and cannot take with him into the new game, that way you can both avoid arguments in the future, which, while fun for other players to watch, does get tedious if not limited to more then a few minutes.
Stats can also be limited by invention, perhaps he has been cursed by some NPC or has a run in with a ghost. This must be taken seriously though. As a general rule, if the PC in question has 18’s straight across the board, turn him down out of shear principal because he IS making fun of you, trust me.
WISHES AND GAME BALANCE
Wishes are both fun, and a pain in the butt. Thank god they are rare! A DM will never allow a player to CHEAT THE GAME! However there is a little dance going on, as you, the DM, are giving the player a chance to outsmart you.
Players who outsmart the DM should be awarded, fore this is one of the goals of the game. However the rules themselves must NEVER be out smarted. When granting wishes, we must take things literally, and I do mean just that! We should also twist the wish in some way, bend it to the laws of magic. Magic is not a science! It is a very mystifying thing. If one wishes for great riches, these riches have to come from someplace.
A player is sometimes tempted to wish for greater ability scores. This is easily handled: Players cannot cast wishes for the characters, they must cast wishes AS the character, no exceptions. Thus they can’t say I wish I had Strength of 25, this doesn’t mean anything at all! Now if they say that they wish that THEY physically were stronger, then, as long as their STR isn’t 18 (or 18/00 if a fighter) then you can go ahead and give them 1 point of STR, however we cannot cheat the rules, humans aren’t allowed to have over 18 STR, thus we only give them ¼ of a point, thus it will take 4 wishes to reach STR of 19, and THAT is a lot of wishes. If they are still intent on this dumb idea, then keep doubling the amount of wishes that it takes to achieve a full point. We can also play a dirty trick, especially if the caster of this wish is a dirty little trickster. A player can wish for great strength, and the wish will be granted, however at the cost of burning up 2 or 3 points from another ability score, such as CON or DEX.
Players should be terrified of wishes, especially ones in which they area dealing with creatures of evil. Yes, the Devil will play the game, however he is ALWAYS going to come out ahead in the long run.
THERE IS SOME HUBBUB ABOUT A NEW PRODUCT that has brought to many, a sense of disgust. I shan’t be giving this specific product any more attention then it already has. Of course finding out what it is will only take a few second for my readers, but that is beyond the point.
I really do strive to keep it PG around here, but this will be one of the times where parents may not agree with me that I am riding the line properly. To them, I am sorry.
History itself his many lessons to teach us, but when it comes to certain topics, those whom bring forth this knowledge are made to pay. It is outrageous! I am glad that people still get upset about such things, it proves that we aren’t morally bankrupt or dead. Probably the biggest changes that we have made as a species, is how we raise and treat children, as well as their roles in society.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, this article isn’t going to be nice. Conditions of the world itself demanded a different set of rules. The life expectancy for any one person was 10 to 27-years-old depending on when and where you were born. There was no such thing as birth control, families often had too many children, and many children were conceived as the result of a crime which was committed upon them.
In our ancestors defense, they didn’t have as much free time as we do today, they never got a chance to sit and ponder the philosophy of Child Rearing. They never got a chance to do much thinking of any kind, work was backbreaking and exhausting. This is the average, therefore our leisure and happiness is not the norm when looking back through the ages, it is a very rare exception!
All one has to really do is just look at the daily activity of a society to understand. The role of a man was harsh. If he was lucky to have a job it wasn’t one of those eight hour deals. He didn’t get paid by the hour. If he had a skill he worked from the time that he got up until the time that he went to bed.
Women had it no better. Their jobs were in the home, cooking was an all day thing. Where do children fit into this? Well the obvious answer is that they don’t! Children were used as extra labor. In the rural communities your life was better then in the city. City life for a child was hellish.
In the city, your average family was broken. Your mother and father were typically addicted to vice. Homes were rare and you spent your entire life barely scraping by. Adult life was unbearable, children were often left to their own devices.
It was expectable to abandon newborn children. It wasn’t just acceptable, it was required! You barely have enough money to get food and shelter for yourself! People would try to give the babies to friends or family who may be in a better position then you, but your options are limited.
Babies left abandoned either died from exposure, were eaten by stray dogs, or picked up by someone who would keep the child as there own, but, more often then not, as a pet or a slave.
The rich did not raise their own children, they hired this job out. Everybody below this scale had a more difficult time, the hardest part was waiting for a child to grow to the age of 5, THEN the child could start giving back.
A CHILD’S ROLE IN THE FAMILY
In the 1900’s people threw a fit because this was the year that children were ordered by the government to be educated at the expense of their parents. For the first time in history, it actually COST money to have a child, needless to say this went over about as well as a pig in a bathing suit. Education is still a fairly new concept. Many societies had schools, however only the very rich could afford them. For the rest of us, there was labor!
Rural families, of course worked beside their kids. One spent their entire life within the 15-25 miles of which they were born. City kids also had to work, many jobs were designated as “YOUTH JOBS“. These weren’t easy, we are talking about mining ore and other harsh physical labor! Typically, for a job of this kind your father would sell you. In Rome, you were allowed to sell boys up to 3 times. By law, on the forth time the child was worthless and had to be given away for free.
If you were a lucky child, your father could find a tradesman who will except you. You’d be an apprentice, cleaning up the work space, helping the craftsman with extremely labor intensive and highly dangerous work. With so many children running around, you didn’t have very long to make a good impression. The bulk of the children failed at this job and were forced to roam the streets aimlessly doing petty work, or worse.
This was for boys, girls had it much worse. Poor families who were slaves themselves just couldn’t afford too many girls. Maybe 1 if they were wealthy enough. These girls could only help their mother, and were judged worthless until they were of marrying age. The age of marriage was between 11 and 17, anything older then seventeen; you were judged as too old, and guess what happened to them!
THE OLDEST PROFESSION
Prostitution was always the fastest way to earn a buck, and both boys and girls partook in this trade. It is disgusting, however this sad life was even prevalent in American cities up to the early 1900’s, before the state really decided to crack down on it. It is still an active problem in some Eastern Cultures, and it does still happen under our own noses right here in the West. People have always been sick, this isn’t a new trend.
By the age of 13, you were considered to be an adult. Until this time all of the money that you have earned went directly to your parents. Of course, it wasn’t rare to have all of the living generations of a family living in the same tiny house. With women being so rare, since they are more expensive to raise, your chances of getting married aren’t very good. Women were considered to be an investment! They could bring more wealth to the family, well they had to potential to anyway.
