I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 14

October 22, 2019
So, I've got the 1st level adventure, and I've got the 3rd level adventure. Now I need to connect them by filling in the 2nd level adventure. I look at how the first adventure ends (an arboreal has killed a duergar from the Wastingdeep Mine, the scholar Gendal is kidnapped) and how the third adventure begins (upon returning to Fallinghollow with Gendal, stuff happens) and see that the second adventure is about rescuing Gendal from duergars. That seems like a dungeon crawl to me, and having the occasional back-to-the-roots dungeon-crawl adventure is fun. 

The greatest danger in a dungeon crawl adventure is that it'll be dull and non-linear. You mix this up by having interesting NPCs the heroes can talk to, hints of mysteries to come, and several decision points while they're in the dungeon.

So here's what I came up with for this:

Chapter 2: Descent into Wastingdeep (2nd level) 

The heroes return to Fallinghollow to meet with the scholar Gendal, but he’s been kidnapped along with other residents. Signs point to the nearby Wastingdeep Mine. The heroes learn that the iron mine connects to a larger dungeon occupied by duergar slavers. The heroes must vanquish the duergar and the barbazu devil who commands them.


Part 1: Wastingdeep Mine

The heroes confirm that Gendal has been kidnapped, although no one saw any kidnappers as duergar can become invisible. His house has signs of a struggle and two broken and discarded bola bolts; a successful DC 16 Society check reveals they’re the kind duergar sharpshooters use. Heroes asking around can learn Wastingdeep Mine was an iron mine abandoned when some bad gas flooded parts of it. The gas is invisible and odorless, and therefore the mine was deemed too dangerous to keep using.

Encounter 1a (Moderate 2)

Recent tracks lead in and out of Wastingdeep Mine. Two earth mephitsand a sewer oozeguard the narrow passage near the mine entrance at the command of the duergars. They’re near an alcove with dusty mine storage equipment, including a forgotten +1 pick.

Encounter 1b (Moderate 2)

The duergar loosed a lumbering giant stag beetleinto the mine corridors; it isn’t affected by the bad gas. This beast meets up with the heroes before they can explore very much of the mines.

Encounter 1c

Navigating the maze-like mine requires a lead hero make three DC 16 Survival checks, each taking an hour. After three successes, the party makes their way to the bug yard in Part 2. They can return to the surface at any time by retracing their steps, but this reduces their earned successes to zero and they must start again. Each failure takes the heroes to a pocket of bad gas, making them enfeebled 1 for 24 hours (which stacks, up to enfeebled 4). On a critical failure, the heroes also inadvertently return to the start, losing any progress made. On a critical success, the heroes spot a side passage with a boarded-up mine office. This office contains a map of the entire mine, allowing the heroes to traverse it automatically and further gain direct access to any of the three areas in Part 2: the bug yard, the slagyard, or the fungus cliff. 


Part 2: Duergar Support

The upper level of the duergar caverns, below Wastingdeep Mine, contains three different chambers the duergar use. This is the bug yard where the duergar train centipedes, the slagyard where they seek useful slag, and the fungus cliff where they collect food. These areas all connect to each other (and to the Iron Stronghold in Part 3) through narrow passages with a few dead-end tunnels off of them. The heroes can use these dead-end tunnels to rest safely, if they’d like, as the duergars rarely explore them. The duergar come and go through the bug yard, so this is where their tracks from the mine lead.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 2)

The entrance to the bug yard has a gate made of thick wire that the yard’s captive centipedes have just realized they can break open. Two giant centipedes attack the heroes immediately, with 2 more joining each round until all six giant centipedesattack.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 2)

Deeper in the bug yard—which connects to the rest of the duergar caverns—two duergar sharpshootersare training three giant centipedes. They all attack the intruders from the surface. A nearby chest with metal whips and other training gear contains a lesser antidote and a lesser healing potion.

Encounter 2c (Moderate 2)

The fungus cliff is a deep crevasse where tasteless but nourishing mushrooms grow in a surprising profusion. The mushrooms provide cover. Here, a duergar taskmaster is training two duergar sharpshooters in shooting long distances off the edge of the crevasse. They fight as soon as they notice the heroes. The duergar taskmaster has a heavy iron key (to the Iron Gate in Part 3). A mushroom-gathering basket has a few dried, nasty mushrooms and a potency crystalin it.

