Tag Archives: RPG

The Evolution of D&D from 1983 to 2016: From Ravenloft to Curse of Strahd

From 1983 to 2016 Dungeons & Dragons have moved from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (and D&D becmi) to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, and it is more than just a streamlining of the rules and development of the rules, that has taken place.

Recently I have been playing Curse of Strahd (2016) and I6 Ravenloft (1983), and therefore I will show how the game has developed from the early 80’s to the present through a comparison of an encounter or location, that appears in all versions of the adventure. Originally published in 1983, the Ravenloft adventure was relaunched as House of Strahd in 1993, where it was adapted to both Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition and the Ravenloft setting. Again in 2006 it was published, this time as Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, this time adapted to D&D 3.5, and then finally in 2016 it was launched as a campaign module, Curse of Strahd, in 2016 for D&D 5th edition, where the original castle was made a part of a much larger campaign, where the whole valley is explored.

In the castle is a sequence, where a set of plate armor equipped with a halberd springs forth to frighten people. The armor is not animated but is rather a jump scare showcasing the original adventures curious mix of gothic horror and campy horror tropes, as the armor might be right out of an episode of Scooby Doo.

So, let’s see how different versions of the adventure deals with this sequence.

Ravenloft (1983) – AD&D 1st ed

As is clear from the text, the armor is set up as a cruel joke, which is recurrent in the later versions of the text. Where the sequence differs is how game mechanics handles the event.

There is a mere 60% risk, that the trap is sprung, and 25% chance that 1d4 hit points are lost. This may not sound like much, but for an AD&D character, this loss might still be felt, as hit points and healing resources are less than in later versions of the game.

House of Strahd (1993) – AD&D 2nd

This time the armor is automatically triggered – and is considerably more fun, as triggering the ‘jump scare’ is more fun, than the event never happening. Another difference is that the armor is now making an attack roll rather than checking for the risk of getting hit. THAC0 8 is a rather high chance of hitting its victim, but at least the damage remains at 1d4 hit points.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (2006) – D&D 3.5

In this version the armors are changed from something happening during the exploration of the castle and has instead become an encounter, where the adventurers fight the two armors, that has become animated monsters assisting the vampire Strahd in an encounter.

This change is significant, because it shows, where D&D was headed in 00’s with D&D 3.5 and D&D 4th. Basically D&D was unable to do things, that was not an encounter, and an encounter is in general always some sort of combat. D&D was broken into units of combat with D&D 3.5 and 4th (the fourth edition just finalized, what D&D 3.5 had already begun).

Curse of Strahd (2016) – D&D 5th

The amount of text has grown considerably, but the game has returned to its roots, or at least it has abandoned its encounter structure, and made it possible to play strange little happenings again, but the game suffers from a desire to put rules and explanations onto everything. Another interesting change is that now the players are rolling the dice – a saving throw is made by the player instead of an attack roll or a percentage roll by the DM – and damage has increased rom 1d4 to 2d6 to reflect the increase in hit points in the game.

Final words

I do appreciate the return in 5th edition to a structure closer to the Advanced period (1977-2000), but there is still a needless amount of mechanics and rules cluttering the text, instead of just letting the GM run the scene.

What is missing from all versions of the module is some good advice for the DM as to how to run the scene, for it is not really important whether or not the armor hits one of the characters for a small amount of damage, but rather it is of importance whether or not the it is run as a jump scare, and my advice is to play the scene with a low voice quietly describing the stairs, and as the characters either pass by or moves in to look closer at the armor IT SUDDENLY SPRINGS TO LIFE, AS THE ARMOR JUMPS TOWARD YOU! THE POLEARM FLIES TOWARD YOU STOPPING MERE MOMENTS FROM YOUR FACE!!! While you either emphasize this with hitting the table with the flat of your hand, or lunges quickly toward the player. The sudden shift in your behavior can easily make your player jump in their seat, thus recreating the campy jump scare of the adventure (and yes, that is how I played the encounter, and yes, the player did jump in his seat, and yes, I try to use only sparingly, so it works better, when used).

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Passive Perception in D&D – A bit of a rant

Is a door hidden here?

As you walk down the forest path, you feel the warmth from the sun, and hear the birds singing. You have been walking most of the day passing small ponds, bushes with berries and meadows covered in small flowers. The trail you have been following does seem rarely traversed, as you have encountered no other beings except for a rabbit, that crossed your path. Near evening you a reach a lovely little roadside inn.

