Archive for category Challenges

Getting Creative with Transforms

Hi, I’m Jyn!

Dan asked if I’d share some thoughts I wrote about transforms and transform plot over here at NEROlogy.

Transforms seem to stir up a lot of mixed feelings, because some people associate them with less than stellar experiences. However, they offer some amazing opportunity for creativity and personalization when they are handled well. So here are some examples of great things I’ve seen done with transform plot in the past. I hope you’ll comment with your own examples and ideas too.

NPCs that are transform hooks AND something else

Transform plot can be really narrowly focused, so you don’t want to send out an NPC to do only that, if you can help it. So you double up. For example:

  • A dream elemental NPC who is an IG marshal for dreamvisions, and is the guy who gently suggests that people go to bed when major plot is done for the night. He’s also the guy that people talk to if they want a dream transform, and who trains and tests PC dream elementals
  • A life elemental who is delivering info for a major plotline can also be a point-of-contact for a PC who wants to become a life knight.
  • An undead hunter can be a mod hook, and also answer PC’s questions about how to join his order.

This works best if you get a sense of what kind of transforms PCs are interested in, so you can make sure the appropriate NPCs are out there, doing various other things. Then it’s just up to the PCs to approach them. Having a variety of potential transform-hook NPCs also lets PCs learn about what’s possible so they can decide what they want.

Transforms as an opportunity for more cool costumes

How much costuming people do for transforms seems to vary wildly between chapters, but I really dig games where the transformed folk have special masks and costuming for when they go active. None of this “visibly a phoenix” stuff; the girl has red, feathery wings and fiery costuming! (Full disclosure: I’m a mask-maker, so I have a vested interest in convincing more people to get cool transform masks!)

Transforms as a part of ongoing plot

Transform plot doesn’t have to be something that happens instead of a main storyline; it can be a part of it.

There is an elemental NPC who will only give certain plotline information out in exchange for service. So to get the info the PCs need, someone has to accept a transform from the NPC (and possibly do specific tasks for her).

or

There’s a major plot arc that involves fae courts. The PC base is doing mods, encounters, and fights to help the various courts defeat a mutual enemy. As a way of thanking the PCs who helped them, the leader of a court offers the opportunity for PCs to join their court as knights or champions(possibly after some further questing). Those PCs who join the court receive some kind of appropriate fae transform.

This sort of thing can also be personalized- In one such situation, there was a PC who was interested in fae plot, but his character also really cared about money, to an obsessive degree. So he was offered the chance to earn a leprechaun transform. His stat card was custom-written so he could utilize his money to be more effective when his transform was active.

Plot for scroll-earned transforms, too

Some people draw a major distinction between transforms PCs gain from interactions with NPCs, or transforms cast from formal scrolls. However, for the most part, they can both be handled in similar ways.

A PC wants to be a treeant, but has no idea how to go about pursuing this through plot (he’s never met a treeant NPC), so he has someone get a scroll for him instead. He has the scroll cast on him, and on another PC. One of the staff members sees that they’re really into this thing, so he makes a treeant NPC to go talk to them and test them, teaching them what treeants have to learn. Even though they already have their transforms, this NPC can help them get them higher level/re-upped, as well as teach them IG what they need to know to be a proper treeant.

Plot that is fun for non-transformed folk

There also seems to be this idea floating around that all transform-related plot is destined to be unfun for non-transformed PCs: dull and envy-inducing. That isn’t necessarily the case at all though! You just have to come up with cool, useful, and interesting things for the other PCs to do.

So the treeant guys’ first test is to be able to conceal themselves in the woods, and they have the time between events to prepare. The guys get all their natural-colored costuming, and bark-looking masks. One of them buys a ghillie suit! The next event, they are told at the appropriate time to conceal themselves by the NPC treeant.

Then the NPC goes and hires a group of players (lower-level and out-of-chapter guys, if I recall correctly) to go find these guys who are hiding in the woods. They split up and canvas the area, and eventually locate both of the hiding PCs. 

The non-transformed characters had an absolute blast, though I’m pretty sure some of them to this day have no idea the people they were hunting for were PCs. The transform guys pass their test, and the the other PCs have a great time hunting for them, and get treasure. Win-win!

Transforms as player-directed plot

Few things get players as invested as giving them the reins a bit, and transform plot can be a neat way to do that.

