Where Adventure Writing is Going

December 21, 2022
I have a thing that's quite eye-opening for adventure writers. But first, here's an adventure that's pretty long, but kind of fun, for your enjoyment.

The Missing Alchemist

Synopsis: The small town of Oakdale has recently been plagued by a string of burglaries. The local alchemist, a reclusive gnome named Fizzwick, has gone missing and is believed to be the culprit. The town council has offered a reward for anyone who can bring Fizzwick to justice and recover the stolen goods. It is not clear what Fizzwick's motivations are for committing the burglaries or why he has become obsessed with creating this potion. It is up to the players to uncover the truth and decide how to deal with Fizzwick.

Setting: Oakdale is a small town located in a densely wooded area. The town is surrounded by a thick forest, which is rumored to be home to all sorts of dangerous creatures.

Adventure Hook: The players are passing through Oakdale when they hear about the reward being offered for the capture of Fizzwick. Alternatively, the players could be hired by the town council to investigate the burglaries and find Fizzwick.

Act 1: Investigating the Burglaries

The players can start by speaking with the town council and asking around town to gather information about the burglaries and Fizzwick. They may also want to visit the homes and businesses that have been burglarized to look for clues.

Some potential leads the players could discover include:

1. Fizzwick was seen acting strangely and had been talking to himself in the days leading up to his disappearance.
2. Fizzwick was known to be experimenting with strange alchemical substances, and some believe he may have accidentally stumbled upon something dangerous.
3. One of the stolen items was a rare and valuable alchemical ingredient that could be used to create a powerful potion.

Here are a few ideas for urban encounters that the players might encounter while investigating the burglaries and searching for Fizzwick in the town of Oakdale:

1. The players overhear a rumor about Fizzwick being seen in a certain part of town and decide to investigate. When they arrive, they find a group of shady-looking characters loitering in the area. The group may be willing to talk to the players if they approach peacefully, or they may try to intimidate or attack the players if they feel threatened.

2. The players meet a worried shopkeeper who has had some valuable items stolen from their store. The shopkeeper may have some information about the burglaries and may be willing to share it with the players in exchange for their help recovering the stolen goods.

3. The players encounter a group of townspeople who are gossiping about Fizzwick and the burglaries. The townspeople may have heard various rumors and may be able to provide the players with some helpful information, but they may also be spreading misinformation or exaggerating the facts.

4. The players come across a group of adventurers who are also looking for Fizzwick and the stolen goods. The other adventurers may be willing to work together with the players or they may compete with them for the reward.

5. The players encounter a group of kids playing in the streets who seem to know more about Fizzwick and the burglaries than they should. The kids may have witnessed something suspicious and be willing to share what they know with the players in exchange for a small reward.

Act 2: Tracking Fizzwick

Based on the information they've gathered, the players may decide to track down Fizzwick and try to find out what he's up to. They could follow his tracks through the forest, searching for clues and fighting off any dangers they encounter along the way.

Here are a few examples of clues that the players might find while tracking Fizzwick through the forest surrounding the town of Oakdale:

1. Footprints: The players may be able to find Fizzwick's footprints and follow them to his camp. They may also find other tracks that suggest the presence of other creatures or people in the area.

2. Disturbances in the environment: Fizzwick may have left behind evidence of his passage through the forest, such as broken branches, trampled underbrush, or campfire remains. The players may be able to use these clues to determine the direction Fizzwick was heading and how long ago he passed through the area.

3. Personal belongings: Fizzwick may have dropped or left behind items such as a water bottle, a map, or a piece of equipment. These items could provide valuable clues about his destination or his state of mind.

4. Encounters with other creatures or people: The players may come across other creatures or people in the forest who have encountered Fizzwick or have information about him. These encounters could provide valuable clues about his whereabouts or his intentions.

5. Mysterious symbols or markings: The players may find symbols or markings in the forest that appear to be related to Fizzwick or his alchemical experiments. These clues could provide insight into his motivations and plans.

