Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #439
How to Handle NPC Networks
What do you do when PCs start recruiting people as
This Week's Tips Summarized
How to Handle NPC Networks
Gamemaster Tips Summarized
- 5 Plot Point Quests
- 29 Wilderness Encounter Ideas
- CrystalBall Lite Dice Roller
- Game Night Homemade Microwavable Popcorn - With Flavors
- Character Generator Links
Latest Posts @ CampaignMastery.com
- This Means War!: Making huge armies practical
- Carnus Session #13 - Bearded in Orcus's Lair
Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
Perched on the edge of the sea lies Talon,
cramped, bustling nexus of business and travelers.
The City of Talon is a $5 PDF detailing 27 separate
locations, 34 NPCs, 10 full-color maps, 2 pages of adventure
ideas, and a solid description of Talon's history, physical
location, vices, organizations, politics, etc. Of the 34
NPCs, the major 14 have been separately statted out for D&D
4E, D&D 3.5, and GURPS.
City of Talon
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A Brief Word From Johnn
Reader Tips Request: How to Play Monstrous PCs
Tips readers, what do you think of Jeff's request below? Do
you have any tips or advice to share about playing monsters
Thank you for your awesome newsletter! It really gives
inspiration when I run out of ideas for DMing. Great work. I
have been reading since issue one. I started around 100 and
read all the issues before that. Just wondering, I have
never seen tips on playing monstrous characters.
Motivations, how the PCs work together, etc. Maybe there is
an issue for this. If so would you know the issue number. If
not I would love to see one in the future. Thanks for your
great work, eh.
Thanks for the tip request and the wonderful praise, Jeff!
Hopefully some Roleplaying Tips readers will have some
advice and ideas for you.
Magic Item Hooks Contest Continues - Deadline April 11
Our latest contest is all about plot hooks and back stories
for magic items.
- Where do bags of holding come from?
- Are healing potions as ubiquitous as we all assume?
- How did that flaming sword manage to get passed down for
ten generations without anyone inadvertently burning down
How to enter:
Email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org - multiple
entries are allowed.
Craft a short hook, history, background, or story about a
Contest ends April 11, 2009. Winners will be drawn at
random, so don't worry about writing or editing skills -it's
the magical fun that counts!
An ideal entry would show the item in a new light. Here are
two examples using everyone's favourite cursed item, the
Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity:
* In a society where only men can wield weapons, a woman
dons the girdle to be accepted as a warrior. After a
successful adventuring career, she's finally ready to settle
down with the man of her dreams. Perfect, except she has no
way to get the cursed girdle off, and the man has never
known her as anything other than a fellow warrior. Can the
PCs help her get off the girdle and confess her love before
her heart's desire is married to another?
* A young scion flees his feuding family and puts on the
girdle to seek haven with an all-female order of
priestesses. Now word has come the feud has ended with the
death of his elder brother, leaving him the last of his
noble line. It's up to the PCs to help him get off the
girdle and prove his identity as the vanished heir - while
protecting him from the machinations of greedy cousins.
Prizes up for grabs:
E-mail me your magic item hooks and back stories for a
chance to win these great prizes.
Have a game-full week!
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How to Handle NPC Networks
By Mike Bourke
Ask the GMs is a service offered through the Roleplaying
Tips blog at campaignmastery.com where game masters can
write in with advice requests and Mike and I post answers to
the blog. The following request was recently received from
game master Robin about how to handle NPC contacts:
Hi Mike and Johnn,
I'm running a 3.5 D&D campaign where the player characters
are largely based in a major city. Recently, the group
uncovered a secret shrine to a dark god, where sacrificial
victims were being kept prisoner. They freed the victims,
saving them from a gruesome fate, and now they have four
more contacts who they can go talk to for information.
Which is wonderful! Except that I am at a loss as to what to
do with these NPCs they now have "on tap." The party has
over a dozen such contacts, most of whom are simple
commoners. I don't feel the need to create each NPC the way
I would a combat NPC, but how do I keep them all organized?
How do I bring them to the table? Is it better to use a sort
of rough character sheet for each NPC, with room for
doodling? Or try to use index cards for each one, or some
Gratefully awaiting your wisdom (*grins*).