CHILDREN IN RELIGION
The spur in people’s goats right now is the details of casting a spell that requires the sacrifice of a human. Human sacrifice was rare, at least when it comes to sacrificing your own blood. In fact, the only faith that I know of that actually practiced this was the Celts who would sacrifice a local baby boy every year and eat it. Most of the time it was either animals (which were equally expensive) or captured enemies.
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS APPLICATIONS
Where does this stuff belong in the games that we play? Well, it depends on our own style, just like it always has! Much of this stuff is simply fluff. We play more fantastic worlds then anything else, however the very idea of children in the game is often ignored. Normally the only time that we see them, they are either being kidnapped or living healthy, happy lives while playing “ring around the rosy” in their parents yards.
THIS IS FINE! We always have the final say so, but I do think that D&D is also a teaching tool, and culture shock is a great lesson that we can all stand to learn a bit better. There is a reason why we play adventurers over carpenters. All of our character’s have sad backgrounds that act as motivations for doing what they do. If they were happy they wouldn’t be risking their lives over a handful of gold, nor seeking glory just for the sake of it.
I bring this up because it is part of our jobs to be taking back as much gold as we possibly can, and what better way to take it back then to have them give it to their families? No doubt they will need it! Perhaps the family roles could take more precedence then what they normally do? It is an option.
Taking this article into account: It is stated that our characters start off at 1st level at ages between 15 and 19-years-old. This is really conservative, perhaps, for characters who possess no usable trade, we should start off with a base age of 13 + 1d4? Innocence was something that one lost before the draw of one’s first breath.
The fun thing about video games is trying to find the right weapon to get the job done. What hurts what monster. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it is really hard. Now, of course Dungeons & Dragons and Video games are apples and oranges.
One of the problems with D&D is that players get to know the monsters. They know that piercing weapons only do half damage to skeletons, and that using a lightning bolt against a flesh golem isn’t a good idea. This isn’t on purpose, player knowledge just happens! We DM’s shouldn’t get mad about it, or force the player to change the way that they play, because this problem is actually up to US to solve by ticking up the difficulty level.
How do you do this? Well first off, quit telling the players what they are dealing with.
You see a man kneeling over the shape of a woman, his clothes are tattered and stained with blood. You notice that the woman doesn‘t appear to be moving anymore, and the man‘s shoulders indicate that he is weeping.
How close do you need to be to realize that the man isn’t crying over the woman, but eating her? You probably won’t, especially if you aren’t suspecting anything like this is going on. We also don’t know the actual nature of this monster. It could be a zombie, a ghoul, or even a vampire! We’ll be keeping this a secret for as long as we can, and we’ll just let the player assume whatever they want to, and we’ll NEVER use the term zombie, ghoul, or vampire. With a scene above, even a Zombie should be able to gain the first attack, regardless of what the rules say about a zombie always getting to attack last. There will be a delay on the part of the characters as what is REALLY happening sinks in. If the characters recognize the girl, or the man then this could force the characters to react as if a Cause Fear spell had been cast from a low level.
After a character knows what the things minions are, such as undead or goblins or what have you, you can use the things name, but this can also go to your advantage.
The smell of death assaults you as you open the door, revealing a wooden staircase. At the foot of the stairs is a zombie, and he sees you as well. A dry hiss escapes his lips as he begins to shuffle up the steps, pure menace and hate in his eyes.
Now, just because I said that it was a zombie, doesn’t really mean that it is, or tell the characters exactly what it is. It could be a Ju-Ju Zombie, it could be a Revenant, it could be a prisoner suffering under the effects of a Feign Undead spell, they don’t really know, we just described it’s nature, not it’s true type. They will just assume that it is an average zombie, and attack it as such.
Another matter of perspective is the Boss, or Sub-Boss. The boss is in control, if the creatures are of lawful nature, he’ll be the one directing traffic, if the creatures are chaotic, he’ll be the meanest and strongest of the lot. Can the PC’s detect this with their eyes or their 5 senses? Probably not right off the bat. We’ll keep this things true identity a secret as long as possible, trying to save this until the end of the session.
Each monster has a special skill, it is up to us to really study the monsters and think of ways to use these skills effectively. Since we’ll be doing things as a mystery, the first contact a party will have with a monster will be evidence of it’s powers, usually without actually knowing that they are in fact looking at this. After the adventure is over, they’ll be able to look back at the clues and realize what they had missed.
These things should be going on for quite some time before anyone notices. A power of a Black Dragon is to taint the water supply. Dragons don’t like to be bugged, they are also to smart to just fly into town and burn it down, being sneaky, all they have to do to destroy a town is taint the water and force the settlement to abandon their homes because of lack of clean drinking water. Perhaps a group of adventurers will be employed to enter the forest and see if they can find the cause of this disaster?
Usually, it is all in the way you describe the situation. Information shouldn’t be given out. Instead of people being turned to stone, elaborate Statues are appearing outside of town, surely a gift from the gods!! How long will it take before somebody realizes that People are disappearing and the statues are being made in their likeness? There is no consensus to the city or village, in fact, most of the victims would be travelers anyway. Perhaps the rich are collecting these things as art objects? Churches buying them up and proclaiming them to be miracles?
How can a given power be used subtly? How would people interpret the information? Can something good be found in the power before it booms out of control?
THE GOLDEN RULE
The golden rule, is, of course, those that have the gold, make the rules. The upper-class, the knowledgeable scholars know that there isn’t any such thing as monsters. Those that see them will always be ridiculed, a scholar who finds it his business to seek them out will be seen as an idiot and not worth the time of day. Monsters are primitive fears created by fools. We must move forward, not look backwards to some tired religious concepts, which can‘t be true.
Some may believe, but find it their duty to cover such things up, as it would surely cause mass panic. Others would just sit on their high stools and not be bothered to research things of such fantasy, and simply ridicule those who would seek their help.
This isolates the Players. Even if brought the evidence of a massive zombie epidemic, those in charge will insist that it was nothing but an illness such as leprosy, and those that claim otherwise are feeble of mind and superstitious fools. It is THIS belief that strengthens the monsters. The constable will always seek the wrong leads, and refuse to give any credit to clues that don’t fit their version of the facts. They won’t help the Players in any way but to discredit them, or give them a false sense of security by claiming that they have the problem under control.