There are many dangers that the players could encounter while tracking Fizzwick through the forest surrounding the town of Oakdale. Here are a few examples:

1. Wild animals: The forest is home to all sorts of dangerous creatures, including wolves, bears, and giant spiders. The players may have to fight off these creatures or use stealth and cunning to avoid them.

2. Bandits: The forest may be home to a group of bandits who have set up camp in the area. The bandits may be hostile to the players and try to rob them or capture them for ransom.

3. Natural hazards: The forest may be full of natural hazards such as treacherous cliffs, quicksand, and venomous plants. The players will have to navigate these hazards carefully to avoid getting injured or lost.

4. Creatures from folklore: Depending on the setting and theme of the adventure, the forest may be home to mythical creatures such as dryads, satyrs, or even dragons. The players may have to use all of their skills and resources to defeat these powerful foes.

5. Other dangers: The DM can use their creativity to come up with additional dangers that fit the tone and theme of the adventure. Some possibilities could include environmental hazards like lightning storms or flash floods, or encounters with mysterious strangers who may be friend or foe.

Overall, the players will need to use their wits, skills, and resources to navigate the dangers of the forest and track down Fizzwick.

If the players are able to find Fizzwick's camp, they may discover that he has become obsessed with creating a powerful potion and has been stealing ingredients from the town to complete it. Some possible options could include:

1. A potion of invincibility or super strength, which would give Fizzwick an immense advantage in any confrontation.
2. A potion that grants immortality or eternal youth, which Fizzwick may be seeking for personal reasons.
3. A potion that allows him to control the minds of others, giving him the power to bend others to his will.

He may be willing to negotiate with the players or try to flee if confronted.

Act 3: Confronting Fizzwick

Some possible options could include:

1. Fleeing: If Fizzwick feels outnumbered or outmatched, he may try to flee and escape into the forest. The players will have to decide whether to pursue him or let him go.

2. Using alchemy: Fizzwick is an alchemist, so he may have access to a variety of alchemical substances that he could use in combat. For example, he could throw flasks of acid or alchemist's fire at the players, or he could use a potion to heal himself or enhance his physical abilities.

3. Using traps: Fizzwick may have set up traps in his camp to defend against intruders. These could include pit traps, bear traps, or other types of mechanical or magical traps.

4. Surrendering: If Fizzwick is overwhelmed or realizes that he is outmatched, he may choose to surrender and try to negotiate with the players. He may be willing to reveal information about his motivations or the location of the stolen goods in exchange for leniency.

If the players are able to capture Fizzwick, they can bring him back to Oakdale to face justice. The DM could choose to include a wide variety of treasures, such as coins, jewelry, magical items, or rare and valuable alchemical ingredients. The DM could also include clues or hints about the location of additional treasures that the players could find if they choose to further explore the forest or the town.

The End

So what's eye-opening about that? As the tag for this blog post might have foreshadowed, this entire adventure was written by an AI. This all took me less than 10 minutes at  https://chat.openai.com/chat. I have given the above virtually no editing, just asking some follow-up questions (like what dangers the players might find in the forest). And it's not really a bad adventure. All by AI.


One Year of Infinite Sales

October 14, 2022
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the launch of the Pathfinder Infinite and Starfinder Infinite platforms. Although I don't contribute to those any longer, I had some significant initial success with them. You much success? Let me break it down for you at the 1-year mark.

As a threshold matter, I have separate DriveThruRPG accounts for Run Amok Games (as a publisher) and as Ron Lundeen (as a content contributor). Everything for the Infinite program is under the latter, so that's what I'm t...
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And now, D&D!

June 13, 2022
As a follow-up to my "I'm leaving Paizo" blog, I'm excited to say that, starting today, I've joined the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards of the Coast. I'll be a designer there, and I'm already super excited about the things I'll be working on. This blog is going to be quiet for a while, though, as I get my feet underneath me there. But rest assured that I'll be fulfilling the last Kickstarter bits and working behind the scenes to make great things for D&D!
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End of the Paizo Era

June 1, 2022
It has been an absolutely phenomenal four-and-a-half years, but my time with Paizo has come to an end. Today was my last day with Paizo, and also the day I turned in my last (truly massive and very exciting) freelance project to them. In fact, it's my last freelance project for anyone, and it'll be a while before I pick up another one. There is no way I can say enough good things about all the fantastic Paizo people who have molded my career, taught me their wisdom, and--best of all--been my ...
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Pages from the Boosted Bestiary

May 19, 2022
You might be curious what the Boosted Bestiary looks like before you go buy it right here. Let me show you, with four examples!

