Monday, February 27, 2012

Supporting Cast Part 2 - Love and Romance Hooks

I asked one of my players about a topic she'd like to see in my blog and she responded with: "do a post about romance".

Romance is a tricky topic to deal with in Role Playing Games for quite a few reasons. There are some great resources out there that already touch on the topic:

Spes Magna: Let A Little Love In Your Game (I highly recommend giving this one a read).

Also the excellent Jade Regent Adventure Path has some really interesting rules for Romances and Rivalries (there's a name for a spin-off RPG if I've ever heard one).

This post is something a little different from the above which primarily involve rules systems, that require tracking scores to determine how successful a romance is. The above are great systems and I even tried incorporating the Spes Magna rules above into my own Kingmaker game. The problem was that I tend to be a bit of a lazy GM particularly when it comes to note-taking (I make my players do that). So keeping track of a Romance Score became problematic especially when a romantic interest NPC left for a while and then came back.

Important note: I am talking about ROMANCE in RPGs, not Sex. That's a different topic and definitely deserves a blog-post all of its own.

This post is instead my advice and findings on how to handle romance in-game, and out of it.

First: Who wants this mushy stuff anyway?

Table-Top RPGs are such a strange hybrid of so many things, not quite board games, not quite improv exercise with a narrative element at its heart. It's hard to find a single movie, book or series that completely neglects some manner of romantic sub-plot, yet RPGs do it all the time. The same group can get together every week for years on end and have nothing more romantic than some flirtation with a bar wench to get a cheaper price on mead (because adventurers are spend-thrift bastards).

Yet few motivations and plots are more interesting than romance. There's even an entire sub-genre of fantasy dedicated to romantic fantasy (see also: Mercedes Lackey, and Green Ronin's Blue Rose RPG). A common complaint among GMs is that they find it hard to continue motivating their PCs beyond promises of wealth, title or the gods throwing lightning bolts if players don't take the plot bait. Romance, the quest for true love, the loss of love or maintaining an eternal bond make for excellent motivators to a group of players interested in it.

So if you let your players know that they can potentially gain some boons, quests and bonuses for taking an active interest in their PC's love life then maybe that might entice the more stubborn players.

Finding your Comfort Zone

The thing about romance is that it requires talking about all sorts of sensitive and weird topics like feelings and babies and sex (not necessarily in that order... what?). On top of which Role Playing usually involves pretending to be someone for a little while. So as always the major rule is to talk to your players openly and honestly and find out where the comfort zone is. Maybe the players at the table want to see the soap opera unfold, perhaps a player finds at weird when you as an NPC are flirting with their girlfriend or boyfriend's PC.

The thing about such a discussion is what people say and how people act can often be two different things. A player might be comfortable with the NPC flirtation right up until it happens, at which point they become uncomfortable.

Always be willing to dial it back.

The best level to be on is that of the least comfortable player, so everyone can be included.

Pro-Tip: If you start to feel uncomfortable stop speaking in "I" statements, use your character's name to indicate their actions, or as a GM ask for a social interaction skill roll to break the moment.

Example: Grand Diplomat Rosalina (PC) has just rescued Professor Hollow Graves Esq. (NPC) from the tomb of the Lich King.

Rosalina's Player: I walk up to Hollow and ask if he's okay.
GM: "I... I honestly don't know." He has a haunted look on his face.
Rosalina's Player: I hug Hollow saying "Everything's going to be all right."
GM: Hollow begins to weep on your shoulder, he has undergone some kind of trauma.
Rosalina's Player: I... er... that is to say Rosalina kisses Hollow to let him know she's not going anywhere.
GM: Uh, great, he seems comforted by your action. Uh, while those two are at that what are you other players doing.
Duke Thundershield: "LOOTING!" wooooo!

By removing yourself a little from your character's boots the description of the character's actions can be external to yourself and allow a little more leeway in how characters would act. As a player you can become observer or director rather than actor. As a GM keep an ear out for changes from "I" statements to "Character Name" statements, as that's your indicator that you've just hit the right note for the scene and unless you plan to complicate things you should move the spot-light elsewhere.

Establishing Romances

In my previous post I talked about how dangerous shoe-horning NPCs into a party could be. That goes double for shoe-horning in romantic leads. If a table-top RPG was a television series the PCs would be the awesome ensemble cast, and the NPCs would be the walk on guests. Great when the audience likes them, annoying when they become cousin Oliver. This means that it's up to the PLAYERS to decide whether or not they want to establish a romance with an NPC. Players can flag this in a number of ways, by flirting with an NPC, or taking an active interest but the best method is when they just flat-out tell the GM that they want to establish a romance with an NPC.

As a GM you might see an interesting interaction between an NPC and a PC, in which case you can make it tacitly obvious the NPC is interested in a Player Character (or just let the PC know out of game), at which point the player can either take the bait or refuse. Respect that player's wishes (unless of course it's a villain, in which case feel free to have the creepy NPC show up all the time and generate that precious hate that fuels a great Pathfinder session. There's going to be a future blog post for that I'm sure).

