Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Making an Adventure pt.2: The House of Amber Lanterns

So Far...

This is part two of a series I am doing using my Accelerated Adventure Design tool to make an OSR dungeon crawl. In the last session, I brainstormed some ideas, gave a general outline, selected a map, and planned the first seven encounters.

The adventure focuses on the PCs investigating the castle of a noble family of magicians and entertainers who need to possess bodies in order to ensure their own resurrection. The adventure actually creates some interesting constraints:

First, Most of the danger in this adventure will be tricks and confusion.  Only the samurai bound to guard the castle, some spirits that watch it, and an evil samurai within are interested in fighting the PCs to kill them. The rest want to control them and make them vulnerable.

Second, for this adventure to work, I am going to need to create a mechanic for possession that is far more interesting than a saving throw. I am, in some ways, creating an edge test for my own design tool by adding an extra layer.  The key here is to make sure I am comfortable with the system I am using, and to make the mechanics simple enough to be easily ported. That will be the most interesting article of the series, I suspect.

Third, the spirits in this castle will be fractious: they want to make sure they bring themselves back to live... but certain other members of the family they would rather see dead.

Fourth: Japanese castles, like the one I am imagining setting this adventure in are often huge and deliberately complicated. Doing a room-by-room adventure module would render a megadungeon-scale creation. That is not my aim. So I am going to treat buildings - or at least their floors - as "rooms."

"Japanese Castle, Night - sample view" by Ross McConnell © 2019 2-Minute Tabletop
This will require me to provide some resource to flesh out the rest of the contents of the building, but for purposes of creating something playable it is not particularly important.

On With the Planning

8. The Theatre

🔮 A theatre with lobbies decorated in masks... many with faces that look too real. Some speak to invite the PCs into the main auditorium.
 So long As the Oscars in the audience they ate moving toward possession.
👹  The Actor
🃏 The Actor is allied with the Jade Princess, and would see the Amber Princess banished to the void.
🃏 Uses face dancing to imitate the PCs stealing their abilities temporarily.
👿 The Actor's freshly made masks have magical abilities the PCs can use after they are created.
 A collection of rare and valuable masks... including ones of the PCs.

9. The Theatre Basement

🔮 Filled with costumage and dolls.
 Each PC can be bound 3 times before the puppeteer can possess them. Each binding
👹 The Puppeteer,  Marionettes, Bunraku Puppets
🃏 The Puppeteer remains invisible, using his puppets to distract and swarm enemies. The Bunraku puppets serve as decoys.
🃏 The puppets try to swarm targets and bind them with wires. Target's bound in four coils can be possessed.
👿 A carefully aimed slash with a sword can break possession and destroy the Marionettes.
 Costumes, steel wire, tools.

10. The San Maru

🔮 A festively decorated courtyard with unfired fireworks and a dance stage. Matsuri ceremonial decorations, instruments.
 As the performance of these two is allowed to continue, reduces the PCs resistance to their illusions and tricks.
👹 The Jade Sister
👹 The Musician
🃏 The Jade Princess possesses by luring a character into a kiss. She dances hypnotically to make it happen.
🃏 The Musician's Koto can summon Kamitachi and cut flesh with notes. He possesses by drawing others to be lost in his song.
👿 PCs who play music with the Sister and the Musician might impress them enough that they seek a peaceful situation.
 The Koto of razor strings.

11. The Ichi Maru

🔮 Koi pond, meditation station, old books covered in leaves, ruined meditation garden
 1d6 rounds to summon The Mother
👹 Possessed Koi x8
🃏 The possessed Koi try to drive the PCs into the arms of more powerful spirits than the Patriarch
👿 The Patriarch can only become a spirit if all the Koi are destroyed. He will always retreat if he is down to 1 remaining, however.
 The Patriarch's emerald ring in buried in the pond


12. The Shrine in the Ni-Maru

🔮 Festively decorated fortune-telling shrine and wishing well.
💀 False and confusing fortunes.
💀 Stealing the coins will anger local spirits.
🃏 The PCs may make an offering and draw a fortune from a drawer, but all of them are intentionally misleading and deceptive.
👿 -

13. The Shi-Maru

🔮 Empty bottles and casks.
 Unless offered booze, the Old Drunk can become hostile in 2d6 exchanges of dialogue.
 Once angered, the Old Drunk recharges fire breath on a 5-6 on a d6 roll. After the second freath, he also conjures 1d3 minor fire elementals to serve him.
👹 The Old Drunk
🃏 The Old Drunk is an unmotivated and unaligned member of the House and is unable to wander unless he possesses someone.
🃏 Bribing the Old Drunk with booze will persuade him to reveal information about the factions and the goals of the other spirits.
🃏 The Old Drunk can possess anyone who gets drunk with him..
👿 Background information, clues about weaknesses:

  • The Amber Princess will do almost anything to keep the Jade Sister from being reborn.
  • The Jade Princess feels likewise and turned most of the house against her.
  • The Musician always said that he could never harm someone who plays fine music.
  • The Puppeteer might control his puppets, but he always stays far away from them.
  • The Patriarch was devoured by his own koi and cannot become a spirit unless he is freed from them.
  • The Evil Samurai is a thug and bully, but he won't turn down a fair challenge.
  • The whole ritual thing... it's delicate. They only have the material to do it once.
  • The Patriarch had a way of sneaking into the Servant's quarters to have his way with several of the maids.
  • The Mother is the only person both Princesses love, both use magic to protect her.

 One of the bottles contains a potion of fire breath.

14. The Gatehouse

🔮 Casks of sake, crate of fireworks, dead and bloodied guards.
 The explosions and fireworks if the trap is set off will attract 2d3 Kamitachi to the Gatehouse.
💀 Before he was caught, Jubei set a trap here to try and scare off anyone who might have become possessed by the spirits.
🃏 The PCs may make an offering and draw a fortune from a drawer, but all of them are intentionally misleading and deceptive.
👿 These fireworks are destructive to spirits, thanks to special blessings. Their detonation can cause a fair amount of damage. If the trap is disabled the PCs can have bombs that do 2d6 fire to living things and 5d6 fire to undead in a 20' blast radius,
 Sake can be useful in setting fires or bribing the Old Drunk.

15. The South Tower

🔮 Converted into an Alchemist's lab. Bodies, animals, fireworks, and flames trapped in Amber
 The Magician sets the amber to melt as an action releasing a soldier, an attack dog, and, if fleeing, an explosion, if he is not interrupted.
👹 The Wizard and 3 Kamitachi
💀 The amber fires and explosions if disturbed can become devastating,
🃏 The Wizard will flee to the tower basement if badly wounded (see location 15)
🃏 The Wizard hates the Jade Princess and Musician, and feels that they are unworthy of resurrection. He wants to trap their spirits in dolls. If the PCs offer to help, he will arm them with the necessary scrolls (actually spells trapped in amber) and dolls to do so. This spell cannot be turned against him.
🃏 The Wizard Possesses by getting others to cast spells in his presence. Their use of magic leaves them open to his influence.
👿 PCs can acquire one of the wands that catalyze and release the Amber, allowing them to hurl fire bolts using any of the lanterns around.
 The Wizard's laboratory and notes on the creation of Amber.

16. The South Tower Basement

🔮 Ornate wall hangings, calligraphy station, unusual potted fungus, sake bottle, spellbook on stand in fine case along with ancestral katana, alchemy station, bed behind screens.
 If the Wizard flees here he can set a poison gas to catalyze in 2d3 rounds
💀 Poison gas trap.
🃏 The Wizard flees here if he is damaged in hopes of luring the PCs into a poison trap,
🃏 A Journal here details the ritual, and the final days of the castle.
👿 There is so much here to be weaponized...
 Acid flasks, poison tablets, The Wizard's spellbook, Katana

17. The Guest House

🔮 Fine wall hangings, theatrical masks, torches frozen in amber, a dining table. Festooned with flowers of summer.
🔮 The Amber princess, no matter what magic she weaves, is innately homely and has an unlikable manner. She has lived in furious jealousy of her sister because of it.
 The illusions become more "real" and more wondrous as the PCs spend time in the Guest House. They become progressively more suggestible and less and less able to separate fiction and fantasy. Every round, secretly apply 1d3 against their Wis, until one drops to 3 and becomes vulnerable to possession. The penalty ends if the Amber Princess is caught in a lie, is harmed, or chooses to release it, Otherwise, the appropriate saving throw penalties apply,
👹 The Amber Princess
🃏 The Amber Princess is a gifted sorceress; if she is defeated the illusions throughout the castle fade away, leaving the place in a state of decay and disrepair. This affects things in the Tenshu in particular.
🃏 The Amber Princess will attempt to reason with the PCs to help her complete the rites. She won't attempt possession unless she does. She urges them to visit the wizard, and warns them away from the theatre.
🃏 The Amber Princess is more subtle about possession than the others. She rides hidden in a mind, and uses illusions to keep an image of herself in the Guest House. She hopes to reach the Tenshu undetected.
👿 The breaking of her illusions makes some of the encounters easier.
 The Amber Princess' spellbook is hidden under the table.

