3 Keys to Reskinning an Adventure

As I mentioned, my “office” game is Tales of the Yawning Portal. Previously, I talked about reasons to use published adventures and how to turn published modules into a campaign. Today I want to talk about keys to taking a published adventure and turning it into what you need for your campaign. This process is called reskinning and it is pretty easy.

1) Figure Out What to Keep

The single biggest reason to use a published adventure at all is to save time. So if you are not using a published adventure as written, you have to ask yourself why you’re not simply using a different adventure. Some reasons include you like the map, or the story, or perhaps some unique monster. These are the things about the original adventure you will want to keep in your reskinned final version of the adventure.

This will also tell you what about this adventure you need to change. If you simply do not like the map, then all you need to do is draw a different map and perhaps change the read aloud text to describe the vicinity. If the level of the adventure does not work for you, figure out if can you just increase or decrease some of the numbers in the monsters/difficulties to make it work? This works best if the level of adventure is only 3 or less levels away the character’s level. Any wider a gap and the designers probably did not anticipate the capabilities of the characters (whether in their favor or not) to be able to complete the adventure. If some of the monsters simply do not grab you, then it is time to use those creative skills you have in you and craft a new one. Alternatively, you could just a monster book and switch out the offending monster with a new one.

2) Add New Reasons to Go In

Changing the premise of the adventure is the easiest thing to do. If the adventure is at the right level, features enemies you want to pit against the characters, and has a map you like but the reasons the module has for going on the adventure don’t work for your campaign, change it to something that does work for you.

When you do that, make sure to add multiple reasons for the characters to go on the adventure. Players and their characters are not monolithic. Seeking out a treasure horde does not always excite them. Similarly, serving the good deity if goodness is not always proper motivation. Having a handful of reasons means that everyone can find something. These reasons should be a mix of long term campaign reasons and some reasons specific to this adventure.

3) Just Use the Encounters

If you want to be dramatic and essentially throw out the adventure, there are still parts of you you can keep. Namely, the monsters and their proportions (aka the encounters). By using the encounters, you know the battles are already balanced; the math is already worked out. All you have to do from there is focus on the map, the descriptions, the reasons to go in, and maybe make a monster more or less difficult. Translation: do everything above.

This works great when you have an adventure that takes place that doesn’t work for your campaign—such as a volcano like in Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion—and you want it to take place elsewhere, like in a magical glacier. Well you will need new maps and will need to rewrite all the flavor text. However, you can keep all the encounters, simply renaming the monsters and changing fire damage to cold and the …. well that is a spoiler for the adventure.

The real advantage of doing this is you save time on crafting your own adventure, but you save some by using whatever parts of the existing adventure work for you. Plus you have a template for how the story should flow, giving you a basis for your own version of the adventure.

Download all of Jon Brazer Enterprises’ adventures for 13th Age, Fifth Edition, and Pathfinder at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

3 Steps to Turn Published Adventures into a Campaign

As I mentioned last week, I am running an “office” game of Tales of the Yawning Portal. These are some really great adventures, but what they are not is a campaign. These are adventures that for all tense and purposes have nothing to do with each other except that one starts at a level where the previous left off. Beyond that, there is no connective story, no common set of NPCs to help make everything work together, nothing. It is exactly like running a campaign from a bunch of pre-published modules that you pulled off the shelf. So if you want to run a campaign with these kinds of modules, here’s what you have to do.

1) Make an NPC or Item Significant

The best example I can think of from this happening in fiction is the Ring from The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings books. In The Hobbit book (not the movies), the ring was little more than a ring of invisibility. It wasn’t anything special. Then came The Lord of the Rings and that same ring now has a back story, one that will spell the end of the world as they knew it if it fell into the wrong hands. That is what you should do when running a campaign using pre-published adventures.

So what did I make significant? Well, I choose an NPC that they just rescued and an item they destroyed. Other than saving the NPC, their characters had no interaction with her. This particular Macguffin could just as easily have been a puppy. Because of spoilerific reasons to the first adventure that NPC was perfect to make significant. Not only that, the big bad of the first adventure used an item that the PCs ultimately destroyed. That item is perfect to be made important to the larger campaign.

