I'm working on another adventure

Edgewise

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Hey, I decided to start this thread because I'm working on another adventure and I wanted a place to talk about it, bounce ideas off other people, get ideas from brilliant pubbers, etc. Feel free to comment on anything I mention here, and beyond.

The Adventure!
The adventure I'm working on is tentatively titled The Old Ways. It's basically a hexcrawl with purpose. The players are hired by a foreign trading bank to find a traversable route between a certain mountain pass and a very large lake, with a forest in between. There is an ancient overgrown road through the region, but the map the players get is wrong, and there are plenty of obstacles they need to deal with to blaze their trail (obviously).

Location, Location, Location
The vibe of the adventure setting is a combination of points-of-light and faerie forest. Think of something like Dolemwood or early Zzarchov Kowalski adventures (1k Dead Babies and Gnomes of Levnec). There are two settlements in the area: a prosperous fortified hamlet which is occupied by some very zealous knights (who aren't at all tolerant of sorcery) and a seedy logging camp that is reminiscent of Deadwood. The party has to travel back and forth to these settlements while mapping out a trail and possibly hiring work crews to clear obstacles. There's a fair amount of resource management, and I have drafted some very simple rules to handle this stuff.

Fun Elements
While there is no fixed plot, there are several different factions with their own goals, and some simple rules are provided to handle emergent events. There's a lot of tension between the New Faith, as represented by the knightly order in the hamlet, and the Old Ways i.e. the displaced pagan practices that still lurk around the edges. The Old Gods are greatly diminished, but they inhabit the forest as mythic demigods like Paul Bunyon-type figures. Meanwhile, a cult of devil worshipers has their own objective, as does a coven of witches that inhabits the swamp.

There are a few other interesting factions: a group of bandits who have turned their hideout into a fake haunted house and plan to rob the logging camp, a troll who has now declared himself the Troll King after finding a magical artifact, a tribe of inbred hillfolk who are secretly werewolves forced to serve the witches. There's a blood feud between prominent families in the hamlet, and one family will petition the party to build their route through the town while the other will violent oppose them. There are faeries in the forest who will sabotage work sites at night.

Monsters
I've also come up with a few important monsters. The most important are the woodwose. They are the fodder monsters here, but they're pretty tough for fodder. I came up with the woodwose after encountering them in a few recent OSR products. After running into them a few times, I looked them up; apparently, woodwose are like a European sasquatch i.e. big and hairy bestial men.

I decided to tweak them a bit and play up an aspect of the folklore which is that it's not clear whether woodwose are supposed to be savage humans or another species entirely. In this setting, the woodwose is a kind of contagious madness that transforms men into monsters. Hermits routinely change into woodwose after long periods of time in the wilderness, but the woodwose themselves are able to accelerate the process by capturing humans and surrounding them with chanting and drumming. This can transform men into woodwose within a couple days.

My concept of the woodwose is that they are huge and hairy ogre-like creatures, cunning but constantly babbling nonsense and emitting various shrieks and grunts. Those in close quarters must save to avoid being confused by this constant din. There are two bands of them in the area; one serves the Troll King and the other inhabits an ancient ruin in the forest. Both will grow over time, and raid settlements if not curtailed.

The other monsters I came up with for the setting are snails. I figured that spiders and forests have been done to death, it's time for lethal snails. So far, I have two deadly snail species: the Giant Cone Snail and Drop Snails. GCS's lurk in the rivers and lakes, and if you get too close, they fire a paralytic harpoon up to 15'. Then they drag you in the water to drown. Lumberjacks hate these, since they use the main river to transport the trunks. Drop Snails are just snails that climb trees and try to drop on the heads of unsuspecting passersby. Terrifying.

Other Stuff
There are also a couple of ruins, and some fun McGuffins: the pagans are looking for a ritual to summon an avatar of their war god to drive out the knights. The devil worshipers want to capture this avatar and sacrifice it to create their own far more terrible avatar. The witches want to release the Wild Hunt from its imprisonment in a barrow tomb. The werewolves seek an artifact that gives them power over the moon, so they can transform whenever they want and turn against the witches.

Feedback
Thoughts? Feelings? I don't have any questions yet but I'm totally open to hear peoples' ideas and opinions.