A PC approaches a dream elemental NPC and tells him that he has had a lot of interaction with Dream in the past, and would now like to work towards getting a transformation. Over the next few events, they have conversations about it in which the PC is asked what he wants his purpose to be as a dream elemental. The PC says he wants to give people hope in bad situations.

So the PC is given a series of tasks, over the next several events, where he has to talk to people who are feeling despair, and inspire them. So the main plot of the weekend might involve a liche who destroyed a town, but this PC’s specific task would be to talk to the survivors and encourage them to persevere and rebuild. His transform quest is somewhat self-directed, but it’s integrated into the existing plot of the game, not divorced from it.

When the PC has completed all of his tasks, he gets a transform with a personalized stat card– he has some of the usual dream elemental abilities, but not all; instead he has abilities that let him cast inspiration or renew the abilities of others with a rousing speech.

Transforms as a level equalizer/social switch-ups

Part of the problem with character level in NERO is that it often restricts which PCs can do fun stuff with each other. Transforms usually draw those lines in different ways, so a transform mod can provide an opportunity to hang out with different people than usual. If they’re both transformed, a 10th level guy can be as effective as a 40th level guy. Also, rather than go on a mod with people your level, or the people from your barony, you could go on a mod with all the elemental-transform people, or all the nature-themed-transform people.

Transform opportunities from emergent plot

Sometimes you plan out in advance what transforms are available through a particular plotline. And sometimes things just come to you:

There’s a fairly new, very young player, whose character is a gypsy rogue. The weekend plot has to do with elementals attacking and some weird elemental gateways.

By happenstance, this rogue finds himself caught on the other side of one of these gateways on the plane of earth, with an angry earth elemental. The elemental rants about how awful Tyrrans are, and why he’s mad, and threatens the gypsy. In classic fashion, he talks his way out of it, promising he’ll be the elemental’s ambassador, and convince those awful Tyrrans to stop whatever they’re doing.

So throughout the course of the weekend, as PCs are dealing with the plotline, this gypsy is the go between for the PCs and the earth elementals. PCs do various tasks to close the gates and solve the weekend plotline, and the gypsy keeps reporting back to his elemental boss. They have a lot of conversations like:

“Ahh, so you have told the Tyrrans of our might, and have convinced them to surrender their puny efforts to attack my realm?”

“Uhh, sure, ‘zat ees exactly vhat happened.”

Of course the staff member playing the elemental knows that’s not quite what happened, but his NPC doesn’t, so the charade continues, until the end of the event, when the plotline is finally solved, and the gateway closed. The earth elemental then rifts into town to congratulate the gypsy in front of all the PCs (and to see if someone tells him the real story).

Elemental: “I have come to congratulate my ambassador, who has single-handedly crushed the enemies of the earth realm and destroyed the accursed gateways that were eroding our home. Huzzah!

Crowd of PCs: Wooo, yaaaay! Huzzah! Go gypsy kid!

(Seriously, not one person outed him or tried to take partial credit for what was obviously a joint effort. It was hilarious and awesome.) So the gypsy gets a boon from the earth elemental.

Later, after being encouraged by other PCs, the gypsy tells the elemental that he’d like to use his boon to get a transformation. However, he tells the elemental that he values his fair, delicate skin, and doesn’t want it to turn all rocky. So the elemental offers to empower him as the ambassador of the earth realm, to represent them on Tyrra. After a few diplomacy-themed tests, the gypsy gets his transform and a personalized stat card.

He’s a newish player, so it has to be pretty simple, but also thematically appropriate. He gets some immunities (like to control), a handful of defenses, and no offensive abilities, but he gets a special power that lets him negotiate with someone in safety. While he is negotiating, he can’t use any other skills, but he calls no effect to everyone expect the one he’s negotiating with. The effect ends if that person attacks him, or if that person is attacked.

It was perfectly apropos for the player, the character, and the IG situation, but it’s definitely not the sort of thing that would be in a standardized transform database. Nor should it be, I think. Part of the value of the transform to that player was that someone took the time to customize something just for him.

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Game Planning Using Concept and Resource Maps

A Concept Map is a diagram of the relationship between various ideas. It is often used for brainstorming, but can be adapted to describe the various factors in play at a LARP.