18. The Servants' Quarters

🔮 Sealing talisman on door. Smell of fine cooking and noise of busy-ness.
 See below.
💀 The food here is cursed and will cause damage like a shadow's attack after a two-turn delay. But eating it will temporarily grant bonuses. The Shadows will offer the PCs a three-course meal to trick them into damning themselves to become shadows themselves.
👹 Shadows.
🃏 The shadows here were once the house servants, reduced to spirits by the curse. They appear as normal people so long as the Amber Princess' power endures. The Illusion can be broken by touching one of the servants. They won't attack on their own unless the illusion breaks.
🃏 Jubei's protective talismans can cleanse a PC of the curse on the food if powdered and drunk with water or sake.
🃏 The shadows cannot leave the Servants' Quarters so long as the talisman seals the door.
👿 There is a secret door to the Tenshu in the basement of the Servant's Quarters.
 Sake, rations

19. The Store-Rooms and Workshop

🔮 Barrels of food, water, ingots, arrows, leather, fittings, a smithy.
⏳ -
💀 PCs making excessive noise here may attract possessed carp or kamitachi.
👿 Jubei set a sacred rope around one of the workspaces here. It is protected from the magic of the spirits. Only the Marionettes can enter this space.
 Lots of potential supplies

20. The Tenshu (Lower Floor)

🔮 Illusions keep the ruined paper walls looking real. Luxurious and elegantly decorated house, fallen into decay
 Disorienting illusions cause the players in the rear of the marching order to make a save vs. spells or be separated from the group by real-feeling illusory walls every 1d4 rounds until they are all isolated.
💀 Shifting lights and illusory walls, sounds and shadows of movement are designed to keep the PCs from being able to move around or escape.
💀 Hypnotic music and overwhelming scents of musk and incense distract and disorient, all PCs must make a save vs. poison or be at -2 for all other saves.
👹 The Mother and Giant Centipedes
🃏 Once Isolated, even though there are not actual dividing walls left, the PCs will not be able to help each other in combat. Each round, once the Mother attacks along with her centipedes, the PCs may make a new save to see through the illusion.
🃏 The false walls vanish if the Amber Princess is defeated.
🃏 The music and scents will vanish if the Jade Princess is defeated.
🃏 The Mother targets each PC with a centipede, and then attacks Clerics and Magic-Users first.
👿 The PCs weaken The Mother significantly by defeating her daughters.
 Big treasure hoard in art objects arranged around the house.

21. The Tenshu Basement

🔮 Well, ritual space,
 Once the ritual begins, the PCs have 1d6+1 rounds to find a way to stop it, or the Shingami is summoned.
💀 Once Possessed PCs reach this location they can open a portal and retrieve the Shingami that can raise the dead members of the household.
👹 Shingami
🃏 Destroying the ritual objects crushes all hope the Spirits had of resurrection. The remaining ones become shadows, and all illusions are ended.
🃏 The Shingami can raise each spirit present, freeing the PC from possession and converting the Spirit into their Living form.
🃏 The PCs are offered in return for the Spirit's resurrection. The Shingami will accept this offering unless the PCs have a better counteroffer... Spirits trapped in dolls and made into offerings, fr example.
👿 The PCs can deliberately complete the ritual if they have the Wizard's journal and have the Shingami instead claim the souls in the castle and drag them to the Abyss.
 If the Shingami is called by the PCs he will grant them a limited wish in the form of a black apple.


And Breathe...

At this point, if I had to, I could run this game fairly comfortably, winging the actual mechanics. I could use a Lesser Djinni with no whirlwind attack, Undead type, and make them incorporeal for the spirits. I could easily use Constuct Kobolds for the mannequins and Wood Golems or the like for Bunraku puppets. I could use flying goblins for Kamitachi and pretty much run this game tomorrow.

This would be all I need to run a memorable 2-4 session large dungeon adventure.

Time So Far: 2 hours 40 minutes 24 seconds

As I wrote it, I went back and added some richer details. I found ways to interconnect the characters and make the factions I imagined matter. I have ideas on how to add fine detail in the second pass. Also, the room numbers are randomly scattered and need re-arranging, etc. But this is why I do the second pass.

Of course, I will want to turn this into a downloadable adventure in the end, and that means I want to make some stats, mechanics, and tables up for anyone who might like to play this one for themselves, rather than reskinning and modding monsters,

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