The Net Book of Plots
This book was converted to a new format, made for conversion to HTML
and for indexing. My enormous thanks go to Alexander Forst
(email@example.com) and to Soh Kam Hung (firstname.lastname@example.org)
for their dedicated efforts in designing this tagging scheme and help in
tagging and editing the plots. I hope all enjoy this new collection and
dont forget to tell the authors how it went if you run a plot.
-Help the local good, but dying, wizard to attain lichdom.
-Prevent evil nasties from overcoming the local good lich.
-Find the lost good lich and get help to cure a generic plague.
-Go to kill the lich only to find it’s actually good.
-Save the Dragon from the Evil Princess.
was hijacked enroute. If he doesn’t get them back, he faces bankruptcy.
geas to steal an artifact from a colleague as punishment.
protecting them. Defer to them in all things, but don’t let them know
you’re deferring to them.
parts/items used in summoning a sleeping demon. Just so happens that one
of the PCs inherited one of the items (it should be something innocuous
like a simple pendant with inscriptions) from a dead relative.
lookalikes (shapechangers). Nice little conspiracy theory action. Which
one of your trusted patrons is really an evil doppleganger? Who can you
trust? Who will believe you? Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean
someone ISN’T out to get you.
kill) a renegade wizard who is breaking Guild laws (selling magic items
to criminals, assassinating the previous Guildmaster, attempting to
assassinate the current Guildmaster, etc.). Local law enforcement is not
involved because the Guild likes to solve its problems internally.
liches. The players have to protect a town that’s caught in the
crossfire. The lich need not even appear in the campaign; you could just
have dark noxious clouds blotting out the sun, undead armies marching
back and forth, dragons eating the livestock, and other bits of large-
scale magical fallout. Or, if you want to bring the lich in personally,
you could send the party on a quest to plead with the lich to stop the
war, or to fight elsewhere.
against them. They have some warning and a time period when they will be
relieved if they can hold on. Idea is that PC improvise with what is
around and hold out for siege. Turns the GMing on its head. They have a
plan of defenses, not the GM, and GM leads his baddies against it.
Players spring their surprises in traps etc. Must have a map agreement on
what can be done in time available. Players tend to cheat outrageously
but great fun for all concerned with a change of pace for both GM and
well in a city:
Second-story jobs, picking a pocket and finding a map, searching the
tunnels under the city for a tomb or catacombs, competing with the
Thieves’ Guild, smuggling arms into the city, spying on foreign
officials, helping an orphan fight against cruel thugs, racing another
party in a city-wide search for a magical artifact, investigating a
corrupt church, wooing a noble lady, searching for your weapons
instructor who has been abducted by a rival, trying to get apprenticed to
a truly weird mage, etc.
lich would probably love to have people convinced that he’s just a
kindly, helpful old gent. Suppose one such lich has been working hard on
his image for a century or two…he saves people from natural disasters
(which he created himself), gives out magical gifts (which are cursed in
some nonobvious way), kisses babies, the whole shebang. The players come
to suspect him of actually being evil (“Hey…two centuries old? That’s
before Second Edition came out! He must be evil!”) and have to stop him.
But first, they have to convince the locals, who love the old guy, that
they’ve been wrong about him all this time. (“Gandalf? The old coot with
the fireworks? Evil? Get outta here.”)
to have it ask “Why are you bothering me?” Apparently it was/is a good
wizard who got kind of absent minded as he died and sort of drifted off
into lichdom without noticing. Since he’s quite powerful, none of the
various local monsters that he’s geased into serving him have given him
any trouble, nor have they pointed out the problem of his lichdom…
Play the lich as an absent minded old british gentleman, sort of
surprised that anybody would want to kill him and having considerable
trouble grasping the idea that he’s a lich. A few accidental pats on the
back while the players are held by some sort of spell should be amusing.
P.S. If you can’t figure out how to set things up so a lich can
capture and hold helpless a bunch of PCs, SHAME on you! Liches are
something like 30th level M-U/Clerics, not to mention the hordes of
followers, servants, summoned monsters and demons and elementals and the
capture a man who is in the caravan, and it must be done quietly, so that
nobody else knows. They are given the man’s name, and the fact that he
is a mage, but no other information about him. The catch is that the
caravan consists of ten wagons, with at least thirty or forty guards
(when I used this adventure, the caravan was travelling through Brin
Pass, a VERY dangerous area), and everyone’s wearing the standard desert
gear: a white robe, with a hood and a veil. This makes it very difficult
to tell who’s who. The party should investigate the wagons. If they do,
they will find that only one wagon doesn’t have an obvious reason for
existance (i.e. belongs to the caravan master, carries supplies, or
carries cargo). A man is living in that wagon, and only comes out to get
food. Raiding the wagon will obviously cause noise and commotion, two
things to be strenuously avoided. This is a very difficult scenario;
I’ve run it twice, and both times the party failed. Once the guy got
killed and the party was arrested and held in custody by the caravan
master, and once the guy ran away and the party lost him.
(very large sum mentioned – for your world)
BRAVE Adventurers Needed!
To Kill the DRAGON of Eastmark, Kingdom of Arcadia.
(fill in location and kingdom name as necessary).
Apply at the Royal Palace.
All that made that adventure interesting (aside from the nearly 1000
mile overland journey, differing cultures, side-adventures, et al) was
the fact that the “DRAGON of Eastmark” was a golden dragon, and the party
was mostly Good characters. The Gold had become insane when humans had
attacked and slain his mate, and spent his time laying waste to the local
kingdom, which finally began posting notes (after the first three
expeditions failed) to hire outsiders to come in and try to destroy the
genius-intelligence, magic-using and physically awe-inspiring dragon.