A concept map is a great way conceptualize a diverse and complicated game. Begin by diagraming what already exists. Write each players name inside a bubble, then try grouping them in different ways. Try arranging them by team, general character concept, motivation, or experience level. In doing this, certain avenues will emerge which should suggest certain types of plot. For example if you find you have a lot of characters connected to a “Protector of Nature” concept, you might create a druid NPC who will give them relevant tasks during the weekend.

Use this technique to diagram out your plot, too. Pick a few words which describe the event’s theme, and then write plotlines which connect those ideas. By connecting the plot diagram to the player diagram, you’ll be able to project what might happen during an event.

One model of LARP plot involves utilizing resources. In this style, plot provides important resources to specific players. Some challenges will require players to search the network to draw on those resources. For example, let’s say a team is looking for information about a certain  ancient undead. The healer’s guild has a tome which contains this information – the team will have to figure out where to find that book and then talk to the characters who control access to it. When you gave the book to the healer’s guild, you also warned them that there are dire consequences if the information falls into the wrong hands. Now there is a potential social challenge for the players who seek out this tome.

A Draw Point is a person, place, or thing which provides a concrete resource to one or more players.  Examples include a druid who will choose up to three nature-oriented characters and mark them as “pure”, a mountain top where a rare type of plant grows, or a badge which represents the good will of a foreign kingdom. There might be a challenge involved in getting this resource.

Generally, draw points should provide something tangible which corresponds somehow to the resource.  Even if the resource is intangible, like a relationship with an NPC, those who have access to it should have some physical token to represent their access.  Maybe the NPC gives a certain piece of jewelry to his trusted associates, or puts his mark on those he’s initiated. If the draw point is a location, maybe you need a special map to access it.

A Demand Point is a person, place, or thing which requires players to utilize certain resources to complete a challenge.  Using the examples above, demand points could include an NPC who will only speak with the “pure”, a disease that can be cured by that rare plant, or an embassy that you can only access if you wear that kingdom’s badge.

Plot_DiagramOn your concept map, your plot will emerge from the relationship between draw points and demand points.

You can encourage cooperation, competition, and creativity by writing demand points which can be satisfied by different possible draw points. For example, maybe the demand point is an elder whose village is plagued by thieves and bandits. He offers to name the new tavern after whoever helps the most. There might be a number of available resources that can be used to solve this challenge – one character might have access to a cache of weapons they can donate to the locals. Another character might be friends with a weapon trainer who will help raise a militia. Another might have access to a small tribe of orcs who will act as town guards. A member of the thieves guild might be able to influence the bandits by pulling strings within the guild.

Another way of complicating matters is to create demand points which, when completed, cancel out other demand points. For example, there might be two NPCs, each one a diplomat from a rival faction. Each diplomat has certain criteria for alliance. Allying with one will cause the other to become an enemy. The first player to complete a diplomat’s challenge will shape the direction of the plot.

Mapping out these points, along with the players or concepts which are most likely to interact with them, will reveal certain angles which need more attention. If you seem to have a lot of plot which lends itself well to one team, resource, character concept, or problem solving style, be sure to write some challenges for the people who aren’t included.

Update your concept map as the weekend goes on, noting which characters have access to which resources. This will allow you to make it easier to keep everybody involved, and help everybody participate in the plot in a concrete, meaningful way.

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Dynamic Encounters

A dynamic encounter has more than one elements. Interacting with those elements influences some other aspect of the encounter.

To some extent, dynamism is already present in all encounters. Fighters engage the melee combatants, spell casters stay guarded behind them to act as artillery and resolve effects, and rogues rely on this distraction to positioning themselves for massive damage. It requires teamwork and coordination to properly play those roles. The fighter needs a healer to do his job efficiently, just as the ranged attacker needs someone to block melee attacks.

Extending this model, we can create more interesting encounters by creating different types of interactions on the battlefield.  Certain elements interplay in a way which requires teamwork and tactics to “solve” the encounter. Here, we’ll be talking about combat encounters, but you can apply this reasoning to nearly any type of challenge.

Start by thinking about the battle in terms of objectives. Those objectives must influence other elements present on the battlefield. This creates different tasks which must be accomplished during the battle.

Instead of writing straightforward combat encounters where the PCs and NPCs fight to the death over and over again, create different tasks and objectives. Perhaps the players are capturing someone, arming an explosive, cleansing a pool, or holding a defense point. Completing this objective should simplify or complicate other elements of the encounter.