2) Add in the Connection

This step is relatively small, but is critical. This, in The Lord of the Rings is where Gandalf found Bilbo’s behavior suspicious, went and researched the ring, and came back to tell Frodo what he found. Last week in my campaign, I had one of two NPCs that the PCs just rescued just up and died suddenly. So now the players have a reason to go on another adventure. What is that adventure? It is to follow the spread of the item encountered in the first adventure into adventure two. Like I said, the characters destroyed the item in the first adventure, but I added in that they found a note saying that another of that thing is elsewhere, and from examination of the body of the NPC, her fate appears tied to that item. That is the connection to the next adventure.

So what was my total work on making the connection: I wrote a note they found, and I added what amounted to a paragraph of box text. It was not hard at all. You might be thinking that that connection is not much. Let me point you to the TV show Supernatural. In the pilot episode, one of the brothers find’s his dad’s journal with some numbers in it. They figured that was a location and maybe dad would be there. Was he? No, but it got them from adventure 1 to adventure 2. Not only that, it established that finding dad as a connection between what would otherwise be random episodes in that first season. And that is what you are doing in this step: adding in those numbers in the journal or giving that ring a backstory. Those are not much either, but it is enough to get the PCs to go off on another adventure.

3) Make a Few Small Changes to the Adventure

Now I have to add in the impact of that connection to the existing adventure. How much does that change the adventure? Surprisingly little. Whenever they encounter an NPC that I already picked out, I have to add in the item. That’s it. From there, it is their call. Do they destroy the item again or do they bring it back? I can guess which way they are going to go, but I will wait for them to make that call and at that point I will adjust the reasons why they are going to adventure 3 accordingly.

Did you catch that important detail? “… the reasons why they are going…” not “… where they are going…” The latter requires changing the module from one to another; the former requires you to change the connection (see above) to the module you already have picked out. If I had said, “they must bring back the item,” some will balk feeling that it should be destroyed, and the reverse would also be true. By leaving the decision up to them, they feel like their decisions matter to the overall campaign. However, it does not impact what further adventures will be, only the motivation behind those adventures. And I can still run the adventure that I want to run, no matter what they decide.

So to recap, what changes am I making to the next adventure: adding in an item from a previous adventure to the next one and adding a connection to the following adventure based on the PCs actions. That’s it. This is not difficult and you can do this as well.

The perfect place to start is with our Deadly Delve adventures. Download our 5e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder adventures at the JBE Shop today so you can make your own campaign.

3 Reasons to Run Published Adventures

For the JBE “office” game, I run Tales of the Yawning Portal for the group. I mean, I can’t run anything that we ourselves published because we know each adventure so well. And honestly, who can pass up a collection of classic adventures. Last week, we finished up the first adventure, the Sunless Citadel, and it reminded me why I love running published adventures these days.

A little background: I use to never run published adventures. The first campaign I GMed was Exalted 1e. There was exactly 1 adventure for that entire edition. Not only that, I was able to make the campaign based in what characters the players made. I was 30 before I ran my first published adventure, and I don’t see myself going back to that anytime soon.

So if you create your own campaign, here are some reasons why you might want to consider checking out published adventures.

1) They Save Time

Oh my goodness do published adventures save time. The last campaign I ran that I created myself, I ran it on a Sunday, and I spent my entire Saturday prepping for it. I’d stat out every possible NPC they’d meet, even if it was only for a quick conversation because “you never knew what the PC’s were going to do.” I wrote mounds and mounds of read aloud text I never used. I’d read over source books in case they went off in some other direction I had not planned for or looking for some awesome treasure for them to get their hands on or … The list goes on.

When did I start prepping last week’s session? 20 minutes before we started. I don’t recommend doing that, but I was running late and work ate into my prep time. That right there is one of the biggest reasons why I use published adventures these days: because I no longer have the time to create an adventure for a specific group. The thing was, I still ran a good game. It would have been better if I had spent even an hour on it, but for such a short prep time, it was good.