I thought Mike's answer at the blog was excellent, so I'm
cross-posting it to this e-zine issue. Feel free to drop by
the blog and leave your comments about this topic:
This question boils down to five inter-related issues:
- Who are these people?
- How will they interact with the PCs and the Campaign?
- What game prep is required for using the NPCs this way?
- What is the best way of keeping this campaign element
- How should I use them in my campaign?
Who are these people?
There are two separate groups, soon to be joined by a third
if my assessment is correct, and the answers are subtly
different for each.
Group 1: The Original Contacts
These are probably just what they seem - ordinary people who
will take anything interesting they overhear (rumours,
gossip, and intelligence in general) to the party. Most
parties that settle in a fixed location for any length of
time develop such contacts. Since these are just ordinary
people, they will cover the entire spectrum of personality
When it comes to informants, there are thirteen fairly
- The Altruist
Always tries to do what they perceive to be the right thing,
often decided by applying an extremely narrow and prejudiced
moral code. Likely to be a stalwart member of a religious
group, their information tends to be petty but reliable
except when it involves a member of a social class,
profession, religious affiliation, or race that crosses
- The Busybody Involves themselves in everyone's business. Tends to jump to
conclusions then proceed as though these conclusions were
irrefutable. They make themselves fairly obvious, and often
get themselves (and those around them) in over their heads.
Information will be reliable, but misinterpreted, and it
will soon become known the Busybody is a stooge for the PCs.
As they make enemies, those enemies might use the busybody
to lure them into traps, feed them false information, etc.
Initially useful, they will slowly become a millstone around
the PCs' necks; but they are so darned sincere it's hard to
cut them loose. Of course, if the PCs ever spurn or rebuke
the Busybody, they will cross the line and become enemies
instead of allies, and the Busybody is also often the
- The Deceptive A shady customer, usually up to something of a criminal
nature, often relatively petty and meaningless. The
Deceptive will say or do anything if it looks like it might
Their information starts off being useful and accurate,
especially if they are involved with an organised criminal
structure of some sort. If it involves criminal behaviour or
something the authorities are trying to hush up, this is the
archetype most likely to stumble across it. They are
untrustworthy, and if caught, will sell the PCs out in a
heartbeat. Ultimately, they should come across some
information they try to use for their own benefit, get
caught, and become informants against the PCs. It might be
quite some time before the information, and the change of
loyalties, comes to the PCs' attention.
- The Idealist This archetype is similar to the Altruist; they believe in a
Cause (always capitalised in their minds), and can justify
almost anything in the pursuit of that cause. Gratitude will
only carry this informant so far; to continue acting as eyes
and ears for the PCs the Idealist will have to perceive the
PCs as benefiting The Cause. The fun part comes when you
consider the number of potential Causes that exist, which
range from the benign to the bizarre; anything from 'No
child should go hungry' to 'Mandatory education for all' to
I've had lots of fun with druids who adopt a radical
Greenpeace-style agenda and attempt to bring down
civilization because its byproducts are polluting the
planet. 'Orcish Rights' is another personal favorite. And
then there was the woman who wanted to make umbrellas
illegal because they came between people and the cleansing
rain of the Gods....
The Idealist will rarely have access to any worthwhile
information outside of events relating to The Cause, and are
prone to hyperbole and overreaction to such news. Any
information unrelated to The Cause is usually accurate, but
may be understated or undervalued.
- The Greedy Every collection of informants always includes one who's in
it for hard currency. Their information is for sale to the
highest bidder, their loyalty is to themselves. The most the
PCs will have earned is preferred customer status. His
information is rarely complete, but is usually spot-on -
making him one of the most reliable sources of information.
Of course, the PCs may not realise this! He may have to
- The Meek Not necessarily cowardly, this archetype includes the
humble. The meek will happily take any information they
stumble across to the PCs if the PCs seem more reliable,
more honest, or more able to act on it than the authorities,
but will rarely go looking for information.
- They will often avoid offending anyone, and find it easy to
rise to positions where they are exposed to information of
value, but to get anything important, the PCs will have to
- The Naive The uncharitable might suggest that between the Altruist,
the Idealist, and the Meek, this category is rather
redundant, but this archetype is reserved for those who
elevate innocence to an art form. The Naive will believe
anything he is told, by just about anyone, or can be easily
convinced through argument. That makes their information
unreliable, but by looking for the truth that lurks behind
the information that these eager puppy-dogs bring to the
PCs, other information can be placed in context. They are
best used as an indicator that there is something for the
PCs to be informed about.
