Thursday, May 14, 2020

Making an Adventure pt.1: The House of Amber Lanterns

Making an Adventure

I decided to keep a diary of my process for designing an adventure for a table-top role-playing game using my Accelerated Adventure Design Method. The goal is to end up with a downloadable PDF of an OSR compatible adventure.

While Blogging, proofreading, & the extra steps involved in making a PDF aren't covered in that method, I think that this would be a good test of my methodology.  So, I will keep a running timer of how long the process of adventure planning takes me.

The Concept

My idea here is a twitter exchange I had with @adventurersrole and @BettaGamesHQ. You can see the exchange in screen captures in my article on Possessed Carp. So I have thatvwas my start.

My idea is of a palace that once held a collection of wicked and cruel nobles. They were mighty iillusionists, tricksters, and entertainers. When they were killed by a local champion their evil spirits were left trapped to haunt the place. Now they seek to free an imprisoned spirit that will resurrect them... but they can't perform the rites without bodies... Now they seek adventurers to possess.


Japanese Demon Mask by
Kevin Phillips from Pixabay
Next, I started brainstorming. I just wrote down anything that came to mind.
  • Ghost samurai guardian
  • Twin sisters trying to murder each other
  • A faithful cleric imprisoned
  • Cleric needs saving
  • Enshrined the samurai
  • Killer dolls invisible puppeteer
  • Fighting bunraku puppet
  • Magic Koto that causes pain
  • Flying koi
  • A case of poisoning
  • Binding rope on doors
  • Magic binding talismans
  • A woman with killer centipedes
  • Drunken skeletal old man
  • Showdown with a yokhai
  • Eerie Kabuki theatre
  • Talking mask decorations
  • Fire frozen in amber
  • Torture room with imprisoned shadows
  • Sake barrels hide a secret 
Clearly, I am thinking along the lines of a Fantasy Japan-Analogue, thanks to the suggestion of the image. It is otherwise feeling like an intrigue-filled funhouse dungeon. The Amber is as much a reference to Zelazny's Amber novels and the old BD&D Module X2 Castle Amber. Because I want an air of decay and corruption  under a mask of beauty as a theme, In will probably have the dungeon decked out for a festival... which immediately makes me think of paper lanterns.

So I will call this story The House of Amber Lanterns. (I'D better make the amber important somehow... maybe a wizard who freezes people and things in amber like something out of Fringe.)

Time so far: 4 minutes and 22 seconds.

The Map

I opened up browser windows to Google, DrivethruRPG, Pixabay, and a few favoutite websites.  Lo and behold, my friends over at 2-minute tabletop have quite a variety of Japanese Castle resources. I will use this map, and maybe a smaller-scale interior one I graph paper up to plan the adventure.  Thanks, Ross!

Time so far: 5 minutes and 47 seconds.

Setting Up the Form

Because In am using an OSR setup for this adventure,  I only have to copy/paste from my article.


1. The Unfriendly Room

🔮 Description
👹 Monster / 💀 Threat
🃏 Notes
👿 Treat

I lost a minute to cantankerous copy/paste issues with android here.

Time so Far: 7 minutes 42 seconds

Filling in Encounters

1. The Shrine on the Approach

🔮 Shrine of a fallen warrior under a tree, warding ropes.
 The burning of the sacred rope brings down tree on PCs in 2d3 rounds of combat
👹 Ghost Samurai
🃏 The Ghost Samurai can be reasoned with. If the PCs swear to save the soul of the Sohei that enshrined him.
👿 Kabuto and Katana are available for characters who choose to honour the Samurai
 Blessing, Experience  regardless of approach to encounter


2. The Gatehouse

🔮 Broad gatehouse, lit with paper lanterns. Sealing ropes on door, sounds of music and merriment from within.
 Kamitachi from 3 will come for the PCs if they dally too long
💀 Magical seal on door can drain magicians of their power
🃏 The ropes will part of their own accord at the touch of the katana from 1.
👿 This is where the PC's can first get the amber lanterns
 Castle Entry the easy way