Magic, of course screws this up some, but it doesn’t have to. Wizards are so rare that they are just old men who are equally as blind as the officials are. If it doesn’t exist in their own personal spell books, then it simply doesn’t exist! Priests are much the same way, only more vicious. Those whom do anything outside of their own powers are heretics and must be destroyed.
If this is impossible, because your current campaign, or your players prefer a magic heavy campaign, then you’ll need to think of some other reason why the village needs the PCs to solve this mystery for them, the above suggestion is just how I run my campaigns. A little bit of elbow grease will help you flush out how to get this done in your own style.
It is always better to have a monster be too strong, then it is to have it be to weak. Especially with a mystery type of campaign. Sometimes the party will know exactly what the monster is, such as the case of a werewolf, and it becomes a matter of whom is the werewolf. For this kind of story, we’ll want the best specimen that we can find! Max hit points, if this still isn’t strong enough, then we’ll need to modify it further.
Many DM’s have this misconception about monsters, that all of them need ecology. The fact is that more then 85% of the monsters in the Monster Manual are drawn from myth and legend of this planet and this plane of existence. Monsters have no place in society except to torment and feed upon us. Trolls don’t need to have babies, Medusa doesn’t tend a garden or sell pumpkins on the side of the road. Why they exist is up to you, but don’t be afraid to pop up a random monster if it will fit your setting. Obviously if you want to go less fantasy and more horror then you’ll not have Elves or Goblins building their own cities. These would be things that only exist when it is convenient for us, the DM, to have them around. If the werewolf or whatever monster that you want to use isn’t strong enough to challenge the party, then create a Greater Werewolf, or a greater form of Lycanthropy that will better fit your idea of what would make it more exciting.
Make the monster harder to hit, give him a higher hit die. A good example of me disagreeing with the Monster Manual is the AD&D Vampire. Those things are not even remotely entertaining as is. My vampires are more like the movie vampires of yore, they don’t always drain levels, usually they drain Constitution or permanent hp, it just depends on if I want the Vampire to be a major part of the story, or if they are just window dressing. A vampire lord and a vampire minion actually do have their own ecology. Is it still playing D&D? Of course it is! When a player knows what to expect from a monster, THAT is a bigger problem then creating monsters which are unique to your world.
CREATING UNIQUE MONSTERS
There isn’t any easy way to do this, but it isn’t as hard for 2e as it is for any version afterwards, so consider yourself lucky. Why all monsters need to be compatible with PC stats is beyond me. Just look at the example of the Mummy in your MM. They have your typical mummies, as well as having a much powerful BOSS type mummy. Maybe throwing some magic user abilities and increasing intelligence is all you need to do, but we should know WHY this is so, even if that answer is a mystic one, such as the god of Boltivar, the werewolf god delivered upon his children the dark messiah, or a creature that slipped out of a secret gate, it really doesn’t matter, but we the DM needs to know what separates this monster from his lesser kin, and what would happen if he were to aggressively hunt these lesser beings. Would he recruit, strengthen, or kill them?
Since we’ll be focusing on extreme power, they must have a weakness which can be exploited. Our mystery monster will be able to kill any of the PCs if he can get them to separate from the party, and be able to kill them in two attacks or less. Because of this extreme power, he must have a fatal flaw. This should not be something that is obvious, but something that the party must research and have to formulate a trap for the beast in order to exploit it.
This can also be used for any monster which can really push a party to the edge of what they can handle. Even a party of four first level players can handle something as powerful as a ghost as long as you give it a fatal weakness and the players don’t try something stupid like a full frontal assault. This weakness can be attacking a specific structure, such as a tombstone or a specific tree located in the woods. It can be anything, any attacks towards the monster itself will be fruitless, however destroying the book that summoned him into being could utterly destroy him without much work, besides doing the research to find out the creatures weakness.
A weakness could also be a specific attack, or only a specific weapon. The weakness should say something about the creature. The weakness could be known to the creature, or it could be blissfully unaware that the flaw exists to begin with.
Illusionists make excellent badguys. The rakshasa is an excellent villain, they are listed as having tiger-heads on human bodies, but why? Why not let the rakshasa disguise himself until the very end? Since this is a mystery, we’ll also want to create a list of NPCs/suspects. If the monster is a shape shifter, or if it is controlled by a person then it is best if this NPC is somebody whom the players know. They don’t have to be intimate with them, or buddy buddy, however it should be somebody that the players will know instantly when it is time to do the big reveal.
Depending on the monsters intelligence, he will either leave clues accidentally, or leave clues to frame somebody else, but there should be some REAL clues there. Ask yourself if the monster is capable of covering up its own tracks, or if it is just so bestial that it doesn’t care. Maybe somebody lives in the community that just screams MONSTER! A grizzly, grumpy old trapper who lives by himself in the woods and only comes to town for supplies, this would be the perfect patsy. A smart monster will leave false clues behind. Maybe the villain himself is a vampire but he carries himself, and dresses his home to mislead others to believe that he is a werewolf? If the locals could find or kill this monster on their own, then they would. Why can’t they? This is up to you to decide.
This thing, of course, is on a killing rampage. There is a formula that the DM should follow, formulas are there for a reason, these things are tried and true. This formula is the bones of the adventure, the skeleton that holds the whole thing up, and is as follows.
The Players investigate a murder scene that has already been cleaned up.
The Players investigate a fresh murder scene.
The players have a chance to stop a murder.
The players confront the murderer and destroy him.
This is the bare bones of the story, you’ll need to flesh this formula out, and try to hide it under the story so that the players don’t detect that you are in fact USING a formula, at least not on a conscious level. This is our PLOT, but a good mystery needs more then just plot, as the Dungeon Master, it is your chore to make it real. To do this, you can either write the daily activity of the monster, or create a random chart of events that you will check daily.
Random Sabotage Generator (1d12)
1. Poison Food
2. Broken rigging
3. Fire in kitchen
4. Robbed Lockbox
5. Key to arms room stolen
6. Cannon strap breaks, cannon lose on deck
7. Powder keg explodes
8. Diseased rat
9. Fight, mutiny
10. Man over board
11. Lifeboat hull broken
12. Engine breaks down
Now that was a chart that I used for Dopplegangers aboard a ship, but you get the idea.