- The Opportunist Similar to the Greedy and the Social Climber, but different
in that those archetypes make deliberate plans to achieve
specific goals. The Opportunist is more happy-go-lucky,
always seeking to maximise their personal benefit from
whatever comes their way, in whatever way seems most
beneficial at the time.
This archetype never passes on information unless there is
some obvious benefit for them in the process, and their
information will put the PCs into a confrontation with those
who have caused trouble for the Opportunist or who stand in
For GMs, the easiest way to handle this character is to put
the cart before the horse, and decide how they want the NPC
to attempt to benefit next, and what stands in the
character's way. That gives a lead as to the target and
subject of the information that will be provided to the PCs.
- The Professional
Some people can't help confessing, others can't help
acquiring information and blabbing it. This person always
knows more than he's supposed to, about just about
everything, which puts both him and anyone he might have
spoken to in personal danger. Sometimes, he doesn't have the
answer to a question; he will hear invented rumours,
whispers, and hints.
This archetype makes his living selling information. He
might give away one free (minor) sample, but after that he
will charge all the market will bear. Unlike the Greedy, the
Professional always has some idea of the value of his
information, and usually has a strict pricing policy. He may
even have his own code of professional conduct.
- The Revolutionary/Anarchist Feeds information to the PCs simply because the PCs aren't
the authorities and the archetype are troublemakers. Their
information will target the ruling classes and their
activities, or possible future activities.
Often paranoid, the Revolutionary's information will usually
be reliable and misinterpreted. To determine what
information this character type might feed to the
characters, try to come up with a conspiracy theory linking
unrelated events external to the PCs, then decide who would
have knowledge of such a conspiracy if it were really true.
The results will be a rumour that "person X" knows something
about "event Y", which the anarchist will gleefully provide
to the PCs, even though the NPC has made the whole thing up
out of whole cloth.
While this archetype's information will be correct
occasionally, most of the time it is a way of throwing red
herrings in front of the party. You can even make a personal
rule that if the PCs believe it or act on it, then it's a
false rumour, but if they dismiss it, they should have
- The Social Climber This archetype comes in two flavours: those who seek to use
the PCs to clear their path upwards in society by causing
trouble for rivals, and those who see the PCs as people who
Will Be Important and who want to hitch their wagons to
The first is generally already a member of the upper
classes, the latter is simply not as high up in society as
they think they should be or they want to be.
Their information is high-level gossip - what this diplomat
likes for lunch, what the Count's hobbies are, etc. They are
best used as plot devices to move stories forward when the
PCs get bogged down, facilitating introductions to the
people the PCs actually need to talk to. They are often
useless unless the PCs already have a target in mind - "who
do you know at the Centaur Embassy?".
- The Traitor No matter what any given organisation does, there will
always be people who disagree with either what they are
doing or how they are doing it. If these people care enough
about the situation, they will become traitors to it -
joining the target organisation if they weren't already on
the inside when this opinion was formed.
This archetype always has one of the others as a subtype.
Their information is reliable and top-quality but doesn't
come very often.
- The Victim Sadly, there are those who the world victimises. No matter
what they attempt, it turns sour on them. And then there are
those who cannot see the glass as anything other than half-
full and evaporating!
The Victim's information is always about their personal
experiences and what has gone wrong this week; if something
is about to succeed, the Victim will have sold his interest
the week before for a pittance (or had it stolen from him).
This archetype is a doom-and-gloom merchant. Their
information is always reliable and usually comes too late.
Make a habit of using them to fill in any blanks in the plot
line that need explanation after the fact, and ensure that
the NPC has always suffered in some way as a result of
events (no matter how much they may have profited in other
Group 2: The Rescued Prisoners
Whether or not they - or you - realised it at the time, your
PCs' choices have irrevocably changed the tone of your
campaign. You are now running an "Action/Spy" campaign -
James Bond in a medieval fantasy setting. The PCs have
started setting up an intelligence agency.
These agencies come in all flavours. Many commercial
operations have them to keep tabs on what rivals are up to.