Since the tattered posting does not mention that the “DRAGON” is a Gold,
the party had already travelled the very long way, and then had a lot of
discussion before finally deciding that grief did not excuse the dragon’s
excesses, and that he must be destroyed.
in this. Assume for the sake of argument that the goal is the office of
district attorney. Enigma has ambitions to be the DA, the chief force for
justice in Gotham. He is opposed by Buck Stevens, son of the founder of
Stevens Brick Co., which is the second largest employer in Gotham. Darla
Stevens is in love with the Enigma’s alter ego, Bing Strawberry, and
keeps telling him he ought to get in politics and make sure her slimy
brother doesn’t achieve political office … etc etc etc you get the
Some complications that suggest themselves are:
a) Enigma discovers that candidates must turn in petitions with 1000
names in order to register for the election, and he blew it off so long
that he needs to get them all *tonight*, to be turned in at 8 am tomorrow
morning (where do you get 1000 valid signatures at this time of the
b) the primaries are a good time for enemies to show up with
embarassing photos in hand
c) election season can be complicated by reporters who circle,
vulture-like, over the troubled campaign HQ, and by a televised public
debate between the candidates
d) the election and the aftermath — did the PC win? What will happen
to the party now? What if the press finds out about the vampires the
party staked a few years ago in the abandoned buildings in the ghetto?
what about the crook who recognizes Enigma’s voice and threatens to
publicise his secret identity?
remain around to counteract some powerful evil force. He/it spent the
last years of his life directly restraining some powerful evil demon
(make it something not quite physical, for example a demon of madness
that manifests by making victims psychotically insane…evil human
sacrifice cults start springing up all over the place and random people
on the road start attacking out of the blue with no provocation, sort of
So the Lich is at the bottom of some dungeon complex using spells and
powers that are so far beyond the party’s understanding that they can’t
perceive them, to hold the evil imprisoned. He/it is also keeping random
strangers from wandering in and interfering. After so long a time, the
lich just sort of drifted into undeath without really noticing (keeping a
set of spells up constantly for years will do that to ya). The PCs
manage to get the drop on the Lich when he’s weakened and…
a) the evil gets loose.
b) the good lich’s wizardly spirit manifests before it moves on to
another, higher plane, and commends them for their actions in releasing
him from his unwitting servitude to to undeath. He also says, “Well, I’m
off to my retirement in elysium, the job’s all yours, boys!”
c) If you’re feeling charitable, give the players an inkling of what’s
going to happen, or some magic to help them to combat the madness demon
(personal protection against the madness would be nice, although you
could have lots of fun with blackouts and sleepwalking and the like if
the PCs were as susceptible as anyone else). If you’re not feeling
charitable, have them find out the HARD way what the ol’ spook’s
mysterious comments were in reference to. Maybe stick a scroll (that
must be laboriously deciphered) in with the treasure, describing the
madness demon and perhaps some ways that it can be fought.
A frequent visitor is a tall, dark, suave, charming man dressed in formal
evening wear, accompanied by a different woman every time. He comes in
every 2nd or 3d night. He always orders bloody marys and doesn’t drink
them. He is quite wealthy and very pleasant. There is something almost
magnetic about him. He has fascinating eyes. (DM should do everything
he can to make it believable that he could be a vampire, despite the
unusual setting (city)).
Either he charms (charm gaze) a female party member and takes her
away, or a beautiful dancer comes in looking for her missing sister, who
was last seen coming to this bar with the tall,dark gentleman. She tries
to convince a party member to help her look for her sister being
seductive about it. Both are eventually charmed by the Gentleman. In any
case, make a party member disappear into this Gentleman’s lair.
He has a gothic style house in a nice part of town. There is nothing
obviously amiss here. If the party asks around, this guy is a pillar of
society, a kind, philanthropic fellow, well respected by his peers. He
runs a magic shoppe. He is a mid-level wizard with a head for business,
who gave up adventuring to start a business.
His house looks just like a vampires house might look (black velvet
curtains, etc). He has a private sanctuary inn his basement, the only
entrance to which is a rune-encrusted door (trapped or enchanted in any
way appropriate to the party). He supposedly has a chapel down there,
but really has a large complex, where various vampiric rituals, and all-
night parties take place. All of the missing people have been charmed
into believing that they have been turned into slave vampires. They will
aid their master if at all possible.
The party must break in and forcibly take their companion away from
this place. Again, make the evidence somewhat contradictory whether the
Gentleman is a vampire or not. Most evidence should say yes, but make
some things contradict this.
The gentleman has a cursed ring of the vampire, a powerful evil
artifact which makes him believe he is a vampire and gives him many of
the powers of a vampire, as well as some of the drawbacks. Make him
dislike things that cause a vampire harm, but don’t make it obvious
whether is works. Make him have a reflection, but have a dead vampire
victim show up. Etc. At the end, have the party realize that he is not
a vampire at all but rather is a cursed fellow with an intrinsically good
slowly but surely. At this time only the most advanced magicians have
noticed that their most powerful spells are beginning to fail more and
My explanation is that there is three kinds of magic in the world:
1) White magic: creative magic, healing, alteration. The white-
magicians are generally the good guys, mostly elves, priests (Gods of
Light) and fairies.
2) Black Magic: Necromatics, destructive magic, summoning. The black-
magicians are generally the bad guys, mostly humans, black-elves, trolls
and the demons & devils.
3) The Old Magic: The magic that rules it all; but now almost a
forgotten art, only used by the extinct race of Wizards (yes, wizards are
a distinct race in my world) and the dragons.
Unfortunately the magic energies are only dwindling for the white-
magicians, since the black-magicians derive their power from the negative
dimension and have opened the gate, so that negative energies flow freely
into this dimension blocking the white-magic.
The objective is to close the gate, before even the simplest white-
magic is rendered useless and impotent. This cannot be done with the use
of white-magic, but only with the use of the Old-Magic (use of black-
magic will only worsen the situation).
The problem is to find someone or something that have access to the
Old-Magic and is sufficiently skilled in this art, to reverse the
situation. (this is what the players must think is the objective for them
or initially be let to believe).