Some monsters will first send in a harbinger of doom to prepare the area before they attack. They remove threats, prepare a lair, eliminate people whom the master fears, and do all of the all-around dirty work believing that they will some how be rewarded for their deeds, however as history tells us, they never are. Their only reward is typically a quick and painless death.
The Harbinger can give clues, however these clues are disguised as ravings of a lunatic. He will never be very helpful unless you have a bottle or something that you wish to be thrown at your head, but there are two kinds of Harbingers. 1.) The Stranger: A man who has never been to the area but is causing all sorts of trouble. Killing animals, cutting off communications, burning down guard towers and weak points of military areas, eliminating spell casters until he is captured. He has no ties to the area. 2.) The Lunatic: This character is from the area, but for an unknown reason, has gone mad. Normally he can hide this fact while he does his dirty work, which is the same stuff as the stranger, however since he knows the area very well, he can do it without getting caught. He can also purchase property and continue to do his job, blending in. A very dangerous harbinger! His crimes will continue alongside his master, and will confuse the researchers. It can also give them a false sense of security when he is captured or killed.
Highly intelligent monsters will employ a Harbinger, usually through trickery and magic. If a monster can charm or in other ways control the minds of others, then this will indicate that a harbinger can be designed. His life expectancy will depend upon how useful that he is. If he is running around cutting throats while the monster feeds, the monster will release him if he is captured. However if his work is done, and the monster fears that he will reveal too much information, he’ll kill the harbinger in a way that will horrify anyone who discovers the body.
Now typically the Harbinger will start out as a 0th level NPC when the monster finds him. He will, however, be augmented to be more dangerous. We can just assume that it is the powers of darkness and evil, or extra strength due to pure insanity. This special ability should aid the Harbinger, for instance if he is to kill enemies of his master, he’ll have the ability to backstab, as well as possess other thief skills that will help him be more effective. He could also have a special tool or magic item which was given to him by his master to aid him. The item will only work for him and will turn into a cursed item if it falls into the wrong hands.
THE SECRET BOSS
Sometimes a weak person discovers an item that allows him to control a monster. These attacks can appear to be random, however in reality what is really going on is the abuse of power. The true villain is a weak human who has an indestructible monster at his mercy, and has been driven mad with power. Using this monster to kill anyone for even the slightest or perceived misdeed.
Now, again we have a problem. Once the adventure is over, the wicked person has been exposed and the item is in safe hands, the PC’s might refuse to give up this item. Of course the thing has to be cursed, and it has to be a curse that will offset the power, this has to be considered before the players touch it, as if we don’t then we can bring ourselves a lot of grief. For secret bosses, and powerful magic items that boast steep curses, we’ll also need a depositor; an NPC that can safely handle the item and see to it’s destruction or safe keeping. This could even be the monster itself!
HAUNTER OF THE DARK
This is an easy method of play. A mystical beast is plaguing the community. This involves discovering the nature of the beast, it’s weakness, and finding it’s lair or hunting it, while being hunted by it yourself. FUN STUFF!
Mystery is a very important element with this kind of thing. We don’t want the dreaded “1st level Goblin” adventure, we want something scary. A monster which breaks the rules. It kills both for food as well as for sport and seems to ignore the rules laid down by nature. This can either be a natural monster, or a mythical beast with no ecology what so ever. A beast that seems to come and go as it pleases. It can cut into the night like a knife, and disappear just as quickly. Hunting this thing will be very dangerous because it is intelligent, and can plan, as well as identify traps, and the strength to destroy all things in its path.
Perhaps this thing is working alone, or it could be another number. Animals which are natural to the area will probably take the blame until somebody can identify this creature. It need not be an animal either; Trolls make great Bigfoot type enemies, their tracks would both mystify and horrify the locals who discover them.
THE MAN-EATING PIASA BIRD
As an example of bringing forth mystical creatures, lets explore one myth that comes from Illini Indian Tribe which reported a monstrous winged creature, its scaly horse-like body feathered and painted green, black, and read, with an evil red-eyed face, a rack of terrible antlers, a long beard, razor sharp claws and teeth, and finally, a tail that was so long that it could wrap its body up within it.
This great terror would sweep out of the sky, grab men and carry them off to some cruel fate. It attacked with such regularity that it had to be stopped, however nothing that the warriors had would cause it any harm nor stop it in any way. Finally, the Chief, Chief Ouatoga, sought refuge and guidance from the spirits. He entered the woods and fasted and prayed to the Great Spirit, imploring the god to grant his people salvation. At last the Great Spirit whispered into Ouatoga’s ear, telling him of the Piasa birds only weakness.
That very day Ouatoga gathered up his greatest warriors and implemented his plan. The party climbed to the top of the highest bluff, soon they heard the piercing scream of the Piasa and saw it’s dark form in the sky above. It swooped down upon Ouatoga, who fell to the ground and gripped a tree root with all his might.
As the bird grabbed Ouatoga, the warriors released a volley of arrows into the bird, aiming for the soft flesh below the Piasa bird’s wings, the weakness described by the Great Spirit. The Piasa screamed and attempted to take to the air when another hail of arrows found their mark. At last the Piasa uttered a final shriek and plummeted over the cliff, into the river below. The triumphant Illini braves and their wounded Chief cheered as the body sank into the churning waters below.
In game terms, the warriors must lose the first imitative. A successful attack must take place on a very strong individual who can hold the bird down, while taking damage from this fierce thing. The hero being attacked must compete with the bird in a feat of strength while his party shoots arrows into it.
This beast isn’t natural to the area, it is the exact opposite, a creature of evil and death. It may have a lair full of bones, and it does eat the victims it catches, but where it comes from we really never will find out, nor does it matter. It is a magical creature and magic is suppose to defy logic, fore THAT is the very nature of magic.
The House of Tears
This superstructure and it’s companion building, the Black Tower, so called because of the black creeper weed is firmly latched upon its walls, is the law. Taxes are paid here, and those that cannot pay them will call these walls their final place of rest . . . If they are lucky.
Evil has taken over this foundation, if this is not right for your campaign, then feel free to change the alignments to better suit what you need. Law is also handled differently from world to world, the following text is but one suggestion among thousands of possibilities, ultimately this is yours.
