Unused D&D Ideas: Monster Mash

These are some of my favorite ideas. I will run one of these someday.

Monster Mash

What motivates intelligent monsters? Do they simply lie in wait in dungeons and tombs so that some brave adventurers can come along and kill them? Of course not. They do things. They have goals or instincts. This adventure is about what monsters do.

Each of the PCs is a monster. I’m thinking classical monsters, so a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost, and flesh golem (Frankenstein). It will probably take some level magic to make them all relatively equal. They’re all some alignment of evil, but they’re drawn together (bound by magic, maybe?) to reach a distant castle for a macguffin.

Along the way they’ll have to pass as people, terrorize a village, and (of course) fight heroes. This is the kind of adventure that would probably play well in Ravenloft. Really, the monster PCs won’t be that much different from regular PCs in a Inner Sea or Forgotten Realms campaign, and that point should probably be driven home.

Monster Mash 2

I’m a funny person, so this is a play on words. Everyone is a barbarian with a giant hammer, and the whole adventure is smashing tons of low level monsters to death. Just mountains of skeletons, zombies, goblins, orcs, giant spiders, anything you can throw at them in large numbers. Really stretch the limits of CR increasing with numbers. Make it a point to describe the heaps of dead monsters. Make them really question where in the hell did all these monsters come from. Keep a kill count, give a prize to whoever smashes the most! Give them lots of locked treasure chests to smash with hammers, and make one of them a mimic, so, for the first time ever, the players surprise the mimic.

So while Monster Mash was about playing monsters, Monster Mash 2 is about mashing monsters. Ha ha.

Super Monster Mash

Okay, we know what player sized monsters do. But what to big monsters do? In Super Monster Mash, each of the players is a Huge monster. So uhh what do they do? Eat smaller things. Trash a town. Fight. I didn’t have many plans for this one, except that it should end with some kind of kaiju battle.

And that’s that! Those are my unused D&D ideas. I hope they inspired someone, and I hope someday I can do something with them myself.

Unused D&D Ideas: The Hive

This is a dumb idea.

Party composition and level is irrelevant. The party is called to a small village to investigate a string of burglaries and disappearances. Upon investigation, the items being stolen are sweet things. Sugar. Candies. Syrups. And the disappearances are all male villagers. People in the houses near those affected report hearing a buzzing sound in the night.

The party finds a trail. It’s not hard to find. It’s footsteps. The footsteps lead to a cave. Entering the cave, the party hears a buzzing sound. As they get deeper into the cave, the buzzing grows louder. The party comes across a river. It’s a river of sticky, sugary substance. They soon encounter the source of the buzzing.

It’s bees! Giant fucking bees! Except it’s not actual giant bees, but men in bee costumes. They all buzz. None of them talk. After a few fights, they come across the “worker” bees. They are also entranced men. They just buzz and make bee costumes. Or ‘honey’. You can feel free to determine how ‘honey’ is made.

To break the trance, the party has to fight the queen bee. The queen bee can be whatever you want. It might be a dude who managed to charm all of these other dudes into being bees. Maybe he’s high on drugs.

This is a dumb fucking idea, but you can run it as a comedy thing or as a serious/horror type thing. I just thought it was hilarious in Castle Crashers when I came across the dudes in bee costumes. Who put them in bee costumes?

Unused D&D Ideas: All Four of Us Are Dying

What is a hit point? Losing hit points abstract injury. Gaining hit points abstract healing. D&D has no real system for broken bones or failing organs. Everything is boiled down to either hit points (95% of all damage), or ability score damage (rare at best).

The DMG is full of rules for stuff like starvation, dehydration, forced movement, and all sorts of environmental stuff that would kill a normal person, that no DM ever, ever, ever uses. When was the last time you couldn’t get enough sleep? When was the last time your mount died because you rode it to death?

This adventure is intended to explore both ideas. The party are seasoned adventurers afflicted with a disease. Healing magic in any form is no use. No potions, no prayers, no spells can reverse the disease. The party has a short amount of time to make a journey to the cure.

While you can keep the length of the journey a secret, I think it would be more fun for the players to give that to them upfront so they can plan. You throw the wrenches in with your choice of encounters, but the terrain should be at least knowable. They should be expected to traverse deserts, tundras, rivers, grasslands, etc. Use all of the environments. Make starving to death or dehydration a possibility. Force them to scavenge and use survival.

The entire time, secretly track their hit points. In fact, don’t let them know their hit points from the start. If they die, let them keep playing. When they reach the cure, the cure works for the living. The dead find out they’re ghosts. Maybe it’s a shitty thing to do, but this adventure is about the journey more than the destination. Whether they survived or not is kind of irrelevant.

