Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #477
When Adventures Are Too Easy
This Week's Tips Summarized
When Adventures Are Too Easy
Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
Advanced Adventures #12 now in PDF & coming to stores soon!
The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor is an OSRIC module designed
for 4-6 adventures of levels 5-7. The Highlands are aflame
with the fires of rebellion and what began as a minor
uprising becomes serious, deadly serious.
Pick up your copy where XRP e-products are sold and look for
the title on store shelves in late February.
Advanced Adventures #12
Return to Contents
A Brief Word From Hannah
Inspiration from Antiquity
I recently learned about an interesting archaeological find.
An ancient temple was unearthed with a man's body draped
across the altar. He'd been stabbed in the side, his throat
was slit, and then the walls fell in.
That's right: the walls fell in mid-sacrifice. There were a
number of other bodies in the room, most likely priests of
some sort who were caught in the earthquake that collapsed
Imagine your party walking in on a scene line that. There's
a bleeding guy tied to an altar, a bunch of priests or
cultists are standing around him with knives, and the ground
is shaking. Are they trying to stop the earthquake, or did
their ritual cause it? Or is it something even worse - a
powerful demon that can only break through during a
geological upheaval, and the cultists are trying to set it
Chaotic Shiny Productions
Return to Contents
Check out the Role Playing Games at Troll and Toad
Troll and Toad.com is the authority on RPGs, Board Games,
Miniatures, Magic The Gathering, CCGs (collectible card
games) and Video Games. With decades in the gaming scene you
can rest assured we are reliable, knowledgeable and we
provide top tier customer service.
Troll and Toad is a name you can trust! We have been in
business since 1991 and we're a member of the Better
Business Bureau in good standing.
Love games? Take a look at our massive inventory at Troll And Toad.com.
Return to Contents
When Adventures Are Too Easy
by Kate Manchester
You spend hours planning and mapping out your adventure and
sit down to begin the game session. An hour later, your PCs
have managed to breeze through your carefully crafted
encounters and handily win the day. And to add insult to
injury, one of your players look at you and says, "that was
So how do you make things more challenging for the PCs
without designing a deliberate TPK scenario? Here are few
ideas to help you plan your next adventure.
1. Know Your Players and PCs
Know your players. If your players are known for coming up
with outside the box solutions, try to come up with a few
yourself when planning your adventure. For example, if your
PCs are the sort to thoroughly examine a room in an attempt
to look for hidden treasure, then throw in a poison needle
trap in the trigger for the secret door.
Make no assumptions. If a player doesn't specifically say
their PC is doing something like checking doors for traps or
scanning their surroundings, then don't assume they are.
Yes, this could potentially mean the party is unaware of the
goblin sneaking up behind them, but what's an RPG without a
Know your PCs. Back when I ran an ongoing campaign, I kept
an updated copy of each player's character sheet on
goldenrod paper. By having a copy of the sheets, I had
access to the PCs' stats and equipment. If, for example, I
knew that Thorgar the Magnificent has the ability to jump 10
feet without making a die roll, then I might use a 15 foot
pit trap instead of a 6 foot one.
Use the PC's weaknesses. If you're running a game where
PCs take disadvantages to gain advantages at character
creation, then by all means exploit them, no matter how odd
the flaw. For example, a player in a LARP took a phobia of
chickens thinking it was a cheap and safe way to gain extra
build points. Imagine the player's surprise when a rogue
group of chickens showed up at a game session and became
part of a continuing minor storyline.
2. All's Fair
While life isn't always fair, it doesn't mean the adventure
can't be fair to both parties involved.
If the PCs have a particular power/feat/etc., there's
nothing stopping a GM from assigning those same powers to
For example, in a Star Wars campaign I played in, my PC had
a handy power that allowed her to disarm an opponent, which
she used to destroy a Sith's lightsaber. During a later
encounter, one of the bad guys used the same power to disarm
one of the other PCs, resulting in that PC's capture.
If the party can obtain weapons or equipment with minimal
effort, there's no reason why your NPCs can't also get them.
In fact, in some cases, the NPCs might have access to better
equipment due to superior contacts or resources.