By the way, my goal is to keep this whole thing under 40 pages. That's with encounter tables, rumor tables, rules for trailblazing, sub-locations, etc. I don't think any of the locations on the map will be as extensive as a dungeon - anything that has its own map will have less than a dozen areas. But this is going to be a helluva challenge, don't you think?
 

Voros

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Sounds pretty amazing with several distinctive and flavourful touches to me. Maybe we can play test it here via PbP!
 

Edgewise

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Sounds pretty amazing with several distinctive and flavourful touches to me. Maybe we can play test it here via PbP!
I'd be down for it - maybe to run with Old-School Essentials. I probably need to hammer out a few more details before that can happen (mainly the encounter tables).
 

Brock Savage

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HI Edgewise, I don't have much to add besides letting you know I am looking forward to seeing more.
 

Edgewise

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I have maps! Would anyone like to see the maps? If I ever do a PbP of it here, that's major spoiler territory.

It's got structure that I'm gradually filling in. Once it's all there, I can get rid of redundancies and condense loose verbiage. But can all these ideas be fit into a manageable package? Watch me try to make it happen!

Encounters
I'm taking a slightly idiosyncratic approach to encounters. The party checks for encounters once at night and once for the day, and once per hex traversed. A check can consist of several rolls; there's a 1-in-6 roll for the terrain, and if the party happens to occupy the territory of any lairs, you check for each overlapped territory.

If an encounter occurs, you roll on the appropriate table. This consists of a single roll to determine what is encountered and another roll ("disposition") to determine what it's up to. For instance, if you run into a group of ruffians in the outskirts of the logging camp, roll 1d6:

1Harassing someone else.
2Looking for someone vulnerable to rob.
3Cartel thugs inspecting strangers and shaking them down.
4Arguing over spoils.
5Recovering from injuries.
6Fleeing from authorities.

(Damn, that pasted nicely!)

And here are possible dispositions for a group of farmers outside the hamlet:

1Transporting grains.
2Responding to an emergency.
3Resting or sleeping.
4Heated dispute in long-running feud.
5Eating.
6Religious celebration.

Nothing crazy, but I feel like it would help me a lot at the table to keep encounters from being just "you meet a group of X numbering N individuals." If I rolled "responding to an emergency," for the farmers, then maybe they are trying to put out a fire or stop a worker from bleeding to death. The PCs might help out and make friends, which also makes the players feel more connected to the world. That becomes low-hanging fruit for the GM.

So I'm creating encounter tables where each encounter also has its own disposition table. One table per terrain type and faction territory. This is going to take a little time.

Population and other systems
Also, as the population of a faction goes up or down, the chance of encounter in its territory changes correspondingly. So there's a "living world" situation where the woodwose can get out of control, and once that happens, they start overrunning the settlements. Or you can stamp them out before it becomes too much of a problem. Every week, the GM determines whether a couple locations contract or expand.

There are simple systems for all these things; it can be a bit much for a GM but I intend to create tracking sheets to simplify the whole process. As usual, the difficult thing for me is knowing when to say when.

For instance, I also have a very simple system for weather. There are three types of weather: clear, difficulty and terrible. Every day, the GM rolls 1d20 on a season-dependent table to determine which condition applies for the day. The type of weather affects how fatiguing travel and outdoor labor are, and the amount of damage you could take from exposure.

Those are the entirety of the weather rules. It's up to the GM to decide what exactly is "difficult" weather. It could be endless rain, cold and windy, or just unbearably hot. Terrible weather could be a hurricane, or a frostbite-inducing cold snap.

They're all "simple" systems, so the trick is making sure they don't add up into a confusing mess. Ultimately, I'm trying to make it easier for a GM to manage the details of an adventure like this.
 

Brock Savage

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Hey @Edgewise I like encounter tables that lend themselves to player engagement and give the players something to do or at least think about and don't see the point of mundane, flavor text encounters. For the farmers, #1 #3 and #5 have verisimilitude but they don't give players much to interact with. Encounter #2 responding to an emergency is a good premise but needs examples.
  • Hauling goods to market (has something interesting on board)
  • Injury or sickness (woman in labor, the plague, broken leg)
  • Stuck in road (broken axle, lamed animal, abandoned wagon)
  • Bandit or ruffian attack (before, during, or after).
 

rredmond

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Hmm, sounds like I could easily run bits of that in AD&D 1E for my daughters (17, 15, 12, and 8 and maybe the oldest's BF :clown: - just kidding he's ok) if you ever need extra playtesters. :smile:
Sounds fun though!
 

