Happy New Year! I got a bit of vacation finally at the turning of the year and thought I would spend some time on a creative role-playing game endeavour. Also, I thought it would be fun to blog about the creative process. Thus, I thought I’d write up an adventure scenario from scratch using the Runehammer Games Think Deck. Basically, the Think Deck is a “54 card deck you shuffle, draw, and interpret to create tabletop content” (from the description on DriveThruRPG). The deck is modelled on your standard poker deck with two jokers but is read like tarot cards. It’s quite easy to use if you read the short “how-to” guide that comes with the deck. For an adventure design session, you draw five cards and place them down as they come out of the deck (upright or reversed/inverted). For my scenario design, I drew the following five cards:
The cards I drew are defined as following, from left to right:
- Revelation (Ten of Hearts) – This is defined as a plot twist or some other major plot point being revealed to the player characters (PCs) during the course of the adventure. Okay, so something isn’t as it seems then. The Hearts suit represents Trust, among other things, so I’ll interpret this card as misplaced trust that is revealed over the course of the adventure.
- Allies (Eight of Diamonds) – Diamonds as a suit represents the elite. As it comes right after the Revelation, I’m going to make this group of allies actually be the foes of the scenario, working ultimately against the PCs.
- Lesser Foe (Three of Diamonds) – Again, we see the suit representing the Elite (Diamonds). It’s a Lesser Foe so these would be minions of the elite, perhaps they come from the Allies that actually oppose the PCs.
- Lesser Obstacle (Four of Diamonds) – Another “elite” card, this time a Lesser Obstacle. I’m starting to think that this might be some sort of power play between nobles or those who serve them with the PCs getting stuck in the middle.
- Allies (Eight of Hearts) – I’m choosing to interpret this card as an Ally in a position of Trust. Since it came at the end of my draw for this adventure scenario, this Ally will actually help the PCs. Since Revelation was the first card I drew, I want to continue the theme. Perhaps, this Ally looks like a foe initially but is actually a friend in the end.
Already, I have the beginnings of an interesting intrigue plot. I want this to be a low-level adventure because, in my opinion, it will be easier to run and be more interesting. I’m actually not alone in this opinion, the YouTuber, Dungeoncraft, says pretty much the same thing in this video and in others on his channel. As I mentioned earlier, I’m starting to think this scenario is going to be some sort of power play between the elites in the town with the PCs brought in as pawns.
Looking at the draw of cards, I decided that the village would have a Reeve and a Trade Guild. These are the Allies from the cards. I decided the Lesser Foe will be a band of brigands that are disrupting travel along the road between “Village A” and “Village B” (the names for all the places and people can be figured out later), aided by a group of goblin reavers that prevent travellers from trying to move overland and avoid the road. The Trade Guild is the actual foe that seems like an ally. They have arranged for the brigands and the goblins to disrupt trade in order to discredit the administration of the Reeve. The Trade Guild hires the PCs to put an end to the brigand menace, knowing that they will find “evidence” that the Reeve is the one who organized and hired the brigands. The reality is that the Vice-Reeve is working with the Trade Guild with the hopes of getting the Reeve’s post once he’s been discredited. The Reeve is innocent and has been distracted from dealing with the issue directly through the machinations of his deputy. On the Trade Guild side of things, the Guildmaster is actually funding and organizing this disruption but is allowing his deputy to run the day-to-day operations of this scheme. The Guildmaster wants to maintain plausible deniability.
At this juncture, I thought I would try to create some Events that the PCs would play through:
- Town Crier/Jobs Board indicates that there is a reward for the group of mercenaries/adventurers that investigate news of “highwaymen” plaguing the road between Village A and Village B.
- Deputy Trade Guildmaster hires PCs to guard a shipment to Village B to determine what threat there is and drive off the bandits if possible.
- PCs meet the bandits on the road. A fight ensues (?). After the battle or encounter, the PCs find:
- the surviving bandit leader says he was hired “by the Reeve”. However, deeper questioning reveals that all dealings were with the Vice-Reeve.
- the PCs find a forged letter from the Reeve if none of the brigands are captured and questioned.