If the player chooses to establish a romance then like any other sub-plot be wary of taking up too much spot-light time from other players. Use the NPC to drive plot-hooks for the PC.

Early Romance Plot-Hooks

  • The NPC is a member of an elite class (nobility, religious, competing adventuring group), the PC will need to convince the NPC of their intentions. - This makes for great scene fillers or tension breakers. Diplomacy/Bluff/Performance Checks of increasing difficulty.
  • Before the NPC will take notice the PC must complete some difficult challenge to earn the NPC's respect. - Make this a difficult enough challenge that the PC will need the whole party to help complete it. You've just found an adventure hook for an entire night's gaming.
  • The NPC is a member of an elite class (nobility, religious, competing adventuring group), the PC will need to convince the NPC of their intentions. - This makes for great scene fillers or tension breakers. Diplomacy/Bluff/Performance Checks of increasing difficulty.
  • The NPC is seeking a specific McGuffin: Perhaps a rare flower, or a series of texts on ancient cultures, retrieving such a McGuffin would go a long way to putting a PC in that character's good graces. - This one is great if you don't want to steal time away from the main plot. Simply put the McGuffin somewhere PCs are going anyway, this provides an interesting opportunity to build a bonus encounter for a pre-made adventure.
  • There is a Rival for the NPC's affections, the PC must prove themselves. - This one works great if there are multiple players vying for an NPC's affections. Much like theelite class hook above, this an opportunity to dust off the opposed Diplomacy/Bluff/Sense Motive/Performance or Knowledge skills (although tests of athleticism are pretty traditional too).

Early Romance Reward: A PC who completes the Early Romance Quest gains an additional NPC card each session. If the NPC is following the party it may be used for any of the normal reasons listed, or can be used to re-roll a single d20 as long as the re-roll is inspired by love (be descriptive). If the NPC is not following the party then the player may spend the card to use a single item with a value equal to no greater than 10% of the Average Wealth By Level that their partner lovingly packed for them, or the re-roll.

Mid-Romance Plot Hooks

Once a Romance has been established, keeping it up (hur, hur, hur. Seriously, later blog post) can be a tricky proposition. While it's tempting to just say: "And they lived happily ever after" and write purple prose fiction about the happy couple on your Pathfinder group's Facebook page. The point of NPCs is to drive the story forward or use for adventure motivation. Much like a real relationship, the key is to keep things interesting. The interesting part of these hooks is that they are little mysteries that the PC must solve. Establishing the "Why" of these is more important than the "What". The following are only example complications.

  • Cold Feet. The NPC runs away or breaks up suddenly. Possible Reasons: The NPC is scared of all these intense emotions. The NPC has a dark secret and has left to cover it up. The NPC has gotten all they wanted out of the relationship and is looking for their next conquest.
  • Family Matters. The NPC or PC's family arrives in town and doesn't approve. Possible Reasons: The character is not part of the same species/social class/religion. The family already has a marriage arranged for the character. The family have been replaced by doppelgangers and need the character to complete "the set".
  • Betrayal! The NPC or PC cheats on/attempts to kill/steals from their partner. Possible Reasons: Something better came along. Mind-Controlling villain is trying to ruin everything. It's what they were after all along.
  • Your Princess is in another castle. The NPC has been kidnapped. Possible Reasons: An old villain wants to lure the PC into a series of fiendishly trapped castles manned by ravenous turtle monsters. The NPC is a victim of happenstance and happened to be taken along with a bunch of others.

Mid-Romance Reward: One Additional Card, furthermore the re-roll can be treated as a 10 if the character rolls below 10 on the re-roll.

End-Game Romance

The campaign is wrapping up, and so it's time to tie off those lose ends, or the player is interested in exploring another aspect of their character. It's time to wrap up this romance sub-plot once and for all. Many of the Mid-Romance Plots work just as well here, but they'll need an element of finality to them. Below are some sample Big Finishes, running the gamut from Bad Romance to Happily Ever After.

  • Noble Sacrifice. Circumstances come to light revealing that the PC or NPC must sacrifice themselves for the other. - This one is cliched with good reason. Players become incredibly invested in their characters over the course of a game, and asking a player to sacrifice their PC for the sake of an imaginary friend is a big deal. This one is best used near the end-game, or as an excuse to allow a player to re-roll a new character concept they've been thinking of.
  • Revenge of the Scorned. - If the PC has been through a betrayal arc, then this is a good finish for it. Have the NPC working for the enemy. The NPC would know the PC's weaknesses and might even call for a duel (have plenty of other baddies nearby to keep the other players busy). Perhaps one last empassioned Diplomacy check might turn their true love back to the side of angels?
  • Congratulations it's a squid! The PCs need to face the challenge of pregnancy and parenthood. - If the PC is female you must get permission to run this sub-plot first, since it's a very touchy topic. In a game that spans years of game time watching a PC's kid grow up can be really interesting. If not then protecting a pregnant lover can be a fun challenge in and of itself.
  • The Amicable Break-Up - The Campaign is going to take the PC from the region for a long time, and the NPC chooses to let their lover go and face challenges of the universe unfettered.
  • They Live Happily Ever After - The characters have made it through the campaign, through thick and thin to come out the other side happy and together looking forward to a bright future filled with fat children and an inn to retire to.