Having said that, I still made the game unique. I rewrote the entire beginning. I added NPCs to the town. I created my own twists and turns. All of these modifications did take time—more than last week’s 20 min prep—but far less than the full day each session use to require. On the whole, I can run a great game at a fraction of the time required.

2) More Focused Characters

As any GM knows, players can do anything at any time. That is one of the things that make running a campaign so difficult—you have to be prepared for anything at any time. When I created my own campaign, I designed the adventures around the characters. Yet when I run a published campaign, the players make their characters around the adventures. Who is reacting to whom is reversed.

Think if it like this, if you let the players make whatever they want from any available source book, they will make characters that have little if anything to do with each other. Give them some direction and they will make characters around those ideas. Tell them you are running a specific campaign and they will make characters that fit that specific theme.

By giving them direction, you are channelling their creativity not hindering it, and you will get far less of the “the PCs can go any direction” that I talked about in the point above. A group where the players make characters without direction can result in an out of place character: three heroes, and a thief that wants nothing but violence and money, as an example. Then as the GM it is your job to figure a way to make them work together. Instead if you tell the players you are running a campaign where isolated villages are being attacked and you’re helping them, like in our adventures Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider and Rescue from Trykaven (available for Pathfinder and 5e), then the players will all be thinking about how the character they want to play fits in the adventure.

3) You’re Creating a Shared Experience

By running a published adventure, you are giving your fellow gamers an experience that they can talk about with their fellow gamers that other gamers can bond over. Look at it another way: adventures are stories. One crafted for a specific group is the campfire story while the published adventure is the novel or movie. How many times have each of us bonded with someone we just met while talking about a Marvel movie? The campfire stories, the only way I have found to bond with someone about that is to repeat that same story; bumping into someone that knows that exact same story has yet to happen for me.

So when we go to conventions, having played a published adventure is giving us something in common with someone we never met before. That is another opportunity to make friends and play new campaigns.

So do you prefer to run your own campaigns or do you run published adventures? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for some awesome adventure? Our Deadly Delves line of adventures provides you with game sessions that your players will remember. On top of that, they are designed for busy GMs like you and me. Download our 5e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder adventures at the JBE Shop today.

5e: Mites

Earlier this month, we released an updated version of our adventure Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider for the Fifth Edition of D&D. Inside are a number of new monsters and spiders do take up the majority of those new monsters. However, they are not the only new monsters inside. Today we want to show off the mite. These little fey are used to being kicked around. They get absolutely no respect and carry a grudge because of it. Despite their evil bent, they are not without their redeeming qualities. Find out what they are by reading this adventure today.

Download Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider today at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

Mite

Image by Simon Buckroyd
Small fey, lawful evil
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 40 (9d6 + 9)
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.


Str 6 (–2) Dex 14 (+2) Con 13 (+1)
Int 8 (−1) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 10 (+0)

Skills Perception +3, Stealth +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Deep Speech
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Innate Spellcasting. The mite’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 10). The mite can innately cast the following spells, requiring only verbal components:
At will: prestidigitation
1/day: bane

Actions


Dagger. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Dart. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 20 ft./ 60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Vermin Empathy (1/day). As an action, a mite can conjure a swarm of bats, a swarm of rats, a giant centipede, 2 giant rats, or a giant wolf spider. The conjured creatures attack the closest creature except the mite. The mite has no additional control over the conjured creatures.

5e: The Spiders Have Been Unleashed Again

These Spiders Aren’t So Itsy Bitsy

Giant spiders have overrun Mossdale, and every last villager is either dead and dessicated, or cocooned and abducted. But what were they after, and who coordinated the vermin to attack en masse? Could it have been the local ettercap or a crazed arachnophile druid… or was something far more sinister behind the attack? Can the adventurers rescue the missing citizens and foil the plans of the nefarious mind behind this dastardly deed before it is too late?

