Monday, April 13, 2015

Ten Road Adventures

Ten Road Adventures

By: Jesse C Cohoon

If going by what happens in most games, travel on the roadways are mostly uneventful and boring, save for the few times that you’re stopped or delayed due to plot complications. But travel can be much more than a way to get from point A to point B, it can be a hook for potential plot lines, a character’s past, and more. Read on:

1.      Individual Travelers
a.      The Roadway Pickpocket: a seemingly helpless bystander is on the roadway, and asks the PCs for help getting back to town. When they agree, she robs them blind of all their loot while they sleep. If the PCs pursue, they soon lose the trail. When they get back into town, they see her again. Do they chase or not? 

b.      The fleeing victim: a bedraggled, and half-dead traveler stumbles upon the PCs, grasping one of them, saying “They come; flee before it’s too late!” before passing out. When the person comes to again, they can attempt to find out more details about what she or he was fleeing from and what type of a danger it is. 

c.       The plague victim: A person with some sort of pox stumbles upon the PCs. As they go to help, the person grabs onto one of them, infecting them. In a modern day setting this could be the beginning of a zombie outbreak.

d.      The lost innocent: a person was kidnapped and then later abandoned. Due to their age, a disability, or confusion they are unable to tell where they came from. It’s up to the PCs to solve the mystery and get them back to where they belong.

e.       The Wandering Bard: a traveling bard runs across the party and starts asking them about their adventures, about what challenges that they’ve faced. Parting ways after a bit news of the party’s exploits spread far and wide do to the bard’s influence. Are the stories accurate or do they paint the party in a bad light?  

2.      The Troll Bridge: this is similar to the classic tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” with the troll being any nasty monster seeking food (i.e. the PCs) or passage in order not to harass them. This can be twisted in that those guarding it could be a polymorphed creature cursed to collect tolls until someone sees through the curse to the true nature of the person. Another twist might be that the bridge (or other suitable roadway) could be manned by governmental officials, or other such personnel.

3.      Bandits have taken up the roadway robbing any who dare to pass, but leaving them otherwise unharmed. The PCs are on a very time sensitive mission and if they delay – even to fight, it may end up costing them the mission. Do they allow themselves to be robbed so that they can get going or do they fight in order to keep their stuff?  

4.      The Tinker: an old tinker in a wagon is blocking the entire roadway, because it seems to have lost a wheel. The PCs have the time, and well within their skill level to do so. Do they bother to stop and help? Talking to him will give them clues they otherwise would not have had. If they have any broken equipment, he can see if he can fix it for the PCs for doing this favor for him.

In modern times it could be a junker whose car broke down and the PCs are able to fix it.  
5.      The “Road Closed” / Redirected sign. There can be a variety of reasons why a road might be closed or traffic might be redirected.
a.      Flooded Road: The road or bridge may have washed out either due to a flood or to an angry water elemental playing havoc on the local waterways. It also could be too muddy to pass and any attempt at doing so would leave the PCs sunk up to their knees in mud or washed away due to a strong current. Who knows what nasties are in the water? In modern times, it can also be electrified as well!

b.      Construction: This is a type of a thing that takes place mainly in cities. If there’s heavy construction equipment, scaffolding, or ramps that block the road may cause a road to be closed. The PCs hear a cry for help within the construction zone. The workers say that they’re not allowed to go investigate. Do they disobey the order and seek out whoever is asking for help, endangering themselves by not having the proper equipment?     

Similarly, a road can be closed due to road construction or rebuilding. Some materials may be safe to pass over (drying concrete, tar) but may leave evidence of being passed over. If the PCs need to get through the area quickly, do they risk leaving evidence of their passing?

c.       Crime investigation: Sometimes the authorities will want to close down a street in order to ensure there is nothing to contaminate the crime scene. The PCs have committed a crime and must get into the active crime scene investigation – through force, guile, or stealth.

d.      Accident: This happens mainly in more modern day settings. Vehicles crash into one another and ensnare traffic to the point where the authorities need to close the roadway down. If the PCs are in a vehicle, they may need to find a different route.