Some monitor suppliers, backers, and sponsors/investors to
be prepared for any scandals they might become embroiled in.
The Baker Street Irregulars were a key part of Sherlock
Holmes' operation, as was his brother Mycroft. The French
resistance are famous the world over (but for a real eye-
opener, take a look at what the Danish did during WW2).
While the great spy agencies liked nothing better than to
'turn' someone important on the other side, they weren't
averse to using ordinary citizens. They could often engineer
promotions for these people until they WERE in a position of
usefulness to them in their games of intelligence and
That means you don't have to change the campaign you have
planned; the events will still be the same, but the context
- the ways the PCs will get into scenarios, and sometimes
how they will get out the other side of them - have changed.
Knowledge is power, and it is unlikely the PCs will ignore
the tools that have fallen into their hands. To some extent,
this change should have taken place anyway. As the PCs rise
to prominence through success, many people from the
archetype lists would have sought them out with information
in any event.
In regards to Robin's question, most of the rescued
prisoners will also come from the archetypes already listed.
It's possible they all will. But there are two more
archetypes that this interpretation of what's going on, and
its significance, add to the mix that cannot be ignored.
- The Traitor (type II) To quote what I stated earlier, "No matter what any given
organisation does, there will always be people who disagree
with either what they are doing or how they are doing it. If
these people care enough about the situation, they will
become traitors to it - joining the target organisation if
they weren't already on the inside." That includes, by
definition, the organisation of informants the PCs are
Sooner or later, someone in the network will turn against
them and become a traitor to the PCs. The reasons will vary
according to the archetype subtype to which the traitor
belongs. But from that moment on, there will be someone out
there who knows more about what the PCs are up to than they
should. And if they should consider the PCs to be enemies,
- The Double Agent I have to admit that the first thought I had when I read the
original question was "How could I use this against the PCs?
What a Golden Opportunity...." and that thought has coloured
everything I've written in response.
To be more specific, I thought one of the original
informants might have turned traitor, and warned someone
else the PCs were going up against the worshippers of the
dark god, and this group had then placed someone in a
position to be captured by the cultists and rescued by the
PCs, purely to infiltrate their growing network.
My second thought was that perhaps the cultists themselves
might have planted a fellow worshipper in amongst the
prisoners as a stool pigeon. This person is now amongst
those rescued by the PCs and in perfect position to use them
to protect and nurture a new group of cultists.
One thing is certain: once the PCs get a taste for the
benefits an intelligence agency can bring them, sooner or
later someone WILL set them up to rescue people purely to
infiltrate. It's inevitable; they will inadvertently acquire
a double-agent in their network sooner or later.
Group 3: New Contacts
It might be that the PCs have turned the prisoners loose,
and recruited the others you mention, with no clear idea in
mind, and no better idea of what to do with them than you
have. Sooner or later, though, they will have a question
that needs answering and someone will think of those NPCs
and decide to ask them.
At a stroke, the NPCs will go from adventure by-products to
exploitable assets. As soon as that happens, the PCs are in
the intelligence game, and will start looking out for
opportunities to recruit new members. This might have
already happened by the time this reply gets posted. Every
new recruit is that much more likely than the last to be
representative of the last two archetypes.
NPC Networks - Game Prep & Admin Requirements
How do you keep track of such a network of NPCs? How much
prep work should you do in generating these NPCs? Here's how
I do it:
- Contact Dossiers
These are what I use to organise and track NPCs in my
campaigns. The "Contact Dossiers" is just an exercise book
or binder with the pages numbered. I use these to track a
dossier on each character, listing name,
profession/occupation, place of employment, a physical
description, any roleplaying notes, and the archetype (and
subtype, if necessary) they represent. Underneath these,
numbered, I list each contact they have with the party, what
they told the party (if anything) and what the information
really signified, if anything.
I try to be as succinct as possible. "Rescued from Dark Cult
by PCs" would pretty much cover the entry for the events you
described. When I run out of space on a page, I just move to
the next numbered page and keep going.
At the bottom of the previous page, I'll write '--> X' where
'X' is the number of the new page; at the top of the new
page, I'll put the NPC's name and archetype, and 'Y <--'
where Y is the previous page number relating to that
My actual preference is for a loose-leaf binder; I'll
explain why a little later.