First, here's the first monster section of the book, the axiomite aeon. The axiomites in the Pathfinder Bestiary are level 8. Since I'm statting up monsters that are (usually) separated by 3 levels, so you can just "weak template/elite template" to all levels in between, I included lower-level axiomites at levels 2 and 5. (There are also level 11, 14, and 17 axiomites...
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Boosted Bestiary Cover!

May 16, 2022
Here's a quick art post: the cover of the Boosted Bestiary! This has some atmospheric stock art I pulled from a stock art site I use quite a bit. I'm not sure who that horned fellow is, but there are indeed wolves of various levels in the Boosted Bestiary...which you can get right here!

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Building the Boosted Bestiary!

May 14, 2022
My newest Pathfinder Infinite product, the Boosted Bestiary, is out now! This is a sort of quirky product, born from some tight math in Pathfinder Second Edition and a really, really bold idea.

First, monsters are really only good in Pathfinder Second Edition for about five levels. If the monster is level 9, you can't really put it up against characters of 6th level or lower, because it's too tough. You can't put it against characters of 12th level or higher, because then it's too weak. (Sure,...
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What I'm Playing

March 30, 2022
I tell RPG writers that it's important to play the games you write for. Apart from playtests of your material, it's good to be active in the game so you can see actual games in action. So what am I playing these days? Glad you asked!

1. I'm running a Pathfinder Second Edition game of the Abomination Vaults Adventure Path. The characters are 4th level, so we're about a third of the way through the campaign.

2. I'm running a Starfinder game that's a continuation of our Intrepid Heroes podcast (wh...
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Proof Printing

March 24, 2022
I've now made all the edits that my editor caught for the Skaldwood Blight project. A lot of these revolve around the fact that I wrote this more than 2 years ago, but I'm only getting it into final form to give to people now. A lot has happened in the past 2 years! At Paizo, we've made two decisions that impacted this product:

1. First, we decided to rename the thingamajig in which a lich places their soul to be  "soul cage" and not a "phylactery." There's a lich that features across a few c...
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What's Next for the Kickstarter

March 9, 2022
Now it's probably pretty clear that my time away from this blog was related to the Skaldwood Blight Kickstarter that ran in February. I'm really pleased that reached the success that it did. We made our funding goal in only a week, and reached almost the second stretch goal (which I'll be providing anyway, and I'll describe that in another blog post).

For now, though, I wanted to do two things: first, I want to recognize the excellent work and mentoring that my friend Owen K.C. Stephens provid...
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Infinite Opportunity!

September 21, 2021
A quick note about the newly-announced Pathfinder Infinite and Starfinder Infinite programs, which allow everyone to participate in Paizo's worlds. I'll have more to say about this soon, but information is available here.
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Winding Down to Down Time

April 13, 2021
It's been about a month since my last blog update, which is a long time for me to be going silent these days. I've picked up a time-intensive opportunity outside of the RPG space that I knew was coming yet still arrived sooner than I'd expected. So I've been working hard on wrapping up my outstanding freelance projects so I can focus on that.

Which means I have some thoughts about wrapping up outstanding freelance projects.

First, it's useful to take an occasional break to avoid burnout; I took...

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When a Sorcerer Isn't a Sorcerer

March 11, 2021

I'm excited to see so many people saying such good things about the first Abomination Vaults Adventure Path volume, Ruins of Gauntlight by James Jacobs. A point came up with one of the key NPCs, and I thought it was worth bringing up. First, so you can see a little bit of how awesome this is and go buy it, here is that NPC: the heroes' patron, Wrin Sivinxi.

Wrin Sivinxi   Creature 5

Unique, CG, Medium, Elf, Humanoid, Tiefling

Female tiefling elf oddities merchant

Perception +12; low-light vision,...