If the NPCs have it, they can use it. If the adversaries
you're throwing at the PCs have treasures of a special or
magical nature, they should be using the items, not just
leaving them in a dusty chest or weapons locker.
So have the NPCs strap on that +1 leather armor or keep that
combination flame thrower/grenade launcher at the ready. And
while this strategy might lower the item's value (through
depletion of charges or damage to the object), it can also
serve as an incentive to the PCs to attempt to end future
Use the players' own strategies against them. If you're
sending intelligent adversaries after the PCs, then allow
them to utilize commonly known adventuring strategies and
For example, "Kill the mage (or cleric) first" is a strategy
commonly employed by adventurers. Why then wouldn't the NPCs
also employ it?
3. Make Tougher Monsters
Tough monsters are tough for a reason. If an adversary has
multiple attacks or special abilities, by all means let them
be used. If, for example, you throw an ancient spell-using
dragon at the party, that dragon should be using their
spells along with their claws, teeth, breath weapon and
tail. These creatures are fighting for their lives.
Raise the enemy's stats. If you typically throw enemies of
the same or slightly lower level at the PCs, then consider
increasing this to a higher ratio (highest party level + 3
levels, for example). In the case of a non-level based game,
you might want some or all of the NPCs to have better stats
than the most senior party member.
Not all monsters collect treasure. Some adversaries aren't
motivated by the lust for treasure. Some are simply hungry
monsters, or human(oids) trying to survive in their little
patch of ground. Therefore, some NPCs might attempt to
destroy a party member's weaponry or armor or use equipment
damaging traps like acid or hungry rust monsters.
4. Use Trickier Traps
Make traps harder or more lethal. Make a pit deeper or give
a trap the ability to adjust and adapt.
For example, in the movie Resident Evil, the main characters
had to go up against a deadly laser. The first person that
hit it was beheaded.
The next person was a bit more clever and managed to avoid
its deadly attack several times until the laser "learned."
It then went after him using an inescapable grid pattern
which diced the character just before the others were able
to turn it off. Ouch.
Another example of a difficult and ingenious trap is one
that consists of a teleport spell that always goes first and
sends the unlucky soul 15 feet above the illusory ceiling of
the room so that they drop, taking damage. This process
repeats until the creature triggering it is dead. The
barrier is designed to disintegrate dead flesh into dust, so
the only unusual thing about the room the PCs might notice
is an exceptionally thick layer of dust.
Two traps are better than one. If you put a trap in a given
room, why can't you put a second one in the same room? No
reason besides accepted convention. So go ahead and put
another trap into the room.
5. Location is Everything
Take a fresh look at the adventure. Set it aside for a while
(two weeks or more) and then re-read the adventure and re-
examine any included materials - maps, handouts, etc. Try to
see (or create) potential locations for ambushes and full
cover available to both the PCs and their adversaries, along
with any potential hazards.
Don't forget about home court advantage. The PCs are usually
venturing into unfamiliar territory. Adversaries typically
have been living or defending the area for quite some time,
so they should be able to find their way around under low
light conditions, and know the location of traps, secret
passages and potential hiding places.
Use the environment to your advantage. If you're setting
your campaign in the desert, don't forget to remind the PCs
how hot it can be to wear body armor (or full plate). Watery
environments can be hard to move in while encumbered by
armor, equipment and treasure, and at times rather difficult
to cast spells in. Muddy forest floors can also hamper
movement, while the presence of dried fallen leaves can make
it hard to use Stealth to sneak up on the party of orcs 50
6. On-The-Fly Solutions
If you're running an adventure and you realize it's a
cakewalk for your players, here are a few quick ideas that
- Add more monsters. Sometimes pregenerated adventures are
too easy for a gaming group, especially if it's not stated
what level characters the adventure is for. If you realize
the encounters are too easy, bring in some reinforcements.
Combat of any length will typically generate noise, bringing
the curious (or hungry) to come investigate.
- Toughen up the adversaries. Change the stats on the fly by
adding extra hit points, raising the armor class or giving
them extra abilities.
