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Adventure Outline Collection

BenS

Member
Hey guys,

I am not sure how it is for you, but after constructing, playing and completing homebrew campaigns or adventures, I'd usually like to play them again, with the knowledge and experience I gained from the first run through. As this is rarely possible unless you DM in multiple groups, I want to use this thread to share more or less abstract campaign outlines as well as my experience playing it, so you can get inspired and potentially learn from my mistakes. Also, bragging about things that went well is of course a major topic :p.
This is not meant to be a full adventure release for a specific system (I usually play tde5), but something that you can adapt to your own system, setting and play style. I'll very likely include the choices of setting etc. I made, but as said I believe most stories can and should be adapted to your liking.
 

BenS

Member
Republic of thieves

Inspiration
: "The Republic of Thieves" (Gentleman Bastards, Book 3 by Scott Lynch)
Main Idea: The heroes are thrown into a gang war between three parties (+ a hidden one) and need to "resolve" it to save their friend
Setting: I used a medieval fantasy city similar to Venice in fall, as it immediately generates a very dense atmosphere and also allows for a lot of action (running on roofs, jumping over channels, diving through sunken buildings...) if need be, but any system + city would very likely do (I thought the italian flair fit very well, as there are lot's of mafia/camorra connotations already for the players).

Background:
  • The gangs
    • There are three gangs in the city (Barsavi, Pello, Lugosi)
    • There used to be more gangs, but bloody territory wars wiped the rest out
  • The secret peace
    • Due to the wars between the gangs and also between the gangs and the city guards, a secret peace was struck between the nobles of the city, the guard and the gangs: As long as the gangs properly bribe the guards and keep their crime away from the nobles (therefore only extorting the medium- or low-income people of the city), the gangs and their "business" will be tolerated
  • The election
    • The only condition for this was that the gangs elected a single leader or spokesperson with whom the nobles could interact with if need be
    • Every five years an election will be held and a couple of days after the heroes hear about it, the next election will be held
    • Up until now, the leader of the Barsavis was reelected twice and plans to make this happen for a third time, as it comes with certain perks of power over the other gangs that he doesn't want to lose...
    • Only the leaders of the three gangs are allowed to cast a vote in this election
  • The Vampire
    • The leader of the Lugosi Gang is a rather powerful vampire using his prostitutes to "steal" blood for him and earn him riches
    • This is a distraction and can be used as a side-quest, as an ally etc.
  • The secret party
    • Besides the three gangs is a fourth, hidden party that claims to be a new and mysterious gang
    • In reality they are just a handful of scam artists, trying to cause as much confusion and chaos while trying to steal as much money (e.g. all stolen treasures of Barsavi)
People:
  • The friend of the heroes asking for help
    • Used to introduce the players to the task at hand, city, the gangs etc.
  • The three gang leaders
    • each should have specific symbols, rites, looks, interests and motivations
  • The secret, fourth party
Plot/Encounters:
The idea is to get the players started on an easy to understand problem (convince/kill someone) and then quickly throw in more and more complexity and complications until they are in the middle of a gang war and need to make decisions to save their life and the live of their friend. The trick here is to switch the goal of the adventure a couple of times by throwing a bigger problem at the players. What made the campaign most enjoyable was the fact that every faction had very specific, sometimes overlapping goals and secrets which it tried to achieve in one way or another.

The story was like this:
  1. Their friend asks them for help as he will be murdered by the Barsavis in 24 hours unless he kills the leader of the Lugosis or convinces him to cast his vote for Barsavi in the next elections
  2. The group found many clues leading them to believe that the leader of the Lugosis is in fact a very powerful vampire using his prostitutes to still his bloodthirst. Still, they were not able to prove any of it.
    1. They talked to him and were able to convince him to vote for Barsavi if he gets "official" control of the gambling in the city
    2. They decided not to fight him
  3. Afterwards they had a spontaneous falling out with the Pellos who didn't like them striking deals with Barsavi and started a fight
  4. Suddenly, the group got dragged into the kidnapping of the daughter of the leader of the Barsavis, by a mysterious fourth party
  5. The group gets contacted by said fourth party to negotiate with Barsavi, claiming they are a new gang that wants their own territory and niche of crime (gambling + extortion)
  6. Enraged, Barsavi brings almost all his men to the negotiations and the group immediately gives him a sealed letter (trying to double-cross the fourth party) stating where to find his daughter
  7. Barsavi forces the group to join him in finding his daughter, only to find her murdered
  8. shortly afterwards, he get's betrayed and killed by his own guards who are working for the fourth party
  9. Both Pello and Lugosi have also been contacted by the fourth party with the claim that they should be able to ambush and kill all of Barsavis men at a specific location
  10. A fight breaks out between all three gangs and Barsavis guards flee
  11. My players followed the fleeing guards, leading them to the burning headquarters of the Barsavi gang, where the members of the fourth party are currently stealing all the treasures of the Barsavi gang
  12. A fight breaks out and my players were able to kill all of the robbers and "confiscate" the treasures for themselves...