The real problem is that the division between black- and white-magic
is artificial, and will always lead to this problem sooner or later, and
only the Old-magic can prevail (since the white- and black-magic is
derived from the Old-magic, but the separation will corrupt both
branches). So the players are to be the prophets of the new world order
of magic (or front-runners), after being taught the basics of this by the
only Wizard left on the planet (unless they destroy him in their
folly!!!). But to find the information that there is such a creature
alive should be very difficult and only referenced by vague hints in old
My suggestion for the Wizard is that the group can find (after lengthy
research) the place he is rumored to live (e.g. inside a volcano). And
when they arrive he is there, but frozen inside a huge iceblock, by a
pair of Ice-Dragons that he once forced to humiliate themselves to assist
him, and this is their revenge. Once every 100 year they let him free
for a day to scorn him, and then deep-freeze him again. And they will
not take it lightly if the players are to take away their sweet revenge.
to them that trading on their own account could be more fun and
lucrative. Part of this is I guess a lack of interest in the “tie-downs”
that trading could imply and in the boring detail of buying and selling.
There are however some good advantages. It encourages a sense of group
identity – all partners of Fast and Risky Quality Merchant Co. – and can
have some great “plot lines”. It also changes the world outlook when
strangers are first thought of as “Hey CUSTOMERS!” rather then “Arm up,
enemy approaching”. If you ever need to lure your players in a
particular direction then a rumour of profit should be easy to manage.
PCs can be tempted into the business a bit at a time. For example: At
conclusion of other business a friendly tribesman notes “Your people make
good iron. If you are back this way, bring us one of your fine steel
blades and I’ll trade two snow leopard skins for it”. $$$$ in characters
eyes! The trick is to avoid the boring bits.
1) Give them good NPC warehouse men etc that they really can trust
except perhaps once, later rather than sooner, for a plot. If they feel
they can safely leave a load in trusted hands for a fling then so much
2) Have NPC’s offer to retail so they are doing the wholesale transit
stuff and dont get lost in selling detail. “Hey, I’ll take all of this
stuff you can get here at xxxx – leave you free to get another load
moving eh?”. Failing that declare, “after 2 hours you are sold out for
xxxx reward”. Forget detailing trading except for casual encounters with
3) Forget the unwieldy caravan bit – encourage them into the small
mule train style. They’ll have more fun. “Yup, de mules certainly de
way. You see dat caravan train – takes 2 month to move dat round de Gap.
Sheez dat costs! I ken move dis stuff over Hawk Pass on mules in meebe
tree weeks on a good run.”
4) Emphasize the exploratory opening up of new country rather then the
big-haul routes. If they start into going back and forth on the same
lucrative route too often, send in a big merchant with a massive caravan
to drop the prices. They’ll thank you for it in terms of game interest.
Some typical sorts of plots.
-Guarding the goods train. They’ll really do it in earnest.
-Spying on the side under their legit cover.
-Involvement in local politics
-Building of fortified outposts and defense thereof
-Very dangerous goods! (i.e. magic)
-Recovery of stolen goods
-Dealing with a protection racket
-High risk winter route to relieve a starving outpost.
One potential problem is the possibilty of too much coin. Relax.
Early in their career get them used to the idea that high profits come
from real high risks and sometimes its better alive poor then rich and
dead. (“You are surrounded by 20 young mounted warrior louts looking for
trouble. They request ‘presents’ with broad grins. All are bow armed
(and they’ve been training since 3 years old)”. Remember that elaborate
trading has high overheads in paying NPCs etc. If there is somehow got a
money excess then introduce credit offered by bankers – on risky routes
they will sooner or later lose a train bought on borrowed money and the
overheads will put them on the back foot!
artifact which is carefully guarded (by various traps, magics, etc) in a
labyrinth. Put in there years ago by various leaders and since
forgotten. They cannot think of a brute force way to get it, but they
are clever enough to have figured out some loopholes which will allow a
low-level bunch of adventurers with various characteristics (tailor to
your players, one obstacle per player or combination of players) to get
in safely and escape with the artifact.
The wizard cooks up a long term plan (perhaps he is an elf) to obtain
such a party of adventurers. This plan is subtle and tricky as that is
the style of this wizard (he likes to manipulate and deceive people, like
a game). He has his apprentice disguise himself as an old
storyteller/bard who takes a liking to a young pc or npc and tells
stories of the PC/NPC’s grandfather who stopped a great evil by
sacrificing himself, sealing the evil and himself into a labyrinth (yes
THE labyrinth). The grandfather was lost with his family sword and more
importly an amulet which signified the family’s power and destiny as
heroes of the realm. Various stories of the grandfather, sword, and
amulet should convince the PC/NPC to go after this stuff.
The storyteller also tells of the PC/NPC’s family talent for dowsing,
and helps him cut a dowsing rod and casts various covert magics to make
the character believe he has such power. Eventually he replaces the
dowsing rod with an identical duplicate which is set up to find the other
characters who are needed to get the artifact back (yes, the party). The
character recruits or finds the party and they go and get the amulet
The wizard and apprentice appear at the exit from the labyrinth and
reveal the hoax (part of the fun), demanding the amulet. The apprentice
is either given or takes the amulet for the wizard, then gets a greedy
look in his eyes and makes to put it on. The wizard vaporizes the
apprentice and takes the amulet.
You might want to put some sort of treasure in this labyrinth so the
party won’t be too pissed that they have been deceived.
The wizard invites the characters to join in his “games” (see below).
If they decline, he does various things to convince them to comply. If
that fails, he cooks up another complicated deception to get them to join
in. He will not force them to join, unless he feels that he has
sufficiently deceived them.
The party is asked to go on a quest by an older man, a merchant, to
save his daughter’s life. She has the dreaded Indigo Flu, usually fatal.