As is obvious the players failed their passive perception roll and did not notice the hidden group of orcs guarding their ill-gotten gains including a treasure map to a nearby dungeon. If you the players had chosen to have a higher passive perception.

This post might be a bit of a rant, but as I am writing these things, and I am in part following the discussions regarding the upcoming Pathfinder 2nd edition and their revisions including new approaches to perception, and it part I have more or less concluded Curse of Strahd and am running the module Ravenloft instead. Comparing the different versions of the Castle Ravenloft text regarding among other things the use of perception and passive perception.

Passive Perception (from D&D 3rd and Pathfinder) is average roll for perception, that the DM can use to see, if the characters notice things even though the players are not asking – and that kind of makes sense, as it is tedious to have the players ask ‘do I notice something now? How about now? Now?’ all the time, and yet their characters might at any moment be passing a secret door in the dungeon or a hidden creature in the wilderness. And asking the players at random moments to roll perception is the same as informing them of something been unseen – you might as well just ask them, if they want to investigate their surroundings.

(When using published adventures the author has determined the DC for the hidden objects, but this does not change the fact, that the passive perception mechanic creates a curious situation, where either the characters do not notice the hidden objects, or it is always the same player noticing things, namely the player who chose that function in the party (and since it is so, perhaps it should be front and center in the character creation: “Choose this class, if you want to be the character who notices hidden things”)?)

Furthermore, passive perception has its another weakness, as the removes a choice from the players and puts it solely in the hands of the GM. Passive perception is a set value, which means that the DM is actually the one to determine, whether or not something is noticed. For instance, a party with passive perception of 13, 14, 15 and 16 is walking down a forest path:

  • Hiding DC 13: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 13, and the DM informs the party, that they all notice a group of orcs hidden in the bushes.
  • Hiding DC 16: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 16, and the DM informs the player, whose character has passive perception of 16, that her character notices a gang of orcs hiding the bushes.
  • Hiding DC 17: The orcs are hidden with difficulty 17, and the DM does not inform the players of the hidden orcs, and the characters continues the trail to the local inn.

The hidden orcs van be replaced with secrets doors or other elements, that are kept of out of sight.

The issue with the Passive Perception mechanic is, that it is solely the DM who decides, whether something hidden is noticed or not – and only the illusion of a simulated setting hides the flaws in this approach, the illusion being that the orcs in hiding and secret doors follows a set of rules that is balanced against the passive perception of the characters, but the same logic allows the DM to include extra well-hidden secret doors or orcs exceptionally skilled in hiding. Again, this leaves it to the DM to decide, if the players find something or not, and removes any choices for the player.

The core design issue behind this is the fact, that in the medium of roleplaying games the players and the characters share the view of the world, and what the characters see, the players can act upon, but the players can also act upon the signals, that the DM sends them (a signal being for instance ‘everybody, roll for perception’), whereas in the other mediums, movies for instance, the view of the setting is not the same for characters as for the audience, and the film maker can reveal for the audience the clues, that the characters missed (and in theater, the actors can play with this, when they speak to the audience about stuff, that their characters missed, but the audience saw).

In other media, the storyteller can reveal to the audience, if the characters missed something, and thus the hidden and unfound object is still a part of the story, whereas in roleplaying games, the hidden and unfound does not enter the shared fiction, and objects outside the shared fiction does not exist (there is no difference between a hidden door never found and a non-existent hidden door).

This is the issue, that hidden objects are struggling with in roleplaying games. The nature of hidden objects is to be found, but how do you find hidden things, if you do not know to search for them?

This is it for now. Next up is a closer look at the nature of hidden things and how to reveal them.


Unstable Potions – d20 strange and unexpected effects for your D&D potions

Magic is tricky business, and you cannot always trust your magic items to turn out, as you would expect. Small variations in ingredients and the intonation of magic words or perhaps exposure to magical auras and weird mysteries, and suddenly your potion of healing, growth, giant strength, flying or invisibility does work quite the way, you had hoped. Prepare yourself for unstable potions!