- Add more encounters. Many games have wandering encounter
tables. Put these tables to work for you by selecting the
most difficult encounters or combining one or more events.
If no tables were provided, make up an encounter on the
- Last but not least, call for a break. Your players can get
up, have a snack, use the bathroom, etc. while you attempt
to re-work the adventure. If possible, separate yourself
from the players so you can have some alone time to rework
the adventure. If you're at a good stopping point for the
session, feel free to avail yourself of the opportunity and
* * *
Overly easy adventures can and do happen to many GMs.
Hopefully, these tips will help you make things a little
more challenging for your next gaming session.
Return to Contents
A chance found nowhere else--to build a legend from the ground up.
Led by Paizo and Open Design designers Tim and Eileen
Connors, Tales of the Old Margreve is an opportunity for you
to revisit the most classic fantasy environment of all: the
deep dark forest. Using the Pathfinder RPG rules, you will
pitch a short adventure, have it voted on by fellow patrons,
design it, get expert feedback, and see it professionally
The 8 strongest adventures will be published in Winter 2010.
Pitch, learn, test, and publish at Open Design. It's your
Tales of the Old Margreve (Pathfinder/OGL) at Kobold Quarterly
Return to Contents
For Your Game: 100 Street Scenes
Many fantasy role-playing game adventures contain scenes set
in medieval cities, towns or villages. Although published
adventures will contain information necessary to further the
adventure's plot, they usually don't contain much else.
This situation places the game master in the unenviable
place of presenting only information relevant to the
adventure; doing so makes it more difficult for the game
master to present the settlement as bustling with activity,
while at the same time making the adventure far easier for
It is for this reason the list below was generated. The next
time a player asks what is happening on the street, a quick
percentile roll or five on the table below will fill your
town with activity, some of which may even lead to
Gentle Reader: this list has been formatted as a free .pdf
download for your use; you can get the file by clicking
You can also find it at our Free Downloads page.
- A juggler performs on the street.
- A street preacher makes a loud, public sermon on the back
of a wagon. He is a man of the local religion's cloth and
will not stop preaching for anything less than the drastic
end of the world.
- A crier tells of a prominent minstrel's upcoming
- A teamster is hauling a wagonload of pig iron with a team
of two straining oxen. His destination is a blacksmith shop.
- A woman carrying a stack of books trips in front of the
party and falls over, scattering her books everywhere.
- A street hawker is peddling tin wares; he bangs two tin
pots together to punctuate his sales messages.
- A pane of glass falls out of a window. It shatters on the
- Two wagons recently collided. The respective teamsters
have managed to clear the road and are calmly sorting the
matter out with the watch.
- A pedagogue passes by, with about six noble children
following behind her like ducklings.
- A group of unruly foreigners walk down the street,
laughing and having a good time. Some might be drinking,
even this early in the morning.
- Several kids are jumping into a hay wagon or large
snowdrift from a second story window.
- A merchant briskly approaches, accompanied by a handful
of servants. One carries a large stack of papers, another is
taking sheets of parchment from the pile and placing them on
the back of the third man, upon which the merchant is
signing the documents.
- Marching at double-time, a group of watchmen passes the
party. They barely notice the heroes.
- A street performer leads his trained bear through the
streets. Other passers-by give the animal a wide berth, even
though it is muzzled.
- A group of children playing "Thieves and Sheriffs"
charge across the street, some of whom take cover behind the
heroes' legs. At the DM's discretion, some of the youngsters
may really be thieves.
- A beautiful young girl, dressed in noble attire, travels
down the street with a heavily-armed and armored escort who
wears a visored helm.
- A produce vendor's cart rolls by. The proprietor is
singing quite well as he strolls past.
- A group of laborers are carrying large, unmarked crates
from a wagon into a warehouse or tavern.
- An artist is hawking his paintings from an unhitched
- A group of young rakes pour out of a bar, laughing
- A homeless beggar sits cross-legged at an intersection,
begging bowl in hand.
- A bored-looking clergyman stands next to a statue,
marker or other monument.
- The heroes notice a humanoid figure following them
slowly. If they stop and wait in the shadows for the figure
to pass, it turns down a side street and disappears.