For this piece, law shall be run by Magistrates, local professionals who have been honored by the King. Magistrates meet once a month to pass judgment upon those who have broken the law, justice in this building is harsh. Simple thievery can be punishable by death, as can lesser infractions. There are other punishments which will be described elsewhere. This is not modern law, it isn’t kind and it isn’t fair. Prisoners can be locked away into the dungeon and it can take years for the magistrate to even get to your case. Confessions are obtained through torture, many times, what you were originally locked up for is forgotten, however the magistrate will still find you guilty. If you do see a trial, you are not allowed to speak for yourself, if someone wishes to speak up for you, then they can do this. You get no legal council, no lawyer. Money and Land are your best way out, however the Magistrate can take all of this from you with a simple nod of his wig.
In dealing with PC criminals, the more famous that they are, the better their chances are of escaping with their lives. How much they resisted arrest will be factored in, they could be judged innocent of the original charge, however be guilty for killing or causing bodily harm to his majesties men. A good factor in speed and pull is the characters level. A PC can see a trial in 1d12 months, minus their level of experience. Thus if a 6th level character rolls a 10, he will see trial in 4 months.
The trial itself, will always be prosecuted by his majesties clerk. He is the only official Lawyer there, and he will always fight tooth and nail to see the plaintiffs hang. This man is a genius and remembers everything, he is also highly charismatic. Those that wish to speak for the defense of their allies, may be forced to make a charisma check against him, a very harsh gamble. Other players should be judged fairly and justly, but if you, the DM feel that their defense is weak, then the life of the prosecuted could hang in the balance of a single roll of the dice.
This building is highly protected, the station guards are all elite men who have been hand picked by the Royal Commander from thousands of soldiers. All troops are at least 5th level or better, they are armed with swords, shields, and plate armor. Tower guards are armed with heavy crossbows and chain mail armor. Their Alignments are all the same, Lawful Neutral. They will do anything that their superiors instruct them to do, regardless of how tasteless or benevolent this chore may be.
Local troops bring all prisoners here and all are subjected to the authority of the Commander. Local troops are basic soldiers of 1st level and up. There are three different classes of patrol troops. Stationary guards protect the city gates, and other areas, these are the Commanders Elite Troops described above, they enforce taxes, and the boundaries. Mobile Units are either 1st or 2nd level soldiers armed with long swords and spears, and protected by chain mail armor, and patrol the city streets in small units of 1d6+4. Above them is the cavalry: 3rd-7th level soldiers mounted on horseback armed with either maces or heavy crossbows, and all carry long swords as well. Mounted Cavalry wear studded leather armor, and command 3-8 mobile troops with the ability to call more if they are needed.
Troops are paid for prisoners that they bring to the House of Tears, thus they will only kill if they have no other choice. Once a suspect is contained, he will be shackled and the highest ranking soldier will bring them to the Black Tower where the Commander’s men will pay the soldier and process the suspect. The suspect will be relieved of all of the goods that he is carrying: weapons, armor, and valuables will be taken to the House of Tears for safe keeping, while the prisoner is escorted down to the Dungeon where he must wait his turn to see the magistrate for his punishment. After a few weeks, the prisoner will be asked if he has any property of value, he may be able to buy his freedom here if his offence was not to harsh. If the prisoner has no property of value, then he will be at the mercy of the Magistrate. At this point, the jailer will also ask the prisoner for a confession, if one his not given then he will be taken to the torture chamber. On the day before punishment, he will be taken down the mile, and be placed in a secured cell within the walls of the House of Tears itself, if the Magistrate get to his case then he will be moved into the court, if not, he goes back into the dungeon.
In the court, the Royal clerk will pull the prisoner’s case (if he has one) and state to the magistrate what offense the prisoner had committed, at this time the prisoner’s friend or family is given the opportunity to approach the bench and plead the prisoner’s case, the clerk will then become prosecutor and say whatever it takes to get the prisoner to be judged guilty. If the magistrate wishes to speak to the accused, it will always be in the form of torture, conducted within the walls of the House of Tears itself, this is done to get further information which the magistrate believes the prisoner to know.
Under no circumstances should the prisoner, or the defense ever say, or suggest that the prisoner is innocent, this will only anger the magistrate as they believe (and enforce all to believe) that they are infallible and are never wrong. Prisoners are never judged innocent, they are either released, returned to the dungeon, or (the preferred method) executed. Those condemned to the gallows will be placed in a giant holding cell right there in the courtroom, Those released will be taken to the holding area were they will be fined accordingly, their property returned to them if so ordered by the magistrate, and eventually released. Those that are to be returned to the dungeon area because of the magistrate being unable to judge one way or the other of what to do, will be tossed into a cell and forgotten about, unless by pure accident. Other punishments include, but certainly not limited to slavery. The House of Tears sells broken prisoners at a local auction twice a year. Unclaimed property which hasn’t turned up missing is also auctioned off quarterly, unsold items are sold for scrap.
Above all else, The House of Tears is a business, it is there to make money and this it does very well.
HOUSE OF TEARS 1st Floor
Three giant oak doors lead into the building itself, these doors are defended by 2 elite guards armed with pole-arms, swords, and plate armor. This job is highly desired by the men, as it is a great honor to serve this post. These guards are highly decorated with lavish red caps and matching colors.
A. Commoner’s Area
A1. The Grand Hall
In it’s grandeur, it was desired by it’s original architects to give the common man a rich and beautiful area to enjoy and take pride in. Giant statues of gods and goddess of wealth and law stand proudly, however the cursed black creeper weed has infiltrated this once grand hall, and it climbs the walls and statues here as well. Workers try to clear it away, however it just seems to come back even stronger, it is now contained, and doesn’t appear to be spreading, though it has done much damage, squeezing these once proud idols to the point were many are broken or cracked. During the day, this room is filled with people who have business to do here. Elite guards stand at attention by the main doors, and also guard the massive spiral stairway to the second level, however these guards are dressed for functional reasons, verses ceremonial as their compatriots manning the front doors. Swords, shields, and beat up plate armor protect these men who see more action in this room then those whom patrol the streets outside. Those who seek money enjoy this dangerous post. Outbursts are common, and while these men are paid well, they will earn every last silver of it with blood.
A2. Commander Thorinus’s Office
The desk is exposed to the Grand Hall, and serves two purposes. First, arms are not allowed beyond the grand hall, those who break this law will be either arrested or slain. All arms must be checked in at this point, while there the Commander’s Secritary will check to make sure that the Duty for the weapon has been paid, or the owner will be subject to arrest. Secondly, complaints can be filed at this point. If an arrest is made, the reporter will be paid. This is big business in the city, and a thorn as well. Neighbors watch each other and report even the most minor infractions hoping to get some coin out of it. The commander has so many cases that he could not possibly follow up on all of them, however he does his duty to the best of his ability. The commander himself is rarely at this station, he is usually elsewhere, and trusts this to highly skilled men and women who can read and write.