Similarly, a train might have derailed causing a spill of dangerous chemicals, gasoline, causing the entire area to be evacuated.  
e.       Roadway conditions: icy conditions, excessive amounts of windblown snow, or destroyed roadways due to missing paving stones, potholes or sinkholes all might be responsible for road closures. In mountainous areas the authorities close down the roads for an entire season because they can’t afford the manpower to rescue vehicles that get stuck in the snow. The PCs facing such a situation may be able to get through if they are careful about it, but they may also get stuck… Do they risk it?    

f.        Plague: a group of people has blocked the road going into town and they won’t allow anyone to pass because there’s a plague in the town ahead. The PCs have the cure for it and need to get through. It’s up to them to convince those blocking the road to let them through.
g.      Town Held Hostage: A town is being held hostage by some outside force that comes into the town. The townsmen finally got tired of it so it’s blocked the road to prevent anyone from coming in or out of the town. Do the PCs see how they can help the town?   

h.      Fugitive: A group is looking for a fugitive, which can either be the PCs or someone they know. This can work one of several ways. It can be a roadblock where a person or some group is searching for someone. In this instance the PCs can try the scene from Star Wars in which Obi Wan Kenobi said “These are not the droids that you are looking for.”

Conversely a person or group of people could be on the roadway going from group to group to question them, and/or search for their fugitive.

6.      Groups
a.      The Traveling Caravan: The party comes alongside a merchant caravan and the PCs are hired as guards to protect its cargo. What the PCs weren’t told is that their cargo are something that they would object to (an addicting drug, slaves, black market goods, etc.). Once they find out do they fulfil the terms of their contract or not?   

b.      The Circus/ Musical Troupe: The PCs run across a circus or musical troupe and in order to infiltrate an enemy kingdom, they join it in order to slip past the country’s border unchallenged. If found out, they have to talk their traveling companions not to give them up. Conversely, a circus or musical troupe might join the PCs that are up to no good and the PCs have to stop them from causing irreparable harm.  
7.      Traps: Someone could have dug a spiked pit for the unwary, harried, or stupid to fall into. In this case, the PCs must find out who’s responsible and why. Other types of traps that may be appropriate for the road are bear traps, and spiked log traps.         

8.      Fleeing
a.      People Fleeing Disaster: there is a group of people coming towards the PCs who are fleeing from something: a fire, flood or barbarians that are pillaging and burning the town up ahead. What can the PCs do to help, if anything?    

b.      Monsters Fleeing: some much more powerful monster has moved into the area and even monsters that will generally tolerate one another’s presence are fleeing, not even bothering to take account of the fact that the PCs are in the way. The PCs need to find out what’s going on and fast before the situation becomes problematic for the nearby towns.  

9.      Army on the Road: An army is marching on the road. The PCs need to find out what’s going on without causing problems for themselves or anyone else in the area. What tactic can they use to do so without getting caught?  

10.  Cultists: a group of cultists is spreading death, and decay for some evil deity or demon. Because their pattern is at random where they strike, it’s up to the PCs to cast a wide net to be able to catch and stop them before the whole area falls to this evil influence.


Monday, March 30, 2015

10 Unique Magic Systems

10 Unique Magic Systems
By: Jesse C Cohoon

1.    Racial magic: each race has its own magic systems. For instance:
  • Elves are well known for their magical mastery over natural areas 
  • Dwarves are known for working with stone, weapons and armor
  •  Gnomes are known for illusionists
This can work one of several ways, in that the magic can be so ingrained into the fabric and identity of who and what the race is and what it represents that the magic is inseparable. Another way of envisioning it is that it’s mainly training, so that a person raised in another society could pick up much, if not all the magical skills of where they were raised.

2.    “Land Magic” is what the card game – Magic: the Gathering is all about –Here are a couple of links how it works in the actual game, and the ideas behind them:

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use cards to use the concepts behind the colors.

Instead of using the colors/ types of land, you could even use different biomes to summon creatures/ various powers from. Here’s a good list to start with.

Image result for swamp magicAQUATIC BIOMES
•    Freshwater
•    Freshwater wetlands
•    Marine
•    Coral reef
•    Esturaries

•    Tundra
•    Rainforest
•    Savanna
•    Taiga
•    Temperate forest
•    Temperate grassland
•    Alpine
•    Chaparral
•    Desert
•    Badlands

More on biomes here

3.    Family Magic: magic that is passed down through the generations from parents to their children. Many times this magic may be cast either differently or more powerful in some ways than “standard.” For instance, instead of learning “fireball,” someone may learn “waterball” or “airball” at the same level, or perhaps the spell they cast is able to be cast either easier or with a bonus to hit, damage, range or some other relevant feature.

