Thursday, March 10, 2016

Starting Adventures


Like any other DM, I'm always looking for something different.

Last Saturday, my party not adventuring in Ternketh Keep, but in the African desert, had just finished a disastrous battle that nearly ended in a TPK (only two characters died).  Just as they were deciding they were ready to throw in the towel (having retreated from the dungeon), I decided to have the cavalry come over the hill and sort it out for them.  This freed the party's imprisoned characters and set the world aright (after a wish the players had made poorly that was dramatically transforming the climate for a 60-mile wide area).  This is the sort of thing that gets noticed, so I had a 22nd level party deal with it.  Sometimes that's what we have to do when a game goes bad.

So the players wanted a new adventure.  And because we can't just wait for players to go over every option in the universe, it helps to ask four direct questions about what sort of adventure they'd like:

1) monster or humanoid?
2) dungeon or wilderness?
3) land, sea, air or other plane of existence?
4) tropical, temperate or arctic.

The trick isn't getting an answer to these questions.  Usually, once the choices are reduced, players can settle and agree after a few moments discussion (at least, if they've been trained through playing together over a period of years, as I have ensured).  The trick is being able to produce the first stages of such an adventure, on the fly, once the players have chosen.

They said "monster" in unison, without hesitation.

They recoiled at "dungeon" because the recent experience had been bad; the dungeon was just too severe (but appropriate for location and party's quest for the object they wanted) and they felt overwhelmed.  Therefore, they chose "Wilderness."

Some deliberation brought the party around to agreeing upon "Sea."

The last question took the longest.  The party came out of the desert at Benghazi in Libya.  They had tacitly agreed on adventuring in the Indian Ocean, as the Maldives appealed to the players, as well as possible access to the far east and the recent creation of Burma.  But when they saw the prices of ships in Benghazi, they decided to go ahead and buy an 86-foot caravel for themselves, price about 22,000 g.p.  The party is 9th-11th and they have the means.  They hired a captain, a midshipman and one crewman; with the one experienced sailor in the party this allows enough supervision for four inexperienced but fast learners, for a ship that requires a crew of 8.  The newbies will have to make a save once in awhile against something going wrong aboard ship.

With their ship, they did not want to go all the way around the Horn of Africa.  I answered that I nearly had the Canary Islands finished and that peaked their interest (and this is why I work on my world all the time).  So they started across the Mediterranean at the end of the night, reaching as far as Ceuta, in the Saadi Empire (modern Morocco) across the strait from Gibraltar.

Then I went looking for an environment for their "Sea" adventure and found the image above.  This I've used as inspiration to make a top down image of what will be the first step of the adventure I have in mind:



I can't say what's on the ship, I'm afraid.  I'm really enjoying my new design skills (having reached a higher plateau recently) and I wanted to show off.  I do want to point out that the effort I've put into Ternketh Keep certainly comes close to matching this image above: but I am always thinking of some new way to represent things.
My plan is to start the adventure by sending the players to first seek out the above feature - and what they discover here will lead to the next phase.  This should be a combat and a bit of a puzzle, and not necessarily in that order.


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