Tabletop RPG Podcast and Roleplaying Resources

Category: RPG (Page 2 of 14)

Low Prep RPG Games: Part 7

2015-07-02 23.50.45A Bullet Campaign is a format where you take a villain, determine their diabolical goal, then list out a few bullet points of steps they’ll take in executing their plan. It works great for high level campaigns, but works for adventures as well.

Here’s an example of an adventure written in about ten minutes, inspired by flipping through pages of monsters and magic items. It contains a backstory and motivation, then bullet points of events that may unfold.

“The Return of the Sky Elves” Adventure

Summary: Banished Sky Elves are staging a return with plans to enslave the local region.

Backstory: The Sky Elves are an evil, winged race living in the heights of a mountain. Generations ago the Sky Elves began plans to enslave the local region. Only the centaurs knew of the elves plan so they intervened to defeat them. A powerful centaur wizard forged an artifact known as the mage-ring to magically unmoor the Sky Elf mountain from its rock base, leaving a rock basin below which became the valley. The centaurs then for generations guarded the valley and the magic ring to prevent the Sky Elves from returning. Recently, a sky elf mage appeared to a local magistrate in a vision and struck a dark deal to pay mercenaries to recover the ring in exchange for power in their future, dark kingdom. These mercenaries have killed local farmers and used centaur-style arrows to frame the centaurs and set the stage for questing mercenaries to retrieve the ring.


  1. The mercenaries frame the Centaurs. The players are traveling in a rural location when they come across a girl crying over her dead father — killed needlessly as he farmed by distinctive red arrows. Investigation reveals these arrows are similar to those of a local Centaur tribe. His cabin has a map to the location of a mysterious artifact known as the mage-ring.
  1. Mercenaries spread rumors about the Centaurs. The local tavern has rumors of an evil centaur tribe bent on slaying all non-centaurs in the region. Some say the mage-ring which holds the key to defeating the centaurs.
  1. The farmer’s map reveals the dangerous path to the mage-ring. An impassable mountain range surrounds the hidden valley, but the farmer’s map shows the location of a hidden tunnel. Inside, the players will face encounters with 1) a catacomb slug, 2) a swarm of sharp-teeth cave imps, 3) water-elementals in a catacomb stream, and 4) a chained, lost relative of one of the players (but who is really a doppelganger).
  1. When the mage-ring is removed, the Sky Elves return as warring slavers. If the players arrive at the center of the valley they find a shrine with a statue (which later animates and fights the PCs) holding the ring. If the ring is removed from the statue, clouds will darken and a large mass appears overhead. The mage-rings power to keep the flying mountain at bay dissolves and an army of flying elves descend to attack the players. The centaurs, who were framed and really allies, not enemies, will appear to aid the fight.

For the above example, you can probably get by with just the first sentence of each bullet point. When you are originating the idea, you just need enough notes to trigger your memory, not a full description of the scenes you’ve created. Sketch a rough map if you want, make sure you have some stat blocks handy for the people and creatures, and you’ll be ready to run the adventure!

Low Prep RPG Games: Part 6

2015-06-05 14.33.22One really easy to run format is a Triggered Mission. These games follow this format:

  1. Opening Mission — Initial scene where the PCs are assigned a mission. It could be to fight an evil villain in his lair, rescue someone, or pull off a heist. The key concept is there is a location that the PCs have to investigate and scope out before the final act.
  2. Prep — The following scenes are investigation, strategy, and preparing to accomplish the goal. The PCs drive the action; the GM simply answers questions.
  3. Boss Scene Trigger — At a certain point (usually ½ or ? through the game), regardless of what the PCs are doing, something ‘triggers’ the final climactic scene. The trigger is important because it makes sure you have time for the final infiltration and boss fight.
  4. Boss Fight — This is the final set piece battle.

Some examples of Triggers:

  • You receive a secret message from an informant tell you something is happening at a certain location and time (which is only minutes from now).
  • You are rescuing a kidnap victim held in an impregnable fortress. You discover they will be relocated and there is an optimal time and location to free the victim. At the Trigger point, you receive word the victim is being moved.
  • You are exploring a dungeon. At the trigger point, the next door you open is the lair of the boss monster. (You may want to redraw the map on the fly so that the final room or cavern is now at that point in the dungeon crawl).
  • You are exploring a derelict spaceship. After the fourth room you investigate (regardless of where in the ship you are), the fifth scene kicks in, which is a boss fight with an enemy.

To create a quick Triggered Mission adventure, follow these structured steps:

  • Invent a villain.
  • Put the villain in a fortress or sanctuary that has guards, traps, or hazards.
  • Have the villain possess something (an artifact or kidnapped person) that the PCs desperately need to rescue.
  • Have an open ended part of the adventures where the PCs can investigate the fortress, gain clues, scope out guards, and lay plans to infiltrate the fortress or location.
  • At a time of your choosing, announce a ‘trigger’ that forces the PCs to make their move. Maybe the artifact is going to be destroyed, the kidnap victim killed, or some other disaster.

Triggered Missions are one of the easiest types of games to run. Aside from sketching out the lair or ambush location and coming up with a villain and object or person to rescue, the players drive all the action. You can sit back and enjoy the story that unfolds!

Low Prep RPG Games: Part 5

IMG_5246Continuing my series on low-prep RPG games, this morning I’ll talk about the Fantastic Four technique.

One great way to get player-generated ideas for adventures and campaigns is to ask the Fantastic Four questions.

Hand out four cards to each of your players. Each card should have one to three sentences describing a person or objective.