A similar idea is “bloodline magic” which says if you have some unusual lineage in your background such as dragon, vampire, werewolf, etc. – it increases your spellcasting ability, potentially giving you some of the base powers of the lineage as you explore it further.

4.    Card based magic: This type of magic is shown in the Yu-Gi-Oh card, Magic the Gathering, and many other games. In these types of games the magic itself is in the card itself and must be played (sometimes with the use of other cards to be able to summon their effects, such as lands in Magic the Gathering or a less powerful one to summon a more powerful one in Yu-Gi-Oh). 

One time I played with a “deck of the planes” where different combination of different plane powered cards, and the DM adjudicated whether or not I was able to do what I said I wanted to do – and how much power it took to do so.  

5.    Pattern magic as shown in David Drake’s Lord of the Isles series with Ilna being a master weaver whose patterns changed the world around her. She learned these patterns while being trapped in hell. The only materials needed for this type of magic? A skein of yarn.

6.    Magic bonding, as shown in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar universe where people gain powers by bonding to magical, sentient horses. Similar bonding with other people can be seen in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, with the Aes Sedai and their Warders, as well as the Dragon Riders of Pern. The bonds go both ways, so what one is feeling the other feels as well. If done with monsters, you can have a Pok√©mon/ Digimon feel to it.

One way that bonding magic could work is that only one of the pair is magical and the other is the “power source” which allows them to cast. Another way is to have each of them have a certain percentage of the power but need the other to “complete the circuit” in order to be able to cast.

7.    Rhythmic magic which uses music, poetry, inspirational speeches, clever wit as magic, as in L.E. Modesitt, Jr, series Soprano Sorceress; Christopher Stasheff’s A Wizard in Rhyme; and Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series. It also seems to be played with in some games’ version of the bard class (though never as powerful as it should be imho). One DM I had allowed me to play it as I wanted to be, in that I was able to try to cast anything I could think of I could do realistically with music. Whether it worked (or the dice were against me) was another story altogether.  

8.    Alchemical magic effects which can cause quasi-magical effects from potions, salves, powders/ dusts, and more. These concoctions are often made with strange, rare, and oftentimes dangerous-to-get ingredients. Some of these ingredients may not even be needed (or in fact may be deadly) in the final combination that the alchemist prepares. Most of the time the long-term use of such mixtures is unknown and unstudied. 

9.    Magic by physical perfection, stance, etc. as monks, or the classes presented in the “Tome of Battle, book of 9 swords.” Cashel in David Drake’s Lord of the Isles and Rock Lee in Naruto are such people. Those aiming for physical perfection can push themselves to incredible lengths, sometimes being able to compete with masters of magical arts who use other means of magic. But these marks of perfection aren’t without their price: they may push themselves too far and either severely injure themselves or die in the process. 

10.    Life as magic: in this system magic itself is vampiric in nature. This can be represented in one of several ways.

One way is that the magic user ages unnaturally and must rest to store magic up for the next magic battle that they are to be a part of. This is how the Dennis L. McKiernan uses Mages in his books.

Another way is that it could zap the life of the planet itself, draining the plant and animal life as in the world of Athas. People who do this deliberately are called Defilers. In the Dark Sun setting defiling is a good way of making a lot of enemies, as well as losing allies - but sometimes the choice comes down to "Do I save myself (and everyone else) now, or do I let everything I've worked so hard up to this point fall to pieces by letting myself get killed?"

A third way that life can be used to fuel magic is that there could be a mystical connection to another. This connection could be on purpose so that the magic user doesn’t drain his or her own life force. The moral problem with doing such a thing is that the magic user would essentially be slowly killing them. The magic might link people who don’t know each other, as in C.S Friedman’s Magister Trilogy – the symptoms of being drained are a soul draining exhaustion that drains the will to live but has no other treatable symptoms.

A final way that this could be done is through the abhorrent practice of sacrificial magic, whereby someone or something is killed in order to give the magic user power to cast his or her spells.

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