Edgewise

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For the farmers, #1 #3 and #5 have verisimilitude but they don't give players much to interact with.
Well, I'm going to be refining these, but I don't know if I need every single encounter with farmers to have something exciting happening. I'm not sure I could think of enough interesting things for farmers to be doing. It might be OK to have some encounters which are just there for color and verisimilitude; the GM can just describe a family of farm laborers eating a midday lunch as scenery unless the PCs ask for directions or whatever.
Encounter #2 responding to an emergency is a good premise but needs examples.
Well, the philosophy here is not to fully design the encounter with die rolls, but just to give the GM some inspiration to work with. My concern is that the tables are already pretty extensive. My thought is that a good GM can easily think up some farming crisis on the spot, so I'd rather not overdesign it.
 

Edgewise

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Hey Brock I'm glad for all the feedback - don't hold back! It's still in an amorphous stage so I could always double back and change my mind. I'm just letting you know where I'm coming from.
 

Brock Savage

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@Edgewise No worries. It takes a lot of guts to put creative works out there. I want to be clear that I am not nit-picking or trashing your work. If I thought someone's work was bad or uninteresting I would offer no comment at all instrad of trashing it.
 

Edgewise

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OK, I couldn't help myself...here are maps! Since I can wrap the images in spoiler tags, you choose whether you care. If you want only a tiny spoiler, check out just the player map. That will be given to players after they accept the job.

11126
11127

I made them with Hex Kit, which is really easy to use and quite pretty for hexmaps. I particularly like how easy it is to create convincing shorelines. Rivers could be done a little better, but that could be easily corrected by creating my own assets. Well not easily...I'm not a graphic design guy. But you get the idea. I didn't even try that hard for these maps and I think they are surprisingly presentable.
 

Winterblight

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Love the maps!

The adventure sounds interesting. As a GM there are two things that jump into my mind. 1. Why is the map the players get wrong (my brain is cryin' out for a conspiracy)? 2. The ancient road. I want to know more about that.
 

Edgewise

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Love the maps!
v
Thanks! I think they look quite nice but it's all Hex Kit.
1. Why is the map the players get wrong (my brain is cryin' out for a conspiracy)?
Sadly nothing so elaborate. The maps were created by the employers of the party based on multiple old maps that were created by cartographers of highly varied skill. So they are based on old semi-reliable data that has been stitched together by foreigners who never visited the region. It's all due to understandable inaccuracies.
2. The ancient road. I want to know more about that.
The road itself doesn't have much history at the moment, which might be worth something worth revisiting now that you have me thinking about it. As of now, it's just a leg of a very ancient road which has fallen into a long period of disuse. It once passed through a major city whose remnants now consist of a handful of ruined buildings.

I do have a very rough idea of the history of the area, but I intend to reveal it through hints here and there, and the PCs don't really need to know it. It just exists. Sort of like a Dark Souls approach where pieces will be revealed through lore in the few remaining artifacts of the past.

On a different note, I saw a really interesting Youtube video with a very nice and specific approach to deepening the religion and mythology of your fantasy setting. Since one of the themes of this adventure is friction between old and new faiths, I was very interested.


tl;dr she's recommending that you create one central story for your religion/pantheon featuring a specific set of roles: authority, haven, purpose and treachery. I prefer to rename them a little: authority, nurturer, hero and rebel. But I tried this system and I came up with two very different and characteristic creation myths for my fantasy religions, and I think they add a lot of flavor and depth.
 

Edgewise

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Posting ongoing thoughts and directions...

System
Since mentioning that I'd be willing to run this PbP with Old-School Essentials (eventually...it's not ready even from rough playtesting), I've been thinking that this would actually be a good system to write this adventure for. A couple reasons - first, I've been getting early releases of OSE materials and I really enjoy them, especially the "advanced" material.


Second, I think this will be a popular system shortly after its release. It stands a good chance of becoming the de facto B/X standard for OSR adventures just because its purity makes it so flexible to all the other B/X clones.

