New Adventure: Publishing tomorrow

Greeting Dungeoneers!

The adventure is almost ready and I’ll publish it tomorrow once I give it a quick proofing. In the mean time, here’s the opening:

The Grinning Dragon Inn

You are approached by a hooded figure while you drink in your favourite tavern, The Grinning Dragon, celebrating your latest victory over the Chupacabra terrorizing the neighbouring village. The hooded man says that his name is Alhafiz and informs you that he has a job for you that will pay very well indeed.

The hooded figure says that his patron, the great prince Alealam, has been robbed. The cult of Tamziq stole the mystic jewel “Huna” from the treasury and have taken it to be part of their great summoning of a demon prince. Alhafiz begs the party to stop them and recover the jewel, offering generous payment from the great prince. He needs it back by the full moon, which is tomorrow night, to ensure that the prince has time to cleanse the gem before their Winter Festival.

The hooded figure melts away into the crowd, [PC with the highest perception] notices that he trips a nasty looking half-orc on the way out. As you watch, a chain reaction of stumbling transforms the happy tavern into a brawling sea of fists and fights.


Expanding Player Character Seeds: Memories

I’m currently writing up an encounter for publishing here regarding a dream/nightmare maze that uses concepts I’ve touched upon lightly before.

In the mean time, I just wanted to give you some examples of taking small contributions from your players and growing them into something with meat on the bones.

I wrote a post a little while ago about a few ideas to grow and stretch your characters but I want to talk specifically about using player input on their PC’s best and worst memories.

Trigger Warning: Some of the nightmare pieces are fairly intense and deal with horror, fear, fire and burning, gore, death of a loved one, violence, implied suicidal thoughts and intense claustrophobia. 

If you want to use anything this intense in a game, do make absolutely 100% sure that all of your players are comfortable with this level of roleplaying. I also do quick comfort checks for everyone around my table at regular intervals. Don’t be offended if any of your players want to bow out. You’re all there to have fun.

I asked my players to write me quick summaries of their characters’ best and worst memories. Specifically, I asked them for a moment they would wish to live in forever, and another one that they wish had never happened.

The purpose of the in-game scenarios was to make 2 traps for each PC, one which they would never want to leave, and one in which they were trapped by their own horror and helplessness.

Below, I’ve put the input I got back from my some of my players (Briefs) and what made it into the adventure (Flavour Text).

I hope these examples are helpful in illustrating how you can take small input from your players and fleshing it out to give them an chance to really roleplay their characters.

Liah the Paladin.

Brief: Liah’s Best Memory: When she and her twin brother Leo ran away to have an adventure aged 8 and spent two nights out in the forest before their parents found them.

Flavour Text for Liah’s Dream (in game): The full moon shines into the forest, lining every tree with silver and illuminating tiny wisps that float through the air. The night shimmers and shines. There is magic here.

You spot it, peeking at you from the petals of a lily. You reach out to it but the fairy darts away from you. Leo laughs and dashes forward, wooden sword drawn, his hat falling back and loosing his vivid red hair, washed to black in the moonlight. The fairy swoops around him, almost too fast to see and is off through the woods. He grabs your hand. Come on, Liah! His teeth are bright white, flashing from his grin. It’s getting away! You squeeze his hand and together you race after it.

Brief: Liah’s Worst Memory: The day Leo died falling from his horse aged 12

Flavour Text for Liah’s Nightmare (in game): The smell of blood fills the room. Underneath, the sickly sweet stench of infection. The doctors murmur sorrowfully in the corner. The boy in the bed is still, his chest barely moving as the breath whistles through his broken body.

There is nothing you can do. Father has already killed the horse. A small revenge. A pointless death. Leo will never wake up. You try to will his eyes open. His hand is limp and lifeless in yours. He cannot even feel you kiss his brow. Leo is dying. You are going to be alone. You smooth his red red hair from his brow. Did his eye twitch? Your heart leaps. You hold your breath. You wait. You wait. You watch your brothers broken face. You pray. You rage inside your head. Nothing you can do. Leo is dying.

Olivar the Fire Mage (revenant)

Brief: Olivar’s Best Memory: At the Festival of Conflagration, Olivar is enchanted by one of the fire dancers, a young lady whose arms are aflame without damaging her. Emboldened by his recent birthday and his status as a lord’s son, Olivar summons the courage to speak to this young lady.

Flavour Text for Olivar’s Dream: A crush of dancing, happy festival goers whirl around you, their brightly-coloured garments streaming out behind them in shades of yellow, red and orange. Cinnamon and chilli spice the air as the sun is setting, casting a warm russet glow over everything and reflecting sparks in the polished metal jewellry of the revellers.

Through the jubilant throng, you catch sight of her, her arms aflame, the burnished auburn of her hair radiant with the reflected glow. You catch a waft of her perfume and the flash of her smiling eyes before she’s lost to view. She’s just ahead of you, through the crowd. You catch the melody of her laughter floating over the earthy drumming of the festival’s music. She is somewhere ahead of you, waiting for you.

Brief: Olivar’s Worst Memory: His own death (Olivar is a revenant brought back to unlife). When his classroom is attacked, he reacts with fire magic, watches the fire spread from his hands, engulfing the room, killing himself and those he was trying to save.

Flavour Text for Olivar’s Nightmare: The small room is bathed in fire. Bodies writhe in agony, wreathed in hellish flame, screaming out their never-ending pain.

Your skin burns and chars and heals and chars again. The voices of those you’ve doomed to a slow, tormented death bore into your skull. You know you should die soon but the moment stretches on forever. You burn, you heal, you burn again and the screams of your victims echo in your mind.

