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 bottom of this blog post. Here's the thing to notice: the process to create my 16th level adventure is the same as my process to create the 3rd level adventure! In both cases, I needed a dozen encounters (ten moderately difficult, two severely difficult). I looked through the Bestiary (and, to an extent, the hazards in the Core Rulebook) for level-appropriate challenges, identified themes in them, and divided them up in groups to correspond with chapters or encounter areas. I then seeded level-appropriate treasure. This is mechanically identical for the other 18 levels. The technical side works out. The artistic elements come into deciding themes and other story-based elements (like connections between the parts). 

For the 16th level adventure, I remember that I plan to use the ongoing demon/dragon threats. I also said that I'd put the encounter with the top devil in the 15th to 17th level range. It makes sense for that top devil to be a pit fiend. As a Level 20 foe, that's a bit too tough for 16th level heroes to face, but makes a Severe encounter for 17th level. So let's put that resolution off to the 17th level adventure, and not tackle it in this one. 

Looking over the Bestiary and Core Rulebook, I see that banshees are in the right level range, as is a neat hazard called a banshee's symphony. So banshees are a good theme here. Another undead that fits in this range is the skulltaker. So there's an undead component to this adventure. I also see lots of cold-themed foes: wendigos, ice linnorms, ancient white dragons, and so on. This all speaks to cold mountains to me, and lets me bring in some giants (rune giants at this level) and powerful elemental creatures like uthuls.

I already know the next level's encounter is going to be with a pit fiend, and I've decided that the devils in my adventure path are more urban. So having this adventure be in a remote mountain wilderness will provide a good change of pace. Looking at my map, I could place this in the upper northwest corner of the map. It's mountainous, and far enough from civilization to have a "here be dragons" feel (literally!).

I looks like I could have an ice linnorm-vs.-white dragon rivalry. Neither of those foes is tough enough on its own, so maybe it's an elite ice linnorm (I'll call him Rimecurse) and an elite ancient white dragon with a rune giant bodyguard (I'll call the dragon Chraxavun). Both are Moderate encounters.

I think it will be helpful to have this adventure lead into the fight against the pit fiend at 17th level, so maybe the heroes are going to the wilderness to get some information. Let's say there was a huge mountain monastery built a long time ago, and this monastery is the only place with records about locating and fighting the pit fiend. So the heroes are coming for information. The monks or hermits or whatever are long gone--in fact, let's say they're dead. In fact, they were elves, and that's who the banshees are. This means the banshees can have allies: golems or other constructs who still serve them in their forgotten monastery. But the monastery isn't forgotten now! Rimecurse and Chraxavun both want its treasures but can't get in, and fight with each other over it. The banshees are caught in the middle.

Let's pick teams, and put encounters into these teams.

Team Banshee (original monastery inhabitants):
Moderate: a banshee's symphony hazard
Moderate: a banshee and 2 elite stone golems (looks like a stone theme, so I'm using these rather than iron golems)
Moderate: a skulltaker
Severe: 2 banshees
Severe: a guthallath (a super stone golem!)

Team Rimecurse:
Moderate: Rimecurse herself (elite ice linnorm)
Moderate: An ice linnorm and an uthul
Moderate: 4 uthul
Moderate: A wendigo and an uthul

Team Chraxavun:
Moderate: Chraxavun (elite ancient white dragon) and a rune giant
Moderate: 2 rune giants
Moderate: a rune giant and 3 storm giants (evil ones, I think)

So! An adventure with this! Let's name the monastery and name the adventure after it. Monastery of Frozen Stone for now.