The only known cure is to make a medicine out of the Caiman stone, an odd
fruit that grows out of a mineral/plant hybrid only in the most obscure
places. The party is referred to the sage who told the merchant of this
cure, for more info. The sage is of course an agent of the Wizard of the
He cooks up a quest designed to bring the party eventually to a spot
at which the wizard has planted a “Caiman Bush”. The Caiman stone and
the Indigo flu are complete fiction. The party will not find anybody
else who knows about these even if they ask around. The Caiman Bush is
an elaborate magic item, which will teleport the party into the Wizard’s
lair. The wizard will then inform them that the only exit from his lair
is to win the game.
The game is versus another party which has been in suspended animation
waiting for opponents. (Losers of the game are suspended and continue to
play until they win, whereupon they are released). Make the game
whatever you wish.
You should maybe allow the party to acquire some limited magic items
from the game, so they won’t be quite so pissed to have been manipulated.
used to describe journeys).
Basically sage-type person translates a song-map that someone earlier
had written down in its original form. Lots of scope for errors. It’s a
translation so no need for poetry. Sage identifies one point in song as
being nearby and wants the map followed. Fit into your world. The
characters can only “see” what you describe so very careful descriptive
work is necessary but red herrings can be fun.
An example of full riddle map.
“here the VALATAS people live above the halls the congress of tide and
land, thence two noon suns cross your face and take you to the silver
path. Up the path you onward go past three cold threads in summer still,
then into the shadows of RAMATIS realm till the path is crossed at the
weeping rock. Shortly the path splits at last, so turn your face and
walk two sunsets till RAMATIS greets with open arms again. The laughing
braid just in the shades, leads high to towers of earth, and there above
the last falling tears, find the gates of night. No moon to light the
halls of night but ochre stars will mark a path to those who walk in
here. Pity you who have no meat to sacrifice to the Old Ones hidden
within. Once met and your offering received dash for life to the halls
of teeth. Beyond there lies the ribbon of red, rushing fast to meet the
sun again, then bounding down past flaxen steps, to greet the ghost in
its bed of gold.”
Capitalized bits are phonetic translation of unknown words. The sage
has identified VALATAS so begin here.
The party walks towards the noon sun for 2 days and finds…
GM: “Towards end of second day you climb to top of ridge and look down
on large river valley with the river glistening in the sun.”
Following it upriver past three side-creeks that would wet you even in
summer you get to woods. RAMATIS is the old people’s God of forests but
the PC’s or sage wouldn’t know this. They should easily guess though
when you announce forest in the way. The river hits a gorge and a
crossing is forced where a waterfall comes down a cliff face. After that
the river divides at two big tributaries and you take the west one for
two days. Should encounter woods again…however, the puzzle can be
sharpened by woods that are no longer present (keep talking about NEW
building in the area – ruins of a saw mill ??? etc). A quick flowing
tributary is traced up into the mountains and above the top waterfall is
a cave mouth. A path through the cave is marked by ochre crosses on the
floor but it is also the lair of monster worms that fall on any meat.
The travellers of old would carry a sheep up and run like hell for the
cave of stalagmites (which block the worm) while it is devoured. Hope
the PC have something ready…torch light will shortly show an
underground river flowing the other way (no more ochre) which will lead
to high mountain basin. Geologically an inlier of gold-bearing basement
capped by limestone. Problem – it exits over a sheer bluff and the rope
ladder has long since rotted away. The creek joins a larger creek with
the disconcerting habit of disappearing an hour or two after rain (the
“ghost”) leaving a dry bed. And yes, this is based on real place in NZ.
The creeks are gold-bearing if PC ready to dig for it the hard way.
Remnants of digging all over the show.
You get the general idea. Quite a bit of work and you can lead
characters by the nose through it if so inclined. Mis-translations can
contest should be left fairly vague, unless one of your PC’s is a high-
ranking member of the Guild…I usually use some statement about
“material considerations…well, it’s politics mostly…” However, since
Guild mages tend to be not particularly active types, the contest is
structured as follows: each mage hires a group of adventurers (here’s
where the PC’s come in), who then compete for the prize in a maze set up
and run by the Guild. The party should be hired by a mage, who tells
them basically the information above, plus the number of other groups
competing (I usually use four groups total, since in my maze they tend to
meet up at the end for a final battle, and dealing with more NPC’s than
that would get hellish). The mage gives each PC a magical “token”;
basically just a little one-use magic item. The tokens can have effects
like Levitate (for a duration), Light (ditto), Invisibility (as the
spell); just go through the PH and pick out spells to use. Make up a
maze to put the party though, and don’t forget that several other groups
are doing this at the same time! The way I run it is that I have a map
of a maze, with four relatively distinct paths to a final room. They do
cross over, but not very often. Each has several large empty rooms on
the map, and some marked spots in the corridors. Then I have a list of
rooms to use, and corridor tricks, and I just insert whichever ones I
feel like when they come to a room or a corridor spot. The four groups
race through the maze, and the objective is to find a large flashing gem.
I usually set it up so that when the party reaches the last room (where
the gem is), most of the other groups arrive at the same time. If the
party tries to hang back and let them fight it out, I have some of the
NPC’s start going for the gem. Remember that this was set up by a Mages’
Guild, so you can put in almost anything you want…some examples of
rooms I use are:
1) The room has a chasm cutting it in two. There is another door on
the far side, and a bridge across the chasm. (The chasm is actually an
illusion, but falling in will take the PC out of the contest) On the
bridge, there are two “knights”. These are merely animated suits of
armor, and they have orders to prevent anyone from crossing the chasm.
They will react predictably to actions by the PC’s, and so can be lured
into traps; for example, a thief tries to climb across, one of the
knights moves to block him, the party tosses oil onto the bridge where
the knight would stand, then the thief goes back. The knight walks back
and slips in the oil. Make the bridge very narrow and no handrails.