Here is a table of 20 effects, you can add to potions in your D&D game, in order to surprise and challenge your players. The rule descriptions are kept somewhat D&D agnostic and though based on the D&D 5th rules, they can easily be converted to your favorite version of D&D be it 3rd edition, AD&D or Labyrinth Lord. The table was originally designed for the Danish RPG The Hinterlands (Hinterlandet), and is here translated into English and adapted for D&D.

1d20                   Title        Effect

  1. Viscous – the thick liquid flows slowly like syrup, and it takes two rounds to drink the potion.
  2. Elusive – the liquid turns into vapor once it is exposed to the air, and the imbiber must drink it fast. The character must perform a Dexterity Check DC 10. If it fails a part of the potion evaporated, and the character only gains half the effect or half the duration.
  3. Explosive – the liquid begins to boil and surge, and must be drunk immediately. The character must perform a Dexterity Check DC 5. If it fails, the potion explodes in a shower of shards between the imbibers hands for 1d6 damage, and the potion is lost.
  4. Disgusting Taste – the liquid tastes awful, and the imbiber finds it difficult to consume. The character must perform a Constitution Check DC 7 or vomit the potion out losing its effect.
  5. Congealing – the potion constantly crystallizes and must be shaked vigorously into order to return it to its liquid state. The character must shake it for one round, before it can be imbibed, and the player must simulate shaking the potion flask.
  6. Slow working – it takes 1d4 rounds before the potion’s magical effect occurs.
  7. Smelly – The imbiber becomes foul smelling while under the influence of the potion. While the potion lasts, the imbiber releases a cloud of foul stench every time the character performs a physical activity (i.e. making an attack, jumping, running etc.). The stench results in disadvantage (or a -4 penalty) on social activities.
  8. Hunger – the imbiber becomes ravenous, once the effect of the potion runs out. Until a meal is consumed (costs a ration), the imbiber suffers disadvantage (0r a -4 penalty) to strenuous activities (including attacking).
  9. Sleep inducing – the potion makes the imbiber drowsy, and once the effect runs out, the drinker risks falling asleep spontaneously for the next three hours. Once pr. hour the character must succeed a Constitution Saving Throw 10 (or Saving Throw vs Poison) or suddenly fall asleep (does not happen, during fights or other vigorous activities).
  10. Exhausting – the potion’s magic drains the imbiber. Once the effect runs out, the character begins yawning heavily and feels drowsy. For the next hour the character will doze off, if he or she is not moving about constantly or being kept awake by others.
  11. Cooling – the potion drains bodyheat from the drinker, who becomes cold to touch and briefly leaves rime on glass and other objects touched, while the potion lasts. Once the potion has ended, the drinker shivers with cold and has disadvantage (or a -4 penalty) on physical activities and activities requiring concentration, until wrapped in blankets, sat in front of a bonfire or some other warming effect.
  12. Chatty – the potion loosens the imbibers tongue, and the imbiber is constantly small talking, while under the potion’s effect. The player must constantly chat or small talk, and if the player is quiet for one minute, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  13. Roaring – the imbiber is unable to whisper and finds it difficult not to yell instead of talking, while influenced by the potion. The player must speak loudly, when speaking, and if the player does not speak loudly, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  14. Whispering – the potion limits the voice of the character, who can only whisper. If the player does not whisper, when speaking, the potion’s effect immediately ends.
  15. Balance – the potion’s effect only works as long as the character is focused and in balance. The player must balance a d20 on the back of their hand, and if the die falls off, the potion’s effect ends immediately.
  16. Taunt – While under the influence of the potion, the character struggles with not coming up with taunts and insults. Every time a conversation is initiated, or the character is contradicted, the character must succeed a Charisma Check DC 6 or immediately throw a taunt.
  17. Restless – The imbiber cannot rest or sit still, while under the influence of the potion. The player must be moving around, and if the player is not in motion, the potion’s effect ends.
  18. Blood infusion – the powerful magic in the potion infuses into the blood of the drinker, whose blood now functions as a scaled down version of the potion. If other creatures drink the fresh blood (for 1d4 damage) of the imbiber, they gain the effects of the potion (but the duration is at most 10 minutes). This last while the potion lasts or until the character is killed.
  19. Echo – 24 hours later, the potion reactivates itself and the imbiber once more gains the effect of the potion.
  20. Secondary effect – 1d6 rounds after the potion ends, the strange magics of the potion activates the effect of a new, beneficiary magical potion, as if the imbiber had drunk another potion.