- Two fast-talking men are holding a shell game at a
nearby corner. Ironically, the game is somewhat straight,
but a third associate circulates through the crowd, picking
the pockets of those who stay to watch.
- A watermelon falls onto the street, splattering
everywhere. It was thrown out of a third story window during
a domestic dispute.
- A townsman strolls along, humming a popular tavern song.
- A woman walks by, carrying a large wicker cage full of
- A bedraggled priest approaches the party, asking them to
divest themselves of all wealth or suffer the eternal
consequences of avarice.
- A grossly fat nobleman waddles past; he looks down his
nose as the heroes as he passes.
- A beautiful woman is buying a swath of fine fabric from
a street vendor.
- A small group of young men listen in rapt horror to an
old man's war stories outside a tavern.
- A man walks by with a snake around his shoulders.
- A watchman, oblivious to his surroundings, indulges in
a herring pie.
- A group of watch cadets pass the group, taking part in
their daily run.
- A clearly lost man, trying to hold a large map open,
asks the heroes for help. He doesn't speak the local
language, but repeats the name of the place he is looking
for over and over while gesturing at the map. For bonus
weirdness, the place he is looking for is a bit peculiar -
flesh house, gate place, human living location, etc.
- A wealthy-looking couple, dressed to impress, passes
by. The heroes overhear the woman saying, "I'm sorry your
wife left you for your stepfather."
- A group of limners are constructing a scaffold next to
a nearby building. Most of the men stand in an uneven
circle smoking corncob pipes, watching the youngest member
of the group doing most of the work.
- A "performer" from a well-known cat house dances on
the corner, while a crier calls out the place's hours of
- The night soil cart is making its rounds, stopping
every 20 feet while two men empty chamber pots into a great
cauldron in the cart.
- A group of children runs out of a tavern, with the
waiter or owner in pursuit. Some of the youngsters are
- A preoccupied drunk obliviously runs into one of the
heroes and yells, "Out of my way, you clumsy oaf!"
- A wizard drifts by on a flying carpet, hovering about
a foot above the ground. She sneers at the heroes, looking
at them as if they were beggars.
- A cleric, carrying a book and a sack of vegetables,
walks down the side of the street. He smiles politely and
- A group of rough-looking teenagers lay about on a
corner, looking slantwise at everyone who walks by, and
itching for a fight.
- A pale-looking person walks down the street, stops in
front of the heroes, starts coughing, and vomits on the
- A wagon is causing traffic problems as it tries to back
up two blocks; the teamster missed his destination.
- "Peace cultists" assail the heroes, offering flowers and
chanting, "May your days be full of happiness."
- An acting troupe puts on a performance. They encourage
the audience to participate in their interactive play.
- A street musician plays a lute, with a small, wooden
tankard set upon the ground in front of him. A few copper
coins can be seen in the tankard.
- While walking past a temple, a hero is struck in the
back with rotten fruit (in warmer months) or a snowball (in
winter). The only person visible when the hero looks behind
him is an elderly woman, ambling about nonchalantly.
- Two small children run past the party, wearing homemade
- A small child asks a hero if that is a real
sword/mace/magic wand they're carrying.
- A bride or groom comes running out of a temple and asks
the heroes if they will be witnesses to their marriage.
- A hustler follows the heroes down the block, offering to
sell real black lotus extract for only 10 gold coins.
- Someone approaches the party and relates a long,
complicated story of how he/she was robbed and now needs to
borrow money to buy passage home to a distant city, where
his/her young children are waiting. If the heroes suggest
contacting the watch the "victim" will spin an excuse and
answer questions much more evasively.
- A hopeful artist is making portraits of anyone willing
to stand as a model. She has several pieces laid out for
demonstration. One of the portraits may be a person for whom
the heroes are searching.
- In a crowded street, a beggar sits quietly with a sad
dog at his side. No one seems to be intent on dropping a
- A drunk urinates just inside a nearby alley.
- A young couple is romancing on a haystack behind a
- From an open window you can hear, and later see, a 10-
year-old girl playing the harp rather well.