- Contact Index
It can still involve a fair amount of page flipping to find
the pages you want. To make the relevant pages easier to
locate, I also create a 'Contact Index', using one of those
cheap personal phone books. These have the big advantage of
being in alphabetical order. I'll add an entry for the NPC
by name (both first and last, if necessary) and instead of a
phone number, I'll write the page number of the contact Log
that I'm currently using, slowly compiling an index showing
all the pages relating to that NPC.
- Event Log
The 'Event Log' is just another exercise book, or another
section of the binder containing the Contact Dossiers. Each
page details one scenario or session of play, depending on
how I'm organising this campaign. I write the play date, a
brief synopsis of events (3-4 lines at best), and a list of
the names of any NPC contacts that resulted from it or
played a significant part in it (including the major
With these three volumes, I can find anything I need to know
about the characters and their every interaction with the
party, plus any mannerisms or techniques I employ in
roleplaying or characterising them. (Players note: this
technique works perfectly well from the other side of the
table as well, and usually enables you to 'remember' the
little details your GM would rather you forget!)
- NPC Character Sheets
The question asks about how much information should be
recorded for each contact, suggesting that doing a complete
character generation for each would seem to be overkill. I
agree completely with this. Nevertheless, if the first page
of an NPC's entry into the Dossier Log is a character sheet,
there are a number of neat things you can do with it. For a
start, you can leave everything blank until you need to add
a detail. You don't need to write in a strength score, but
if that number ever becomes important, you can decide what
it is WHEN YOU NEED IT. This accomplishes three things:
- It makes it easy to keep each NPC consistent
- It permits the NPC's details to serve the needs of the plot
- It permits character archetypes as NPC character classes
Archetypes as NPC character classes
(One of my better ideas.) Every time an NPC does something
in keeping with their archetype, I rate the difficulty as an
Encounter Level and determine how much XP the NPC gets for
Every time they step outside their archetype, they also get
XP, with a bonus.
Eventually, they gain enough to earn a character level. The
level number serves as an immediate indicator of how good
the NPC is at 'playing' their archetype. If I ever have the
need to fully generate the characters stats, this enables
additional skill point allocations, etc., representing the
things they have learned as part of being the character they
- A 1st level Busybody gets involved in the lives of their
neighbours, a 10th level Busybody has stuck their noses into
public policy and has probably told the local priest what
his sermons should be about.
- A 1st level criminal is a petty thief, a 15th level
criminal has a gang, runs at least one racket, is well-known
to the local thieves guild as a rival, a successful member,
an administrator, or a provider of services. He might be a
fence specialising in the sale of high-end jewellery, or of
stolen artworks, or whatever, with a network of black market
You don't need to define the details of these NPC classes;
the name and level alone are generally enough of an
indicator as to what they are capable of. (I just love the
idea of a tenth-level Busybody!)
Using An NPC Network
NPC networks can serve multiple purposes in a campaign:
- Getting the PCs into scenarios by providing rumours
- Forewarning PCs of enemy actions directed against them
- Getting the PCs the answers they need to progress in a
scenario when they get stuck by direct hints or facilitating
contact with experts
- Creating secondary problems for the PCs if they are
getting through a scenario too easily
- Misleading the PCs with plausible but false or unreliable
- Highlighting unnoticed significances within campaign
- Explaining mysterious events retroactively
- Generating scenarios in their own right (Traitors and
It Shouldn't Come for Free
While some of these purposes might cause problems for the
characters, for the most part an intelligence service is
beneficial to the PCs, and as such it should not come for
free. The opportunity to add to the service is just as much
a reward as a better magic weapon would be, and this should
be taken into account when you calculate treasure and other
Before play, look over the scenario. How are you going to
get the PCs involved in the action? If no obvious way
suggests itself, perhaps an NPC contact can bring the PCs'
attention to something that's going on. If the events are
not something the PCs would be interested in getting
involved with, perhaps the NPC has misinterpreted the
significance of what's occurring.
If I want the NPC information to be mostly accurate, if
limited, I'll use a reliable source. If the information must
get the PCs involved in a situation they probably wouldn't
want to touch with a 10-foot pole, I'll use an unreliable
source to throw bait in front of the PCs. They might take
it, they might not.