Some of the effects of the potions was also used in the module Grave of the Heartless, and several effects are based on the idea, that some of the effects should be more than a modifier, they should be things, the player role plays.

I have uploaded the list as PWYW pdf on RPGDriveThru:

I hope you have fun tweaking potions at your table.


Tomb of Annihilation – Captains of Chult

Large stretches of Chult are coasts, and with Port Nyanzaru being a port, it is an obvious choice to reach distant parts of Chult by sailing along the coast rather than braving the jungles or the sluggish rivers – but ships are expensive, so how does explorers in Tomb of Annihilation get there? By hiring transport on a ship, and in the dingy taverns of Port Nyanzaru, there are captains who offer their services for a reasonable fee.

I really like the concept of guides in Tomb of Annihilation. It may seem obvious, and yet it is so rarely done this well in wilderness adventures. Expanding upon the idea, thus allowing us to increase the scope of expeditions into the wilderness, I added Experts for Hire as mentioned in my previous post, and now I have Captains for hire. An assortment of captains, each with their own little kernel of a potential adventure, and a series of random events ranging from bad weather to weird and inexplicable phenomena. Captains of the Coasts of Chult can now be found at DM’s Guild. My previous Expedition Crew supplement was Experts of Chult, and I am considering adding a third one.

I am running my own Tomb of Annihilation set in the Mystara setting, and there may be hidden a few references to that setting among the captains, but easter eggs seems to a part of D&D 5th edition, so it is merely keeping with the style.

 


Tomb of Annihilaton – Experts of Chult

Tomb of Annihilation is an interesting campaign module, not just because of the modern attempt to create a hex crawl adventure but also because of some the tools the adventure contains. One of these tools are the Guides. They are NPCs with well-developed personalities, quirks and secrets, and not just that they are set-up with nice handouts, making them easy to present for the players and keep in mind.

The guides may not be a revolutionary thing, but they are still something I have not seen in other hex crawl adventures. Some adventures may suggest hiring a guide and even add a few details, but having a roster and letting the players choose between these set-ups is quite inspiring.

For my ToA campaign (which is set in the Mysrara setting) I am planning on running larger expeditions with more henchmen, and thus I wanted to add more NPCs for hire, and they did not all need to be Guides. Some could be experts with valuable skills, and thus I set up a bunch a small selection of Experts for Hire. The Experts of Chult – which now can be found at DM’s Guild.

Using henchmen, that are more than anonymous torchbearers and sword caddies, is also an opportunity to add role-playing situations to an otherwise eventless trek through the wilderness. Travelling through the wilderness may present the players with obstacles and challenges, but many are dealing with savage beasts or difficult terrain, but many does not include beings to interact with, and having NPCs jog along means there continuously will be beings to interact with. The experts add skills or bonuses to skills, but getting access to these require interacting with them, and that creates opportunities for role-playing.

Experts of Chult is the first of my Expedition Crew supplements to Tomb of Annihilation. The next one is Captains of the Coasts of Chult, as seafaring along the coasts will likewise be a part of my campaign.


Xanathar’s Guide to Everything including Easter Eggs

So I went and added Xanathar’s Guide to Everything to my library, which I intend to mine for ideas, when running my tweaked Tomb of Annihilation campaign – and lo and behold, if not a reference to an old favorite D&D-module sprang forth during the reading of the book.

D&D 5th edition contains several call backs to earlier D&D-material, for instance they happily namedrop older settings in their campaign books even though the default setting is Forgotten Realms, but they also add small touches here and there referencing various characters, details, events and such from older modules. For instance the Monster Manual in the goblin section, they reference ‘Bree-Yark’ from module B2 Caves of Chaos, and in the Players Handbook a table of random items contains wines from module B7 Rahasia. And being both a D&D becmi and a Mystaran fan this warms my heart. Likewise I was pleasently surprised, when I discovered that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything caries a reference to B4 The Lost City.

In the DM section the chapter on traps includes a deadly trap found in the Lost City of Cynicideans near the graves of queen Zenobia and king Alexander. These details are all taken from module B4, including the trap. I may not get Mystara back in published form, but at least I still get some references to some of my favorite stuff.

Any other references to the B-modules in the D&D 5th edition material?