Mawwage Bwings Us Togevvah

I hope the above has helped you gain a better understanding of how to use romance in your table-top game as a spring-board for motivations and adventure ideas. I'm sure that there are heaps more that I haven't discussed here so please leave me your comments either below, on my Facebook Page or on This Thread at, I would love to hear your own Romance Hooks.

One Love,

Dudemeister Johnpocalypse

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Supporting Cast Part 1 - NPC Cards and the Dwarven Florist

So I promised a helpful NPC this week, and I had a bit of trouble motivating myself to write tonight, because I couldn't find a hook for this blog post without just blurting a stat block out onto the screen.

Fortunately for you, I've figured something out.

NPC Scene Stealers

One of the most universally reviled concepts in table top games is the "GMPC" and "Pet NPC" syndrome. Where a GM forces a party to take a tag-a-long NPC character, and the NPC either solves puzzles or steals spotlight from the players. Even GMs with the best of intentions can cause annoyance among their players because a lovingly crafted NPC won't die or fade into the background faster. As a GM you might believe you've crafted an awesome Captain Jack character, but in doing so you've forgotten your NPC is supposed to be Gibbs. The old guy with the side-burns who occasionally spouts exposition when the main characters fail a knowledge check.

Sometimes though GMPCs or NPC tag-alongs are a necessary "evil", they may fill a role the party doesn't have (such as healing or wilderness expertise), or might be plot vital (your quest is escorting the prophet Trippitaka across the country so no you may not leave him behind in the nearest tavern to go find hookers and blow).

Giving Players Control

Many games use some manner of Hero Point system nowadays, and this method is somewhat similar.

Essentially at the beginning of each session or adventure I ask the player which friendly NPC they'd like to have tag along with them, (my players in my Kingmaker games know how a party can fluctuate from week to week as they have alternate characters and I have a pool of players to draw from different members of which show up each game), they usually choose an NPC who can fill a hole in the party; "Latrecia has decent tracking and wilderness skills and everyone took their urban characters this session", but sometimes they make their choice purely for role-playing reasons; "I want to see how the Jhod reacts to finding a temple of the elder god!"

I then hand the players out a number of NPC Cards depending on how many players show up in a session:

Number of PCs - Number of Cards
3 - 3
4 - 2
5 - 1-2*
6 - 0.5-1*
*Depending on Session length, longer sessions merit more cards.

I usually use the Paizo Plot Twist or Face Cards to represent this, but they are just as easily represented by Poker Chips or M&Ms. (Eating the token counts as using it).

During any point in the session players may hand me a card in order to have the NPC do one of the following:

Attack - The NPC begins attacking foes to the best of their ability. If the PC makes a physical attack it counts as an automatic hit, and the player who spent the card may roll to confirm it as a critical hit. If a second card is spent this critical is automatically confirmed. NPCs do not attack for more than one round, or perform full attack actions. They do count as flank buddies though.

Cast - If the NPC is a spell-caster she casts a spell the player may choose any spell on that NPC's class spell list up to the maximum level they can cast. If a PC doesn't know what spell to cast they can ask the GM to decide. If a second card is spent then the DC is increased by 5, or if the spell is touch it is counted as an automatic hit. It is automatically assumed an NPC prepared whatever spell the PC selected.

Skill Check - The NPC can take a 10 on any skill they are trained in. If the GM doesn't have stats handy for the NPC assume the NPC has a bonus equal to APLx1.5 in that particular skill if it's on their class list or Equal to APL-2 if not.

Rescue - If a PC is at negative hit points the NPC can perform a rescue. Pulling the PC's body out of melee range of any opponents and feeding them a bottle of a Cure X Wounds (the exact cure spell determined by the PCs level (Cure Light 1-2, Cure Moderate 3-4, Cure Serious 5+). If two cards are spent its a Maximized potion of Cure.

Aid Another or Incredible Aid - A player may spend a card to have the NPC use the Aid Another action. If two cards are spent the bonus increases to +5. PCs must describe the manner of aid they want the NPC to provide.

Use a Class Feature - Sometimes it's handy to have a class feature that the players don't have covered available. When facing a wave of skeletons there's nothing like turn undead, and a bardic performance is always welcome. Any class feature which is measured in Rounds/Level lasts for a number of turns equal to the group's APL - 2.

Activate a Boon Ability - A Boon ability is a powerful ability unique to each NPC, unlocking such an ability requires the players to earn complete trust and friendship (or rivalry), or complete some manner of special quest on that NPC's behalf. Roughly speaking a Boon ability should be equivalent

Provisos and Limitations: Only 1 of the above functions can be activated a round, multiple cards can only be spent to boost an ability. A GM can veto any action he feels the NPC might disagree with or just not want to do, furthermore a GM can make a suggestion about what an NPC can do to help in a situation but the NPC will not act on the suggestion unless a player spends a card.