2) Another room with a chasm, but this one has a maze of invisible
paths crossing it. The party would have to move very slowly, feeling
their way along and probably mapping the maze as well. Therefore, you
put a monster (I usually use a nonafel, or cat-o’-nine-tails, from the
Fiend Folio, or else something called an amorph hopper which I made up)
on the bridges to mess them up. Let the monster leap infallibly from one
spot to another (it knows the maze perfectly), or else let it fly.
3) A circular room with a pillar in the center. As soon as one person
enters the room, tell them that they see the door slam behind them and
the room begins to spin. They are plastered against the outer wall by
the centrifugal force, and are slowly being crushed. Then send them out
of the room, and tell the other players that they see the guy enter the
room, and then throw himself against the outer wall. It’s an illusion,
of course, and the other players can do whatever they want, but whatever
they do, the trapped character will interpret it as something that would
be happening, or else just something weird happens and he can’t figure
out why. For example: they tried slapping the “trapped” character across
the face. He felt the blow, but had no idea where it came from.
However, there’s a catch: the crushing is real. After a little while,
ribs begin cracking…the idea is to try to get the “trapped” character
to disbelieve his surroundings.
wind up at this town. The people of this town are very suppressed, and
do not like strangers. It seems as though the strangers they have dealt
with in the past are pretty dangerous.
There is however a thriving community in this town…centered around a
magic users guild. I admit, a very rare thing indeed.
As the PC’s begin to find out things about this town, they find out
some of the following things:
1) A powerful MU “owns the town” whether by money or power nobody
2) The town government is set up similar to a company: mayor at the
top, and vice presidents below him each in charge of some community
welfare. This group of people votes on decisions concerning law,
3) There are one or two members from “the guild” on the council.
4) Some others of the council are suspected of being influenced to
abstain or cast a certain vote.
5) Every three months people with handicaps, the aged, and the dying
are removed from this town.
6) The town is located at the base of a cliff against the sea. The
only way to the top is a dangerous road with several hairpin turns.
7) Criminals are put to work mining a roadway through the cliff wall
up to the surface above.
8) The rocks from the mining are quarried in blocks and are valued in
some lands for building. The rock is very hard, and has a uniform black
If the party tries to find out what happens to those who get taken
away, they will find they are taken to a dead volcano, with a large
valley inside. This valley does not go through seasons, and the trees
are fruit trees, which always bear fruit. There is a portal into this
valley. The portal of mourning. It opens up every three months on the
soltice dates. Can you guess what time of day? At sunrise. Written on
the archway of the portal is the purpose of the portal, valley, and since
it is old and worn, when the portal was dicovered thirty years ago there
was a loss of translation of the portal of “The Morning.”
There is an evening portal too. But that one is the entrance to an
old abandoned dwarven kingdom. It opens up every night. Each night,
undead skeletons emerge with two tasks. Gather fruit. Look for
newcomers, and “welcome” them to shelter. Skeletons will try to capture
anyone alive with nets.
Inevitably the PC’s will want to go dungeoning and kill off hoards of
skeletons, and free lots of supressed people. Insert your own dungeon in
this part or use a prefab.
Eventually, they will meet the lich in the dungeon. He will ask
several questions about why they killed the skeletons. Now the poor
people will starve… and so on and so forth. It will be increasingly
aware that the lich is a good lich. The lich became a lich to forever
take care of the orchard.
It turns out there is another lich. The Good lich is in fear of the
Bad one, who happens to live in the town… heading the MU guild. The
guild is a structure in which the Lich collects power, items, spells…it
is great if the party has an MU who joined the guild without knowing.
The guild is structured like a membership thing. Access to libraries is
based on level of membership. Level of membership changes based on
donations of magic items, artifacts, spells and of course money.
The possibilities branch out from there… But the deal is to free the
good lich from the wrath of the bad. They could…
1) Infiltrate the guild to a level at which it will topple.
2) Kill the bad lich.
3) Ignore the Deal.
4) Rally the town.
5) Retrieve the good liches talisman from the bad one’s possesion.
Any option is bound to piss someone off. Good or bad lich, or the 40
or so MU’s who have invested their life’s savings into the guild. But
think of all those magic items that must be in there.
Chief honcho feeling old, needs to test suitability of daughter as
heir. A crafty sage NPC called to help.
Sage’s plan: A honcho’s man will pretend to turn traitor and with
PC’s will kidnap daughter. (Big deal – everyone is cooperating). They
will tell daughter she is to write note saying father to come alone with
ransom. He will be bumped off by ambush and they will see daughter
confirmed as heir but she will take orders from rival evil honcho. They
have permission to scare her with anything short of real torture. She
passes test if she refuses to write or finds a way to warn, or manages an
escape. A largish group is hired as daughter normally well protected and
PC will really be acting as a guard and protect her whatever her
choices…Pretty boring easy money for players huh since all set up?
The man chosen to play traitor really is a traitor in pay of uncle.
The opportunity to dispose of daughter and become heir is seized. The
traitor will suggest a cave in isolated area (which just happens to be
moderately fortifiable – not by design; he just likes the isolation) as
place for the hold-out and the father (anxious to be fully informed)
agrees. PCs may have a better idea but unlikely they will be in a place
unknown to the traitor or father. Traitor is a coward and won’t attempt
on the life of the girl himself but will use any excuse to leave PCs with
girl. Uncle will bring large force to bear on the PCs to wipe her out.
(and them). Traitor to blame the PCs.
Really a good choice. Will not at first agree but will grovel and
pretend submission. Will write note but encoded to warn. If no other
opportunity has arisen, the traitor will say he will take note. If the
players later tell her its a setup (when trouble begins), she will
demonstrate fine combat skills.
Whatever number to test your PCs. Will (treacherously) offer free
passage if they will hand over girl. (PC’s may think the daughter
worthless and be tempted to hand her over – mine were! If they do, they
will not be allowed to leave alive since they are to be blamed with it.