Tomb of Annihilation – Using the Mystara Setting

This fall’s great adventure for D&D is the Tomb of Annihilation, and I picked up the book with some interest. I like the idea of a hex crawl having the players to travel deep into jungles searching for lost cities and ancient ruins, but without finding everything on their first go. Instead, they will have to make multiple journeys mapping the jungles bit by bit, and between expeditions they have a home base in a large harbor town.

I like this. I do not care much for the backstory with the curse killing people, who has been resurrected and making the raising of people impossible. It is a fine, grandiose plot, but not one, that I care for, and neither does the jungles of Chult nor Forgotten Realms have my interest. That is mostly because, when it comes to D&D settings, my favorite is The Known World or Mystara. So, I want to run this campaign, and I want to run it in the Mystaran setting.

But where to place this wonderful, empty hex map filled with deadly wonders and ancient secrets?

An obvious choice would be the major hex crawl adventure for D&D becmi, namely The Isle of Dread from module X1 The Isle of Dread (1980), which is an obvious choice, and I could simply just use the map from X1 with the adventure from Tomb of Annihilation, but I have already explored The Isle of Dread, and it could be interesting to try some other area.

Tomb of Annihilation itself suggests The Savage Coast, but they are probably not thinking of module X9 The Savage Coast (1985) but rather the (sub)-setting later published for AD&D 2nd edition The Savage Coast (based on the expanded material from the articles Voyage of the Princess Ark), but even though the region is called ‘savage’ it is far from unexplored or inhabited, and adapting Tomb of Annihilation to this region would require a lot of work, if I want it to stay true to the Mystaran setting.

There is, however, an interesting alternative. South of the Sea of Dread lies the continent Davania, and though parts have scarcely been colonized by Thyatis, it is at least from the view of The Known World unexplored lands, that are vaguely known, and near the Serpent’s Peninsula on the opposite side of The Serpent’s Sound the continent of Davania is somewhat shaped reminiscent of Chult area from the ToA book, which means that I can use the map from ToA without it being too far off, and that saves me time.

The coastal city being used as a base in ToA will be replaced with its Mystaran equivalent – there is actually one on the continent of Davania in the right place – called Kastellos. The name could indicate a Thyatian origin, but its position is just next to the Yawdlom Divinarchy, which means that I can keep large parts of the material from ToA and add materiale from the box set Champions of Mystara, which describes The Serpent’s Peninsula and The Yawdlom Divinarchy.

Adapting ToA to Mystara

The Mystaran Tomb of Annihilation plays out in the harbor town Kastellos on the continent of Davania. The town was originally a Thyatian colony, but Thyatis was unable to maintain its control of the city, and soon a large part of the population were newcomers from the Yawdlom Divinarchy seeking adventure. The city still has a large minority of Thyatians, and both traders from the Minrothad Isles and Thyatis pass by regularly keeping Kastellos in the orbit of The Known World-region.

Besides Thyatians and Yawdloms, Kastellos is home to a thriving colony of wererats, who arrived from Karameikos, as well as a large group of skygnomes stranded here, when their skyship crashed, and they are waiting for the flying city of Serraine to pass their way again. Elves are rare, but the few that are here, are mostly forest elves from Karameikos and sea-elves from Minrothad. Dwarves are here as travelling artisans, and the few hin finding their way here, are mostly hin pirates from the coasts of The Five Shires. Small groups of tortles from the Savage Coast also call the northern coasts of Davania for home, and they can be seen in the streets of Kastellos. Davania is home to nomadic tribes of Rakasta – some are related to the Rakasta from Isle of Dread – and Lupins. This should give a hint as to which playable races will be used in the campaign.

I am right now in the process of adapting ToA to run it in the Mystaran setting. This is first post in a small series of posts about adapting ToA, and fitting its backstory and plot into the existing framework of Mystara.


Sound and Noise in RPGs – When magic and monsters can hear you

Sometimes they hear you. Then they come for you.

This is an article on how sound and noise can play a role in your game. Below are presented three magic items, that one way or another encourages players to talk or stay silent. Likewise are below three phenomena or techniques that are tied to the words and the sound the players use. These ideas are based on materials from the Hinterlands Adventures (which you can find at RPG Drivethru and at DMs Guild). The descriptions below are kept somewhat D&D agnostic, so that you can easily use them in your D&D 5th, Labyrinth Lord or AD&D game.