Most of this idea was shamelessly stolen from a video game.

Unused D&D Ideas: The Betrayer

This is one of my ideas that didn’t get much development. I’ve never run a game with secret actions, and I like the idea in certain contexts. So in this context, one of the players is working toward a secret goal. The problem is, how do you act in secret through a DM? So instead of telling everyone that one person is working against the group, I’d give them all secret goals. They’d all be harmless or promoting teamwork, except the betrayer. To make this work, the DM should be periodically polling everyone for secret actions. It becomes pretty obvious who’s trying accomplish what if you just allow anyone to give the DM a secret action, but polling everyone reduces the chance of them figuring each other out.

The framework for this mission is that the group has been sent to a dungeon to retrieve an artifact. The artifact is useless to everyone except the betrayer. To the betrayer, it’s an item of ultimate power. The game isn’t over until the betrayer escapes with their artifact leaving no witnesses alive, or everyone is dead. The dungeon should be a slog to the artifact, so that the betrayer doesn’t out themselves immediately and has to rely upon the rest of the party to get to the artifact.

Even after the artifact is in the party’s control, the betrayer needs to get their hands on it and then get out of the dungeon. Ideally, the other players are completely in the dark that one of them ultimately wants to leave them dead in the dungeon. This gives the betrayer the option of either exploiting the artifact and fighting their way out on their own, or slyly using the party to help them get out of the dungeon and then sticking the knife in their backs.

So let’s say the betrayer decides to go it alone after getting the artifact. Does everyone else just watch as they walk out? Of course not! The dead players possess the remaining creatures of the dungeon. Maybe new monsters are summoned by the activation of the artifact. Maybe another party of adventurers was in pursuit of the betrayer and blocking the exit. Regardless, it should not be a cakewalk for the betrayer, even if they’re juiced on artifact power.

I have to admit, this isn’t a particularly great idea now that I spell it out, but it’d be interesting. Probably hard to pull off without giving it all away on accident, or pissing everyone off and turning friends against each other.

Unused D&D Ideas: Four Bards

This is the one I got the closest to actually running, so I’ve got more than just a handful of ideas. It was meant to be an introduction to D20 games, as well as an exploration of the bard class. Bards get a bad rap. The bard is either found useless by people who haven’t read the class specs, or they’re admired by people who have but ultimately not used. This adventure was my idea to do fun things with bards. Bardy things, but even more than that, demonstrate that they’re a versatile class.

First, you need four bards. I pre-rolled four 10th level bards with different focuses. A fighting bard, a spell casting bard, an sneaky bard, and a skills bard. Race doesn’t matter, but I tried to make each of them a different race that complemented their focus. They should each have a different perform skill as they’re all members of the same traveling troupe. They have a mobile wardrobe that is carried by two hirelings. The hirelings are worthless, as they’re not part of the story, but the wardrobe is important. The players should know that hirelings are not fighting anything and run at the sign of danger.

Introduction

When the game starts, the bards should have to complete a series of skill checks. Perform, disguise, appraise, sense motive. From the results of these checks, the DM will relay how the bards are leaving the last town they performed in, and the disposition of the people and royalty they performed for. The idea is that they should be either ushered out, beloved by the city, or running for their lives because they’ve insulted the royalty. Something to get them out of town and moving on to their next destination.

On the Road

As the troupe is traveling, they will be ambushed by 12 goblins and 2 trolls. Being 10th level, the goblins are much less of a threat than the trolls, but these goblins are special. They’re sick. As in, they’ve got the goblin flu. But they still need to eat, so they’re still ambushing travelers with their charmed trolls.

The trolls are distractions. When combat starts, the hirelings (predictably) drop the wardrobe and run. While the party engages the trolls, the goblins engage the wardrobe. When the players figure out that goblins are rifling through their costumes and equipment, that’s when the fun starts.

The goblins are sick as hell, and they vomit everywhere. In the wardrobe, on the players, on each other. Make it real gross. The goblin flu isn’t contagious but it should certainly nauseate some of the players. The trolls are unfazed.

When the party wipes out the ambush, they should take inventory.  Anything covered in goblin vomit should elicit a negative response from anyone else they come across until they can clean up. But it should be stressed that they need to keep moving to their next engagement.

A Stop at Larnwick

Larnwick is your standard tiny crossroads town. An inn and a couple dozen houses. Rural, but not unaccustomed to travelers. The bards should arrive at night, and go straight to the inn. The innkeeper, though disgusted, offers to give them free board and clean their wardrobe if they’ll find the macguffin. I didn’t have much plan here, except that it should be an opportunity to roleplay, and it should lead to a barn, where the bards should encounter a pair of mysterious, cloaked travelers.