Third, the simplicity of the system requires that I keep my supplementary mechanics likewise simple. It should mesh smoothly with the greater OSE system as a test of usability.

Striking a balance
One of the challenges of design for an adventure like this is that it could last long enough to see PCs rise several levels. Since it's an open-ended hexcrawl in a D&D-based game, this makes it a lot harder to present a reasonable set of challenges than in a dungeon. Yes, I know that a purist says to let the dice fall where they may - go ahead and drop 1d6 Hill Giants on a 1st level party.


But I am nothing if not impure. I'm all for open-endedness, but I like to give the players a lot of control about opting out of danger, up to a point. So that requires some form of signposting or staging, however so mild.

I have to think about this more. Right now I note that most of civilization is on one side of the map (West), and the destination is on the other side (East). It's pretty easy to make sure that the fixed locations are more dangerous and higher level towards the east, and I might even have more dangerous random encounters. That's my thought on the matter so far.

New monsters
A new monster I've come up with for a certain region is the Barrow Wight. These are basically powerful Wights who are able to spam phantasmal force and cast sleep once a day. They are confined to their barrows, and those that they kill become harmless ghosts under the Barrow Wight's control. They use these ghosts, their illusions and their real treasure to lure people to their doom.

Yes, these are very close to the ones in Fellowship.


In this way, Barrow Wights serve this aesthetic of controlled danger that I was talking about. They cannot leave their barrows or force PCs to enter. But they can lure the party with tricks and treasures, and higher-level PCs might find it worthwhile. Until then, they are just creepy as hell.

Every terrain type in this adventure, so far, has a chance of encountering ghosts. These aren't the classic 1e ghosts that cause aging damage - they are mostly harmless but meant to be atmospheric and sometimes give the party useful clues. They can also be unsettling or lead the party directly into danger. Sometimes you get a simple reward for finding and burying their remains. This is all on the encounter tables.

Art!
If I want to put a little more effort into this one, I'm eventually going to need to commission some kind of art. Because I'm a terrible artist. I have no idea how to go about this. Ideally, it would be good art - or even better. Any ideas?

That's all for now!
 

Voros

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Art!
If I want to put a little more effort into this one, I'm eventually going to need to commission some kind of art. Because I'm a terrible artist. I have no idea how to go about this. Ideally, it would be good art - or even better. Any ideas?

That's all for now!
I think you need to decide how much you can afford to pay the artists first. Figure out what the going rate is. Perhaps offer them a percentage of sales as well but they need a reasonable fee up front because they are so often asked to work for 'exposure.'

Most active OSR artists seem to be on Twitter or Instagram and I think you could reach out to them that way. There are lots of well known artists who if you show them your previous work and the positive review by @bryce0lynch I think would probably be open to working with you but you may also want to give some lesser known artists a shot as well. Some modern OSR artists are featured in this thread.

I use to work in magazine publishing and honestly artists were often a pain in the ass to deal with compared to our regular and reliable stable or writers and photographers. So many flakes.

I prefer RPG books with just one artist all the way through but this is why I think you rarely see that happen.

I found it was best to have a number of artists working on rotation, so if one flaked I could rely on another coming through and wouldn't be up shit creek come deadline. But the sad truth in magazine publishing I learned was that art covers did poorly in terms of pick up compared to photos of well known artists (hence why every RS and Cosmo cover looks the way it does) but of course that has little relevance for RPG books.

I'd suggest having a written contract for the artists, even a simple one-pager for them and you to sign outlining payment, any royalties of sales, rights and agreed upon uses of the artwork, deadlines and deliverables. Having a signed contract can really make a difference in helping establish expectations and professional conduct.
 
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Edgewise

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Figure out what the going rate is.
That's definitely the place to start. I have no freaking clue.
Most active OSR artists seem to be on Twitter or Instagram and I think you could reach out to them that way.
You think? I feel like I'd be coming out of left field. Having an idea what I want to pay will definitely help, I suppose.
But the sad truth in magazine publishing I learned was that art covers did poorly in terms of pick up compared to photos of well known artists (hence why every RS and Cosmo cover looks the way it does) but of course that has little relevance for RPG books.
Oh, I don't know; some name artists get prominent mention in kickstarters for a reason. I definitely notice when someone whose works I like is involved in a project.
Having a signed contract can really make a difference in helping establish expectations and professional conduct.
I feel like this could backfire if I don't know what's standard.
 