- On a corner a human minstrel with a lyre, a dwarf
playing an assortment of wooden buckets, and three tieflings
singing in harmony are making fairly good music for an
- A flustered midwife drops her groceries.
- A town crier and noble courier are getting into an
- A temple's bells sound the hour.
- A man pushes two racks of dresses out of a seamstress
- An exotically dressed woman walks away from the market
square. Following her is a small group of people carrying
her parasol, a wax tablet, and stacks of parcels.
- A series of loud banging noises come from a nearby
- An unwashed child runs up behind a wagon, jumps onto
the back, and rides without the driver's knowledge.
- In a small park, recruiters for the watch demonstrate
weapons techniques for a group of youngsters. Several
passersby idly look on.
- The delicious scent of roasted meat wafts from an
eatery the heroes pass.
- A cart selling "roasted rat on a stick" is on the
corner. The proprietor looks surprised as someone dressed
in noble attire strolls up and orders one with honey sauce.
- An older man is selling dramatic masks on the street
for wearing or decoration.
- A drummer practices on the street corner in front of a
- A group of clerics pray aloud in a nearby park.
- An innkeeper and scullery boy hang a sign over their
door, using two rickety ladders.
- An elite clergyman rides down the street in a horse-
- Three well-dressed women, who apparently just met, are
taking off their shoes and showing them to each other.
- An old man flies a kite in the town square.
- A diplomat, resplendent in highly-polished armor and
riding a stately, dapple-gray stallion, leads his personal
guard toward the city's largest military installation.
- A wedding cake is being moved from the pastry chef's
bakery to a temple; several people have stopped to form a
human shield between pedestrians and the five layer
monstrosity, but the people carrying the cake are not very
- A group of obvious foreigners, accompanied by their
dragoman, passes the party.
- A pack of somewhat domestic dogs run about as their
ancestors did. A few moments before, the heroes might have
seen the massive cat they are chasing.
- A courier, dressed in the livery of a local noble house,
runs past the party.
- A half-shaven man runs from a nearby barber shop; the
barber appears in the shop's doorway, throwing bent (fake)
coins at the man while shouting obscenities.
- A gaudily-dressed courtesan, draped with cheap costume
jewelry, approaches the heroes and inquires about where
they are staying.
- A scraggly-looking stray cat hisses at the heroes from
a nearby alley.
- A townsman, smelling strongly of horse manure,
shuffles past the party. He grimaces at any comments made
about the smell, and quickens his pace as he walks away
from the party.
- Traffic on the street stops as a funeral procession
crosses the heroes' path.
- A wagon is pulled up into a nearby alley. The top half
of the wagon's back is open and is serving as a stage for a
troupe of puppeteers. They are performing a very political
- Someone dumps a bucket full of wet, runny garbage onto
the street below; the refuse may or may not hit one of the
- A porter wheels a barrow, filled with sacks of flour,
toward the heroes. His destination is a nearby bakery, if
anyone cares to ask.
- A group of drovers leads a flock of sheep or herd of
cattle down the street. Everyone hurries to get out of the
- A tax collector, traveling with a retinue of six
watchmen and an enormous personal bodyguard, is visiting
each business on the street. One of the guards wheels a
barrow containing a locked strongbox, which is engraved with
the city's coat of arms.
- An ambassador, carried in a sedan chair by four heavily-
muscled men and flanked with Imperial Legionnaires, makes
his way toward a government building.
- A noblewoman is having her portrait painted in the park.
- A half-dozen laborers walk down the street; they are
obviously employed in the town's primary industry. While
they take notice of the heroes, none of them speak to the
- A man dressed in a pointed hat and long robes, both of
which are embroidered with moons and stars, approaches the
heroes and asks if they can help him find his pet cat,
Whiskers. Whether Whiskers is truly missing, or if this
chance meeting is a pretense to ambush the heroes in an
alley, is up to the discretion of the game master.
- The heroes see what appears to be the dried remains of a
large bloodstain on the cobblestones. Any passerby asked
about the stain look furtively at the heroes, then quickly
- The heroes hear a baby crying in a nearby building.