Encounter 2d (Severe 2)

The slagyard is where the lava plume that broke through the mine’s lower levels—and released the bad gas that still fills part of the mine—melted a bunch of iron into slag. The duergar sometimes pick through it for useful iron slag. There’s currently a duergar taskmasterhere talking with a faceless stalkerwho’s masquerading as the scribe Gendal. Unless the heroes are noisy when they approach, they overhear the pair talking about how the faceless stalker can best impersonate Gendal, return to the surface, and collect information about weaknesses of the fey and arboreals. This is a clue that the duergars (and their devil masters) aren’t truly allied with the arboreals. When this pair discovers the heroes, the taskmaster fights while “Gendal” pretends to be in trouble long enough to get close to the heroes for a surprise attack. The duergar taskmaster has a heavy iron key (to the Iron Gate in Part 3). The faceless stalker has a shoulder bag containing a large vial of its blood (which functions as two doses of infiltrator’s elixir).


Part 3: The Iron Stronghold

The lowest level of caverns claimed by the duergar are all one reinforced fortress.

Encounter 3a (Moderate 2)

The Iron Stronghold’s entry is guarded by two duergar sharpshootersand a duergar taskmaster. The taskmaster has one of three keys to the Iron Gate.

Encounter 3b

The Iron Gate leading into the fortress requires 3 keys: one held by each of the three duergar taskmasters outside the fortress. The lock is treated as a good lock if the heroes have no keys, an average lock with one, a simple lock with two, and it unlocks with all three.

Encounter 3c (Moderate 2)

The large hall beyond the Iron Gate is set up with several mushroom-stuffed leather sacks to resemble humans. Three duergar bombardierspractice hurling bombs here. Several rooms of the fortress lead off of this hall. A small table bears a moderate alchemist’s fire and a crafter’s eyepiece.

Encounter 3d (Moderate 2)

The fortress’s armory is well stocked but guarded with a spinning blade pillartrap. It contains three tower shields, six dwarven waraxes, six mauls, four suits of splint mail, and a retribution axe

Encounter 3e (Moderate 2)

The forge is where all the duergar must labor in shifts, but currently two duergar bombardiersand a duergar sharpshooter are here. The bombardiers are bullying the sharpshooter into doing their work, and she’s frustrated with that. If a fight breaks out, the duergars all fight initially, but the sharpshooter turns against the bombardiers if given the opportunity. In exchange for her freedom, she tells the heroes the layout of the stronghold. A suit of full plate and an ingot of silver worth 25 gp are here in the forge.

Encounter 3f

The barracks in the fortress aren’t regularly inhabited, but duergar elsewhere retire here if the heroes wait. The only trunk not filled with mundane clothes and tools has an onyx worth 10 gp in it.

Encounter 3g (Moderate 2)

Four duergar sharpshootersare planning a raid on the surface for slaves. Their leader, the barbazu Gresshix, wouldn’t approve of an unsanctioned raid, so they’re being very covert about it and attack anyone who disturbs them.

Encounter 3h (Severe 2)

The prison of the Iron Stronghold contains only one living prisoner currently: the actual Gendal. A barbazudevil named Gresshix is keeping him here until he receives word from his superiors in a distant town Gresshix has been careful not to name in his prisoner’s presence. Gresshix has the key to the cells; trying to open Gendal’s cell door without it triggers an electric latch runetrap. Another cell here contains a skeleton with an onyx dog wondrous figurineamid its bones; this unfortunate prisoner swallowed the figurine to use it later, but died with it in his belly.



Gendal is pleased to be rescued and anxious to get back to Fallinghollow. He listened carefully to his jailer Gresshix, and got the impression that he’s associated with devils who have infiltrated one of the towns in the Northfells. Gendal plans to do some research about names Gresshix dropped to find out which town that is, but he wants to go home first. 


I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 13

October 17, 2019
Last time, I presented the first adventure in the adventure path I'm writing. Today, I want to talk about how to end it. I haven't yet put this together, because I think it will depend a lot on how the 19th-level adventure goes, but I want to put down some thoughts about the 20th level finale of this campaign.