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Skills Don't Do Things

February 28, 2021
Here's a short reminder for your RPG writing: skills aren't actors. They don't take actions. Saying, "A successful DC 15 Engineering check brings the machine back to operation," or "A successful DC 15 Sense Motive check exposes the lie," are both wrong, because a skill can't "bring" or "expose" things.

The thing that slips in the most often is when the skill use "shows" or "reveals" something, as in: "A successful DC 15 Survival check reveals red mud in the footprints." You'll sometimes see ph...

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Structuring an Investigation, Part 4

February 23, 2021
I've talked a lot recently about how to structure an extended investigation. An example of one is in my PF1 adventure, A Lucky Morning (which you can get right here).

To be more than a little bit spoilery, that adventure is about an evil necromancer getting revenge on a former adventuring group that shunned him. He's killing off the group's former members, and he doesn't care who he kills along the way. The adventure begins with the heroes waking up in the private rooms of a big inn, coming do...

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Structuring an Investigation, Part 3

February 18, 2021
We’re building an extended investigation scene! In Part 1, I talked about how to break down the investigation items into things the heroes must learn, and things the heroes might learn. In Part 2, I talked about the work to support the GM: ensuring your investigation meets your XP and treasure budget, and the best order to present things to make it easier on the GM. Now, we’re getting to how to present things for the players.

This is the step that takes the longest, because it involves th...

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Structuring an Investigation, Part 2

February 12, 2021
When I last posted, I described how to structure an extended investigation. In short, you need to start with your core adventure design. Decide what things your heroes must learn in the investigation; your adventure simply can't proceed unless they learn these two or three (or however many) things. Then decide what things they might learn in the investigation that would be helpful but not mandatory; maybe there's two to four of these. You made your list of "musts" and a list of "mights."


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Structuring an Investigation, Part 1

February 2, 2021
It's often fun--and sometimes necessary--to put an investigation scene into an adventure. You're going through three layers to create one:

* Your adventure design, which requires the heroes find out one or several things.
* Your presentation to the GM, who must understand how to get the players to what they need to understand.
* The players, who must find the investigation engaging and useful.

This is not easy! 

It helps to work on these from top to bottom, and I'm going to talk about writing each...

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A Helpful Bard

January 28, 2021
I've been making up some NPC stat blocks for Pathfinder Second Edition, and I kind of kept running with it and made up an extra one. Here's a bard you can use as an ally for your low-level heroes, or as a foe to bolster the enemies they face.

Note that in Pathfinder Second Edition, as in Starfinder, NPCs aren't built the same way that player characters are. They look and act more like monsters, and have some impossible-for-normal characters-to-replicate statistics. Frankly, we try to avoid cal...

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Building Fun Scavenger Hunts

January 22, 2021
A very common type of quest in RPGs is a scavenger hunt: go get these three (or four, or five, or ten) things. For example, the heroes might have to go get four kinds of herbs for a poultice, or bring back the heads of five different monsters. I'm developing an adventure right now that has the heroes collecting bugs; in an adventure I recently developed, they need to get parts of a magical key. There are lots of things to go look for, but the general trend is "go get these things then come ba...
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Okay to Screw It Up a Little

January 11, 2021
I was talking to my friend John Godek yesterday for our biweekly chat about Starfinder and our lives, Digital Divination (which you can listen to here). There, we sometimes talk about our Starfinder actual-play podcast, Intrepid Heroes (which you can listen to here). One of the key elements of our podcast that we wanted to include was mistakes. Not that we wanted to screw things up on purpose, but we wanted to keep in the mistakes in math or rules that we make, instead of editing them out to ...
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I Want to Help!