Before a complex encounter, the players will need an overview. Have an NPC describe the objectives and conditions for victory. Don’t expect that players will figure out what’s going on mid-battle – there will probably be little time for comprehension, much less communication about what’s going on! If the players know what to expect in advance, they can begin formulating a strategy to complete the objectives. (It’s okay to throw in a curveball now and then too.)

Here are some examples of dynamic encounters:

Encounter: Orc Camp (module or wave battle) – The players are storming an orc’s camp. The camp is guarded by numerous orc warriors and a very powerful lizard. At the center of the camp there is a shaman within a protected circle of power. The shaman has a horn which he uses to call for reinforcements. He also knows a spell which can resurrect the lizard in 60 seconds. Also within the camp there is a totem pole which gives the orcs a berserker rage (this increases their strength and hit points). In order to complete the battle, the players will have to deal with all of these elements.

  • The lizard, who is too dangerous to engage in direct melee combat, can be distracted by waving a red cape at him. He will then focus on that person and charge at them like a bull. The shaman can easily resurrect the lizard, so until he is defeated, it’s best to just distract the creature.
  • The shaman can also summon an infinite number of reinforcements as long as he has his horn. Each time he sounds the horn, another wave of orcs will charge out of the woods.
  • The totem is a large pole covered with runes. It is placed in a dangerous spot, right near where the monsters are coming from. There are ten faces on the poll, represented by paper plates with faces painted onto them. If all ten faces are destroyed, the orc warriors no longer gain the benefit of berserker rage. It takes 60 seconds to destroy each face, using acid, carving, or magical incantation. This mechanic’s intent is to create a time limit. You can be sure the battle will last at least as long as it takes to do this task. Another method: The characters have been given a paint of dispelling (use a jar of blue paint, and give the players several brushes). To dispel the power of each face, people must paint over every inch of the paper plate, then they can take it down.
  • Like most orcs, the shaman can be baited by challenges and dares.  If challenged, he will allow a single spell caster into his circle for a casting duel. If the player wins, it stops the warriors and lizards from returning. The players may come up with another creative way to draw the caster out of the circle – the shaman should try to roll with their roleplay. If the players are slow to figure this out, he’ll begin calling them out and challenging them himself. He begins doing this in earnest after the totem pole is destroyed.

A note about preparing the players for this encounter: it is important that they know what to do before they’ll arrive at the battle. In this case, perhaps the players have a scout who reports to them: “They have a giant lizard in captivity. They’re dumb creatures, you can probably get their attention by waving around a brightly colored cape. Or maybe just kick a gypsy into his path. I also saw a totem pole like the one I saw last month in the other orc camp. If I’m right, there are going to be ten faces on it. They’re the orc’s ancestors, and they protect the orcs in battle. It’ll take sixty seconds to destroy each face, and you can only destroy one at a time…” and so forth. Knowing this in advance, the players can decide how to approach the battle with the resources they have.

Encounter: The Obelisk (wave battle) – The Obelisk is a six foot tall black statue which beckons undead. A chaos imp is attempting to shake things up by sending zombies towards this strange necromantic artifact. In order to complete the challenge, players will have to purify the nearby marshes and defeat the imp.

  • If an undead touches the obelisk, the undead will be absorbed into it. If ten undead are absorbed, a really dangerous undead will be released from the obelisk.
  • Within an acre of the obelisk there are five desecrated marshes, represented by big green circles on the ground. Zombies crawl out of these marshes and try to make it to the obelisk. A marsh can be purified by performing a 5-minute long cleansing ceremony next to the marsh. The ceremony requires you to spend 10 clear gems, which can be found on the zombies.
  • There is a sneaky chaos imp who is running around and re-corrupting the marshes. Not overtly hostile, he tries to persuade players into defending him while he completes his task. If he is killed or banished, he will be restored by his master and will appear again in five minutes. He has five “lives” like this, but there is another way to banish him entirely. He must be somehow persuaded to touch the obelisk, an object which he is curious about and does not fully understand. He can be charmed, repelled, or tricked into doing this. After he is absorbed into the obelisk, he will later emerge from it as the final boss of the battle.