These are quite potent abilities and increase the player's arsenal by a lot. Consider though, that players can't just drag any NPC they meet along to traipse through deadly dungeons and fight dangerous monsters. NPC followers must be earned through role playing, taking an active interest in an NPC and recruiting them through the use of Diplomacy, bribery, guile, quests or friendship. By giving the PCs a tangible reward that has a game mechanic behind it the players feel rewarded for taking an interest in the NPCs around them and making friends with these imaginary people that populate your world.

Secondly, the cards are actually the player's way of telling you as a GM that they want an NPC to take the spot-light for a moment (2 cards means that players are incredibly invested in seeing an NPC succeed). It also adds an element of resource management to the party (do we spend a party now to have the NPC cleric cast cure serious wounds, or should we save the card in case there's more ghouls and we need a quick remove paralysis). As a GM you can use the NPC as the occasional mouth-piece or exposition-spouter without turning the NPC into a problem solver for the players unless that's what the player's want. Furthermore the more players spend their cards, the more an NPC is appreciated as they help out when the players need, and doesn't butt in when not.

When designing recruitable NPCs try to keep them within 1 or 2 levels of the PCs, if an NPC is higher level than the players they should not be recruitable until the players are of equal or higher level, and shouldn't level up until after the players.

In any case here's a couple of versions of Balley Keth N├╝ttonsdotter. Assuming a 5th level party.

Quick Balley Keth: Hp: (APL-2) x 6.5 (19); Attack Bonus = APL (+3); AC = 10 + APL (15); Skills: Druid List; Spells - Druid List 0, 1, 2. Spell DCs: (APL -2) x 1.5 + 10 (14). Special Boon: Plant Growth (Balley Keth can throw seeds and cast a modified entangle spell anywhere including indoors). Class Features: Druid 3.

Balley Keth N├╝ttonsdotter CR 2

XP 600
Female dwarf druid of the green faith 3
NG Medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Perception +5


AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor, -1 Dex, +1shield) (+4 dodge vs. giants)
hp 23 (3d8+6)
Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +6; +2 against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities


Speed 30 ft.
Melee mwk club +3 (1d6+1/×3)
Ranged sling +1 (1d4+1) or club +1 (1d6+1)
Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls against giants, Boon Ability (Entangle Seeds - Can cast Entangle indoors or outdoors).
Domain Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd; concentration+6)

6/day—wooden fist

Druid Spells Prepared (CL 3rd; concentration +6)

2ndbarkskinD, fog cloud, tree shape
1stcure light wounds, cure light wounds, hydraulic push, entangle (DC 14)D
0 (at will)detect magic, guidance, resistance,stabilize

D Domain spell; Domain Plant


Str 13, Dex 8, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 13
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 12 (16 vs. bull rush, 16 vs.trip)
Feats Combat Casting, Brew Potion
Skills Diplomacy +5, Heal +7, Knowledge (history) +4 (+6 dwarves or their enemies), Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +5 (+7 unusual stonework), Profession(florist) +7, Survival +9, Spellcraft +4
Languages Common, Dwarven
SQ aura, giant hunter (replaces hatred), lorekeeper*
Combat Gear scrolls of longstrider (2), scrolls of magic fang (2), scrolls of obscuring mist (2), wand of cure light wounds (50 charges), tanglefoot bag; Other Gear hide armor, wooden buckler, masterwork club, sling with 20 bullets, healer’s kit, spell component pouch, holly, bag of roses 19 gp

PC Gear +1,350 gp

Description: This dwarf girl has long brown braided hair, and bright green eyes. She seems a little shy, but seems intent on selling her flowers to any who will buy.

History: Born in dwarven lands Balley Keth N├╝ttonsdotter has always been fascinated with the way things grow. Born the daughter of archivists her family pushed her towards books and study, but Balley would often find excuses to avoid class and stay out in the woods studying and cataloging flowers. It was in the woods near her mountain home where she met a human hermit, a wild lady with long grey hair named Avilon. The two struck up a friendship and taught Balley about the names of flowers, and how to unlock the most potent perfumes through the art of flower arrangement.
Her family was shocked to find out about this love of flowers, and forbade Balley from speaking with the old woman. Unable to survive in her stifling home environment Balley set off to find her own fate, and has taken odd-jobs in that time. Her dream is to open a flower shop of her own and send money home to her parents to prove once and for all that floristry is not some silly longshanks dream.

Meeting the NPC: PCs can come across Balley selling flowers anywhere in Middle Ground in Haighwall. If a PC buys one of her flower arrangements Balley grows quite excited as the PC is her first sale. She thanks the PC profusely and gives them her card with the address of the inn she is currently staying in case the PC might like more flowers.

Recurring Hooks:
If a PC takes a romantic interest in an NPC flowers might be a good way to woo him or her - Balley can put together a lovely bunch of flowers, but if the PC wants to go that extra mile Balley can give a PC the location of a rare flower that grows within Blackwode. She'll only share the location if the PC agrees to take her along.

A dwarven PC might take a romantic interest in Balley, in which case she is a shy girl who appreciates gifts of flowers, or hand-crafted items, but dislikes gaudy things like jewellery and stonework .