* It need not have 12 encounters. I've been building every chapter with 12 encounters to make sure there's enough experience for the heroes to level up for the following chapter. Since t...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 12

October 10, 2019
Okay! Here is the entire 1st level adventure. This is how the Heartwood Blight Adventure Path will kick off!

Chapter 1: Raiders of Fallinghollow (1st level)

The heroes all begin in the town of Fallinghollow, a small community in the Northfells of about 1,000 people. It’s best if the heroes have some connection to this town, such as by being from there, or having recently moved there. They might be connected to Headman Sigrir, the town’s efficient and no-nonsense mayor; Sheriff Arskej, who i...

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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 11

October 8, 2019
Now that I'm 11 posts into this project about writing an entire Pathfinder Second Edition adventure path, I'm ready to start! That is, I'm ready to take a look at how I'm going to design the first adventure, which will launch this adventure path right. The start of an adventure path needs to do these things:

* Establish the Theme. The way the adventure path feels should be established in the first adventure. If the adventure path is going to be a gritty, urban, noir theme, the first adventure ...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 10

October 3, 2019
Okay! Now that I've got some names I can plug in, let me finish up the 16th level chapter I outlined earlier. This is a bit long, 1,600 words rather than 1,500, but I can trim it up a bit when I ensure it's connected to the 15th level adventure that comes before it and the 17th level adventure that comes after it, which I already know is going to be an urban adventure culminating against the pit fiend Balzzevarian, which I set up here.

Chapter 16: Monastery of Frozen Stone (16th level)

The hero...

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Name Checks

October 1, 2019
I'm taking a quick step away from my lengthy blog series where I'm writing an entire adventure path to talk about names. More specifically, I'm talking about how you check them. Here's what I do, whether I'm writing something myself or developing an adventure for someone else. At some point near the end of the writing/development, you're going to want to run your document through a spellchecker. Have a Google window open at the same time. For each proper name you find, before hitting "Accept,...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 9

September 26, 2019

So I’ve been throwing out names as they come up (for example, the town in Chapter 3 is Fallinghollow), but I now want to be a little more definitive about this. What is the region going to be called? What will the towns be called? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the entire adventure path going to be called?

Naming adventure paths is hard. Here at Paizo, adventure paths are almost all my small team does, and all of us agree that finding a good, evocative name for an entire adventure pa...

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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 8

September 24, 2019
Let me get right to it: below is my entire 3rd level adventure for my adventure path! I'm 1/20th of the way done! It's right near 1,500 words, and therefore my target length. I dropped this text into my layout program (a free product called Scribus) and see that it's just a few lines shy of 3 pages. That seems perfect. Here it is!

Chapter 3: The Cat’s-Paw Deception (3rd)

The heroes returned the missing scholar Gendal to his home in Fallinghollow, but the forest town of Fallinghollow has troub...

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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 7

September 19, 2019
Every writer hits a point of "Oh, crap. Word count!" at some point. Sometimes it's that you're done with a project and don't know how to fill the rest of the words you've been assigned. Much more often, it's when you realize that you have many, many more words than your word count allots to you. This latter problem isn't so bad; it forces you to refine your presentation, picking only the best and clearest words. It's really hard to kill words, but being forced to do so makes for better projec...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 6

September 17, 2019
Last time in my series of posts about designing a whole Pathfinder Second Edition adventure path from scratch, I worked out a robust outline for the 3rd chapter, which amounts to an adventure for 3rd level characters that will get them to 4th level. I'm now doing the same for 16th level, because I wanted to jump into this for a low-level adventure and a high-level adventure.

The 16th-level thinking and ultimate outline is below. But I don't want to bury the takeaway of this exercise at the bot...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 5

September 12, 2019
Welcome back! My last post described one adventure in my adventure path, Cat's-Paw Deception, for 3rd-level characters. That outline isn't quite yet done, because the adventure doesn't yet have any treasure. Fortunately, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook makes choosing treasure easy. Page 509 provides that a 3rd-level adventure should give out a total of 500 gp of treasure. This breaks down as 2 Level 4 permanent items, 2 Level 3 permanent items, 2 Level 4 consumable items, 2 Level 3 consumable it...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 4

September 12, 2019
Okay! Enough of the overview planning and such. Let me tackle a couple of the 20 adventures in this adventure path (one level's worth of encounters) to see what that takes. I'll pick, semi-randomly, Level 3 and Level 16. This gives both a low and a high level, and both levels work fine in isolation--that is, I'm far enough away from the Level 1 start of the adventure path and the Level 20 conclusion of the adventure path that I don't need to worry quite so much about the details of the meta-p...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 3

September 9, 2019
I'm continuing the adventure path design! With a powerful villain now in play, it's time to think about lesser minions and lieutenants that will serve as the foes for lower levels, leading into the final fight against Treerazer. 