3. The Watchtower

🔮 Partially broken, wood chimes, whistling wind.
 Progressive penalty on climbing as wind numbs,
👹 Kamitachi guard this castle from intrusion.
🃏 The Kamitachi spirits here will use wind as a means of preventing intrusion.
👿 Shattering the wind chimes banishes the Kamitachi
 Combat Experience, Knowledge on how to summon them is possible


4. The Ni-Maru

🔮 Shrine in centre, overgown, decorated for a party, hibachis of food... strangely preserved while covered in growth. Music coming from the theatre.
 Roll to see if one of the spirits is roaming through on a 1 in 1d6 roll below:

  1. The Amber Sister
  2. The Jade Sister
  3. The Patriarch and his Fish
  4. The Puppeteer
  5. The Actor
  6. The Musician
  7. The Old Drunk
  8. The Evil Samurai
  9. The Mother
  10. The Wizard

💀 The food here is poisoned.
🃏 Bodies of the servants can be found here for those who search.
🃏 Much of this is illusion.
👿 The Bell in this courtyard has a chance of calling each spirit to the Maru,
 Fireworks, black powder, and fine clothing can be found here.


5. The Garrison (Main)

🔮 Lowest floor includes a kitchen, toilet, training room and shrine.
 Once the PCs have entered they have only a minute in game time to issue the challenge, before the Evil Samurai attacks.
 Every round roll 1d4-2 for the number of Ghost Warrior sconjured until the Evil Samurai is defeated.
👹 The Evil Samurai's spirit spends most of its time here. He can summon weak, but potentially dangerous Ghost Warriors to serve him.
🃏 The Evil Samurai is interested in a challenge to honourable combat. If the PCs offer a proper challenge they can minimize the potential carnage and force him to honour terms of a surrender.
🃏 This is our bigger fish. The Evil Samurai is the one spirit that will just destroy the PCs, and he can do it, too.
👿 Catching the Samurai in an shameful deed will turn his soldiers on him, and gice the PCs a brief control over the samurai.
 The arsenal here still has some usable gear.


6. The Garrison (Basement)

🔮 Prison and store-room.
 Intrusions here will be sensed by The Wizard, and he will arrive to harass the PCa in 2d6 player actions.
👹 The spirit of the Shoei, Jubei awaits final sacrifice here, sealed in a cell by The Wizard. Freeing him will potentially fulfill promises made to the Samurai in 1.
🃏 Jubei is dead, but still channels some divine magic. He can award the PCs with talismans knowledge.
👿 Treat
 Jubei can offer the PCs magical healing and magic talismans that render the undead helpless.


7. The Garrison (Upper floor)

🔮 Bunks for the soldiers. Beheaded corpses. Rites to raise the Kamitachi . Samurai's opulent quarters, with dead servants.
💀 Touching the altar in the Evil Samurai's personal room is sure to trigger his wrath.
💀 The evil samurai's katana is cursed. As is his golden facemask.
🃏 This includes the quarters of the Evil Samurai where a journal can be found.
👿 The surest way to destroy the Evil Samurai is to seal the body here with a talisman form Jubei.
 The Evil Samurai was wealthy and many of the things that gave him comfort are here.


At this point, it was the middle of the night, and I was falling asleep, so I decided to go to bed. I will pick it up in a part 2 and beyond.

Note that I already have a fairly rich setup here, and the dungeon, using just two of the castle buildings In have enough for a simpler 5-room dungeon concept.

I have also created a cast of eleven characters in the dungeon with some baked in rivalries and factions... although the only ones we have seen are the one outsider and the one violent, apolitical member.

If I were writing a short adventure,  I would already be done., aside from perhsps creating one more combat encounter. As is, I need about 12 more encounters to make this adventure complete, and have a lot of castle to go.

Total Time so far: 52 minutes 24vseconds.

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