Encounter: Undead Horde (field encounter) – A  uniform pack of monsters favors certain classes. If scholars are no good against obsidian golems (which reflect spells), a legion of obsidian golems is no fun for scholars. Instead, send out groups composed of different types of monsters, with different strengths and weaknesses. This pack of undead contains possible targets for various combat styles:

  • Revenants – melee creatures with mid range body points, but take half damage from weapons.  Magic deals full damage, so these are good targets for spell slingers. The majority of the horde is composed of revenants.
  • Lesser Vampires – these are young vampires, eager to impress their sire. They are hungry for blood, and will be healed to full and renewed if they spend 5 seconds biting someone’s neck. This faction of vampires are all archers. They pair up with the wolves.
  • Trained Wolves – light melee combatants who block for the vampire archers. Can be charmed to fight alongside players.
  • Death Knights –  a heavy melee fighter with glowing red eyes. Has resistance to magic. Will actively engage  other fighters.
  • Necromancers – black robed humans who support the death knights and throw necromancy. They also heal undead using necromancy. Being humans, they are vulnerable to just about everything, but can cast spells to support themselves.

Scaling Tip – Create a task for characters of certain levels. Too often, all the monsters in the battle are scaled at one difficulty level. In the average encounter, some people will be too low level to participate, some will overpower the encounter, and (hopefully) some will be at the sweet spot where the scaling is appropriate. Dynamic encounters are a great way to segregate the players into groups based on experience level. This allows you to ensure that all levels have something important to do in the fight. Here’s an example of how that might work —

Encounter: Two Prong Fight (wave battle) – Ogres and Goblins have allied to kill the adventurers. They are attacking from different sides of the field. The goblins are protected by an ancient goblin spirit who watches over the fight. It is incorporeal and merely watches over the fight, unable to be killed. The high level players should focus on the ogres and the low level players should focus on the goblins. If the high level players participate in the goblin side of the fight, the goblin spirit will begin empowering the ogres, making them stronger.

Writing Objectives – When brainstorming objectives, think of them from the player’s point of view. Is there an easy way to break the encounter?

For example, in the above Orc Camp encounter, the players might try to throw a protective circle around the totem pole. This would negate the need for them to defend whoever is destroying the pole.

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all players want to win. Some are secretly working against the town. Try to prevent situations where these players can easily disrupt the whole encounter. For example if your plotline requires a puzzle to be solved, an evil player can easily pocket one of the pieces and prevent anyone else from succeeding. The moral of the story: if you require the players to collect 10 items, put out 15 of them.

The Season Finale to Avendale 607:

Here’s an example of a very complex dynamic encounter.

Avendale 607 ended with a climactic boss fight which wrapped up two years of plot. In it, the players were confronting Nod, a creature of Void who was involved in the corruption or defeat of numerous NPCs throughout the two seasons. This was a three part boss fight…

  • In part 1, the players fought Nod and his undead minions in traditional melee combat. When he was defeated, he staggered over to a certain spot and transformed…
  • Part 2: Our monster department then unveiled their magnum opus – a 25 foot tentacle creature. The creature’s skull was attached to a pulley, and the black cloth body was fastened to the bottom. Large metal rings gave the cloth a hollow, collapsable, cylindrical form. When we pulled the rope, hoisting the skull up in the air, the creature seemed to spring out of the ground. Monsters respawned from the creature’s form.
  • Nod had long green tentacles which came out of the base of the creature. The tentacles were made of pipe foam wrapped in bubble wrap and Christmas lights, spray painted green. They could not be killed, but they could drag you into the body where you’d be engulfed. Hitting a tentacle with a healing spell caused it to go limp for about 10 seconds.
  • During the event, the players had enlisted the help of a mimic, a creature which looks like a treasure chest. The mimic knew of an underground cache full of stakes of woe. To aid them in battle, the mimic burrowed underground, got a stake of woe, then burrowed back up to the battle. The chest would appear in a random spot in the woods, up to an acre away from Nod. After it was looted, it’d begin its 5 minute round trip to the cache.
  • a player had to find the chest, grab the stake, and then run over to Nod. Another player would hit a tentacle with a healing spell so his buddy could get in and drive the stake into Nod’s heart.
  • Five stakes later, the creature shuddered in its death throes. Once everyone was looking, the pulley was dropped and the big cloth cylinder fell. Revealing the third incarnation waiting inside…
  • Part 3: Nod transformed into his final form, a 9 foot tall grim reaper creature. Wes (the NPC playing Nod) was on stilts, and is remarkably dexterous on them. You’d be surprised how scary it is fighting a creature that much physically larger than you! Nod’s sickle obliterated anyone it touched, but this ability could be suppressed if someone was playing a musical instrument. This ended up being the job for the low level characters that had trouble with the other monsters in the fight. Adventurers had to defend the musicians whole engaging Nod. The stilt creature was eventually taken down by coordinated force.