Balley might strike up a friendship with a female NPC, appreciating their choice in clothes or their style of hair, Balley's inexperience with human cultures might have her asking the PC's advice.

PCs might encounter Balley randomly in the city arguing with a conservative dwarf NPC, perhaps about her choice of wearing dresses and keeping flowers in her hair, open expressions of gender that stodgy dwarven culture is uncomfortable with.

Unlocking her Special Boon: If the PCs have made Balley friendly or helpful, Balley offers the PCs a quest: A rare flower grows high in the mountains to the East, The White Winter Blossom. This rare flower could he encouraged to grow domestically with the right kind of magic, but Balley needs a live specimen. Balley is happy to accompany the PCs on such a quest.

In any case, I hope y'all liked tonight's blog. Let me know what you think about this house-rule. Credit where credit is due, I did borrow ideas from these folks over at 4th Dimension Games. You can read the blog that inspired this idea here. As always you can always comment right here, or on my Facebook Page, or on this thread at, love to hear your feedback, critiques, praise or questions.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I know I promised some folk over on the messageboards that I'd give them some NPCs this week, and that's coming on Thursday.

Today I thought I'd talk about recycling old ideas. Now I don't subscribe to the concept of ideas being a finite resource. You have to believe there's always something new for you to say, and if not that at least a method of communicating an old idea in a fresh new way.

Today I'm going to use the example of the Explodaphant. Originally just a throwaway idea in my free M&M 2e Adventure: Attack of the World Watchers. Explodaphants were creatures native to The Lost Island, a sort of monstertopia homage to the savage land. There were no real stats for them, I just sort of left it up to the individual GM's imagination to flesh out.

During the past couple of days Explodaphants have popped back into my head so I jotted down the thought as a facebook status update:

Explodaphants have a unique defense against predators. They spontaneously and violently combust; leaving their would-be attacker dead, burned and flayed by shards of ivory. Thus a single explodaphant can protect an entire herd from the predations of poachers or savannah Wyrms.
I have no idea why that popped into my head but I liked it. Basically never throw an idea away, not completely. Keep it stored somewhere safe, write it down. Use it. Then if nobody has seen it, use it again! You might have the best idea at the wrong time, and that's cool, because you can always come back to an idea later. The point is keep a note of it somewhere because you never know when you might need to use it again, like to fill a blog post on a Tuesday night after work.

In any case I've had explodaphants percolating in the back of my mind and then today I drew out a nutty little sketch during my lunch break at the job. I couldn't just leave this alone, I figure I better strike while the iron is hot.

So today I'll present the Pathfinder bestiary style write up of the Explodaphant for the Pathfinder Rules set, and also the M&M 2e Rules Set.
Section 1: PF Rules
This creature is larger than a normal elephant, with stumpy ivory tusks protruding from its mouth and horns on its head. Bubbles of clear flesh undulate with a strange orange liquid.

Explodaphant CR 11

XP 12,800
N Huge magical beast
Init +1; Senses low-light vision, scent; Perception +24


AC 21, touch 9, flat-footed 20 (+1 Dex, +12 natural, –2 size)
hp 141 (13d10+70)
Fort +14, Ref +10, Will +8

Vulnerability Volatile


Speed 40 ft.
Melee gore +21 (2d8+12), slam +21 (2d6+12)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks

burning geyser (60 ft cone, 13d4 plus burn (2d4),
Reflex DC 21 for half, usable once every 1d6 rounds),
explode (30 ft. sphere, 7d6 fire damage + 6d6 slashing
damage, DC 21 for half)


Str 34, Dex 12, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 7
Base Atk +13; CMB +26, CMD 37 (41 vs. trip)
Feats Endurance, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Iron Will, Iron Will,

Power Attack, Skill Focus(Perception), Weapon Focus (gore)

Skills Perception +24

Burning Geyser (Ex)

An Explodaphant can spray the alchemical juices stored in its body, from its trunk, in a 60 ft cone dealing 13d4 damage as a standard action. Those caught in the area of effect can make a DC21 Reflex save for half damage, those that fail the save also take 2d4 burn damage each round for 4 rounds.

Explode (Ex)

An Explodaphant can build up pressure in its body in such a way as to cause it to explode in a conflagration 0f fire and ivory. The explodaphant can only do so if its breath weapon is not recharging. Exploding is a full-round action during which the Explodaphant glows intensely before letting loose a 30 ft. radius sphere explosion dealing 7d6 fire damage + 6d6 slashing damage. Those caught within the blast radius can make a DC 21 Reflex save for half. The Explodaphant is not immune to this damage and must make a Fortitude save against DC 10 + Damage Dealt or be automatically reduced to negative constitution hit points. An explodaphant's volatile weakness is not triggered by this ability.

Volatile (Ex)

An Explodaphant that takes fire or electricity damage risks having its alchemical pouches rupture or explode. If an Explodaphant is brought to negative hit points by taking damage from fire or electricity it activates its Explosion ability automatically as a reaction.