- A man approaches the heroes, offering to hire them as
Return to Contents
Strolen's Feature Article: Cult Generation
by Kuseru Satsujin, with permission from Strolen's Citadel.
These guidelines are in the form of twenty questions to
help the game master formulate a cult for use in their
settings. This guide is designed for use with any genre,
and is not limited to fantasy settings. While originally
designed for groups outside of the normal religious
channels, they can be easily adapted for use in creating
full blown religions.
For game purposes, cults are usually small, secret,
religious organizations with affiliations to archaic or
obscure mythos and various cultural or fictional pantheons.
Cults don't have to be evil, though they may be categorized
as dangerous or destructive. Examples of cults would be a
group that worships Cthulhu, or the Church of Dionysus.
1) What is the name of the cult?
This question is one of the most important tools in creating
a cult. While there may be an idea for the cult, without a
name, it's just an idea. This step allows you to begin the
basis for all steps for all other aspects of the cult.
Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a name without
defining some other aspects of the cult, so don't fret if
you can't think of one immediately. Also, many cults have
nicknames that are used to identify the cult or its
2) When was the cult started, by whom, and why?
Not everyone is going to care about this little section of
information on the cult; however, by answering the question
you can get a good feel for the cult's various policies and
history and the how and why of the cult.
3) What is the cult's history?
Since this can be unknown, even to the cult itself, it's not
as important as the other factors. It does let you add some
flavor to the cult, though, by giving it a background within
4) What are the beliefs of the cult, who or what do they
While not all cults worship someone or something per se,
they may revere particular objects or worship someone.
5) What does it take to get into the cult?
This covers the rites, rituals, or sacrifices that must be
made for entrance into the cult.
6) Where can the cult be found?
This would include the cult's headquarters, if it has one,
but primarily applies to where the cult operates.
Additionally, there might be holy places, sacred lands,
places of power, and cult strongholds.
7) What is the cult's symbology?
Symbology includes apotropiac symbols, insignia, markers,
and vestments specific to that group. Many cults have
apotropiac emblems (holy symbols, fetishes, amulets,
talismans and the like) which represent them and are worn
by most or all members.
Insignia are distinguishing badges worn by members of the
group, and may include crests, badges, sigils, seals, coats
of arms, roundels, ensigns, flags, badges, cockades,
patches, emblems, icons, symbols or logos.
Markers may include unique hairstyles, tattoos, war cries,
distinctive pronouncements, and/or ritual scarring. Specific
vestments or costumes, along with other accouterments may
also be worn.
8) Does the cult have any notable literature?
Notable literature includes books, artwork, and specialized
Holy books can include a canon or bible, hymnal, prayer
book, scroll, magical manuscript, ancient codex, pictorial
incunabulum, accounting ledger, astronomical almanac,
technical manual, as well as advertising brochures or flyers
or informative pamphlets.
Artwork includes paintings, sculptures, statues, tapestries,
drawings, mosaics, figurines, as well as other odds and
ends. Specialized languages may include an argot, cant, or
9) Does the cult have any artifacts?
Artifacts can include relics, magical items, magical weapons
or armor, or other items of interest or special meaning to
10) What practices does the cult have?
This question covers the doctrine, rights, ceremonies,
sacrifices, customs, duties, rites, rituals, and
restrictions specific to the organization.
Doctrine is the principle position of that system of belief.
Rights are the abilities and powers gained as a member of
the group, particularly the rights to perform spiritual
guidance, enact marriage ceremonies, oversee funerals,
engage in omen-reading, the right to a trial by the church
instead of civil authorities, coronation of nobles and
royalty, and the ability to collect tithes.
Ceremonies are formal acts prescribed by convention,
protocol, or ritual.
Sacrifices are the destruction or surrender of a service,
object, or being as an act of worship, the most common forms
include abstinence, animal sacrifice, effigies, enslavement,
fasting, human sacrifice, incense or oil burning, labor,
libations, votive or monetary offerings, self-mutilation,
and labor to the organization.
Customs are common practices among the group, in this case,
primarily social interactions and physical acts on the part
of the members of the cult.
Duties are those obligations that members of the
organization must perform.