Sadly, the pictures / video taken of this battle were too dim to make out. It was perhaps a bit too complex, but it was interesting because everybody in the fight had a different job. In the end, the low level character playing the flute was just as important as the high level fighter who drove the final stake into Nod’s heart.

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Module: Faevors

This is a module in which players seek a favor or information from a Fae lord (or lady). They must attend a High Tea and figure out the nuances of fae etiquette. This is a basic, skeletal writeup which should be easy to flesh out and adapt for your game. If you don’t like reading module writeups, stop here!

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Tracking

The ability to track one’s foes is a common fantasy trope, and a very useful skill for an adventurer. This type of challenge is useful when the PCs must pursue an NPC, forge their way back to civilization after beign lost in the wilderness, locate a hideout, lair, or den, or blaze a new trail through dangerous territory. In reality, tracking through the woods can be very difficult. It takes training, patience, and time. To simulate this, we will create a trail through the woods which perceptive players will be able to navigate.

Note: Tracking challenges should never be used in player versus player conflicts. When following another player, you will have to track them fairly, without assistance from staff members.

Creating a Trail

Drag a heavy log through the woods, leaving a wake of disturbed leaves and crunched twigs. To adjust the level of difficulty, vary the size of the log or the speed that you’re dragging it.

Alternatively, you can leave tough-to-spot objects as trail blazes. Easy ones include bits of fabric tied to branches at eye level or markings on a tree. More difficult blazes might be on the ground, such as colored stones or dropped spell packets. The difficulty can also be varied by spacing out the clues, forcing players to move slowly through the woods as they look for the next blaze.

Some challenges might require players to find a certain number of blazes. For example, to keep on his trail, the party must find at least 10 of the 20 spell book pages dropped by the necromancer as he escaped.

Just like in real life, it’s extremely difficult to track someone after sunset!

Assisting a Tracker

Once a tracker has spotted the beginnings of a trail, she can point it out to her party so they can help too. People shouldn’t have to ignore clues that they can actually see! It’s much easier for large groups to spot a trail though – so increase the difficulty if the tracker has a whole party of helpers.

If you are running a tracking challenge in which only certain players should be able to follow the trail, use a subtle blaze and only let those players know what it is. For example, some races have an excellent sense of smell. They can find trails that others can’t. You can clue them in that a yellow leaf thumbtacked to a tree represents a scent trail, but forbid them from telling anyone what the marker looks like. (This isn’t a foolproof method however – other players might be able to figure out what blaze their companion is looking for.)

At Trail’s End

If the destination at the end of the trail is highly visible (such as a cabin or group of NPCs), it won’t be hard for players to find it through luck alone. Instead, have them searching for something smaller which represents their success.

For example, when tracking a person, you may not be looking for the person himself, but a clue about their destination. You might find a road sign which points to the Silverlake Road. When the tracker locates this sign, it indicates she discovered where her quarry was headed. She can then return to the marshal and say “I’m pursuing him down Silverlake Road.” This triggers the module where the tracker and her party close the distance and catch the escaping criminal.

Or when looking for a monster’s lair, you might find certain marks on the ground or trees which indicate you’re close to the heart of its territory.

If the tracking challenge had a time limit, the party may discover their quarry is already too far away, or that the monster has already returned to its lair.

Finding a Safe Route

Tracking Challenges can also be used to simulate forging a trail through dangerous territory. This is a variant of the tracking module, where players are actually looking for the lack of blazes. You mark “dangerous territory” by putting “anti-blazes” in the woods to represent the territory of hostile wildlife. This could be shredded clothing, bloody rags, or bones.

Players must chart a route through the dangerous territory by tying cloth blazes to branches. None of these blazes may be within line-of-sight of an anti-blaze. At the end of the adventure the tracker will have to walk an NPC through the trail who will verify that it is safe.