An explodaphant is found in magically rich environments. Herd travelling grazers, explodaphants are wary of predators and people usually warning them off with a spray of their volatile alchemical mucus. Explodaphants will even go so far as to blow themselves up in order to give their herd a chance to escape.
Design Notes: I built the Explodaphant right off the Mastodon chassis, I changed its type to Magical Beast, converted its HD and BAB over and added a breath weapon and a unique ability. TThe increased HP and damage output seemed to push it up into CR 11 from CR 9, which was fine by me and I called it a day. It's AC is a little low but its HP is a little high, and it can do some fairly solid attacks. It probably sits on the low end of CR 11, but PCs of that level should have little trouble against fire attacks.
Section 2: M&M 2E Rules

Explodaphant Power Level 10/Minion Rank 6

Str 30, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 7

Skills: Notice 8 (+9)

Feats: Endurance

Power: Additional Limbs 1 (trunk), Growth 8 (Power Feats: Innate, Flaws: Permanent), Protection 4, Strike 1 (Power Feats: Mighty), Blast 8 (Extras: Cone; Alternate Power: Blast 12 Extra: Explosion, Drawback: Self-Damaging).

Combat: Attack +6 (includes +2 due to size), Damage +10 (trample or gore), Defense +0 (includes -2 due to size), Initiative +0.

Saving Throws: Toughness +9, Fortitude +12, Reflex +5, Will +6.

Costs: Abilities -1 + Skills 2 (8 ranks) + Feats 1 + Powers 56 + Combat 20 Saves 17 - Drawbacks 8 = 87

Design Notes: I built this right off the elephant chassis, adding a Blast with an explosion alternate power.

I hope you enjoyed today's blog, don't forget you can comment right here, or on This Thread at You can also find me on Facebook Right Here. As always comments, questions and critiques are welcome. I'm also interested in taking requests. So until Thursday have a good one. So go ahead and hit up those links, because all that follows is some OGL stuff.

See you Thursday.

Boring Legalese


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System Reference Document. Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Rat-Thing Tunnels: Part 2

Last week I began putting together notes for an adventurer. I made two promises at the start of last week's blog: That I would finish the adventure by the end of today's blog and that I'd introduce two plots the players could follow before the end. Now that the PCs are in the dungeon let's kick it up a notch.

Room 5: The Goop Pit

This room is dominated by a pool of disgusting green goo. The walls are lined with small shelves covered in pieces of junk and rolls of paper.

This room once drained out into the sea, but the pipeline has long since collapsed. The fetid water has lain dormant for centuries evolving new and horrid life. Diesak the Ratling uses this room as his lair, staying high up on the shelves to study his scrolls, and coordinate his plans among the Ratfolk who respect him as something of a leader.


Giant Amoeba (x1) hp 15 ; This giant amoeba spontaneously generated from the fetid pool below. It no longer feeds on the ratfolk as they provide it with a steady diet of funguses and rotting meats they scrounge from the surface. As such it attacks any non-ratfolk in the room.

Diesak the Ratling (x1) hp 19; Diesak was once the familiar of a sorcerer's apprentice in Shadock. When Pirate bands moved into the region of the city a particularly rough group of half-elves killed Diesak's master and began squatting in his home. Diesak escaped and found the Ratfolk living in the sewers. Over time he has become something of a leader among the Ratfolk and now seeks to lead them in a quest for vengeance against the pirates. First, he needs to equip his new crew and fill his repetoire of spells and thus has been sending the Ratfolk out to steal and salvage useful equipment to fuel his vendetta against the pirates in Shadock.

If Diesak is caught by surprise he grabs as many scrolls as he can and Dimension Doors to room 4 while the Giant Amoeba keeps PCs busy.

If Diesak has retreated to this room he stays upon the high shelves (7 feet off the ground). Moving and reading from the scrolls in his treasure hoard as he goes (determine randomly each round which of the scrolls he uses. Diesak opts to use his spell like abilities, or throw junk at the PCs if the Scroll of Create Treasure Map or Comprehend Languages is determined. If the giant Amoeba is killed he uses his spell like ability to cast summon swarm to call forth a swarm of rats to attack the PCs. If he drops to less than 5 hp Diesak casts invisibility on himself, leaps into the underwater tunnel leading to Area 3 and tries to retreat upstairs and into the city to become a recurring foe for the PCs.


1 x Scroll of Create Treasure Map (with a treasure map drawn on the back, this map is of a group of Warehouses in the Shadocks, written in scratchy writing are the words Bannigan's Chest).
1 x Scroll of Acid Arrow.
2 x Scroll of Magic Missile
1 x Scroll of Shield
1 x Scroll of Comprehend Languages
1 x Scroll of Ear Piercing Scream
1 x Scroll of Silent Image

100 gp worth of mechanical objects which can either be sold or be worth 200 gp of components for any mechanical trap the PCs may choose to create.

A diary written in Common with scratchy handwriting detailing the life of Diesak as a familiar to an apprentice wizard in the Shadocks, and later the terrible vengeance Diesak has in store for the crew of Bannigan's Wake.

