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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #439

How to Handle NPC Networks

What do you do when PCs start recruiting people as information sources?

Contents: 

 

This Week's Tips Summarized 

How to Handle NPC Networks

How to Handle NPC Networks: What do
you do when PCs start recruiting people
as information sources?

Gamemaster Tips Summarized

  1. 5 Plot Point Quests
  2. 29 Wilderness Encounter Ideas
  3. CrystalBall Lite Dice Roller
  4. Game Night Homemade Microwavable Popcorn - With Flavors
  5. Character Generator Links

Latest Posts @ CampaignMastery.com 

  1. This Means War!: Making huge armies practical
  2. Carnus Session #13 - Bearded in Orcus's Lair

Johnn Four's GM Guide Books

Perched on the edge of the sea lies Talon,
a crowded, 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.

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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 as characters?

Hi Johnn,

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.

Jeff G From PEI

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 the house?

How to enter:

Email your entries to johnn@roleplayingtips.com - multiple entries are allowed.

Craft a short hook, history, background, or story about a magic item.

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!

Examples

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!

Cheers,

Johnn Four,
johnn@roleplayingtips.com

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Adventure Essentials: Holidays

Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.

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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 third option?

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: http://www.campaignmastery.com/blog/networks-of-npcs/

Mike's answer:

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 organised?
  • 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 profiles.

When it comes to informants, there are thirteen fairly standard profiles:

  • 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 their prejudices.
  • 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 vengeful type.
  • 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 benefit them.

    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 outright terrorism.

    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 educate them....
  • 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 push them.
  • 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 his way.

    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 listened!
  • 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 their coat-tails.

    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 ways).

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 counter-intelligence.

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 setting up.

    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, or rivals....
  • 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 character.

    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 villain!).

    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 it.

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 are.

For example:

  • 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 contacts.

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 information
  • Highlighting unnoticed significances within campaign events
  • Explaining mysterious events retroactively
  • Generating scenarios in their own right (Traitors and Double-Agents)

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 rewards.

Game Prep

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.

In-Play

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 laughter.)

* * *

Comments? Feedback? Visit this article at CampaignMastery.com.

 

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Gamemaster Tips 

Have some GM advice you'd like to share? E-mail it to johnn@roleplayingtips.com - thanks!

1. 5 Plot Point Quests 

From: Ironchicken

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 Room
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:

  1. Story hook and challenge
  2. Scene backdrop
  3. Complication
  4. Climax, Big Battle or Conflict
  5. Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist

It would be possible to use this for a SF challenge, a modern horror challenge, a pulp challenge, a pirates challenge, etc.

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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!

Card #21 Name: Drow Hunting Party Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #22 Name: Ruins of Daelkyr Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #23 Name: Grimlocks and Ettercaps Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #24 Name: Village of Undead Slaves Type: Place/Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #25 Name: Drider Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #26 Name: Exile Drow Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #27 Name: Ruins Type: Place Where: Khyber

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.

Card #28 Name: Underdark Dwarves Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #29 Name: Trap Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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 damage.

Card #30 Name: Demon Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #31 Name: Ethereal Mauler Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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 plane.

Card #32 Name: Earthquake Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #33 Name: Delver Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #34 Name: Magma Eruption Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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 the attack.

Card #35 Name: Regiment of Monsters Type: Event/Creature Where: Khyber

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.

Card #36 Name: Death Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #37 Name: Goblin Raiding Party Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #38 Name: Haunted Manor Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #39 Name: Dead Body Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere/City

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?

Card #40 Name: The Sociopath Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #41 Name: The battle changes Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #42 Name: Natural Disaster Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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?

Card #43 Name: Traveling Merchants Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #44 Name: The Mob Boss Type: Event/Creature Where: City/Urban

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?

Card #45 Name: Just a small favor Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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 consequences.

Card #46 Name: The crashing Airship Type: Event/Creature Where: Anywhere

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?

Card #47 Name: The Gift Type: Event/Creature Where: City/Urban

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.

Card #48 Name: Magical Malady I Type: Event Where: Anywhere

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.

Card #49 Name: Magical Malady II Type: Event/Creature Where: City/Urban

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 enjoy!

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.

Optional Seasonings: (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 

2. Carnus Session #13 - Bearded in Orcus's Lair 

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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:

Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants - new

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

Adventure Essentials: Holidays

Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless natural encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials

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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