Dead men tell no tales. Fortunately mine remembered orders to protect no
matter what and girl will reveal the actual contents of her note when she
realises the PC are on her side). The negotiation delay will give some
time for setting up defences if it occurs to players to hedge. Too bad
if they don’t.
If the PCs can hold out 2 days, a concerned father will arrive with
[This was an extension as players grumbled about tiny pay (it was
supposed to be an easy job) and here the sage helps.] I made an earlier
post on the net frp conference on moral dilemmas and here is the detail.
In reward for services, a sage offers this little test to a group of
PCs. This is a variation of the famous Prisoner Dilemma based on an
essay by Douglas Hofstadter in Metamagical Themas. This will work best
with a group that are really involved with their characters and have
played them for some time.
Players given a counter which is red on one side, black on the other.
They are to hand it secretly to the sage either red side up or black side
up. They will be rewarded according to how all play.
If a PC returns the piece BLACK side up he/she gets:
For every other player turning in a RED side: A Big reward.
For every other player turning in a BLACK side: Nothing or very small
If a PC returns the piece RED side up he/she gets:
For every other player turning in a RED side: A moderate reward
For every other player turning in a BLACK side: Only a small reward
It is important the player really understand the reward system before
they make the choice. It is also very important that they can’t discuss
with each other what they will do and the returns are made in secret.
When I did it, I had the sage claiming (quite wrongly) he could magically
increase basic attributes and the matrix was:
For every RED piece: Attribute of choice increased by one unit.
For every BLACK piece: nothing.
For every RED piece: 50s in money
For every BLACK piece: 5s in money
The advantage of offering an attribute change, is that to the players
(more than the PCs) it was a very real temptation to offer BLACK. Of
course, if they all chose black, nobody would get anything. If only one
chose red, that player would be fairly annoyed while the rest get one
attribute bumped up. If you were the only player to choose black, then
you sit very pretty…the details of this dilemma are well discussed by
Hofstadter. He tried it for real money on his friends, here’s your
chance to do the same. For once, the game is as interesting if the
player is trying to choose for a PC or doing it for him/herself.
Of course, all hell breaks loose when the sage reveals he is lying and
just gives each a little more than if all had chosen red…..
The GM should decide what reward matrix the game balance can handle
and whether the sage is honest, but do recommend the attribute lift as
Even Orcs Have Mothers. Sooner or later, (sooner usually) PC’s will by
their actions have ruined someones plans, killed someone favourite
son/uncle/mother/etc and be due for a spot of revenge. This brings that
most dangerous of monsters up against the PCs – another thinking human.
If the GM looks at the world from the Offended One’s point of view, lots
of ways for to get even should suggest itself but here are few ideas.
Toss them into the game at the same time as other action – the vendetta
may become the main gaming focus but it shouldnt start that way.
The hired thugs:
Predictable, common but not a bad opening shot anyway to start the
players going. Chances are this will tell the Offended One (OO) that it
wasn’t luck and these guys are good, while telling the PCs that life
isn’t that simple.
Can be variation of above but much more creative ways around. How
about a desirable NPC that spends some time winning the PC’s confidence
(helping out on a couple of expeditions say?) before some suitably
creative putting the boot in? (from the unsubtle knife in back through
poison to “inadvertantly” leaving the wrong door open).
Using their greed to send them against a strongly defended position
with a totally false plan about a supposed way in? (This got my players
past thinking of the vendetta as an sideline nuisance. They were mean and
cold and looking for blood when they returned).
Or how about when the player are off to visit an unfamiliar culture,
making sure they get stunningly wrong information on cultural
sensitivities. (I havent play-tested this one, but I imagine could be
very good in a light-hearted game)
My favourite is close to above: On an expedition to tribesmen, a
functionary they hadn’t much noticed offers them an ornate tribe weapon.
He/she tells them this is could be the key to getting close to the chief.
Tell any barbarian that they can talk to, that they got it by
“Melstilatuk” from a barbarian chief. He/she further explains that
melstilatuk (use your own languages) is a ceremonial battle and winning
against a chief accords them high status. In fact the functionary is the
in employ of OO and will quickly vanish. The weapon was obtained from
the father of current chief in a particularly cowardly ambush that the
tribesmen know about. If the PCs are curious about the word, a non-
tribal linguist can only translate it as “raven work”. A tribal linguist
if they even bother to find one, would them that melstilatuk is a
colloquial abusive term for corpse-robbing – regarded VERY badly by
tribesman. The weapon will be instantly recognised by the close
tribesmen to the chief and effect of the characters proudly reciting
their claim can be imagined.
The Frame up:
Often PCs leave themselves very wide open to being framed and dealt to
wrongly by the law. This should make it a good option for the OO. The
trick to playing this so your PCs have a chance is to very thoroughly
think out how the OO sets it up – exactly who is talked to, bribed,
where, who could see it. PC’s will have to pursue what really happened
and they need good detail. I failed at this on first attempt really but
made up for it belately working in a lot of detail.
The lying witness or false complaint: This is the simplist by far if
a bit obvious. Remember that if all or part of the PC party are free to
investigate then the OO is likely to take measures to protect the
implicated. My PCs actually utilised this. They figured the witness
would be guarded so looked out for the guards and followed them (and a
few false trails as well) to locate the OO.
Doubles: Illusion magic to make the others look like the PC in a
witnessed crime? I haven’t actually tried it but sounds good.
Here’s a complex one that the players may tumble at any stage but will
land them in serious trouble if they don’t. Baddie in employ of OO poses
to players as a rich jeweller from within a city. He meets them at a
location outside the city and describes some imaginary double-dealing in
the trade. The upshot is that he thinks a rival has wrinkled him out of
a distinctive ruby necklace. His mission for the PC is to probe or watch
a house in the outskirts to see if any sign. He tells them that the
necklace has a vague enchantment (improve looks, raise charisma that kind
of thing) and could be picked up by detect magic abilities. Small reward
for successful location. Big reward if they can get it. He tells them
he doesn’t want them anywhere near his city shop. They pass a message to
him via person in local pub in writing. It mustn’t mention the goods,
just say party of extra people needed if they can’t get it, else tell him
to come alone to a meeting point if they have managed it all themselves.