Room 6: The Fungus Room

The air in here is thick with spores and pollens, thick ropy funguses grow from the floor walls and ceiling of this room. The breeds and types of fungus in this musty room are diverse and colorful lending a sense of bizarre whimsy to this otherwise foul area.
This room is overgrown with dozens of kinds of fungus. Many of them edible and nutritious, others are mildly poisonous or narcotic. A DC 15 Knowledge (Nature) Check allows a PC to harvest a day's rations from the fungus, a failed check harvest's a crop of mushrooms which are mildly poisonous if ingested.

Oddcap Mushroom; Type (Ingested); Save DC: 11, Onset: 1 minute; Freq: 1/hour for 24 hours; Effect: Sickened (24 hours), 1 Wis damage. Cure: 1 Save.


Dire Rats (x3) hp 5, 5 and 5.

Development: The Dire Rats in this room attack any non-vermin that enters defending the fungus farm to the death.

Room 7: The Machinery

This rectangular room has pipes, cogs and pistons sticking out of the walls floors and ceilings haphazardly. Except for one wall which has a tile mural which appears to be some manner of ancient map. Many of the tiles are shattered or missing particularly on the southern half.

When this pump station operated in its hey day it was capable of taking the slack for many of the city's districts. When the cataclysm dropped half the city into the sea a similar area of tiles dropped as well. The Ratlings salvage many of the pipes in this room to use in their traps. PCs may notice that the pipes in this room roughly correspond to the pipes in room 3 by making a DC 15 Perception check. PCs can make Knowledge (Engineering) checks to change the flow of the pipes. Each of these checks takes approximately 5 minutes, PCs can take a 20 if they choose and this check may be made untrained.
Pipe Activation:
NW the door to this room closes if water flows through the North Western Corner Pipe.
NE Room 8 begins flooding, if left to continue for an hour the room fills with water and bursts the rubble blocking entrance to that room but leaves rooms 8 and 4 in waist deep water.
SE This causes Room 4 to begin filling with water.
SW This one is currently active and keeping the door to room 5 closed. By activating any other pipe the door to Room 5 opens up.


A trio of Ratfolk are in this room attempting to salvage the rusty pipes for scrap.

Room 8: The Blocked Room

This damp room smells of ancient death, furniture which has long turned to rot lies strewn about. Sharpened bones lashed together into crude tools with intestinal string lay strewn about in corners.

During the cataclysm part of the tunnel collapsed dropping rubble in front of the entrance and entrapping a work team of Dwarves. As time passed the Dwarves fell upon each other cannibalistically, until finally only one survived. He starved to death and rose later as a Lacedon.
If the PCs approach Room 8 before bursting it open with water pressure they may hear scratching from the other side of the rubble with a DC 20 Perception check. If the PCs are particularly noisy the Lacedon gains a Perception Check at a -5 penalty due to the interceding rubble. If the Lacedon is made aware of the PCs it calls out:
"Please, somebody let me out, I've been trapped down here so long. I'm so very hungry, and it's so very dark."
The Lacedon attempts to Bluff the PCs into letting it free (+4 bonus on Bluff) by using the pipes in Area 7.


Derk Advanced Lacedon (CR 2); hp 17.

Concluding the Adventure:

Once the PCs have cleared the Pump Station of creatures through violence, diplomacy, intimidation or trickery the building above is safe to use as they see fit.

The PCs and GM have a couple of options at this point:
Bannigan's Quest - Captain Bannigan resides in the Shadocks squatting in the house of a man he killed. The PCs currently have a treasure map leading to Bannigan's Treasure. Will the PCs claim it for themselves or speak to Bannigan first? Either way trouble's brewing in the Shadocks.
Thieve's Weregild - Now that the PCs have robbed the Docksmen of a fine set of trapmakers the PCs might owe the guild some gold or be in for a fierce rivalry. Perhaps Bannigan's Treasure might smooth things over?
The Old City - The Tile Mural can be fixed over a period of weeks, and locations of lost vaults of treasure beneath the city might be uncovered. If the PCs are canny enough to search for it.
The Mage Guild's Inquiry - An investigator for the Mage's guild visits the PCs seeking Diesak. It seems his old master's spellbook is still missing, if the PCs could help track it down it might go a ways to getting a PC mage into the guild's good graces.

In any case gang, I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into quick adventure design.

I'll see you next week. Feel free to comment here, on my facebook page or on this thread at

I really enjoyed writing this quick adventure outline, clearly there's plenty of space to expand things, but I've avoided being super tactical in order to encourage a more free-form, improv style of GMing. Give me a holler if you run it, and I especially want to hear about any changes you made.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zoom In Further: The Rat-Thing Tunnels

Building a world doesn't have to be hard, because players don't see everything all at once, they only see the parts that they interact with. Adventures are the interactibles of any campaign world. You can build your world a piece at a time.

So focusing on the campaign region we started last week we'll build a quick low-level adventure to get the characters introduced to each other and at least two of the conflicts in the setting.


The PCs are given the deed to a building in Middle Ground to do with as they please. During their first inspection they discover that the building they have been given is currently a front for the Docksmen's trap setters and saboteurs, a tribe of ratfolk, led by a Ratling leader. Within PCs will discover terrible traps, learn more about the Docksmen and find a map.