Along Came a Spider is an exciting adventure module in Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Deadly Delves series for the Fifth Edition of the World’s Oldest Fantasy Roleplaying Game. This updated 29-page adventure is designed to challenge four to five 1st-level PCs like no other content has to date. Inside this volume, you’ll find:

  • 6 new monsters, 2 NPCs, a unique trap, and more material for your Fifth Edition campaign

  • Three full-color maps, one of the ruined alchemist shop, another of the an ancient stone circle where spiders and worse horrors prowl, the final is in the lair of the deadly horror

  • Enough content to get your group of 1st-level PCs through a night of play with little preparation time required, bringing your group to 2nd level

Dangers Unknown. Treasures Untold. Adventure Awaits.

Download the updated adventure Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider for Fifth Edition today at the the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

5e: Updating the Awesome

Yesterday, we rereleased Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider in PDF for Fifth Edition. The original was our first adventure we released for 5e and I think it deserves a mention as to why. The answer will give you a better picture as to who we are, the way we approach game design, and where we are going from here.

First some history. When we first released Along Came a Spider, there was no OGL or DMs Guild for 5e. If you were releasing products for 5e, you did so hoping you wouldn’t get into legal trouble with WotC. You had to be sure you were right, legally speaking. You had to know what you were doing or that might be the last thing you published. If you remember, the playtest lasted two years and it look another two years for the 5e SRD to be released. Add to that their slow release schedule. While it helped them sell books, it meant that if you didn’t want either of the adventures they released that year, you had no other options. So it was in that environment we decided to go ahead and publish for 5e without a net, so to speak.

Along Came a Spider was designed to be both a Pathfinder release as well as a 5e release. It was written by Joel Flank–a freelancer I trusted as being excellent with Pathfinder and like me and some of my editing crew switched to 5e during the playtest. We loved the new game and wanted to be apart of it right away. Heck, our adventure Rescue from Tyrkaven was written during the playtest and was converted to Pathfinder when some license wasn’t released for it right away, but that is a take for a different day.

When it came to making it a 5e module, we had a number of hurdles about which we had to make tough decisions. Everything from the monster stat blocks to the use of advantage and disadvantage had to be discussed. Ultimately, we decided to go with a Pathfinder-inspired monster stat block since we were using the Pathfinder OGL as our base. Doing so, however, meant that our monster stats did not look like 5e stat blocks. While not a big deal as all the stats were 5e stats and not Pathfinder, it was a barrier to using our module effortlessly. A core philosophy in our modules and any other GM-related products we create is to make the GM’s job easier. We decided that the benefit of a GM having the option of another module to choose from outweighed any barrier of having the monster stat blocks and similar legal hoops we jumped through to make this safe. When we decided to redo this module, fixing the monster stat blocks and similar barriers was at the to of our to-do list.

Then there is the issue of layout. The original version of Along Came a Spider appears almost identical our Pathfinder version. Having run far more Pathfinder modules than 5e modules at that point, I was quite use to having monster stat blocks right in the text and did not like having to flip to the back of the book for all the monsters. Since that time, we have heard from many 5e fans that said they prefer having their monsters in the back. Since those early days, I’ve run more 5e modules and I must say I like having all the monster together when I am running a module from a PDF because it means I can print out the monsters and not have to print out the adventure along with it.

There is one other major difference in this version over the original: a third map. Our budget for modules back in those days was pretty low. We had just enough for only two maps. We decided the maps should cover what we felt were the most critical and visually appealing fights. Ultimately, we decided to not have a map for the final few fights since they were in caves, figuring a cave map is pretty easy to come up with. All the reviews and comments we received concerning Along Came a Spider mentioned the lack of a final map and I knew that if we ever revisited Thai adventure, this would be one of the things we addressed. I am happy to report, those final fights have a map that we can be proud of that will inspire GMs and players in these final moments.

Download Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider today at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

I just sent off details for #DnD5e Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin to be coming out in game stores. Look for it in late spring/early summer.

5e: Brass Golem

Next month, Jon Brazer Enterprises returns to gaming stores, and we could not be more thrilled. It has been about 5 years since our last book was shipped to game stores. We left because the logistics of getting a book to print on a regular basis was more than I could handle at that time. As time past, my circumstances have changed, and now I can bring all the awesome books we have been working on for the past few years to your gaming table via your local game store. We are kicking that off with the high level adventure Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence.