Part 1: The Mountain Trek
The heroes have learned that an isolated monastery high in the mountains has some lore about their devil problem. They make the long trek, and must deal with environmental problems, but they're high-level heroes and unlikely to be dissuaded by the cold.
Encounter 1: Before they even get to the monastery, the heroes are beset by 4 uthuls. Perhaps evidence the uthuls just killed a storm giant with a slave collar.
Encounter 2: A rune giant named Harlasho comes along, but he doesn't want to fight; he's looking for his escaped slave. (He has 3 other storm giant slaves in tow; they are evil, and fight if Harlasho is attacked.) Harlasho represents Chraxavun, a dragon who fights against an ice linnorm in the area named Rimecurse. The rune giant knows of the monastery, but it's heavily guarded. He uses sending to contact Chravaxun. It turns out Chravaxun knows a way in, and offers to share it with the heroes if they vanquish his rival Rimecurse. Harlasho isn't lying, but Chravaxun has lied to him; the dragon has no intention of providing any help to the heroes (and, in fact, knows of no secret way into the monastery). The heroes can go to the linnorm's crevasse (or maybe even the Linnorm's Crevasse, a proper place name!), or just ignore Harlasho's offer and press on to the monastery. The adventure diverges here.

Part 2: The Linnorm's Crevasse
This is an icy mountain pass, and is a straightforward "dungeon" of locations in the windswept pass.
Encounter 1: a wendigo and an uthul guard the entrance to the crevasse
Encounter 2: an ice linnorm and another uthul live in the valley; the linnorm surrenders if badly damaged and tells the way to Rimecurse's lair (maybe it's Rimecurse's offspring, or younger sibling). It also says that their enemy Chraxavun has claimed the area near the monastery's entrance and can't get in himself but keeps everyone else from trying. This is a clue that the dragon was lying to the heroes, and should probably be attainable only with a really good skill check (Diplomacy or Intimidation) against the injured linnorm.
Encounter 3: Rimecurse is enraged by intruders in her crevasse. She attacks. She also has a great big hoard, and maybe as much as a third of the treasure in this adventure.

Part 3: The Duplicitous Dragon
The heroes come to the area near the monastery, which Chraxavun has claimed as his own. If the heroes come here right away, the giants are hostile; if they come after defeating Rimecurse, the giants allow the heroes to pass, but then betray then and attack if the heroes defeat Chraxavun, figuring the heroes would be weakened in fighting the dragon.
Encounter 1: 1 rune giant and 3 elite storm giant slaves. This is Harlasho, whom the heroes met earlier.
Encounter 2: 2 rune giant hunters and guards.
Encounter 3: Chraxavun (elite ancient white dragon) and a rune giant bodyguard. He lairs within sight of the monastery entrance. He encourages the heroes to use the monastery door, saying it's the easiest way in (it's the only way in, and Chravaxun hasn't used it because he doesn't want to risk himself or his giants to its trap, which he knows is there). He has a lair with lots of treasure, too; maybe another third of the adventure's treasure.

Part 4: Monastery of the Dead
This details the explorations of the monastery itself.
Encounter 1: a banshee's symphony hazard on the monastery door; if the heroes haven't dealt with Chraxavun, the dragon attacks once they've been damaged by this trap. Two Moderate encounters right together is actually Extreme, but we can mitigate this by having Chraxavun's guard take a few rounds longer to arrive.
Encounter 2: 2 banshees guard the entry. Putting a Severe encounter right here serves two purposes: it keeps the Severe encounters from being back-to-back, and it signals to the players that the monastery is dangerous.
Encounter 3: a skulltaker lurks in the monastery's infirmary. Probably some treasure here.
Encounter 4: an open chapel has a banshee (the remnant of the head monk here) and 2 stone golems, which are statues of elves that animate to fight. Probably treasure here as well.
Encounter 5: The library is a huge room, and at its center is a great big statue of an elf head. Locating the information about the devil takes some skill checks. When the heroes have it and seem intent to take it from the library, the stone head animates, rising out of the ground as a guthallath and blocking their way.

I selected treasure from the Core Rulebook using the tables there, just as for the 3rd level adventure. This adventure has larger treasure hoards, and I divided it up as follows:

One the dead storm giant: stone bullet
Rimecurse's hoard: high-grade adamantine maul, ghost dust, major cognitive mutagen, 9,000 gp in coins and gems
Chraxavun's hoard: belt of giant strength, +3 greater striking handwraps of mighty blows, truesight potion, greater bravo's brew, 8,000 gp in gold and gems
Monastery's infirmary: true staff of healing
Monastery's chapel: scroll of foresight, 3,000 gp of fancy adornments and jewelry

Now that chapters 3 and 16 are done, I need to do this 18 more times. That doesn't seem to bad! But I have a few considerations first, like how I'm going to present these encounters and what I'm going to do with the first and last levels. Rather than just have 18 more blog posts like this one, I'll tackle those issues next!