Part A: New Digs

This building has seen better days, the windows are boarded up and the front door hangs crooked on the hinge. As you walk through the door a little chime from a small bell breaks the oppressive silence within.
This part is unmapped (finding a building map should be easy enough). Allow the players to explore the building, describe the dustiness and general disarray. As they explore the PCs encounter a number of hazards which at first glance might appear to be the effects of dilapidation are actually the results of the Ratfolk trying to discourage explorers.

Possible Traps include:

Falling Chandelier CR 1
XP 300

Type Mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 15.
Trigger Location; Reset Manual

Effect PC beneath the Chandelier must make a DC 11 Reflex Save or take 1d6 damage and be subjected to a grapple (the Chandelier has a +10 bonus on its CMB check).

As the PCs explore allow them to make Perception checks. As a Ratfolk stationed in the house shadows the PCs, (it takes a 10 on its stealth checks for a total of 16 or 18 with cover). When any PC makes the check the Ratfolk named Persnikt flees to the basement. The PCs should easily be able to follow. (Feel free to throw in a chase if you have Chase Cards or access to the GMG).

At this point we get to the mapped section of the adventure.

Room 1 - The Basement (CR Varies)

The room at the bottom of this ladder is only about 7 feet high, stacks of wooden crates filled with empty glass bottles. With the crates taking up most of the floor space at the edges of the room you feel distinctly claustrophobic.

Depending on how far behind the Persnikt the PCs are the crate covering the entrance to the undertown may already be moved. Otherwise it's a DC 15 Perception check to find. If the PCs don't find it don't panic: Send a group of 3 Ratfolk up into the house to attack the PCs and attempt to drive them away, they leave the way open behind them.

If Persnikt has had time to close the crates behind him then the trap is active.

Glass Bottle Spring Trap (CR 1)

Falling Chandelier CR 1
XP 300

Type Mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 15.
Trigger Touch; Reset Manual

Effect When a PC tries to move the crate the spring behind it triggers causing the bottles to fling out and smash in a 10 ft. area dealing 1d4 bludgeoning and 1d4 slashing damage Reflex DC 11 halves the damage.

Room 2: Entrance to the Under Town (CR 1)

This room is damp, and smells vaguely of the sewer. A large open manhole sits in the center with the top of a ladder sticking out.
This was once the access to sewers in the ancient city that Haighwall was built over. The manhole cover is long gone melted down for parts in Ratfolk traps.

Monsters: A trio of Ratfolk are positioned here hiding in the shadows. If the PCs fail to notice them they wait until the PCs are in the room to Bullrush them into the open manhole (using their Swarming ability and Aid Another to do the job against foes Medium size or Larger). If a Ratfolk is alone it attempts to flee down the ladder deeper into the dungeon.

Room 3: The Nexus (CR 0 or CR 3)

This room has a high arch, four sturdy ancient pillars hold up the ceiling. In each corner dirty brackish water pools in depressions all are still except for the South Western pool which churns. There is a ladder leading back to the surface to the north, exits to the East and West, and a heavy stone door to the South.

This room was once a nexus in the sewerage treatment plant leading to the various areas of the plant. Signs on the Pillars in Dwarven tell the PCs that the door to the East leads to the "Otyugh Pens", the door to the West leads to the "Gardens and Worm Farms".

If no alarm has been raised this room is empty. The door to the South is locked and can only be opened with the key found on Dieskak (see Area 5), or by activating the machinery in room 7. PCs can also swim between room 3 and 5 via the only functional pipeline (any PC who does so is subjected to Filth Fever).

If an alarm has been raised Ratfolk from either Room 4 or Room 7 hide among the pillars while Dieskak uses his scrolls to attack the PCs from cover, retreating into room 5 through the water pipe.

Room 4: The Bunks (CR 1 monsters) and (CR 2 traps)

This circular room is covered in hay and old rags. It smells like rats and rust.

The Ratfolk use this room as a bedroom and occasionally as a workshop.

Monsters: If no alarm has been raised then there is a 50% chance that the ratfolk in here are sleeping. Otherwise they are working on putting together some awful spring loaded arrow trap.

Traps: At the edges of the room are 9 chests. 3 of the 9 chests are trapped with Poison Dart Traps.

Treasure: (Generated using THIS)
  • 1) Longbow 75 gp [112%, High Quality] : 84gp
  • 2) Noble's outfit 75 gp [82.67%, Cheap Quality] : 62gp
  • 3) Mirror, small steel 10 gp [90%, Low Quality] : 9gp
  • 4) Mace, light 5 gp [180%, Exceptional Quality] : 9gp
  • 5) Lantern, hooded 7 gp [142.86%, Very Fine Quality] : 10gp
  • 6) Sickle 6 gp [150%, Very Fine Quality] : 9gp
  • 7) Bolts, crossbow (10) 1 gp [Standard Quality] : 1gp
  • 8) Potion of Magic fang {1st/1st} : 50gp

  • Gems and Jewels Breakdown
    Agate 4gp, Blue quartz 4gp

  • Coins
    gp: 4
    sp: 80
    cp: 600

More to come Thursday...