Experiences:
All in all this campaign worked out very well and after stating the initial target, it was way more sandboxy than I initially expected. Once I focused on the NPCs and their goals rather than and planned events, this became a lot of fun for all types of players, as they could have very social or roleplaying oriented situations as well as very action heavy footing. This setting might be harder on DMs that don't like to plan for more stringent plots, as the outcome might vary heavily depending on the decision of the players.
  • Plant a lot of hints for the players to have that feeling of "shoot, I could've solved this a while ago already"
    • Rumors of the fourth party early on
    • The guards of Barsavi wearing unusual tattoos
    • A falcon sent by one of the fourth parties magicians following the players
    • Prostitutes being surprisingly goodlooking and cheap
    • Display a lot of affection from Barsavi for his daughter, making her his biggest weakness
    • The Pello or Lugosi bosses subtly mistaking the players for agents of the fourth party
    • A good one was that the players thought that the plan of the fourth party to negotiate didn't make any sense and that it would be easy to double cross them... What they didn't know was that the plan was never to complete the negotiations in the first place
    • ...
  • Make sure people get the names of the gangs right or make them more easy to understand. My players confused the names up until 2/3rds of the campaign...
    • A trick Neil Gaiman came up with are "hats": Unique identifiers that are easier to remember than easy to confuse names. I gave each gang a unique sign or symbol that marks their members territory etc. That makes it easier for the players to associate everything correctly
    • My symbols were:
      • Barsavi -> the symbol of a crown and a silver-laced bandana every member wears
      • Pello -> The symbol of an axe and every member wears a small axe or hatched at all times
      • Lugosi -> A black vortex, tattooed in the neck of every member
    • This also makes it easy to come up with dramatic scenes like "Silently the alledgedly peacful citizens around you draw small hatchets from beneath their tunics and coats and start surrounding you. You can now see their drug-crazed faces..."
  • Plot-Structure
    • It's really hard to plan a linear plot for a setting like this, so try to focus much more on the individual goals and characters of the different parties (Johnn wrote about this "Villain first" approach a while ago if I remember correctly)
    • Make it a habit to not give the players any clear, black and white information, but let them decide in the end if and who they want to fight for
      • My players really liked the idea that they could flee at any given moment, but didn't want to, as their friend needed support
    • The benefit of this is that you can scale this type of campaign very easily
      • add/remove gangs
      • Involve the nobles and the city guard
        • I considered giving the nobles a vote in the election, but as I only had about 4-5 sessions for this campaign, I restricted it to the gang leaders, which already creates enough conflict for a good story
      • Make the city bigger or smaller
      • Involve the regular citizens in this. Do they like the gangs? Do they despise them? Can the players tell them about the "secret peace"?
    • Surprise after Surprise
      • Gangsters, Vampires, Wizards, Betrayal, Secrets, you name it, we got it
  • Specific details
    • Make sure all gangster bosses are hard to get to, but not invulnerable
    • Make sure to make the gangster bosses clever businessman rather than crazy madmen
    • If it comes to this, in the end, bring the Barsavis to a place (I made it a swimming market) where they can easily be ambushed

If you have any specific question, please let me know, otherwise feel free to steal as much as possible from this, if you like it. Just make sure not to publish it, as there are some very strong inspirations from the book (which I can definitely recommend btw.).
 

BenS

Member
Six Idiots

Inspiration
: This one-shot was based on the idea that not all curses have to be inherently evil or corrupting, but might actually be intended to be bad jokes.
Main idea: Give the players funny curses and let them work to get rid of them.
Setting: It was designed to be rather on the funny, lighthearted and silly side, so most settings should be easily adapted.