Rites are ceremonial activities performed by cult members.
Rituals are ceremonial observances performed in a precise
Restrictions are limitations on the activities of the group
members or specific requirements in their behavior and/or
11) What is the composition of the cult?
In many cases, cults are composed of specifically limited
membership. This can include gender limitations, racial
limitations, as well as limitations based on social or
12) Is it a known cult, or is it secret? If secret, why?
Secrecy plays an important part in deciding several factors
of the cult. Cults that are secret tend to keep their
activities hidden and the cultists are more constrained by
the need for secrecy. Known cults do have secret operations
and activities, but they also perform a more visible role in
achieving their policies and goals.
13) How wealthy is the cult?
This covers the assets of the cult, including both money and
property. A poor cult will tend to rely on begging or
donations to fund its activities, and may not possess any
property, thus being reduced to wandering.
Inadequately funded cults may have threadbare clothing and
paraphernalia, with run-down property in need of repair.
Adequately funded cults tend to have basic clothing and
property, with few embellishments.
Affluent cults generally have higher quality clothing and
property which is well-kept.
Wealthy cults are embodied by rich clothing and property
well decorated in precious metals and gemstones.
14) How large is the cult?
This covers how many members are in the organization.
Denominations tend to be tiny organizations where all
adherents agree on the beliefs and practices.
Faiths are small groups devoted to a particular practice or
A sect is an offshoot of another religion that has one or
more disparate beliefs that set them apart from the rest of
Churches are large, generally public, religious bodies.
Religions tend to be the major national or regional
religious group, often the officially recognized religion of
the nation or region.
15) Who leads the cult and how is it organized?
Who is in charge of the cult and why, and how is the cult
organized - as opposed to composed?
We've already mentioned who makes up the cult; now we want
to know how the cult functions as a group.
Is there a sole leader, group of elite, law-based control,
no control, or voting system?
Is the cult organized on a cell basis, or a
16) What is the cult's agenda?
There can be many goals for a cult. Some cults seek nothing
more than a tax break from the government. Others are
devoted to the worship of a specific deity, location, or
Altruistic cults pursue the goal of bettering people.
Anarchists aim for the abolishment of external control by
authorities over their actions. Some groups espouse the
superiority of their race, gender, or creed.
Engaging in criminal activity is the focus of some cults.
Profit gathering, while present in most cults, does not
always form the cult's primary agenda, but it can. Certain
charismatic leaders form cults to feed their own ego or
desire for power.
Doomsday cults, for whatever reason, believe an apocalypse
is coming, and they either want to help bring it about, or
they want to focus on coming through the event better off
than they were. Utopian cults spring up from the desire for
a group of people to enter or create an idealized society.
Many cults however, seek to gain power in some form or
another, examples of which include gaining political or
magical power, establishing theocratic control over a
region, converting the religion they've splintered off from
to their beliefs, converting everyone to the same religion,
and gaining world domination.
17) What are the activities of the cult?
A wide variety of activities are performed by different
cults. Overall, the cult will have one activity that is its
primary mission or function.
Typical activities of cults include celebrating particular
events, eliminating foes, searching for enlightenment,
proselytizing, providing spiritual guidance, ruling an area,
judging the law, arbitrating agreements, summoning and/or
worshiping particular entities.
In addition, this question identifies the cult's spectacular
mission successes or failures, ongoing activities, past
activities, and other activity.
18) Who are the cult's allies?
Pretty straightforward - are there any groups or
organizations allied to the cult?
19) Who are the cult's enemies?
Like allies, enemies are also simple; what organizations or
groups oppose the cult and its works?
20) Who are the NPCs worthy of note within the cult?
This is a final step after all other areas of the cult
have been considered and the cult has been designed.
Several NPCs should be created to help breathe life into
The cult's creator (if still alive), cult master or
leader, and several supporting officers or officials should
be created. Support characters include clergy with specific
duties, security leaders, as well as other cult leaders,
and possibly some NPCs for remote areas of the cult. The
latter types of NPCs can be created for individual
adventures, rather than at the start of cult creation.
Return to Contents
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.
Return to Contents