A3. Taxation Desk
In this city, there are many taxes that must be paid, even by visitors. An entrance tax is always collected at the city gates, but visitors are instructed to first report to the Taxation Desk before any other action. Here the city clerk will tax all arms carried, the tax can be subject to the DM’s whims if he wishes to repair damage done to his campaign by giving them too much money, but normally the weapons tax is 1cp per 1gp that the item is worth. Other taxes include taxes for mounts, henchmen, and, depending on what business has led the adventurers to the city, and Adventuring Tax which will also include 1-10% of wealth earned while within city limits. Locals are subjected to many other taxes for property, and business, normally 10% of worth, plus taxable income. Needless to say that a lot of money is kept here, and is protected around the clock accordingly. Much of it will go to the King, and to maintaining the city and the garrison but there is always a small leek in funds that turns up missing as well.
B. Hall of Services
This hallway is lit by lantern, the black creeper weed has crawled in this part of the House, but only slightly. Thin black veins of the weed line the white stone floor and thick grey stoned walls. All pictures and art have been removed from the walls to protect them from harm.
B1. Offices of the city clerk
This room is packed with desks, and all manned by very smart men. They are available to the public to provide help with mathematics if need be (this is of course a trick, this allows the clerk to insure that the correct tax is always applied). All items and money is recorded here, as well as who owns what, the size of all properties in and around the city. Copies of land deeds and titles. A vast wealth of knowledge is stored here. If a seller wishes to sale property, both he and the buyer must do so here, mediated by a city clerk. All small claims complaints can be handle here, as long as both parties show up. If there is enough money involved in a small claims case, then the clerk can issue a warrant to have the other party appear against their will with an escort.
B2. City Library
This library is not public, however the public can pay to get access to the tomes and scrolls which it contains. The library is run by a Librarian whom is a sage as well. The books are mostly in regards to law and history, however there are some here which are questionable as they are written in a text that so far hasn’t been translated, however they are kept here because of their age and value. Wizards may find a spell or two here if they wish to pay to have access to the library. It’s primary purpose is to aid the Magistrate in answering tough judgments based on what has taken place in the past.
C. Magistrate Quarters
Only public officials and their servants are allowed in this area. A private entrence gives them easy access as well as a private carriage houses (not shown). The original number of Magistrates use to be greater, however misfortune has taken a severe toll upon their numbers, taking them down to only 3. A private stairway gives them access to the courtroom directly overhead on the second floor.
C1. Magistrate Chambers
This area offers a quiet place for the Magistrate to work and relax. It features a decorated fireplace, thickly padded chairs, a fully stocked bar, and places to sit and work. Luxury is the best word for it, and no notes can ever be taken here. What is said in this room, stays in this room. Rarely are individuals brought here, unless one of the Magistrates has some special business which he doesn’t want to ever leave this room. A door also provides quick access to the Library, but the most valuable books are kept in this room.
C2. Magistrate Quarters
This area is where the Magistrate get dressed, it has a privy as well as a sink for washing.
C3. Dressing Rooms
Magistrates, while on duty, wear lavish powdered wigs, as well as apply more powder on their faces, with some lip paint. They wear long black robes over clothing. Lord Hawthorn is currently the head Magistrate, he wears a wide decorative white collar around his neck, while the two Squires have none. In court, they all have an equal say, but it is the head Magistrate that ultimately sets the punishments, it is also his job to see that Justice is carried out on a regular basis (monthly).
D. Prisoners Hall
Those who are arrested for such minor offences such as drunkenness, or brawling are taken here. Prisoners who are to be released are also brought here for processing while their property is located, as will those awaiting the gallows. A wooden desk separates the clerk from the prisoners, all misconduct on the prisoners part will be handled with lethal force while in this area.
D1. The Tank
This large holding cell is, on regular business days, used for a drunk tank. They will be held no longer then 12 hours and then released again. On Magistrate day, however, all drunkenness and brawling is ignored, those that are still in the tank are released immediately. Those that have been sent to the gallows will fill up this giant cell and wait for the magistrates to make their way to the square so that they can witness the executions. Executions are public matters, and most everybody in the city will attend them gleefully, and with much fanfare.
D2. Clerks Passage
This small, cramped corridor is secured with lock and men of the best quality. If a prisoner is released, the clerk will go collect the prisoners belongings which are kept in the treasury. This will take a couple of hours or days depending on the objects. The clerk will then take the valuables back and make the prisoner sign for them, or what was there. This clerk will deduct the proper amount of fine from objects of value before the prisoner is released, if the prisoner cannot pay his fine, then surely his defense could (else he wouldn’t be released) once this fine has been paid then the prisoner is escorted out a free man.
D3. Spare Holding Cell
Freedom is such a rare thing, that normally they can get away with just using one cell for this purpose, however if need be, this cell is available as well. Spiders haunt this room, as it so rarely sees any use. Violent drunks sometimes get tossed in here if they anger the clerk with their rowdiness.
D4. South Gate
This small hall provides double protection against escape attempts. Those condemned to hang may try their last ditch efforts to freedom at this point . . . it always fails. Once a prisoner has been condemned to the gallows, he will always make the appointment, even if he is already dead.
D5. Freedom’s Door
This small filthy holding cell will be the prisoners last reminder of this place before freedom. He normally assumes that he will be released immediately, however his hopes to this will be dashed when he is violently thrown into this cell to await his property, and final processing. If the fine cannot be paid in 24 hours, the prisoner is then returned to the dungeon permanently.
This large foyer is decorated with paintings of the current magistrates as well as magistrates of the past. A large spiral stair leads to the Grand Hall. A posh rug covers the center of the floor, however the echoes in this place are still unnerving. Benches and stools line the walls.
E2. Treasure Room
Large chests and lockers fill this room, this is were the lords overflow of taxes are kept. Most of it is money, however there are some items here being kept safe as they have been judged as “to dangerous for an unready public”.
F. Magistrate Court
This large room is the heart and soul of the building and is always heavily guarded while in use.