The plot/encounters:
  • The players are summoned to a small town, as an old friend claims to have found an old ruin with the potential for a lot of treasures and needs support in retrieving it
  • The heroes arrive at the designated meeting point just in time to see their friend get in trouble with a group of farmers/soldiers/guards for insulting them
  • The friend looks tired and schizophrenic, but seems to keep on insulting the guards against his will
  • In the following (fist-) fight, the friend falls badly and dies immediately
  • After the fight ends, the heroes try to heal their friend or touch him in any other way and the actual adventure begins, as they get cursed with the most idiotic curses possible
  • All of a sudden all players carry one or more more or less annoying blessings/curses :
  1. The player is constantly involuntarily insulting everyone around him. This course leads to very obvious comedy and is pure gold if given to the right player. This course however gives the player the very rudimentary ability to magically "see" the mental weaknesses of npcs if the player passes his perception checks. E.g. Things the npcs feel insecure about..
  2. The player is blind to all living beings in a 30 foot radius around him. He can see everything else (walls, stones, chairs, clothes etc.), but not the being itself. The only thing he sees are very thin colored nebulas. This is also the blessing: When he passes an appropriate preception check he is able to also see the nebulas of invisible beings
  3. Things start temporarily sticking to the player at random. Clothes, glasses, door handles etc.. The blessing of this is the semi-controllable ability to climb pretty much anything without much effort. Can lead to funny situations, e.g. if the warrior is walking around with a chair "glued" to his butt for a couple of minutes
  4. The player has auditive illusions at random. Someone knocking at the door, laughter, snoring... My favorites were squeaking shoes or the most insidious one: Sometimes when the players stopped walking, he would still hear the sound of one or two more footsteps after they already were standing still. The blessing of this was the ability to rudimentarily be able to "hear" bits and pieces of npc-thoughts.
  5. The player is not able to turn left. He can turn right three times, but his body is simply blocking all movement to the left. The blessing: All attacks to the right get e.g. increased damage.
  6. Finally, my favorite: A wooden spoon. Whenever the player puts his hand in his or another pocket, he'll find a wooden spoon there. It's indestructable without magic and he can leave it anywhere, but it'll always be with him once he puts his hands in any kind of pocket. The blessing: an indestructable spoon that can be summoned anywhere.
  • After "receiving" these curses and exploring them and their blessings, the heroes set out to get rid of them
  • After some encounters, they find out that their friends found the hidden group-grave/mausoleum/dungeon of a group of six powerful sorcerers/witches/spiritualists, that were known to use their powers mostly to play odd pranks on people. Each of them had their trademark style of humor, which is reflected in the curses.
  • The friend of the group found the grave, accidentally activated the curses and retreated because some monsters build a nest in the first room of the dungeon over time.
  • In general the curses were meant to prank people while they stumble through the dungeon and be lifted once the dungeon is completed.
  • In my case the whole dungeon was designed to foreshadow that a huge spider may live in it, when there was no showdown at all, but after fighting the initial critters and solving some riddles the heroes were simply confronted with the illusion of a duck that exploded into harmless glitter, while the heroes were armed to their teeth and ready to fight.
  • Finally, when the heroes have "solved" the dungeon, they are confronted by the ghosts or something similar that gives them the choice to get rid of the curse or roll a die. If they choose the die and luck is in their favor they keep the blessing, if they are unlucky, they also keep the curse, but can not switch it anymore.

Notes and experiences:
This was a very fun experience without the need of a lot of preparation (I spent 80% on the creative insults) and the players liked the exploration part when they were first confronted by the wird symptoms. It is not a good adverture for a very serious group or world (Warhammer fantasy, I am looking at you), but also great for team building.
  • Be as creative as possible with the curses, your players will thank you!
  • I prepared a list of funny and clever insults for every other player of the group as well as a general list for npcs, which I loved to throw at them at random
  • If there is interest, I can translate my list of insults. My favorite: "When the gods gave you teeth, they ruined a perfectly fine asshole!". The city guards did not approve
  • Give the players enough time to discover their curses/blessings. This in n itself was a lot of fun
  • If you want, create a "hidden" logic of how to switch curses between players. For me, very intimate physical contact was needed between two players to switch curses. This gave the curses another tactical layer. Just make sure they can not get rid of any curse or use the switching too inflationary.
  • Just like every good joke, you should play with the expectations of the players when it comes to the dungeon. If the players expect standard riddles, give them weird ones, like math problems or budget planning. If they expect a boss fight, give them a duck... Just imagine what a group of magicians with a very weird sense of humor would do.
 
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