The honk of a quagmire duck is the last thing any adventurer wants to hear when crossing a bog. Their territory stretches as far as they can be heard, or at least that’s what they seem to like to think. These multi-headed, tar soaked ducks are vicious and hot headed, with a recklessness that rivals a manic barbarian.
The number of heads a quagmire duck has varies between two and four, each with its own long, opposable neck.
Quagmire ducks spend most of their life with all but one of their heads underground, reach down as far as they can to find any lurking fish. One of their heads is always kept above ground, as high as it can be, sweeping the surroundings for interlopers.
Their strong wings let them swim through the loose mud as if it were water. This leaves them with their distinctive brown gloss, sticking to their feathers added an impressive layer of impact absorption from any potential attackers.
The most insulting compliment to pay on of these ducks is to take a step closer to it. This appears to override any sense of self-preservation, flipping a switch within the bird from its typical graceful manner into a rabid killer. For some time this was considered a defensive mechanism, but those who are able to communicate with the ducks have explained that the bird loses itself to its rage even when it knows it’s sure to die.
The ducklings do not present like this. It’s only in adulthood does this craze take over.
Flying mounts. There have been three instances in recorded history of gnomes using quagmire ducks as mounts. Each time, it was only as a result of an extended period of bonding between the two. Small creatures can use them as mounts, but keeping control of them does not seem likely.
I want to write an interesting encounter – an antithesis of “roll on this table for a random encounter”. My problem with those kinds of encounters is that they often have very little imagination to them, and by their nature the DM can’t prep for them to add more colour. I know they gap they’re trying to fill: sometimes players dawdle and if they hang around the forest or make too much noise in a dungeon, something should turn up to teach them a lesson and get them moving.
I don’t think that problem needs to be solved by having a table to roll on which says “3 bears, 2 liches.” Why can’t there just be half a dozen generic, but well thought out, encounters at the back of the adventure?
I’ve been working on writing one of those. Laying it out on an A5 page is tricky though.
I’ve got one page of text which the DM should read at their leisure, explaining the environment. And then the cast list for the combat. The idea is that this is all they need open for the encounter, and can doodle on the page as needed.
I’ve only managed to fit 4 of the bad guys on this, so it doesn’t really scale. As I’m writing this, it occures to me that I’ll actually have two pages of A5 content I can fill for the DM to see at once.
Here’s the aims:
Give the bad guys descriptions. If you’re playing theatre of the mind this is super important, but hard to think up something unique on the spot. I promise your players will refer to them by their descriptions rather than “the one I just hit” or “which one is closer again?”.
Problem I’m trying to solve: fleshless mobs. The goblin has a locket around his neck and suddenly you’ve got the players thinking of his loved ones back home.
Give the bad guys tactics. Read their actions from top to bottom on their turn. Do the top most possible one, skipping if it sounds boring right now. This gives them a personality which the players can come to expect during the fight.
Problem I’m trying to solve: The bad guy has a d4 dagger and a d6 shortsword. Why would you ever chose the dagger? Many creatures in the MM have redundant weapons, leaving them as one-trick ponies.
Initiative has already been rolled. It was random, trust me. Just pencil in the characters around.
Problem I’m trying to solve: Why bother rolling for this at the table? It takes ages to do this, meanwhile your players are already yelling their initiative at you.
Fleeing should be at the front of the DM’s mind.
Problem I’m trying to solve: Why does ever bad guy fight to the death? How often to bar fights end up with body bags? At some point, even in a war people give up. The bad guys here must have a limit of some kind. The flee condition turns the end of the battle from a slog to a race, before they get away.
Loot is relevant, more interesting than just money, and already written down.
Problem I’m trying to solve: “Can I loot the corpses?” “Uh, sure. They’re got shitty clothes and weapons that aren’t worth taking… They’ve got six gold though, I guess.”
I got thinking about race-classes and wanted to make one. The cool part about making it so that an elf can’t play your class is that you can go kind buckwild and not have to think about how each race works with the class.
So here’s the idea: the goldenkind are a race who come from the Outerplanes. There are only 16 of them alive at any one time, and each one comes from a different plane. There being only sixteen alive at any time I think makes a fun opportunity for the DM to have their player bump into other goldenkind; with it being quite rare and the personalities never aligned, I figure it might make for some interesting roleplay bits.
The plane they come from determines their alignment, of course. The fluff is that the leader of that plane has sent out an emissary to the Material Plane to further the cause. As time is a bit hand wavey for the gods that hang out there, the goldenkind is in no rush and is free to follow pursuits like saving the blacksmith’s son.