F1. Witness Box
The area designated to the public. Witnesses are expected to sit in this area until called upon. Highly lacquered wooden benches provide seating. A matching gate surrounds the box to keep the courtroom clear, and to separate the public from officials and prisoners.
F2. Witness Stand
A set of stairs leads up to the witness stand from the box. Witness’s are allowed to stand here only once called upon. It stands 5 feet above the courtroom floor.
F3. Prisoners Stand
Prisoners are led to this stand one at a time and kept in irons. Prisoners are not allowed to speak, this stand gives the magistrate a chance to see the prisoner.
F4. Gallows Cage
Condemned prisoners are placed in this pen of reinforced steel bars to await their fate. Unruly prisoners are beaten mercilessly if their cries are judged to be too loud.
F5. Magistrate Bench
Ten Chairs sit behind a shared desk, however most chairs are left vacant. Magistrate view prisoners and listen to witnesses. It is here that they pass their judgments and conduct official business.
G. Magistrate Hall
The Magistrate are the only people who are allowed to use this hall. It links the chambers to the courtroom as well as provides access to interrogation chamber.
G1. Interrogation Chamber
This cold room is lined with cells and features a torture chamber. It is used for extracting information which the Magistrate feels is being suppressed by prisoners, though some say that this is where the magistrate goes to get their entertainment.
G2. Prisoners Hall
This hall is highly secured with guards posted at each door, it is cut into 3 separate and secured halls that lead from the Courtroom to the Black Tower.
H. Upper Freedom Hall
Those who are judged innocent are led to this room to wait in cells (H2) until they can be escorted down to lower Freedom Hall (D).
H1. The Mile
This room is where prisoners will be led to either freedom hall, or to their deaths. It is also used for an overflow cell if the gallows cage is full, or if a prisoners cries won’t be controlled by beating. Sometimes, executions are handled in this room, especially if the magistrate wishes for these special cases to disappear quietly.
H2. Freedom Cells
Those who await transfer to lower Freedom Hall wait here until the condemned are dealt with. At times, prisoners who have been judged to be expelled from the city are instead quietly executed in the Mile.
Black Tower Rooftop
A large bell is located here, a timekeeper strikes the bell hourly. A flag pole also is used to alert the city to special events. A crank that operates the Black Tower Gate is operated from the roof as well.
G2. Prisoner’s Hall
This area is used to hold prisoners who may appear before the magistrate. Prisoners are brought here from the dungeon a day or two before Magistrate day. Cells are broken down in 5 blocks for the convenience of the clerks who order guards to fetch them. Royal prisoners do not have to endure this. There is no natural light in this area, prisoners are kept in the dark until they see the magistrate. Guardsmen use torches for light.
G3. Secure Room
As a security measure, a small room separates the stairs from the Prisoner’s hall.
I. Black Tower Hall
This hall is used by both prisoner and workers alike. A small room separates the Kitchen from special cell area.
Extra weapons and arms are kept in this area. Personal valuables owned by the soldiers are kept locked in secured chests in this room as well.
I2. Dry Storage
Foodstuff and water is kept in this area. Food quality for prisoners is terrible, and that for the soldiers is only slightly better.
Food is prepared here by a cook, servants deliver food to where it is supposed to go.
14. Special Prisoners Cells
The High Class will be allowed to stay out of the dungeon. These cells each have windows that allow light in. Food is usually still hot when it is brought forward as well. These cells will always see the Magistrate before anyone else.
I5. Royal Cell
This is a very comfortable cell used to keep Gentlemen and Ladies of Noble Birth.
J. Entrance Way
The entrence to the Black Tower is controlled by a thick Gate which is usually kept open, but protected by armed soldiers at all times. Prisoners are lead to the staircase and taken down to the dungeon.
J1. Commander’s Quarters
Currently the room of Commander Thorinus. He sleeps and works in this room which is decorated with his personal effects. Thorinus is in command of both Jailors and Soldiers. He hires freelance soldiers when he doesn’t want to use his own men.
J2. Barracks Hall
Men are fitted for armor and other effects in this large room. They also gather here to be assigned to their duties.
J3. Barracks Armory
Weapons and fitted armor are kept in this room for easy access to the men.
J4. Jailor’s Barracks
This room contains beds for off-duty Jailors who wish to stay onsite. The Executioner also can prepare and stay here if he is from out of town.
J5. Mess Hall
Hall designated for eating and relaxing by all soldiers and jailors.
J6. Soldiers Barracks
Soldiers bunks fill up this room and can house as many men as it requires. Many soldiers are local and live at their own homes, however this room is available to all soldiers who require it and many do take advantage of it.
Black Tower Dungeon
All doors on this level are made of either thick oak (average door) or steel (cell door).
K. Dungeon Level Staircase
L. Hall of Screams
This cell lined corridor is always lit by torches which hang on the walls. Prisoners who are scheduled to be interrogated (i.e. tortured) are kept in this unit. All of the cells (L1) which are in use are lit by lamps secured from the ceilings. Prisoners who await torture can easily here those ahead of them. To aid in the clean up of the torture chamber and in this area, these prisoners are not fed or watered for at least 24 hours prior to interrogation.
M. Central Block
This hall is always monitored, prisoners here share a cell with up to four others. The hall is lit only by the guard on duty who carries a torch. None of the cells are lit. Hay lines the floor of the cells, as well as vermin. These prisoners are fed and watered twice a day.
N. West Hall
There are no cells on this hall, and this hall is well lit at all times. All guards on duty must report to the Captain of the Dungeon Guards in his office (N1) every half an hour. The Office is a dank room lit by lamps with a table and a couple of chairs in it. A locked trunk holds extra weapons in case of emergency. A map of the dungeon is updated daily (or at least it is suppose to be.)
O. South Block
All Cells on South Block are communal, up to 30 people can be tossed into these nightmare chambers. The cells in South Block are all 10 feet lower then the rest of the dungeon, the ground is usually flooded. The South Block hall is always kept dark, and lit only by the guard doing his patrol. Extra prisoners can be manacled to the wall here if room is needed, or if a prisoner keeps acting up.
P. East Hall
This hall contains the Dead Room (P1) prisoners who die either during interrogation or before they can go before the magistrate are wrapped up in cloth and thrown in this pit. A local contractor gathers the bodies once a month. Also on this hall is the torture chamber (P2). A rack, an Iron Maiden, and a spiked hot seat dominate this room. The tools of the torturer line the walls, a small desk sits in the corner along with a book and writing supplies so that the prisoners testimonies can be written down immediately.