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Module: Rope Trick

This is a LARP module written around a basic challenge – players must hold onto a rope while moving the woods collecting glowsticks.

This scenario could be used as a challenge when visiting any hostile plane. In this example, we’ll be talking about a trip to Dreaming, but you can adapt it to any plane.

The final encounter of the module is up to you – you’ll fill it in with something relevant to your plotline.

For some reason, the PCs are visiting Dream. Perhaps they need to speak with someone in the dreaming, or get information from someone who cannot wake up and forever wanders dream country.

If you don’t like  reading module writeups, stop here!

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Physical Challenge: Jumping Stones

Here’s an old module gimmick with some new twists.

Jumping Stones – there are certain parts of the floor that players can step on, and certain parts that they shouldn’t. Mark off the edge of the “safe” stones using rope or chalk. To create reusable props, you can cut cardboard, doormat, or lenolium tiles into shape and then place them wherever you’d like. Most stones should be about as large as a shield, but make stones of various size. Some might fit two or three characters, others that can only fit one foot as you skip to another stone.

Players often face opponents while navigating the jumping stones. The creatures which prefer this kind of environment are not effected by the floor, such as bats, noncorporeal undead, or creatures who are immune to the damage type. If the monsters can step anywhere on the floor, be careful of giving them ranged attacks or two handed weapons. Players ability to defend themselves from ranged attacks decreases as their mobility decreases.

Treasure can be hidden in an out-of-reach spot which requires you to step off the stones.

The penalty for falling off a stone or missing a stone should be enough to discourage players from taking a step through it. Here are some ideas for jumping stone rooms:

  • Lavastone – The floor is directly above a lava flow and is steaming hot. If you touch it, you take elemental flame damage equal to the party’s average level. The monsters are immune to fire.
  • Iceflow – The floor is covered in water from the plane of ice. If you touch it, you’ll be instantly stuck as if by a paste of stickiness. A release spell or any flame damage will unfreeze the character.
  • Blightmarsh – The floor is a wet marsh, corrupted by necromancy. If you touch the floor, that limb will be withered. If your torso touches the floor, your blood is tainted. In one corner of the room there is some boonblossom growing (use some plants as a prop). If you can make it to the boonblossom and spend 10 seconds smelling its fragrant air, you will be cured of all necromantic effects. On the other side of the room is a chest that can only be opened if you have no necromantic effects on you. Monsters make liberal use of necromancy. If the players don’t want to use up their spells, they will have to move back and forth across the room to cure their effects.
  • Rapids – the floor represents a rushing river. (For something this dramatic, use sound effects!) The players are fighting their way upstream. If a player falls into the river, he takes damage equal to the party’s average level and must go back to the large stone the players started on.
  • Long Distance Stones – the stones are far apart, but can accomodate several players per stone. The group has two planks they can use to create temporary bridges. There might be a rope hanging from the ceiling they can use to swing across a hard spot.
  • Searching Stones – Some stones have treasure hidden under them. When standing atop a stone, you can spend one minute searching the floor. At the end of this time, you’re allowed to step off the stone briefly to grab any treasure under it. During this challenge, monsters are constantly attacking. Players will have to divide up their party between searching and defending in order to find a key item.
  • Spell Stones – in certain rooms, players might be able to create temporary stones by casting a spell of the opposite element into the floor. The spell packet itself becomes a spot you can step on safely, but only once. For example, a spellcaster can create a safe spot in an iceflow room by throwing a flamebolt at the ground. The spell packet will support one person stepping on it before the area is frozen again. Players might need to use this technique to access something on the far side of the room.
  • Turtle Stone – a hula hoop, “pop circle” or other ring can be slowly dragged across the floor using string. It will stop moving once someone stands on it. Players might have to skip across it in order to access certain parts of the room. They may be able to hit it with a spell to stop it from moving.
  • Color Stones – the room has many jumping stones in it, represented by blue, red, or green paper plates. Players have six colored gems to divide between their party. They may only safely step on the plate if they are holding the gem of that color. Certain regions of the room will only be accessable by certain colors. Players can trade gems during the adventure.
  • Toss the Stones – the room has no jumping stones in it. On one side, the players have a quarry of stones which they can toss onto the floor to create a path across the floor. Players must carry the stones with both hands and can’t toss them more than a foot or two past the previous stone. Once a stone is placed, it is stuck to that spot and cannot be removed.

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