The gimick of the class is that they have almost no ways to do damage themselves. They have their normal Attack action, if they wanna use it but at higher levels (3rd?) they can swap their Attack action for addition Reactions. Reactions are what they thrive off of where they play a support role in the pack.
Their alignment decides their “spell list”.
Evil. Focuses on prividing additional damage. Example reaction: Painful Echo. Use after a target takes damage. At the end of the target’s next turn, the take an additional 1d6 damage.
Good. Increases the usefulness of boons. Example reaction: Resplednant Life. Use after a target is healed. They gain an extra 1d4 health.
Lawful. Forces compliance or returns to the natural order of things. Example reaction: Obligation. Use when target is making a saving throw against a Charmed affect. That save must be made with disadvantage.
Chaotic. Bends a rule. Example reaction: No Harm Done. Use on a target if their prepared spell fails to trigger. The spell slot expended is recovered.
Neutral. Advantages or disadvantages everyone equally. Example reaction: Glistening Light. As a new source of light is being created, you can target it. The light source gives off a further 20 feet of light until it is douted. This additional light has no other special properties.
The problem is that some of them are really difficult to write reactions for. I’m not sure I could write a whole list of spells for them whilst staying true to the domain.
Back in the day, it’s worth noting that spells did come with alignments. They don’t anymore which must have been a deliberate choice.
I’ve been reading through my copies of Workskin (Norman & Gorganmilk) again and I’ve also got The Peridot (David McGrogan) kicking around my deks now because of it. I quite like the idea of throwing some ideas into a zine like this so that’s what I’ve been working on recently. (This something that I played around with before if anyone spotted my unlaunched Patreon and was actually what Merchants and Civilisations was originally for.)
Anyway, I keep finding hurdles to slow myself down with. I’m unsure why I’m that kind of person. One such hurdle was “I can’t even tell if this text should be justified or not.” I ended up Googling for it and found Butterick’s Practical Typography. It’s full of advice that I’m working through. I’d recommend it for anyone writing who isn’t likely to get an editor or layout person.
It talks a lot about typography not being about aesthetics. Instead, it’s more about being appropriate for your subject area and being in the right format to sink in as completely as possible whilst reading.
For completion: with regards to left aligned or justified, it suggests following personal preference. There’s apparently little evidence of one being better than the other. I’ll go with left aligned right now, because it leaves more space for notes, but I don’t have a strong preference.
I did wanna do the preface centred but was heavily berated by Butterick’s chapter on that.
This is a tavern I wrote for an adventure, and then realised I probably don’t need a tavern. If nanowrimo has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t throw away content though. Feel free to run with this.
The Barrelled Barn is a tavern so called because the stables-and-henhouse is made from a huge structure made from nailed together ale barrels. The tavern is run by Falen the Kind, a gnome. He’s nailed many wooden pitons around the bar which he climbs with great grace to get up higher; behind the bar, up to bottles, even lighting the candles.
The tavern is quite large with many secluded nooks and even semi-private rooms which some people have taken their drinks and food into. This allows for many different people to be in here whilst still keeping their conversations quietly to themselves.
Falen talks kindly about all his customers but he knows most of them quite well from over hearing (“well, it’s not my place to say, but…”). He suggests a few people who are looking for some work done.
Jaxx the Impaler is a well-known orc who runs the Impaler fighting ring nearby. He has dark skin with many red highlights where his skin has scarred from accidents in the ring. He’s always on the lookout for people to send into the nearby forest to collect owlbears, dire wolves, or even aurochs. He wants them brought back alive and ready to fight against each other, or an eager gladiator.
Teeth the Tabaxi comes from a far-flung place, which is very clear by his accent which is difficult to understand at the best of times. He’s still not gotten used to the strength of ale in these parts, and slurs all the more because of it. He’s an ex-smuggler, though he still has many friends in the game. He’s often used as a man in the middle for giving out messages between smugglers. He knows the location of the hideout of a recently murdered pirate; he’ll give it the adventurers for the right price… and a look at any maps they come across. Teeth will almost definitely try and steal something from the adventurers’ mid-conversation. He has Sleight of Hand (+8) vs. their passive Perception.
Tracker Blue is an incredibly fashionable half-elf who specialising in piercings and tattoos. She’s surrounded by men and women who are hanging on to her every word. They’re each proudly presenting their tattoos. The conversation they’re all aflutter with tonight is with regards to the minor infestation of ash zombies who seasonally pass through the dried natural waterways (accessible by some defunct wells). They’re all curious if the zombie’s glittering ash puff would look good if used as a tattoo ink, and are willing to pay a good price for a few bags full of the stuff.