- PCs run into goblins either in the forest or on the road during the battle with the bandits if the PCs take too long to dispatch their foes. This adds a timer and a sense of urgency to the brigand encounter. Perhaps the goblins show up as reinforcements after one to four rounds of combat. I got the idea of using a timer to create tension in a game session also from ICRPG.
- Drive off goblins and their worg mounts
- Confront the Reeve
- Somehow determine that the Reeve is innocent
- Forged letter could not have been written by the Reeve as it is dated during a period of time when the Reeve was away on business at the Baron’s keep.
- Only person with the means to create such a well-made forgery is the Vice-Reeve.
- Somehow determine that the Vice -Reeve is connected to the Trade Guild.
- Somehow determine that the Reeve is innocent
- Confront the Trade Guild
- Defeat the Deputy Guildmaster and the Vice-Reeve.
- Reeve is grateful for the help of the PCs and will hire them again to deal with other issues. The Trade Guildmaster will throw his deputy under bus in order to distance himself from the ensuing scandal.
- The Trade Guild is diminished and the guildmaster vows revenge on the PCs.
Right now, the chain of events looks like a jumbled mess with more questions to be resolved than answers. At this point, I decided to follow the advice of Sly Flourish and generate a some secrets and clues. I threw together the following list from my initial list of events and from some other tidbits I decided on after using the Think Deck:
- The Vice-Reeve wants to discredit the Reeve and take over the office.
- The Trade Guild wants more control of Village A and local trade routes to extract more profit for the guild.
- Goblins are present in the forest and will attack travellers moving overland and avoiding the road to avoid the bandits.
- A band of highwaymen are robbing travellers and caravans on the road between Village A and Village B.
- The captain of the highwaymen is a childhood friend of the Vice-Reeve.
- The goblin reavers and the highwaymen are working together and splitting the take.
- The Reeve is involved in a plot to overthrow the local Baron.
- The goblins are part of a scouting vanguard, gathering intelligence for some sinister group or foe.
- The plot to overthrow the local baron is being funded/aided by the same group that is employing the goblins for scouting.
- One of the PCs gets a strange coin as part of a transaction with an image of a mailed fist holding a mace aloft.
- The highwaymen have a few of these strange coins.
- The goblins have number of these coins, as well as a bit of parchment with a coded message on it with the same image of a mailed fist holding a mace aloft.
- Thought they are under strict orders not to, some of the highwaymen sneak into Village A to drink at the local tavern. This is likely the source of the coin that the PC received in #10.
- The goblin reaver chieftain has a mace marked with the same symbol (a mailed fist holding a mace aloft).
Now, I have a somewhat incoherent chain of events and a nice list of clues and secrets. I don’t think I have enough clues to connect all the parts of the intrigue together yet. I’ll need to put some more thought into this and see what I can come up with. I also have a number of clues that hint at something happening in the world outside of the two villages and the road between. Those could be fun if this ever get expanded into anything bigger.
I guess that’s all for now. In the title I noted that this is the first part of a series which I hope with result in a fully fleshed-out scenario that I can play at some point. See you in the next one!
- Runehammer Games Think Deck (Drive-Thru RPG): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/321761/ICRPG-THINK-DECK
- The Dungeoncraft YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@DUNGEONCRAFT1
- DungeonCraft #22: The SECOND Secret Every DM Needs to Know (Dungeoncraft – YouTube): https://youtu.be/kwPja6zbLK0
- The Runehammer YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@Runehammer1
- Key Mechanics: Timers! (Runehammer – YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcfieLbrQAc
- Sly Flourish’s The Lazy Dungeon Master: https://slyflourish.com/lazydm/
- Managing Mysteries and Plot Twists (Sly Flourish): https://slyflourish.com/managing_mysteries_and_plot_twists.html
- Secrets and Clues, the Secret Weapon of the Lazy Dungeon Master (Sly Flourish): https://slyflourish.com/sharing_secrets.html
Fun stuff! Looking forward to seeing where this goes!
Thanks! I’m working away on Part 2…