Q. North Block
Cells identical to those on Central Block line the South wall, while on the North wall is the doom cells. These are small crypt-like cells that confine the prisoner in a laying down position with no room to move or change position. For some unknown reason, these cells are hotter then blazes, and the air here is staler then usual. Those whom the magistrate wishes to simply forget are kept here. The life expectancy in these horrible crypts is 3 months of pure agony and terror, however for good measure, they are only emptied when a new tenant moves in. Each crypt can hold 2 prisoners.
Lord Hawthorn AC 10; HD 0; hp 3
#AT 1; dmg 1d4 (poison dagger);
THAC0 20; SA Type E Poison; INT 16; AL LE
ML 8; XP 65
Lord Hawthorn is a tall, grim looking man of a mature age. When not on duty, he is a very wealthy merchant whom is in charge of most of the shipping in the city. He prefers dark, black clothing, even while not on duty, and always uses his title to his advantage. If pressed into combat, a very hard thing to do as deep down Hawthorn is a coward, he will make only one attack. His method is always the same, he will cower and beg for mercy, if he sees an opening he will attempt to strike out with his poisoned dagger. Lord Hawthorn will cry and promise anything until a guard arrives, at which time he will end this ruse and demand his attacker to be arrested.
Commander Thorinus (10th Lvl Fighter): AC 3; HD 10; hp 57
#AT 2/1; dmg 1d8 (Bastard Sword); THAC0 11; SA specialized
w/ one handed bastard sword; AL LN; ML 14; XP1,400
Commander Thorinus is a battle hardened master of war, he dislikes serving his time behind a desk. He is rarely out of his uniform which consist of splint mail. He keeps his grey beard trimmed, and his long hair tied up. He is a gruff person who dislikes people who waste his time, which is often. There is always something that Thorinus thinks that he is doing, and he is a master of the art of looking incredibly busy. In Combat, Thorinus is fearsome. He is specialized with the one handed bastard sword, which grants him +1 to attack and +2 to damage. Thorinus always fights with a shield which he sometimes uses as a weapon to sap his opponent. He is a no nonsense fighter who will take his opponent out as quickly as possible, be it crippling or killing he doesn’t care.
Because of the size of this add-in, and to fit inside of any ongoing campaign, much of the NPC’s are left to you to fill out as you see fit.
Scenario #1: The Party is hired by Commander Thorinus to capture a bounty who has escaped the city. This character could have incriminating evidence against Lord Hawthorn, and they want to silence them, or it could be a legitimate bad guy.
Scenario #2: The party is given the powers of Magistrate to investigate the death of a Lord, while there they must enter the circle of Lord Hawthorn, collect evidence of his criminal misdoings, and some how survive long enough to bring the man to justice.
Scenario #3: A treasure map has been discovered, and the only entrance to the game dungeon, is through a secret tunnel hidden somewhere in the dungeon itself.
Clearly this add-in is an adventure all in itself, and can be used to serve many functions to the DM, from relieving PC’s of treasure in the form of taxes, to enforcing the laws of the realm.
I love attribute tests. Players are always trying to do weird stuff, and the DMG says that everything, no matter how ignorant or seemingly impossible, should have a percentage chance of success, however they really don’t give you any ideas about how to arrive at these magic numbers.
Now then, the very first issue of Dragon Magazine Wesley D. Ives had written a marvelous article about how to arrive at these percentages, a system that is more time consuming, but at the same time, a bit more interesting then my current way.
My current way of determining if a character can do something or not is to have them roll an ability check. Say, a Player’s INT is 14, and their WIS is 12, if I wanted to find out how perceptive a character is, I’d have them add up their INT and WIS, then divide by 2. (14+12=26, 26 ¸ 2 = 13) Then we check this number against a d20. The chances of seeing cool stuff is way to good.
Ives’ system is a bit more complicated, but, like I said, it makes things somewhat more unsure then just having to roll under a 13 on a d20, especially since there are too many players that think that all of their stats need to be 18’s straight across the board.
STRENGTH: Any extraordinary physical activity.
CONSTITUTION: All questions of stamina; swimming, running, staying awake, going hungry, etc.
DEXTERITY: Manual manipulation of devices, balance and climbing, tying/untying knots, etc.
INTELLIGENCE: Discovering proper method of operating all mechanical devices, including all magical devices; Discerning patterns, deducing cause and effect, recognizing types of lairs, learning new languages and skills, etc.
WISDOM: Divining “correct path“ of action, recognizing functions of devices, etc.
CHARISMA: Believability, persuasiveness, morale of followers, etc.
IVES’ METHOD OF DETERMINING THE TARGET NUMBER
Whenever a character attempts to do an action that would tax his abilities, and isn’t covered by the NONE-WEAPON PROFICIENCY rules, we’ll have the character generate a number between 1 and 100, this number will be the Target Number, or what he needs to role below with a percentile dice.
The first thing that we need to do is: 1. Generate a number from 1-100, and consult the table below. We’ll roll the dice, and add the characters ability in question to the result.
2. Using the type of die called for, generate a number, and multiply this number by the amount of the attribute being tested. This number is the percent chance of success.
Lets try it out. Lardbutt is a barbarian who wants to smooth talk a saucy tart. Lardbutt’s CHA is a very stout 4, thus we’ll roll a d100 and we get a 24, adding his awesome CHA score will give us a 28. Checking the number against our handy dandy little chart, which tells us to roll a d6. Lardbutt roles a 2, so we will multiply 2 and his CHA, which gives us a 8% chance of Lardbutt being able to smooth talk the lady without getting slapped for his trouble.
Lets try it again. Lardbutt finds this cool contraption parked against the side of the road. He looks at it and he ponders its purpose. Now, Lardbutt the Barbarian has a WIS of 6. He rolls up a 45 on a 1d100, giving him a score of 51. The chart says to roll a d8, which he does and gets a 7. We multiply 6 and 7, thus our Target Number is 42. Lardbutt has a 42% chance of figuring out that the contraption that he is looking at is a Catapult, and somehow, the thing will throw the large rock that is loaded into the basket.
It’s that simple! Of course it isn’t perfect, especially with feats of Strength, you’ll still probably want to use the Open Doors, and Bend Bars/Lift Gate method of solving those riddles, but for all of those questionable things that we aren’t sure what will happen, this is a workable system!
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