These travelers will quickly reveal themselves to be nimblewrights, and engage the players in combat. Nimblewrights are quick, dexterous constructs from D&D 3rd edition Monster Manual 2. They’re cool as heck. They should fight until they’re badly injured and then attempt a hasty escape. No big deal if one dies, but one should get away. What are expensive, carefully crafted constructs doing in Larnwick? That should be a mystery for another day. But the bards recover the macguffin, and receive their free stay at the inn and clean costumes.

The Big Performance in Sorvong

The second leg of their trip should be fairly uneventful, until they arrive at Sorvong, their intended destination. Based on how they left their last town, this town’s royalty should either immediately capture them with overwhelming force and imprison them (bad exit from last town, mad royalty in this town), or they’re so thrilled to have them, they immediately put the bards up in the goldenest cages in the castle (good exit from last town, royalty so in love that they won’t let them go).

Regardless, the bards can win their freedom back in only one way: a spectacular performance. They’re going to perform The Saviors of Sorvong. It’s a musical well known by the town, but unknown to the players. They’re given some simple directions. They must perform, give a display of magic, fight, and have a big ending. None of this will require any forethought by the players; it’s all built into the musical.

This is where you give them their verses. They should read the verses out loud, and the crowd finishes it. That’s when the fighting begins, because the town was either prepared for this performance, or some royal wizard is a great summoner. Regardless, here’s verse one:

On the seventh of Moondawn, we looked to the stars.

From the mazes below, out came the _____

2x Minotaur fight

Verse two:

Though they trampled and crushed and destroyed all of our wares

We will never forget the hooting of the _____

2x Owl bear fight

Verse three:

But the worst of it came from an enemy who would accept no treaty

From out of the lamp came the fiery _____

1x Efreeti fight

At this point, the players should be made aware that dazzling pyrotechnics are available. If they think they’re going to survive the fight against the efreeti, the pyrotechnics make a spectacular finish. If the performance is going badly and they need to make a quick exit, the pyro makes an excellent distraction. If they stick around, they get the fourth verse:

Chaos reigned that night until the arrival

Of four brave heroes who ensured our survival

They fought the monsters with sword, spell, and song

And so we celebrated for the Saviors of Sorvong

The players, now the figurative and literal saviors of Sorvong, should be showered with praise, and gold. If they made a quick exit, at least they lived to play another day.

Post Summer of Suffering 2014 Wrap-up

Nipple chafe is real, and it really sucks.
Nipple chafe is real, and it really sucks.

This weekend, I finished my second half marathon, the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon. With the exception of the Sand Creek trail run in a couple weeks, and that’s quite a bit deeper into fall, my summer of suffering is over. So let’s take a look at the results!

  • March 29 – Penguin in the Park – 5K – 30:50
  • May 3 – Moonlight Marathon – 5K – 30:45
  • May 10 – Whitmore Classic – 5M – 48:36
  • May 31 – RAINN 5K – 5K – 33:17
  • June 28 – Scheels 5K – 5K – ???
  • July 4 – Staley Firecracker – 4M – 41:53
  • August 17 – Abe’s Amble – 10K – 1:04:22
  • September 21 – Shoreline Classic – 15K – 1:36:50
  • September 27 – We Care Twin Cities – Half Marathon – 2:22:57

Overall, I can’t complain much. I took a break from running after Whitmore and, clearly, my times suffered for it, but they’re all an improvement over last year’s. I tried to run everything in my Vibram FiveFingers, but they’re really hard on my feet. A couple weeks before Shoreline, I decided to switch back to traditional running shoes so that I wouldn’t unnecessarily risk injuring myself and missing my two biggest runs. It was the right call because I don’t think I would’ve made it through the half marathon essentially barefoot, but I’m still disappointed. I’m not giving up on them though, as my stride is much less heel-heavy than it used to be. I’ll be running in them at Sand Creek in two weeks.

Just because my summer of suffering is over, I’m by no means done! I’m feeling more confident in my ability to finish an actual marathon, so I’ve got to keep up running through the winter so that I’ll be ready in April. That said, here’s my wishlist for the rest of the year!

  • October 12 – Sand Creek Trail Run – 7+M
  • November 9 – Route 66 Half Marathon – Half Marathon
  • November 22 – Turkey Trot – 10K
  • December 10 – Frostbite Festival – 10M

Unused D&D game ideas, the series!

Sometime last year, I posted somewhere (probably Twitter) that I had a handful of D&D campaign ideas kicking around and no outlet for them. I said that if I didn’t use them, I was going to post them so maybe someone else could. And now I’m running a Pathfinder game and it’s great! But these ideas I had were better suited to one-shots, and I’m running Rise of the Runelords, so I still haven’t used them.