The house is the real jeweller’s house and the necklace is not heavily
protected as the rubies are fake (which the jeweller knows) but the magic
isn’t (of which he is unaware). The reward should tempt the PCs to go
for it. They will then send a note to the appropriate place. Make sure
they write down what it says. The note goes of course to the OO who then
murders the real jeweller, places the note on his body, then tips off the
watch on where to find the PCs. Chances are the PCs have written a
highly incriminating note and in addition will be holding property know
to belong to the jeweller.
Final Vendetta notes:
If a prolonged vendetta is plaguing the players then a certain amount
of paranoia is liable to set in. You may be accused of inventing ways
around their precautions because they tell you them in advance. If you
are, I hope they string you. If otherwise, don’t get angry – suggest a
play fair system. They write down their precautions when you warn them
that you need to know. You write down your attack. At the moment of
truth, notes are compared and a very enjoyable game can be held BETWEEN
GM and players. This assumes enough maturity on your players that they
build protection that they reasonably could manage by their skills and
money without going through you. If so have some fun. This play really
only applies to the Hired Thug approach – the others shouldnt really be
open to abuse.
Odyssians are invited out for a weekend at the country estate of Sir
Henry Ainsford, one of the older members of the club. Sir Henry is noted
as a hunter and explorer, but he is getting on in years and spends most
of his time at his estate outside of the town of Ashburn in Kent.
Sir Henry regularly invites Odyssians out for weekend visits, but this
particular weekend is special, because he believes he has made a
discovery of great scientific importance on the grounds of his estate.
This means that he will make sure that Odyssians of particular interests
will be in his group. He will invite archaeologists, paleontologists,
physicians, historians and ethnologists in particular, plus an assortment
of others who are interested. He will also invite his two oldest friends
in the Odyssians, Professor Milton Morrisson of the Language and
Ethnology faculty at Oxford and Admiral Sir Joseph Porter (retired). All
he tells anyone in advance is that he has made a discovery which may
revolutionize the history and science of human origins.
Sir Henry’s ancestral manse is a 16th century monstrosity, somewhere
inbetween a manor house and a castle, ornate and over decorated. It is
located on the edge of the range of hills known as the North Downs. The
trip from London to Ashburn by train takes around two hours. When they
arrive in the town Sir Henry will have several carriages waiting to take
them to Ashburn House.
When they arrive they are greeted by Sir Henry, who excuses himself
and seems rather agitated. They will then get a short tour of the house,
conducted by the major domo, Burton. Burton shows them the gun room and
the trophy room (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), the game room,
several parlors and dining rooms, and eventually he shows each of them to
their bedrooms. Each of the bedrooms is decorated in a different motif,
reminiscent of different parts of the world. The American Room is
decorated with trophies of caribou, beaver and bears. The East African
room features lions and giraffes. The Egyptian room has crocodile and
rhinoceros hide chair covers and the like. The Indian room has a
beautiful tiger skin rug. The Amazon room has a giant stuffed anaconda
on the wall. The Orient Room has elephant tusks and panda fur rugs.
There are many more along the same lines.
After they’ve settled in, Burton will call them down for dinner. At
the meal Sir Henry seems agitated, smokes a number of cigars, and barely
touches his food. When asked about his discovery he is evasive and tells
everyone to wait until after dinner. Once the meal is concluded, they
retire to the Smoking Room, where a large, coffin-like box, about 2 by 5
feet is waiting on a table in the middle of the room. Cigars are handed
out, and Sir Henry launches into a speech to the effect that he has
travelled far and seen many things, but that he has made his greatest
discovery literally in his own back yard.
He goes on to tell how one of his groundskeepers, a man named James
Dearing, was mowing in a grove of ash trees on a hill behind the house,
when he discovered a series of depressions in the ground, all very
regularly spaced. He reported them to Sir Henry because he was
suspicious that they might be deadfalls set by poachers. Sir Henry
investigated, had one of the holes dug up, and in the hole they found —
at this point he opens the box — a small, manlike skeleton buried in the
fetal position, surrounded by garlands of what appeared to be extremely
well preserved wild flowers. The skeleton he reveals is in rather good
condition, completely bare, about 4 and a half feet tall. What makes it
remarkable is that while generally manlike in appearance, it has an
elongated lower jaw, pronounced cranial ridges and elongated upper and
lower canines, all characteristics of great apes, rather than man.
Everyone crowds around, and Professor Morrison, and possibly others,
declare that it must be a hoax. Someone is clearly trying to put
something over on Sir Henry, taking the jaw of an ape and the body of a
deformed human child and putting them together. But on closer
examination it is clear that the jaw fits perfectly with the rest of the
skull, and the skull clearly fits the spine, and all the bone appears to
be of the same age. Professor Morrison can’t be sure, but given the
style of burial and the condition of the bones he believes that they
predate the early Celtic settlement of the British Isles, and if it is
not a hoax, he theorizes that this might be one of the ‘Dark Folk’, the
aboriginal inhabitants of Britain who were wiped out by the Celts and
survive only in legend.
As Morrison seems to have become convinced, Sir Henry becomes even
more excited, and explains that there are 7 more burial shafts and that
he intends to excavate them all in the next few days with the help of his
fellow Odyssians. That said, he closes up the box, leads everyone out of
the Smoking Room and locks the door. At this point some of the guests
are probably tired and retire, and others go to the game room or to the
Library for some recreation.