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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When Games Reflect Real-Life Trauma

June 21, 2019
It's exciting to put very tense or dangerous situations in roleplaying games. Part of the fun--for some, the largest part of the fun--is participating in thrilling danger without actually being in any danger. RPG authors create the atmosphere for that. Yet RPG authors need to keep in mind that some concepts of danger or trauma can be triggering for players who've had similar traumatic real-life experiences. 

This came into the news recently when a gamemaster at UK Games Expo ran a game purport...
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Second Edition Publishing License: What's Different?

June 19, 2019
So, Paizo just released their updated Compatibility License for Pathfinder Second Edition! What does it look like? Well, a lot like the Compatibility License for first edition. But it's not the same, and you can't use the first edition license for second edition products. You need to agree to the new license if you want to produce Pathfinder Second Edition products. But it's so much legalese! Is there anyone who can put these side-by-side and let an overworked third party publisher know what'...
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Avoid Punting from the Outline

June 14, 2019
My freelance workload is currently such that I prepared several adventure outlines at roughly the same time, then simultaneously built them into full adventures. This gave me a good look at my process, and specifically where a shortcut in my outline made much more work for myself in the adventure writing phase. So I though I'd share my list of "never do again" phrases from an outline (because I'm learning they make MUCH more work for me down the line). It's fine to punt on things like a speci...
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File an Evacuation Plan

June 11, 2019
I've talked before about thinking critically about how your monsters actually live in a dungeon setting--how they interact with their neighbors, the tasks they do on a day-to-day basis, and so on. Sure, undead and constructs can simply stand immobile for decades on end, but living creatures should have a bit more verisimilitude in how they utilize their home. One good way to think about this is to do the same thing you should be doing for yourselves--have an evacuation plan!

This process works...
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Understanding Your Contract

June 6, 2019

Hooray! You have a contract for your work! You look it over and are met with a wall of legal gibberish. But these things are probably standard, so you make sure the rate is correct and sign it and send it back in. You’re not a lawyer, after all, you’re a freelance writer. But in the back of your mind, you wonder (and maybe worry) about what you don’t understand in that contract. I’m here to help, with a breakdown of standard contract provisions! Complete with “Buts,” “Ands,” a...

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My Own Jargon

June 3, 2019
Last week, I posted about how using natural language instead of jargon in your game is useful, but I acknowledged that sometimes jargon can be necessary or helpful (such as when presenting game statistics). That got me thinking about some of the jargon I use in this blog, and how I'm long overdue to explain what I mean by some of these jargony terms. If these are all well-known to you, that's great (and you probably review lots of games and game blogs). I try to explain terms I focus on, like...
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Jargon in Your Games

May 29, 2019
I had a great PaizoCon last weekend. It felt more relaxed than last year, even though I participated in more panels, because I chose to "run" laid-back games of the revised Pathfinder Adventure Card Game rather than typical RPG sessions. As a big fan of the previous edition of the PACG, and the related modern-day game called Apocrypha, I was eager to give the revised PACG a try. I was a bit worried, because "old" PACG uses a lot of natural language on the cards, but Apocrypha uses so many sym...
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My PaizoCon 2019

May 22, 2019
We're gearing up for another great PaizoCon, where the company plans to show off a lot of the Starfinder Beginner Box, the revised Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and (of course) Pathfinder 2nd Edition. Here's what I'll be doing:

Friday 5/24
8:15 am to 10:45 am: Helping with registration and handing out swag bags
11:00 am to 12 noon: Secrets of Golarion seminar (Cascade 13)
12 noon to 1 pm: Dungeon Dissection seminar (Cascade 13)
2 pm to 4 pm: Helping out at the Delve
4 pm to 5 pm: Solving Puzzles ...
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Final Push for the Gauntlet!

May 17, 2019
Sunday is the Gauntlet, the board game event for charity I'm participating in (along with the spectacular Joe Pasini, Katina Davis, and Whitney Chatterjee, we make Team Paizo). Please consider donating at at this link!
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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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