I'll also look at what information the PCs might need to
solve any mysteries, and whether or not their characters are
likely to have the skills needed to get those answers on
their own. Sometimes I'll feed information to them in
advance, sometimes I'll have it arrive in a timely fashion,
and sometimes they will have to dig for it.
Once the PCs have a double-agent or traitor within their
network, I will also look at how much and how soon the
party's enemies can learn of their activities and try to
find some way for the enemy to take advantage of it - either
by involving themselves directly, by rescuing key members of
the opposition facing the NPCs to add to his own
organisation, or by simply doing something else while the
PCs' attention is elsewhere.
If the scenario starts to bog down, I use a member of the
NPC network to drop a clue or fresh lead to the PCs. After a
while, they start going to their informants' network
whenever they get stuck, without realising this places the
GM in total control of what they find out, and when.
And that's the ultimate significance of what the players
have done.... (Mike exits to crash of thunder and maniacal
* * *
Comments? Feedback? Visit this article at CampaignMastery.com.
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Have some GM advice you'd like to share? E-mail it to email@example.com - thanks!
1. 5 Plot Point Quests
re: 5 Room Dungeons
I was considering your 5 Room Dungeons and thought them
great. However, they are very D&D-centric. I would like to
see a couple of challenges based on different genres. "5
Plot Point Quests" if you like.
The classic 5 Room dungeon is:
Room One: Entrance And Guardian
Two: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
Room Three: Trick or Setback
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
For more generic 5 Plot Point Quests you could go:
- Story hook and challenge
- Scene backdrop
- Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
- Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
It would be possible to use this for a SF challenge, a
modern horror challenge, a pulp challenge, a pirates
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2. 29 Wilderness Encounter Ideas
From: Mike Evans
re: Random Encounters
From the article Wilderness Encounters by Christopher
Magoun, he advocated the use of 3x5 cards that had ideas on
them for random encounters, events, etc. That helped
generate different things for the players to see. I liked
this idea and also liked that he wanted people to share
ideas. So with that spirit in mind, I have come up with a
few that I thought I would pass along. Thanks!
Name: Drow Hunting Party
The party runs across a hunting party of drow. These drow
are hostile and are looking for exile drow that are on the
run. The party can possibly spot the drow first and spring
an ambush, but if they take too long they run the risk of
the drow spotting them and attacking.
Name: Ruins of Daelkyr
The group, while in Khyber, comes across the ruins of a
Daelkyr Shapers temple. It is a small 3-4 room building that
has fallen into a state of disrepair. In here, with proper
searching, they can find books and artifacts of shaping,
living armor, etc., of the Daelkyr. In this temple, it looks
like 2 Daelkyr were killed by their own creations. This
happened at least a year ago.
Name: Grimlocks and Ettercaps
The group is ambushed by a group of grimlocks and their pet
ettercaps out looking for food. The ettercaps lead the
charge, spitting webs and trying to poison the players,
while the grimlocks sit in the background, using blind
fighting and their echo sense, helped by the ettercaps,
firing arrows at the party.
Name: Village of Undead Slaves
The group finds a town of undead ghouls, ghasts, wights, and
even shadows, being used as slave labor by a mind-flayer
necromancer, a Daelkyr, and 3 Daelkyr minions (the mutated
goblins). If the village is freed it offers a place to
resupply, gather info on the Khyber, and gain some allies in
a completely hostile area.
A hungry drider is stalking the party, spooking them with
spells and eventually lobbing illusion spells at them to
confuse them. When the PCs are distracted by an illusionary
enemy, the drider comes in from behind, silences one of the
party members, and then attacks another one, silencing them,
then dragging them away into the underdark.
Name: Exile Drow
The group comes across a small band of 5-8 exile drow that
are nomadic and on the run from the whole drow race because
they rejected the teachings of Loliath, the Spider Goddess.
The exile drow, if treated correctly, will join the party as
ally NPCs, lend supplies and information, and guide the PCs.
The group comes across the ruins of a building, in the
middle of nowhere, that looks foreign to this underdark
landscape. A knowledge check shows the craftsmanship and
design is dwarven.
Name: Underdark Dwarves
The group hears the clanging of steel and the shouts and
cries of battle. If they investigate they will see a group
of dwarves, 5-8 of them, with grayish skin, white beards,
and white eyes fighting what looks to be two demons. If the
group helps fight, the dwarves will become NPC allies. If
this card is pulled the dwarves will help with info and a
place to rest, but not join the party.