The first card is a Friend NPC who can be anything from a drinking buddy to a contact in the local royal court. These NPCs can be patrons, plot hooks, or just for fun roleplaying.

The second card is a Family member, an NPC related to the PC. The GM can imperil a family member to create tension and motivation for an adventure.

The third card is a Foe, an NPC that is directly opposing the PC either directly or indirectly. Foes are particularly useful for GMs. Need a quick adventure or side-quest? Have the Foe make an appearance and make the PCs’ lives miserable. The players will quickly seek to deal with the Foe. Make sure the Foe is not easily defeated — surround them with retainers or followers so Foes can live for multiple adventures.

The last card is for a Flame. The Flame is something the PC desires and can be an NPC they are in love with, a need to seek justice against an evil empire, or an object (perhaps a magic relic or powerful weapon) that the PC desires.

Make the Fantastic Four questions a collaborative discussion where people muse out loud about what they are thinking of writing down. The group can build off each other’s ideas and help inspire you if you get stuck.

After the brainstorming session, have the players pass in their cards. Use a few cards to form the framework of the current adventure. Shuffle through the cards between games and make sure each players gets the spotlight from time to time by pulling a PC’s Friend, Family, Foe, or Flame into the next game!

In my next post we’ll talk about the Triggered Heist technique.

#LowPrepRPG #RogueComet

Low Prep RPG Games: Part 4

IMG_4816Continuing my series on low-prep RPG games, this evening I’ll talk about Villain Flashback and Custer’s Last Stand techniques.

Villain Flashback

Start the game with an unexplained battle. Perhaps the villains ambush the PCs. Maybe you set up the scene as the players attacking the villains in order to obtain the contents of a large chest, or to rescue someone important from inside a wagon. Whatever the setup, the heroes engage in combat, not knowing what the villain’s motive are or what is in the chest or wagon.

At the end of the scene when the villains are dead or captured, you leave the questions unanswered. Have the players put away their character sheets and assume the roles of the villains they just defeated. Start a new scene as a flashback from three days ago. Ask the players questions: “What are you doing?”, “What are you transporting in the box that’s so important?”, “What is your diabolical plan?”, and “What will your boss do if you fail on your mission?” Have them role play out their villain characters through events up to the present.

The players get to determine motivations and backstory for the villains. At the end, bring them back to the present and let them resume their normal characters. Not only did the players spend much of the game setting up backstory but they also have set the stage for the upcoming adventure!

Custer’s Last Stand

This is a technique especially good for new campaigns where some players are learning the rules.

Give each player a quick pre-generated character, or have them generate a new character from scratch, but without an elaborate backstory.

Open a scene where the players are in a village or other location under siege. Throw overwhelming force against the PCs to assure their demise. Play up the ruthless, diabolical nature of the foes — the players should really come to hate these opponents! All players will die in combat save one PC (or NPC) which the gamemaster selects to spare.

The villains take the one spared character and dispatches them back to the allies friends or family to tell the news of their terrible destruction.

Fast forward the scene to the arrival of the messenger telling of the massacre. Let the players roll up new characters — this time, these will be their long term characters. The players have been exposed to the rules, allowed to make some mistakes, and discovered how easy it is to die. Now, with new characters, the players will be out for revenge and emotionally invested in defeating these adversaries!

In my next post we’ll talk about The Fantastic Four technique.

Low Prep RPG Games: Part 3

IMG_5194Continuing my series on low-prep RPG games, this morning I’ll talk about the Inspirational Interlude and Player Punch List techniques.

Inspirational Interlude

Ask for a volunteer who is willing to narrate a bit of background story for a reward (be it experience points, a Fate Point, or D&D 5e Inspiration).

Have the player roll a d4 and then spend a few minutes thinking up and then narrating the backstory type they’ve rolled. Let them know that something is happening in the present which will connect the current players with this past event.

1d4 Backstory Results:

  1. Lost Love — What person (or thing) has the character lost in the past? What stands in the way of fulfilling that love? What event happens in the present that gives the player an opportunity (with the party’s help) to seek that lost love?
  2. Old Enemy — What past foe became the character’s enemy? What terrible consequences came from this old rivalry? What event resurfaces your connection to this enemy?
  3. Secret Need — What undisclosed need does your character have? Why have you kept this a secret? Who or what is in the way of getting your need? What has just happened that gives you hope you might finally fulfil your need?
  4. Terrible Tragedy — What terrible tragedy befell the character or someone the character knows? What collateral damage resulted? What person or creature from the past now emerges that demands you address this past injustice?
After the player has finished their inspirational interlude, kick off the game using their story as a hook. This is usually enough to generate satisfying story momentum. Because the player has created the adventure hook, they are invested in what comes next!

Player Punch List

For inspiration, give the players writing prompts such as:
— A diabolical enemy
— A devious motive
— A mysterious object
— An imperilled victim
— A dangerous obstacle
— An exotic locationHave each players use notecards, a whiteboard, butcher paper, or a battlemat to record and share their ideas, putting the player’s initials next to each of their ideas.When done, take a short break and do a quick ten minute brainstorm on how to kick off the adventure using the player ideas as a basis. Then, run the adventure, incorporating as many of the player ideas as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t have the ending or details all figured out — things will evolve and emerge as you play!As a bonus, give each player a reward (be it experience points, a Fate Point, or D&D 5e Inspiration) the first time any of their ideas surface in play.

In my next post I’ll talk about Villain Flashback and Custer’s Last Stand.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2024 Dicehaven

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