Magic Items

  • Potion of Roaring Strength
  • Powder of Silent Wandering
  • Whispering Skull

Potion of Roaring Strength

The potion comes in an iron flask with a depiction of a roaring lion. The liquid is golden, sweet and strong, and it gives of a musky smell.

This potion grants the imbiber +4 bonus to strength tests, +2 to melee attack and damage rolls, and doubles the changes of opening doors, lifting gates etc.

While under the influence of the potion the imbiber cannot whisper, and the imbiber must speak yell, when speaking, otherwise the effects of the potion disappears immediately. The player must speak loudly, when speaking for his or her character, or the effects of the potion ends. Otherwise the effects of the potion lasts 2 hours.

The potion can be found in The Flooded Temple.

Powder of Silent Invisibility

This fine, glittering white powder usually comes in a cloth bag containing 1d3 potions. When thrown in the air it turns all creatures in 10ft diameter circle invisible for as long, as they are silent, or until they attack. Once turned invisible the creatures do not need to stay together to remain invisible.

Any creature who speaks, immediately become visible, and this applies to the players too! Any player who does not merely neutrally describe their character’s actions will see their character turn visible again (in some instances you might even want to have the players write down their actions, as they may difficulty coordinating their actions, when unable to speak).

The Powder appears in the adventure Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.

The Whispering Skull

Wondrous Item, rare

A gold plated human skull with a cruel smile. Imbedded in gold plating are tiny swirls hiding enchanted symbols, that any arcane spellcaster can identify as arcane symbols related to arcane spells.

If you listen to the skull, you can hear it whisper secrets. If you attune to this item, you can use its two powers.

The secret of wizards: Each whispering skull recites one particular arcane spell, and if you spent 15 minutes listening to the skull, when preparing spells, a wizard can memorize the spell from the skull as if the wizard was studying his or her own spellbook. The skull’s spell cannot be transcribed.

The spell the skull recites is 70% of the time anecromancy spell of level 4-9, and the remainder 30% a divination spell.

The secret of adventurers: If you listen to the skull for 15 minutes before entering a dungeon, the skull will tell you a secret about the dungeon – but only if you whisper a valuable secret to the skull, that you have not told it before.

DM rolls hidden on the table:

1-25 The skull reveals the whereabouts of a treasure in the dungeon
26-70 The skull tells about a mystical danger or a hidden trap in the dungeon
71-85 The skull reveals the whereabouts of a hidden treasure in the dungeon
86-00 The skull lies

The Whispering Skull appears in the adventure Tower of the Star Watcher.

Techniques and Mechanics

  • Wandering Monsters
  • Song Lock
  • Curse of the Faeries

Be silent – or the troll comes for you

Whenever the players are noisy, they risk attracting monsters that may attack their characters. If they do not act and play quietly as their characters would do when moving through caves and grottoes, they will allow the GM to use wandering monsters against them.

Place a cup or glass on the table and have a collection of counters, dice or crystals ready.

Tell the players that their noises are reflective of the noise their characters make.

Whenever a player is noisy or makes a noisy activity (dice clattering, a chair creaking, a bag of chips rustles), you grab one of the counters and put it into the cup. Make sure the PCs see it. Allow the players to whisper loudly without being penalized (unless they overdo it), so that you still can hear them, when they are planning things or talking to you.

Whenever a certain number of objects are in the cup, a roll on the Wandering Monster table is triggered. Then empty the cup and begin collecting again. A fitting amount might for at start be 5 counters, and then you can increase or reduce the amount as needed.

Certain actions are pure and simply noisy. Combat with weapons and armor banging against each other, people yell in anger and fear, and magic roars through the area. Whenever combat begins, just add a single counter to the cup and allow the players to speak freely.

Sing Friend and Enter

The magical stone door is hardened through enchantments to resist most attempts to break it or force it open, and yet, there is a simple way to open the door, that may confound most adventurers. It is known as a Song Lock.

Etched into the surface with silver runes is an ancient song, and merely singing the text is what is needed to open the door, however the players must sing the text. For each being wanting to pass through the door, it must sing the text written on the door. Give the players a simple text to sing, and have them sing it together to open the door. Until it is sung, the door does not open.

A variant of the Song Lock appears in the adventure Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.