Night at Ashburn House
During the night several things will happen. One of the characters
with a relatively high PSI will happen to peer out of his window late at
night. Off in the distance he will see a round hill with a grove of grey
ash on the top of it. The ash are swaying in the wind. Then he notices
that none of the other trees in the garden or beyond seem to be swaying
at all, and he gets the feeling that there’s something almost conscious
about the movements of the ash.
Another character will have a dream during the night. He will dream
of a procession of thin, regal looking women bearing glowing spheres of
light passing through his room, passing through the door as if it or they
were immaterial, and moving on into the hallway.
In the Morning
When they awaken in the morning they notice that Professor Morrison
doesn’t join them for breakfast. Then Sir Joseph mentions that he was up
late with Morrison drinking brandy in the library and that when he went
to bed at 2am Morrison was still there reading. He suggests that
Morrison might want to sleep late. Sir Henry is a bit non-plussed by
this, but is ready to set out to the wilds of the backyard anyway.
Burton brings picks, rubbers and shovels after breakfast and everyone
heads out to the burial site. It is a small clearing in the middle of an
ash grove on top of a hill. The ashes are of a miniature variety, but
healthy and well established, clearly well cared for. In the middle of
the clearing is a 6 foot high, very worn menhir surrounded (after some
searching) by eight depressions in the ground, spaced evenly in a circle,
one of them recently filled in. The digging commences.
In each of the burial shafts they will find a skeleton similar to the
one already found by Sir Henry. It is unlikely that anyone will dig in
the shaft which the first skeleton was taken from, but if they do, they
will find the mangled body of Professor Morrison there.
It will take most of the day to dig out the shafts. And at noon or so
Burton will bring out tables and campaign chairs for a leisurely lunch at
Professor Morrison never joins them, and as they prepare to head back
to the house, Sir Henry tells Burton to make sure the Professor is
feeling well and have him meet them in the Smoking Room.
When the grisly trophies are gathered in the Smoking Room, Burton
arrives with the announcement that Professor Morrison is missing, and not
only that, but it is clear that he didn’t pack up and leave, because his
clothes are still there and his bed has not been slept in.
The last place the Professor was seen was in the Library, and a close
inspection of the Library will reveal an open copy of Tacitus on the
floor, some dots of blood around it, and the fact that the tiger skin rug
which is normally there is missing.
What’s Going On?
The grove of ash trees is an ancient holy place. Each of the eight
largest ash trees contains a powerful guardian spirit which can manifest
as a young woman (as in the dream above) or can possess and animate non-
living flesh (tiger skin rugs, etc). These Ash Maidens will attempt to
get the skeletons back, or replace them with new sacrifices, like
If they go and dig out the original burial shaft, they will find
Professor Morrison’s body, mauled as if by a tiger, wrapped in the tiger
skin rug from the Library, and garlanded with wild flowers. It may take
them a while to figure out to do this, so let them stew and be mystified.
The spirits can only be placated by returning all the skeletons and
maintaining absolute silence about their existence. In fact, if they go
to re-bury the skeletons they will find that there are now ten holes
instead of eight, eight for the skeletons, one for Professor Morrison and
one for Sir Henry. The spirits will do all they can to make sure that
hole is filled.
The powers of the spirits are limited. They can only operate in
darkness. They cannot travel more than a mile from the grove. Each
spirit can only animate one thing per night. Passing through solid
objects is relatively strenuous for them, so they do it as little as
The Second Night
Most likely, by the second night they will either be working on or not
have solved the mystery. That night as they sleep, several things may
Most likely one or more of the characters will be awakened by the
sound of pounding and rending as an assortment of elk and gorillas and
the like attempt to break into the Smoking Room.
Someone, or maybe even two of the characters, will find that the
stuffed anaconda or bearskin rug or boarskin bedspread will come to life
as they are drifting off to sleep and attempt to attack them and drag
them out to the grove.
The same character who saw the ash swaying the night before will look
out the window at midnight and think that he sees the ash transformed to
women who then move in a procession towards the house.
Someone who is relatively susceptible to such things will be visited
by two of the Ash Maidens who will attempt to seduce him, take him to the
grove, manipulate his mind and will, essentially enslave him, and then
send him back to the house to get the skeletons and Sir Henry for them.
Can they Save Sir Henry?
Most likely not. The only way to save Sir Henry would be to keep the
Ash Maidens and their animated creatures away from him throughout the
second night and then get him away from Ashburn House immediately in the
morning, never to return. In fact, in that situation the house would
have to be permanently abandonned because the Ash Maidens would keep
looking for sacrifices.
Alternatively, they could burn down the grove. This would be sick,
cruel and immoral, but would get rid of the Ash Maidens until saplings
which escaped the burning grew to maturity in several years, at which
point the problem would reemerge.
Finally, they could offer someone else in sacrifice, but finding a
willing victim is unlikely, and giving an unwilling sacrifice would be
Regardless of how they deal with the situation they will face moral
dilemmas which will not be easily resolved, because the Ash Maidens
should really be preserved as an invaluable paranormal resource, and
though their demands of sacrifice are justified by their lights, it will
be hard for reasonable people to go along with them.
Joe Amato Paul Brinkley (Don't look now, but you did give a summary or two...) Richard L. Butler (The amazing forgotten man...) J. D. Frazer Evan A.C. Hunt Gwen Johnson (The only contributor with references) Kim Chr. Madsen Loren J. Miller David F. Nalle (Do you do Call of Cthulu? :-)) Chris Racicot (LOTS of good stuff, thanks) Phil Scadden (Again, and again, and...thanks a lot!) Aaron Sher (Couldn't let this go by without adding something myself...) Brett Slocum (A late addition to the credits) Jeff Vogel (Originator of the lich theme, author of most of the lich stuff) "Sam" (Who is this?)
Plus several others…if you contributed, and you’re not listed, send
me your name!
—————————————————————————-Phil Scadden, Scadden Research
55 Buick St, Petone, Lower Hutt
ph (04) 568-7190, fax (04) 569 5016