So let's think about sub-villains, and the foes the heroes will face at lower levels.

I've already boxed myself in a bit with my super-short word count, as I can't rely on lots of lengthy stat blocks for villains with class levels--or, as Pathfinder Second Edition uses...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 2

September 3, 2019
More planning for my adventure path! I'm not thinking at a high level about art and maps. These are both important to any product, but they require separate skills; people who can do both well are rare and should be treasured. They both have some wildly different costs.

Art comes in two general types for the third-party publisher: custom and stock. Custom art is made to your specifications, and is a lot more expensive. You'll get exactly what you need in art, and your art piece will be unique...
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I'm Writing an AP in Front of You, Part 1

August 29, 2019
I've had a lot to say about writing adventures, but I want to think a bit bigger. I'm going to write a Pathfinder Second Edition adventure path. Sort of. Over many posts. In this first post, I'll provide some thoughts about the framework. Later posts will get into the details. I hope talking through this is helpful for mapping out your own large RPG projects!

Let's think about scope. A Paizo-type adventure path is about 300 pages long. A hardcover campaign book for other systems would also be ...
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Things You Haven't Noticed About Pathfinder Second Edition

August 19, 2019
This blog is probably Part 1 of multiple parts, as I'm still learning the new edition, but here are a few things that weren't immediately obvious to me:

1) Touch spells don't require an attack roll unless they say so. In First Edition, any spell with a Range of "touch" required you make a touch attack roll against your foe to hit it. That's not the case now. Now, plenty of spells have a Range of "touch" but don't require any attack roll. The spell text says if it does. For example, chill touch...
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Mother of Monsters Super-Adventure for 5E D&D!

August 16, 2019
I've had the privilege of contributing adventures to an exciting upcoming product: an entire adventure path for 5E D&D called Mother of Monsters. This is a fantasy Greek-themed adventure path set in a vibrant world with a lot of adventure opportunity. It's Kickstarting now, and you can back it right here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zagoragames/mother-of-monsters-the-awakening-of-naehurdamia

Several things really impressed me from the beginning with the way Adrian set this up. He'd ob...
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Intrepid Heroes Take Flight!

August 15, 2019
I've done a LOT of gaming in my time, but I'm doing something totally new now. My Starfinder group--which recently finished Dead Suns to the great enjoyment of all--is starting up the Dawn of Flame adventure path. This time, though, we're podcasting it! You can check out our episodes at IntrepidHeroes.net. Each one is around 45 minutes to an hour long.

We're looking to fill a particular niche here: actual gamers at play. I've seen a lot of the "actual play" genre get overwhelmed with professio...
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RIP Blake Wilkie

August 14, 2019
I just learned that one of the artists I used for several Run Amok Games products, Blake Wilkie, passed away yesterday. The look of Run Amok Games products wouldn't be the same without Blake, and I regret I didn't have the opportunity to express my appreciation before his passing. My favorite cover art he did for me was the cover of The Underdelve Menace, but his distinctive comic-book style shows up a lot. RIP Blake.
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How I Redeemed Lawyers

August 9, 2019
Here's a quick story about my hand in the creation of Pathfinder Second Edition.

There are a lot of backgrounds in the book. Backgrounds give you, among other things, training in a skill and a specific skill feat. These skill feats map to the skills: you might get the Medicine skill and the Battle Medic feat, but the background shouldn't grant a mismatch between a skill and a skill feat. In reviewing the backgrounds, though, I noticed precisely one mismatch: the Barrister background gave you t...
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Second Edition Tips!

August 7, 2019
I'm back from GenCon, and one of the best things about it was being able to finally talk, in full and unvarnished detail, about the new Pathfinder rules. No more saying, "wait and see," as it's now here! If you're an adventure author for Pathfinder Second Edition, here are a bunch of things, in no specific order, to keep in mind when working with the new system.