January 8, 2021
Aiding other characters in what they do is an important part of any roleplaying game--it's a team game, after all. The basic rule in Starfinder and Pathfinder First Edition is this: if you want to help someone do X, roll X as though you were doing it yourself, and if you succeed at a DC 10 (no matter what the actual difficulty is; 10 is the DC for the helper check), you give them a +2 to what they're doing. There's no risk to aiding. That lets the GM limit the potential bonus by limiting the ...
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Why Easy Encounters Matter

January 5, 2021
I'm deep in the development of Paizo's sixth Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition, but in some ways we're still learning what works and what doesn't. We've carried over a lot of lessons from First Edition, but we're learning that some of them aren't as true in this edition. An example is encounter difficulty: people are finding Moderate encounters in PF2 to be a little more challenging than Average encounters in PF1. We used to put a lot of Average encounters in our PF1 Adventure Path...
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Lost in the Maze...at Paizo.com!

December 31, 2020
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my blog pace here has slowed a bit because I'm blogging for the "big leagues" by making weekly blog entries on Paizo's front page! This has been a lot of fun for me, because I have very focused assignments but a lot of flexibility in how I approach them. I've done mini-encounters, new alchemical items, NPC write-ups, new downtime activities, and more! There are a total of 12 of these blogs, and about 8 (maybe?) have already been released. Near the end of Januar...
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Bombs Away!

December 9, 2020
Based on my analysis from last week, here are seven new bombs for Pathfinder Second Edition!

Acrid Vapor Bomb — Item 1+

Uncommon, Acid, Alchemical, Bomb, Consumable, Poison, Splash
Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk L
Activate [[one-action]] Strike

The substance in this bomb is a weak, sticky acid that sublimates into a debilitating toxic gas when exposed to the air. An acrid vapor bomb deals the listed acid damage, persistent poison damage, and splash damage. On a hit, the target is sickened 1 (sickene...

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Examining Some Bombs

December 1, 2020
I've been taking a close look at the alchemical bombs in Pathfinder Second Edition. It's nice to have so many neat tools for alchemists, and that they cover so many types of damage, but I've seen some commonalities that allow you to play with the numbers and create more fun toys that go boom.

First, let's lay out what the rules already give, broken down into four categories: damage the bomb does, persistent (that is, ongoing) damage the bomb does, splash damage the bomb does, and other effects...
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Where's the Blog?

November 24, 2020
So, I've been light on blogging here for the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean I'm not blogging! I've started a blog series on Paizo.com, about a dozen posts in all. They're all connected to the town of Otari, which is the setting for the Pathfinder Beginner Box (which I helped write), the Troubles in Otari adventure (which I helped write), and the Abomination Vaults Adventure Path (which I developed). Paizo is doing a lot of fiction set in and around Otari as well, called the Shroud of F...
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Not Very Good...Yet

November 10, 2020
I have a friend who's interested in getting into the RPG business; he's quite young, and wants some advice about how best to get started. In talking things out with him, I realized something about myself. Here's my realization:

My Six Griffons Haunt adventure for Pathfinder (which is retooled as Ghosts of Sparwell Lodge in Pathfinder Second Edition) isn't very good. I mean, it's totally playable and has interesting characters and such, but it's still not very good.

Why? Because nothing you writ...
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The Force is With You

October 28, 2020
I want to talk about the force in Starfinder, and I'm not talking about solarians, who are TOTALLY NOT JEDI despite being lightly-armored mystics who fight with laser swords.

Instead, I want to talk about force damage. It's sort of in a weird place in Starfinder. In similar games (here, I'm thinking of Pathfinder First Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition, and Dungeons & Dragons 5E), "force" is just another damage type. It's a damage type that usually affects ghosts and other such creatures more...
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So Many Little Monsters, Part 2 of 2

October 20, 2020

Last week, I talked about the basic rules that swarms of smaller creatures have in many systems. Today, I wanted to give you a neat reskinning trick! You can turn lots of monsters into swarms by overlaying the swarm rules on top of an existing stat block.  

Let’s start with a new D&D 5E monster, a swarm of acid wasps! These nasty, intelligent critters lurk in acid pools, deadly swamps, and caustic areas throughout the lower planes. They’re malicious and durable individually, and together t...

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About Me

I'm Ron Lundeen, game designer for Wizards of the Coast. Before that, I worked as a development manager for Paizo, Inc. and as an RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Petersen Games, and Ulisses Spiele. My opinions here are my own and do not reflect those of Wizards of the Coast.

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