The Rest; a tarot cast.

For whatever reason tarot cards have been following me around a lot more than they should be. Between Cyberpunk 2077 (which I’m playing just fine on my eight year old PC) and Troubled Blood (by Robert Galbraith, which I just finished reading) every piece of media I’m consuming is meddling with it.

Today I wrote this eight page cast of characters.

I know nothing about tarot. I’ve been thinking about Demon City (and when it will be ready, my gosh) and how I may need a tarot set to play that with. I went to a Waterstones and there were dozens of different kinds. In the end, I didn’t get any because I didn’t know what the differences were. I mention this just to show that I know little about tarot. Whilst writing this, I had Wikipedia open and that’s the extent of my research now. I took heavy inspiration from the cards, but am not trying to acurately represent them.

Anyway, I had quite a lot of fun writing this. I’ve bashed this out today, on a lovely, homebound Sunday. This blog doesn’t have a very wide readership, so I’m not expecting anything of it, but if anyone else wants to get on board with building a world based around the 22 Major Arcana (slipping in the Minor if you’re up to it), then I’d read the shit out of it.

I was using a list of old British names, if anyone’s curious about the weird spellings.

Gargonox’s
 Redemption Army

Gargonox is a beholder… well, he used to be. He died a few thousand years ago, but still ticks along, trying with all his might to muster an army in the hopes that it’ll impress his mother, a medusa. The medusa actually. The first. Unfortunately… she’s long since forgotten about him.

It’s probably best if your party of level four or five adventurers put him out of his misery. You’ll be helping all the corpses stay in their eternal rest much more peacefully.

I wrote this adventure to play in the middle of Maze of the Blue Medusa, replacing one of the rooms, because I needed to take a break from the crawl, really. I also needed an opportunity to give them a few magic items, which went well.

I was hoping originally to put this on the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, but then realised that the Dyson map I’d built the adventure around wasn’t one of their commericial ones. So you get the adventure here, for free!

I pushed along anyway, because I wanted to play around with Affinity Publisher, which is lovely. I’d quite like to get better at design skills, so taking large gulps of inspiration from MotBM was the way I went. I hope you like the look of it.

There’s also a d40 random loot table, for those of you who enjoy them.

Grab the adventure here.

Roll on your own time

For a dungeon master, tabletop games are really a hobby in two parts: preparing the game and running the game. It’s fine to prefer one over the other, and we all get short on prep time when life gets in the way. I’d like to suggest that one of the parts of a published adventure you should prepare is getting rid of any random encounter table rolls you have to do during the game.

Roll them before the game for infinitely better results, always.

I’m running Maze of the Blue Medusa at the moment, and there’s a great deal of prep that has to go into it. I’d only recommend running this adventure to the most dedicated of DMs; there are hundreds of rooms each with their own ploy, either a kind of trap or a piece of the story for the players to put together. I spend a few hours before the game to look around the potential rooms but even then, the randomness of the player choices makes anticipating their moves difficult. During the game, there’s a great deal of time where I’ve needed to tell my players to talk amongst themselves whilst I flick to the right page.

There’s not much to be done about this – other than study the book more.

There is another area of the game which slows things down though; random tables. The Maze is not a safe place, and random encounters are supposed to happen whenever the characters make too much of a disturbance or when they let their guards down. The book suggests an excessive “every twenty minutes”. These random encounters are to be rolled on a table – the table changes depending on where in the maze they are.

I’ve come to the conclusion that these tables should never be rolled on in the middle of a game. These tables aren’t unique to MotBM. You’ll find them in most published adventures. Random loot tables are less time consuming, but they also have a similar missed opportunity.

Instead, roll on these tables during your prep time. This is where fudging the dice roll can really come into its own. This buys you time during the game because you don’t need to scramble for the next battlemap or spend three minutes looking up creatures in the monster manual. More interestingly though, you can think of the story of the fight.

Nearly always your players are looking for more information about their current quest, and any smart group keeps back one of the combatants for questioning. Just give them the right person for the information they need.

In The Blue Medusa, there are a large number of potential encounters. There are half a dozen mummies, for instance, each with their own goals in the maze. Throwing those out during my game at the moment wouldn’t do anything but confuse the players. Their logic, most likely, would be that the DM is offering this NPC who’s carrying a history golem, and so it must have something to do with the quest at hand. Almost always, these random encounters don’t push the story forwards. The just distract.

Dragons who want not for gold

I was in need of a person who’s obsessed with high valuable items and making a … hoard of them, if you will. But these items are not simple mountains of gold or gems just to sit on all day. These are unique items. Items with a wonderful story behind them. Rarely crudely stolen but aquired. It’s not a collection of stolen items, but work has gone into them to get them.

This is why I came up with the idea for the Onyx Dragon.

This lawful dragon might always endevour to come by an item justly, but sometimes their obsession gets the better of them. They find an excuse – a lie to themselves – to bend their moral code. If someone else steals it and gives it to me, then that’s probably good enough…

These mental gymnastics are an onyx dragon’s main weapon, which it can easily force on others too. Weakening their will and casting doubt. An onyx dragon may never need to fight to need hold of their stash – with enough time the theif will talk themselves out of trying in the first place.

Redcap Iron Boots

Redcaps are fun for just wild violence. Bonus: if the fight you’ve thrown your gang into isn’t cutting the mustard, you can just have Redcaps appear. They show up where ever horrid, blood swathed scenes of terror have happened.

Lets jump to the part where they say “I’d like to loot the corpse!” though.

Redcap Iron Boots
Magic footwear, which grow and shrink in size for their new owner. They’re eager to be worn.

The boots are very heavy, adding at least 50lb to the weight of the wearer. Stealth checks are made with disadvantage. Swimming is difficult whilst wearing these boots.

Attunement: whilst wearing them, leave your feet in a bucket of water for the duration of a short rest. They’ll get properly snug then. If you move towards an enemy and use the last of your movement to get to them (ie. you have zero movement left when you reach them), you can just fudging kick ’em real hard.

The target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or take 3d10 + STR bludgeoning damage and be knocked backwards 5 feet prone. If the target succeeds, you take 1d10 piercing damage as the boots drain their blood lust from you instead.

Cursed: the boots do not want to be removed. You take 3d10 piercing damage to attempt to remove them. Removing them requires a DC 11 Strength save.