* New XP. There's a new method for calculating experience points, and it's entirely based on the level of challenges compared to the ...
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Teeth of the Storm - for Second Edition!

August 2, 2019
Great news! Pathfinder Second Edition launches today, and I've partnered with Rogue Genius Games to present (on launch day!) a Second Edition update of my popular 1st level gothic horror adventure, Teeth of the Storm. No simple conversion, this is rebuilt and re-imagined from the ground up with Second Edition in mind. Teeth of the Storm is the perfect way to kick off a new Pathfinder Second Edition campaign--if your heroes survive! You can get it here!

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My GenCon Schedule!

July 26, 2019
Hey, I have my GenCon schedule finalized at last! Generally speaking, you can find me at Paizo's booth in the Exhibit Hall during Exhibit Hall hours, talking about our new edition. I have lots to say about it, so come by!

I'm also presenting in three panels. These are all in ICC:212, the Paizo seminar room (which is the same seminar room as last year).

Thursday, August 1st
In the Exhibit Hall pretty much the whole time it's open. There will be long lines for our new book!

Friday, August 2nd
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Feeding the Fandom

July 23, 2019
When you're writing an adventure, don't think of yourself as writing a book for a casual reader (despite the fact that many of your readers will, in fact, be casual readers). Instead, think of yourself as writing for your fandom: a group of people who will dissect everything you provide, question it, review it, and build on it all on their own. This means you should keep a few things in mind:

* Make motives crystal clear. When an NPC does something, spend the words to make sure you're clarifyi...
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Converting Adventures

July 19, 2019
I've done a fair amount of adventure converting this year, to and from Pathfinder First Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition, Starfinder, and Dungeons and Dragons. I thought an overview about how I approach an adventure conversion would be helpful. I've broken this into nine steps. I'll use "native" for the original rules set and adventure, and "target" for the new rules set and adventure you're producing.

First, read the whole thing. Mark it as you go along for strange things that were expressl...
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Map Duplication

July 16, 2019
I now have a couple projects in the works that use the same dungeon map twice. Earlier in an adventure (or in an earlier adventure), the heroes go through the dungeon. Later, they come back to it, and go through it again. Why on earth might I do such a thing? A few reasons:

* Familiarity. A reused map takes away some of the burdens of exploration (in the parlance of my prior blog post, the heroes jump right to phase two), allowing more focus on the events at hand.

* Encourage In-Game Thinking. ...
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Three Phases of Dungeon Exploration

July 12, 2019
I've said for a long time that there are three phases of dungeon exploration as a player:

First, you are just entering the dungeon, and you don't have any solid information about its scope, denizens, or dangers. (This is the phase when players tend to be the most paranoid, checking carefully for traps, and so on.)

Second, you have a sense of the scope of the dungeon, but you haven't yet "mastered" it; there's still several unknown areas and, most importantly, you haven't yet encountered the "bo...
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How I Wrote 15,000 Words in Two Days

July 8, 2019
I'm back from vacation! I hosted a family reunion over the week of the 4th of July at my house. And I had an adventure milestone (of about 17,000 words) due the following Monday: today. If I'd been more rigorously scheduled, I would have finished this milestone before my vacation. But I had fewer than 3,000 words together when my family all arrived. I had grant plans of working a few late nights during the reunion, but those opportunities, unsurprisingly, vanished. All I had time to do during...
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More Torg Writing!

July 6, 2019
Hey, my contribution to the upcoming Torg Kickstarter has been revealed and unlocked! Pick up the new box detailing the fantasy realm of Aysle to get my adventure! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ulissesspiele/torg-eternity-aysle
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No Secrets

June 28, 2019
Secrets are a great part of an RPG narrative: the ally who is secretly a traitor, the supposed villain who is really someone in need of help, or the simple general store that's a front for an evil cult. Even secret doors have a long tradition in RPGs. But when you're writing RPG adventures or rules, you should absolutely not be keeping secrets from the GM. You're not being clever writing about the Cult Master through the first third of your adventure and then...surprise! The Cult Master is re...
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About Me

I'm Ron Lundeen, developer for Paizo, Inc., active gamer, and RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Raging Swan, Open Design, Headless Hydra Games, and Rite Publishing. I'm still taking freelance writing assignments, but also focusing on writing for Run Amok Games.


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