Regardless, I’m going to make good on my threat. I’m going to post them. As I said, all of them are better suited for short-term games, either one-shots, or limited settings.  I almost used one of them and it is the most filled-out, the rest are just general directions, themes, or plots. Like, I’d have a particular rule or class that I’d want to explore and practice, and write the game around that. As I haven’t played any of these, I can’t guarantee any of them are even fun. I envisioned running these in D&D 3.5, so D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder are the preferred mechanics, but most of them are such loose concepts that they can probably be easily used with another fantasy game.

Ever since playing in a long-term weekly D&D campaign over 10 years ago, I can’t help but associate “D&D night” with Thursdays, so they’re going up on Thursdays starting in October. I don’t have a ton, but I’ll at least make it through that month. So mark your calendars!

Vegan MoFo 2014!

Every year, Katie participates in Vegan MoFo. She puts a ton of effort into it. For the last couple years, she’s been doing a vegan dinner and a movie theme. She usually asks me for suggestions and I give her nothing but garbage. Bad sci-fi. Movies without any food in them. Movies she doesn’t even like. I’m useless.

Except this year, she said I should do guest blog post for one of my inane suggestions. She was probably joking, but I took her up on it! And here it is, vegan dinner and a movie for Johnny Mnemonic! And I wouldn’t want to wear out my welcome, so you’re only getting one out of me this year. See you again at Vegan MoFo 2015!

Scale in Borderlands 2

This is far too much to tweet about.

Borderlands 2 is fantastic. It’s a great first-person shooter. On top of that, it’s a loot game that’s very fucking long. It’s 30+ hours, and that’s just the base game. Each of the DLC campaigns adds another five something hours.

But it’s not just a long game, but it’s also a huge game. Each map is fairly enormous! Most have an hour or so worth of things to shoot, items to collect, quests to complete, etc. It’s really incredible. And the environments are varied!

But beyond even the length of time you’ll be playing and the amount of land mass in the game, the scale of the fights in Borderlands 2 further convey the enormity of the world. Early on, every fight is a struggle. There are enemies everywhere, and the guns suck. Even as I got better guns and better skills, it still felt like I wasn’t overly powerful as I went through the later parts of the game, and the DLC.

But then I go back through earlier levels to clean up quests, and I am at a much higher level than I was the first time around, and suddenly I’m death incarnate. I can choose not to fight and run right through the area, or I can lazily fire away in the direction of bad guys and they die. I can breeze through the whole level in a quarter of the time it took me the first time around.

I find it fascinating how Gearbox managed to make the world seem much larger than it is by throwing appropriately difficult challenges at me, and how those challenges slow me down and create the sense that the game is much bigger than it is in hindsight.

My 2014 Summer of Suffering

I kind of love running. It’s pretty much my favorite form of exercise. My favorite used to be biking, and I still love biking. But running does more for me. I’ll feel a good run for two days straight. I have to ride a ton of miles to feel a bike ride. And biking is expensive. I have to maintain a bike, and I can’t afford to compete. Running is free, races are plentiful and cheap. Even if I have no ambition to win (and I don’t), it’s still fun to get out in some race at dumb early in the morning.

I’ve ramped up how much I run and for how long. Last year, I made a big deal out of running a 15K and then a half marathon. The half marathon was brutal. I probably wasn’t prepared enough, and I swore I was done with distances like that. But my sister finished the Illinois Marathon and I got hella jelly, and then she talked me into running a half marathon with her, so whatever. I’m doing it.

I’m also doing the Decatur Running Club Grand Slam, which is finishing four out of five of their sponsored races. Coincidentally, four of those five I haven’t run in years past. And, of course, I wanted to keep up on the races I ran last year, and I added some more in that sounded like a good time, or fit well within my schedule. So here’s my 2014 Summer of Suffering, ignoring the fact that it started before summer did, and will end long after summer does.

  • March 29 – Penguin in the Park – 5K
  • May 3 – Moonlight Marathon – 5K
  • May 10 – Whitmore Classic – 5M
  • May 31 – RAINN 5K – 5K
  • June 28 – Scheels 5K – 5K
  • July 4 – Staley Firecracker – 4M
  • August 17 – Abe’s Amble – 10K
  • September 21 – Shoreline Classic – 15K
  • September 27 – We Care Twin Cities – Half Marathon
  • October 12 – Sand Creek Trail Run – 7M

I’m probably going to jam a couple more in before the end of the year, and the ultimate goal is to finish the Illinois Marathon next year. But I’m totally excited for the distances to start ramping up again! And I will complain and whine about it but I do it to myself because I love it!

And by “I love it”, I mean I do it for the t-shirts. Because if I don’t get a t-shirt out of it, what’s the point?