The group stumbles across a random and vicious trap,
possibly left from some ancient battle. The trap causes
everyone in the area to be lifted off the ground and spun
around viciously through the air. The characters must make a
Fort save 20 or become sickened (-2 to all rolls for 24
hours). The characters are then repulsed, all flying in
different directions for 3d6 hexes and taking that much
The group comes across a demon torturing captive, living
creatures, tearing their souls from their bodies. He uses
the souls to strengthen himself. If defeated, there is an
explosion and the souls cause the immediate area to be
purified for 1d4 days. The characters will receive a +2
bonus to all rolls for 24 hours after they leave the area.
Name: Ethereal Mauler
The creature attacks suddenly, blinks, attacks again, then
shifts. It attacks the same person until the target is dead.
It shifts for 3 rounds then cannot shift again for 1d4
rounds, then starts the process over again, unless the
players think of some way to keep the mauler in the material
A vicious earthquake shakes the area. Players must make Ref
Save DC 15 to stay on their feet. Rocks from the ceiling
fall. Characters make save again. Three types of rocks fall:
small, medium, large. If a large rock falls on a PC they are
pinned and take crushing damage every round.
The group feels a rumbling just before a delver erupts from
the ground. It looks surprised to see the characters,
apologizes for almost hitting them, and crawls on its way,
flinging rocks everywhere.
Name: Magma Eruption
Magma erupts from the ground, or out of pillars. The group
must flee and take cover from the magma. Roll an attack for
the magma. If it hits, characters get a Reflex Save to dodge
Name: Regiment of Monsters
The group runs across a large force of goblin mutations led
by a single Daelkyr. The strong force is looking for the PCs
and is best avoided.
Death suddenly materializes out of nowhere, telling a
certain member of the group their time is up. All their
close calls and near deaths have finally caught up with
them. This is a great role-playing opportunity for the
player to try and talk his/her way out of dying. Death can
give them a quest, if desired.
Name: Goblin Raiding Party
The group comes across a goblin raiding party. They might
hear the goblins first, or they might simply stumble upon
them. The goblins are planning on raiding a nearby village.
The goblins are being led by 3 hobgoblins.
Name: Haunted Manor
Either through hearing from a village, passing travelers, or
just coming across it, the group discovers an abandoned
plantation manor. If info was given it is rumored that the
manor was abandoned after the matriarch of the plantation
killed herself after her secret lover abandoned her for
another. The house belongs to members of House Cannith. A
few artifacts can be found here. A banshee and a few undead
servants still occupy the house.
Name: Dead Body
The group stumbles upon a body in the middle of the street.
It looks like it has been recently murdered. Investigation
shows the body has been chewed on and clawed at. This could
lead into an adventure. Was the person killed by a were-
creature, a cannibal, some other form of monstrous creature?
Name: The Sociopath
The group, either through being smart-mouths, being too good
or too bad, or for no reason at all, has attracted the
attention of a sociopath. He asks to travel with the group,
and when they are sleeping one night he makes his move to
kill the one standing guard. He always has a plan for
escape, and always shows up at the most inopportune times.
Name: The battle changes
During the fight something happens, good or bad, that
changes the tide of the fight. Perhaps something else hears
the fight and comes in to eat the fallen or takes advantage
of the situation.
Name: Natural Disaster
The group has just been a part of a nasty blizzard, flood,
earthquake, tornado, or volcanic errpution. Do the players
help pick up the pieces? Are they injured? Did they lose
something or someone valuable? An adventure idea here is
what if info comes out that the disaster wasn't natural?
Name: Traveling Merchants
The group comes across a merchant. Most of his items are
mundane, but he has one artifact of low to moderate
strength, and he doesn't realize what it is.
Name: The Mob Boss
The local crime family wants to have the party do something.
It can use coercion, blackmail, bribery, or outright
torture. Does the party do it? Do they fight back? Do they
go to the authorities?
Name: Just a small favor
Either someone approaches the players begging for a favor
(please help me rescue the woman I love from her father so
we may marry) or someone who has helped the players out of a
pickle in the past suddenly comes calling in a favor.