Faerie Curse: Bound Tongue

The Knights of the Flower are champions of the faeries, and they master both the art of combat and magic. Their task is to challenge mortals, and to do that, they must master many different arenas, not merely combat using sword and lance, but also riddles, puzzles and magic.

The Knights of the Flower are encountered in the Hinterlandet woodland adventures – to be translated and published later – and among their abilities is the curse Bound Tongue, they often use when they challenge mortals to solve riddles.

The curse is tied to a specific word, and every time the player uses this word, their character suffers a bloody slash on their tongue, as if an invisible knife had cut it in punishment. The DM keeps an eye out for the words, the player uses, and every time the player speaks the chosen word (which might be ‘sword’, ‘initiative’, ‘but’ etc.), the character suffers 1 point of damage or 1d4 points (dependent on which version of D&D, you are playing. Up to AD&D 2nd edition it is suitable with 1 point of damage, and from 3rd edition 1d4 points of damage is typically suitable).

The curse is lifted, once the puzzle is solved, or if the Knight of the Flower is satisfied with the adventurers’ actions.

Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) adventures contains more of these meta-play elements using sounds and voices, and more examples will appear in later adventures.


It calls from The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart

Scouts report, that they have seen a hill standing on burning pillars. What lies behind this mystery, why is an army of kobolds on the march, and what strange force is calling you from the dark depths of its forgotten tomb?

Welcome to the fifth adventure translated from Danish to English in the line of Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands) adventures. This time the module has been adapted to Labyrinth Lord, and is thus compatible with D&D becmi and various retro clones as well. It is oldschool adventure rich with opportunities for roleplaying.

The adventure is part of the Seven Swords of the Dwarves storyline, and it is the adventure that sparked the storyline for the next two years, where the players in Hinterlandet Living Campaign fought against The Dragon and its cult while searching for weapons to defeat the Dragon with. This is an adventure, that allows you to set loose a great villain on your campaign and let the players be in the center of it all, as they are the ones to (accidentally) unleash the foe. The adventure is followed by the adventure, The Flooded Temple, as it is from the first storyline about the Dragon – The Dragon Awakens – where the adventurers go searching for weapons against the Dragon, and the Cult of the Dragon is trying to stop them.

A large part of the fun with this adventure was seeing the players interact with the residents of the dungeon, especially when they discover, they are under siege, and hostile humanoids wants to enter the ruins. Another great moment was when the players figured out how the tomb worked (no spoilers here), and that this moment allowed a player to let her character become a central villain in the Living Campaign as she became a Herald of the Dragon.

You can find The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart at RPG Drivethru: The Tomb of the Dragon’s Heart.


Waiting for Death’s Herald at The Flooded Temple

It is an ancient and forgotten temple hidden at the bottom of canyon only accessible by boat. Here wait’s death for curious travelers, but also an ancient relic and several factions struggling to claim the ruin as theirs. Meanwhile the kobolds just wait for Death to carry them away, and careless explorers may find, that they too will be carried off.

This is the fourth Hinterlandet adventure to be translated into English, and where the previous three were converted to D&D 5th edition (Palace of Sweet Dreams, One Night Amongst the Necromancers, Tower of the Star Watcher), this one was kept system agnostic or perhaps more precisely D&D agnostic. It is a sandbox dungeon, that invites the players to explore the caves from several different angles, and encourages roleplaying and problem solving over outright fights, and combat will mainly be at the instigation of the players.

The adventure is a part of The Dragon Awakens storyline – The Hinterlandet Living Campaign – where adventurers are seeking out the Grave of the Dragon Slayer in order to find a mighty sword to battle The Dragon with (this was a consequence of the “Seven Swords of the Dwarves” storyline, where other adventurers accidentally woke the Dragon). This means that a recurring foe, The Cult of the Dragon, appears in the adventure and intrudes in the dungeon, while the PCs are exploring the place (when adapting the adventure for your campaign, you can either use the cult or replace it with a recurring foe of your own campaign).

A part of the fun with the adventure was seeing the players deal with the different factions of the temple, and many found the kobolds to be the saddest humanoids ever encountered, and their beliefs strange and unsettling. The factions, the many paths through the adventure and the open structure is all part of the design principles of a Hinterlandet dungeon.

Recently The Flooded Temple received a positive review, which I wrote about here.

You can find The Flooded Temple at Drivethru here: The Flooded Temple.