Voros

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That's definitely the place to start. I have no freaking clue.

You think? I feel like I'd be coming out of left field. Having an idea what I want to pay will definitely help, I suppose.

Oh, I don't know; some name artists get prominent mention in kickstarters for a reason. I definitely notice when someone whose works I like is involved in a project.

I feel like this could backfire if I don't know what's standard.
I did this kind of work as an editor a long time ago but it used to be about $25-40 an hour about a decade ago. I doubt rates have gone up though.

I see artists posting on Twitter all the time looking for work/commissions. Check out their sites for more info and best way to approach them, to state the obvious.

As for contract templates, the ones I used are from long ago and RPG contracts may look different. Remember though they don’t need to be written in complex legalese, plain English with signatures and dates are usually enough.
 

Malrex

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Hey Edgewise...I'm going through all this process right now with some artists and a editor. I plan to come up with some sort of scope of work/contract and some artists have their own that they feel comfy using. I've found the artist rates, depending on size of the piece, isn't too bad--but it all ADDS up REALLY fast.
I'm swamped right now (launching a Kickstarter on Friday), but feel free to message me with questions or whatever...I'd be happy to provide advice/opinions. I think the hard part (for me) was to determine what I wanted drawn...hard to make those decisions (but super fun).
 

Edgewise

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I'm swamped right now (launching a Kickstarter on Friday), but feel free to message me with questions or whatever...I'd be happy to provide advice/opinions.
Awesome...I already have a few but I'll think about 'em and compose 'em up. I'm still at the early stages of my current project (as I progress, I keep identifying things that need doing), but I'll get there eventually and then I'll need that kind of information.

Well, there's one thing I'd like to ask now: how did you find your artists in the first place? I'm guessing it was a bit easier since you've already published a few things but that's just a guess.
 

Malrex

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Well, there's one thing I'd like to ask now: how did you find your artists in the first place? I'm guessing it was a bit easier since you've already published a few things but that's just a guess.
I scoured the internet. I looked at Instagram, forums (RPG.net has a decent one for artists), Patreons, looked up artists on Kickstarters, looked at stock art on Drivethrurpg and asked if they take commissions, and found some on MeWe and Facebook. I like looking at art though. I had quite a few never respond back, some declined as too busy. I'm sure there are a few that can be found on this forum too. But most of them were excited for work. I'm using 4 at the moment for my Kickstarter, but I love art and will probably make an organized list with prices, emails, etc. for myself at some point.

Finding RPG editors was harder for me, but found a few. Happy to provide contacts.
 

Edgewise

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Awesome, just awesome. I'll send you a PM later to solicit all that juicy goodness.

I have a feeling that just seeing one's own ideas visually rendered can be quite inspiring. Did the artwork you commissioned ever feedback into your own creative process?
 

Malrex

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Honestly, I can't express the joy I have when an artist captures the words/descriptions I give to them. I LOVE working with artists..it feels like I'm controlling the pencil as they easily just draw what I want..its amazing!...it's also very frustrating that I can't draw or haven't spent the time to learn how...someday maybe, but there is a weird jealousy vibe I get..haha. Seeing any kind of art, spurs my creative process for sure.

Commissioned art is something a little different...I almost view it as a 'test'. What I mean, is you describe a room/situation and hand it to the artist. Usually you are taking a blurb from your writing. Sometimes the artist has questions, but I try to give them room to roll with it. Why? well, its a test---are you getting the point across or did you write it well enough for someone else to be able to picture what you were describing? The artist may spin it a little with their own flare as well, but if they don't capture it at all, then I know Ill have to re-work my writing. That hasn't happened yet, and I attribute that to the skill of the artist and their creativity, moreso than my writing, but again, sometimes they add a little flare...and I find myself beefing up my descriptions to include that 'flare'--so yes, it helps my creative process too.

I had a piece done of a battle scene with lampiris (new monster) and one of them had a bracelet or ring or something....and that helped me create a new magic item cause I thought it looked cool.

But art in general, commissioned or not, provides huge creative spurts for me. If you ever find yourself stumped at writing...try getting a piece of commissioned art--I can almost guarantee that it will fire you up and motivate you to continue with your writing. It's a huge motivator for me.
 
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