Rejection of upholding this favor might lead to negative
Name: The crashing Airship
Suddenly crashing out of the sky is an airship. The degree
of its destruction is up to the DM. If the ship was utterly
destroyed, how much damage did it do to the cityscape? Are
people hurt, still in danger, etc.? What if it was heavily
damaged, but mostly intact? Does the ring of fire (Eberron)
cause buildings or nature to be set ablaze? What caused the
crash? What if it carried a plague? Or perhaps a monster or
group of monsters were illegally transporting something that
has escaped and is now roaming the area?
Name: The Gift
The group receives a gift that is more than it seems. The
gift may be a magical weapon or the like. It might be cursed
and terrible. Perhaps it is a jar, that reveals no real
magical properties, and when appraised seems highly
valuable, but when opened releases a trapped spirit, or a
plague that starts killing the citizens of the town.
Name: Magical Malady I
Something has happened with the magic in the world for the
day. The players wake up, prepare their spells, prayers,
etc. for the day as normal, but when they go to use them
there is either no effect, opposite, or random effect. Up to
DM, have fun with this chaos.
Name: Magical Malady II
A character using a meta-magic feat, or an NPC tinkering
with magic in his house, has done something wrong. An
explosion is the result, or a portal to another dimension
opens up, etc.
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3. CrystalBall Lite Dice Roller
From: Steve B.
I re-discovered an interesting dice rolling application
(MAC/WIN, $15) called CrystalBall Lite. I downloaded it
quite awhile ago but hadn't looked at it until now. It
replaces all the other dice-rolling applications I've found
and seems to be unique from anything else I've seen in the
degree that it can be applied to any game system and many GM
chores due to its simple scripting capability and
customization. It can also send out dice rolls and results
from the GM and players over the internet for online gaming.
CrystalBall Lite Dice Roller
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4. Game Night Homemade Microwavable Popcorn - With Flavors
From: Jason Sandeman The Gamer’s Cookbook
After reading this article by one of my favorite New York
Times authors, I was inspired to try homemade microwave
popcorn. Here are the results, and I hope you will all
Popcorn is the ultimate snack for game night. Microwave
popcorn is so convenient, it is literally 2 minutes 30
seconds away. (Two for the popcorn, and 30 seconds for the
butter. Heh, down to a science.) Up until today, I had not
realized how much I had been ripped off.
The local Walmart has the Act II popcorn available for the
low, very low price of $9.99 for 15 bags. That works out to
66¢ per bag. Buy a bag of regular popping corn for $3.95,
and you are looking for a unit cost of 13¢. That is a big
difference. Plus, with the recipes below, you can pretty
much do what you like to it, and get your own flavor.
What you need:
50 g (1/3 cup) popcorn kernels
15 mL (1 tablespoon) salted butter
15 mL (1 tablespoon) seasoning mix (see recipe below)
large lunch bag
chip clip (optional)
paper towel (optional)
1. Place popcorn kernels into brown paper bag.
2. Add butter and desired seasoning mix into the bag.
3. Fold top over a few times. (Secure the top of the paper
bag if you choose to use a chip clip.)
4. Place bag folded side down in microwave on top of
optional paper towel.
5. Microwave on high until 5 seconds passes between each
pop. (My microwave takes 2 minutes 20 seconds.)
6. Open bag carefully, as there may be steam that has built
up inside the bag.
7. Top with whatever you like and serve immediately.
(recipes will equal 15 mL portion (1 tablespoon.))
Basic Popcorn Seasoning
5 mL (1 teaspoon) popcorn salt
5 mL (1 teaspoon) black pepper
5 mL (1 teaspoon) garlic powder
Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle into paper bag.
5. Character Generator Linksr
From: Kate Manchester
A few character generator links:
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Latest Posts @ CampaignMastery.com:
Campaign Mastery is the official blog of the Roleplaying
Tips E-zine. It's a great way to get more GMing advice and
to chat with me and other readers about GMing. Here is a
quick summary of what's new.
1. This Means War! Making huge armies practical
* * *
Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates sent to you:
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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have
written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your
games and to make GMing easier and fun:
How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most
popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well,
plus several generators and tables
Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not
only expand your game world but provide endless natural
encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.
Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to
crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for
any game system and genre. This book will make a difference
to your GMing.
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