For those of you that do not know, our Deadly Delves line of adventures are designed to be easily dropped in to your campaign with little modification. Each adventure is self-contained. The Temple of Luminescence, as an example, can be added to any campaign setting by the GM changing one name to the setting’s Sun deity. Even then, if you are building your own setting, we included the deity and some details, making your job easier if you so desire.

Not only does the Temple of Luminescence easily fit into most games, it can even be a place where the adventurers go-to earlier in their campaign, seeing as how this location is associated with a major good-aligned deity and the majority of those inside are good (if misguided and deceived in this adventure). They could get to know the place and even work for the guy they will be fighting here.

One of the guardians of the temple is a brass golem. This high level monster is only one of the challenges your characters will face should they fight their way through the temple.

It is an interesting adventure that most gamers won’t see coming. Be sure to tell your local game store today that you want a copy. They can order it for you for release day in February.

Brass Golem

Huge construct, unaligned


Armor Class 17
Hit Points 189 (18d12 + 72)
Speed 40 ft.


STR 21 (+5) DEX 9 (–1) CON 19 (+4)
INT 3 (–4) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 1 (–5)


Damage Immunities fire, poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
Challenge 15 (13,000 XP)


Cold Sensitivity. If the golem takes cold damage from a spell or magical effect, it is restrained. At the start of each of its turns while restrained, roll a d6. On a 6, the golem is no longer restrained.
Death Throes. The golem explodes when it is destroyed. All creatures within 30 feet of the golem must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking 36 (8d8) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Fire Absorption. Whenever the golem is subjected to fire damage, it takes no damage and instead regains a number of hit points equal to the fire damage dealt.
Immutable Form. The golem is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.
Magic Resistance. The golem has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. The golem’s weapon attacks are magical.

Actions


Multiattack. The golem makes two melee attacks.
Brass Falchion. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8 + 5) slashing damage plus 14 (4d6) fire damage.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (3d6 + 5) bludgeoning damage plus 14 (4d6) fire damage.
Breath Weapon (Recharge 5–6). A cloud of smoke and cinders fills a 20-foot radius. Each creature in that area must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful save. On each of the golem’s turn, roll a d6. On a 6, the cloud disperses. Otherwise, it remains and deals damage as above to creatures entering the area.

5e: Enter the Temple of Luminescence

Some Just Want to Watch the World Burn! When the high priest of the sun goddess brings the planet and the sun closer together to spread his deity’s light to every corner of existence, the world begins to heat up dangerously. All attempts to breach the Temple of Luminescence and halt the magic powering this catastrophe have failed. The adventurers must perform an incantation known as the path of the sun and navigate the temple’s defenses to stop the high priest. But what appalling truths which led to this deadly incident will the adventurers uncover—and can they save the world before it burns? Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence is an exciting deluxe module in Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Deadly Delves product line, and is created for the Fifth Edition of the World’s Oldest Fantasy Roleplaying Game. This adventure is designed to heartily challenge a party of 15th- through 18th-level PCs and leave them with a memorable heroic tale. Inside these 51 action-packed pages, you’ll find:
  • 8 Fully-Statted New and Variant Monsters and 2 High-Level NPCs—keep your players on their toes by having them face off against an ancient solar dragon, a dwarven high priest, and new golems, elementals, and demons
  • 9 New Traps to keep your PCs on their toes
  • 11 New Hazards and Curses to make the environment unique and interesting as the sun’s power scorches all within the temple
  • 5 New Magic Items ideally suited to high-level characters
  • A New Type of Spell Anyone Can Cast which lets the adventurers pass as one of the temple’s own
  • A Beautiful Map with a GM’s version included in the adventure and a separate PDF that includes player-friendly versions of each map—perfect for play on your favorite VTT!
  • Enough content to get your group of 15th-level PCs to 18th level, or your 18th-level PCs to 20th level
Dangers Unknown. Treasures Untold. Adventure Awaits. Download Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence today at the JBE Shop. You can also find this adventure at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, Paizo, and coming soon to the Open Gaming Store.

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