Eric the Barbarian

Brief: Eric’s Best Memory: Hunting on the mountain plains with his Father when he was younger teaching him the skills needed to survive.

Flavour Text for Eric’s Dream: The mountains stretch out before you, wild and free. Their snowy peaks are dazzling in the bright spring sunlight. The air is clean and fresh in your lungs and the day sparkles with possibility.

You feel the weight of the spear in your hand, fitting perfectly, worn already with the imprint of your hand. Your father smiles approvingly at you. You are ready. A thrill of nerves go through you, heightening your senses. A flash of something at the edge of your vision. Your prey. Your father grins wolfishly and you feel an answering grin stretch your own face.

Brief: Eric’s Worst Memory: Some members of Eric’s tribe were kidnapped on a raid from a Bugbear tribe and he was also captured, tied up and taken.

Flavour Text for Eric’s Nightmare: Darkness. You see nothing but feel the weight of stale air pressing down on you. You breath whistles and wheezes, the only sound apart from the too-loud hammering of your heart. The taste of death in the air. Must and dust.

The ropes bind you, confine you, trap you. One minute they are simply wrapped around you, the next they seem to be squeezing the breath from your lungs. But that is an illusion, you try to tell yourself. Every movement, every twitch brings you into contact with the damp stone walls around you. There is no escape, no relief from the darkness and the pressure of this place. This place will be your tomb, forever locked away in the dark, dank earth, far from the sky.

Reed the Rogue

Brief: Reed’s Best Memory: Pirate ship springs to mind 🙂

Flavour Text for Reed’s Dream: The wind is crisp on your face. The sea is brisk today but there’s no danger, only the thrill of adventure in the air. The ship charges through the water, sound and true.

You laugh into the headwind, and it whips the sound away. The crew leap to your every order, eager for action. The wheel is strong beneath your hands, testing you, you rise to the challenge with each pull and the ship responds keenly. She is ready for anything. The day is laid out before you, ripe with possibility.

Brief: Reed’s Worst Memory: He was disgraced and kicked out of the Cavaliers for something he didn’t do. Disowned by his regiment and denounced by his family.

Flavour Text for Reed’s Nightmare: The ally is foul with rotting offal, piss and shit. Dark smears stain the crumbling bricks and a starving dog growls apathetically from the shadows, pus weeping from one of its half-blind eyes.

The reek of your own unwashed body pollutes the air, gagging you. You feel the tremble in your hands, the aching emptiness of your belly and the soul-deep weariness of sickness. The soldiers that surround you were once your friends. Now their taunts sting as badly as the rocks they fling at you. You bleed from a thousand tiny cuts, ache from a thousand bruises. You do not deserve this but they will not hear you. You are nothing now.

My new players’ PCs feel somehow flat, is there anything I can do as a GM?

It’s my opinion that tabletop RPGs should be fun for everyone involved (including the GM!) but the onus should often be on the GM to facilitate that, since they’re generally the one with the most control and experience.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas about how to draw the best out of you inexperienced players.

Idea 1: Back-story

Ask your players to write & email you a short summary of their character’s life so far. It doesn’t have to be long, perhaps 100-150 words and certainly not more than 500 words. Make sure they include things like family members, important mentors, tragic AND joyous events, difficult choices and things they regret.

If possible, it’s always great to get a short summary of what the characters believe in, their morality and their ideals.

Now you have more fleshed out info about the characters, you can start to play with the adventures to cater to/challenge different aspects of their personalities and ideals. This will help the players & characters grow and develop.


I think it’s important that you talk with the players first and get their consent that you’re going to throw in a plot twist regarding their characters. Not all players like other people adding to their characters. If you go ahead without asking and they hate it, it not only makes the session uncomfortable, but will also make them more likely to check out and stop wanting to role-play.

Once you’ve got a player who’s OK with it, though, that’s when you can start to have some fun. Pick a character from their back-story and make up a cool twist that brings their personal life into the story. Some quick examples:

An old mentor/parent-figure of the PC has been indoctrinated into a cult. The mentor will try to persuade the PC to join them. Darth Vader that shit.

On a similar note: The BBEG is the PC’s relative! Again, Darth Vader that shit.

The PC’s home has been razed and everyone/all but one of his family killed. They must now choose between justice and vengeance. Batman that shit.

The PC is actually a sleeper agent for the baddies. They become activated and must fight the urge to be a living weapon. Hawkeye that shit.

The PC’s dead spouse/best-friend was not dead and has been brainwashed.Bucky Barnes that shit.

The PC’s sibling appears with unfinished business from the past. Perhaps the PC left them for dead or “wronged” them in some way. Sabretooth that shit.

That’s just a few ideas but there’s so many more ways you can bring their past into it.

Idea 3: Freaky Friday that shit.

I’ve done this a couple of times to my players to mix things up when they get stale. The adventure starts normally and then when the PCs get into proximity of the McGuffin of the week, they suddenly find themselves in each other’s bodies. The players swap character sheets and the adventure continues but now they must find a powerful sorcerer to get them back in the right bodies.

This can really make for some fun role-playing, even if the characters are a little boring. Suddenly the snooty mage has no magic and is running around as a charismatic bard; the impulsive barbarian is now in a wizard’s body and has the elemental powers of flame. Lots of opportunity for interesting character moments.

Those are just a few ideas for getting a bit more interesting stuff out of standard or one-dimensional characters.

Remember though, although all their character stuff might seem old-hat to you, new players are just finding their feet in the role-playing world and some standard, cliche’d things might be new and interesting to them.

As long as you keep giving them a chance to deepen and open up their characters, they should start to surprise you and bring cool new stuff to the table.