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.

Pathfinder: Shadowsfall Symbols and Map Fonts

This past weekend, the map arrived for the first Shadowsfall campaign that we are hard at on work. I would love to show you the full map, but we are still putting names on everything. There is one part of the map that I am able to show you right now and it is the legend. In the picture above, you can see all the symbols of places in the area. It shows everything from villages and towns all the way to the stronghold at the center of the campaign: Blackbat.

There is another reason why I am showing you the legend. It is because I would like your help deciding on the font we should be using for the map. It is difficult because we want it both stylized and easy to read. If it is not easy to read, then it fails at its main purpose as a map. However, if we go with something that is obviously a modern font it will pull your mind out of the immersion of the world. So we are looking for the right balance.

Some of the fonts there are modern fonts simply to have a baseline. Others are more stylized. Take Ruin for example; that font is the same font that we used for the Shadowsfall logo.

Tell us which font is your favorite in the comments below.

The Not Going to PaizoCon 2019 Sale! is going on now. Grab our PDFs at 60% off their regular price at the JBE Shop.

Not Going to PaizoCon 2019 Sale!

They Pathfinder Fans, It is that time of year again!

To put cucumbers in our ears?

No. It is time for the Not Going to PaizoCon 2019 Sale! This year is going to be amazing because every Pathfinder PDF we produce that is over $2 is 60% off the regular price and it is exclusively at the JBE Shop. To make it easy for you, we put all of our products that are on sale on its own page.

So if you have been wanting the $10 PDF of the Book of Heroic Races Compendium, you can now download it for only $4. That is one heck of a discount that you do not want to pass up. We’ve got monsters, NPCs, and spells from $1.18, playable races from $1.58, and Adventures from $2. Even the Book of the River Nations is available for only $2.38.

You do not want to pass this up. It lasts until the end of PaizoCon so while you are waiting for any spoilers from the convention, download these PDFs and enjoy yourself now. Check out the Not Going to PaizoCon 2019 Sale! at JonBrazer.com now.

Pathfinder: Grave Hulk

It is another Shadowsfall Friday. Today, we bring you a monster straight from the brain of Richard Moore. He wrote this one for his home game sent it over to me to send off to you. If you use it in your game, buy him a drink if you see him at a convention.

As always you can find more awesome monsters like this for your game in the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

Grave Hulk CR/HD 9

Init –2; Perception +17 (darkvision 60 ft.)
Size Large (10 ft.); Speed 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 25 (touch 14, flat-footed 19); Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +10; CMD 29
hp 126


Attacks


Melee 2 claws (reach 10 ft.) +17/+17 (2d6+15)
Attack Options (DC 16) awesome blow, energy explosion (1/day, 20-ft. radius, 1d6+9 slashing); CMB +15


Statistics


Str +7, Dex –2, Con —, Int —, Cha +4
XP 6,400; NE undead


Special Abilities


Absorb Corpse (Su) As a move action, a grave hulk can grab the body of an unconscious Medium-sized or smaller living creature at less than 0 current hp, automatically dealing claw damage to it. If the creature dies from this blow, the grave hulk absorbs its body into its form, gaining 4 temporary hit points per hit die of the absorbed creature.

A grave hulk is formed from dozens of dead bodies, their putrefying flesh and bone twisted by necromantic magic into a vaguely humanoid form that stands some ten feet tall. It reshapes its body as it moves, manifesting new claws and limbs seemingly at random and even discharging bone shards in destructive showers when surrounded by foes.

Although a grave hulk can be made out of approximately 25 corpses via create greater undead, most grave hulks either occur naturally in areas suffused with extreme levels of negative energy or are constructed in rituals that profane the culture or religion of the dead whose bodies will comprise the creature.

In combat, a grave hulk prefers to use its awesome blow in conjunction with its superior reach to keep foes at bay, instinctively discharging its energy explosion ability whenever three or more enemies are within its radius of effect. It is not smart enough to distinguish friend from foe in most cases, however, so poorly-worded instructions from its master could have disastrous consequences for a novice necromancer who attempts to control one.

Announcing the Book of Heroes

Today JBE is announcing we are consolidating all of our player-focused lines into the Book of Heroes. This goes for DnD 5e, Pathfinder, and 13th Age. So all future Book of Heroic Races, Book of Magic, Book of Feats, Book of the Faithful, 13 Class Options, and several other lines we created will all be in this line. This is something we should have done from the beginning, and I only recently understood just how important it is. So I thought I would share with you our reasoning and hope you will check out our titles.

1) It Makes It Easier for You to Recognize

This is easily the biggest reason. From now on, you will know that any book of ours labeled Book of Heroes, you will know it is designed for players. From there, all you have to do is look at the subheading to see if it is right for you. Makes life easy.

2) It’s Less Confusing

Previously we had put Arcanist, Warlock and Witch class options, dragon themed-archetypes, and spellcaster feats in the Book of Magic, Cleric subdomains, feats, and artifacts under the Book of the Faithful, and some magic items and Cavalier class options under no heading at all. Where exactly the line was on these was not well planned out and was downright confusing. By consolidating all of these and others under the heading of the Book of Heroes, it all makes sense.

3) It Gives Us More Freedom

Lastly, we have the freedom to combine different ideas. Take the Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes as an example. In addition to the spells, we included archetypes and class options for the Occultist, Shaman, and Wizard classes. You’ll notice there is no dragon rider archetype for the Cavalier, dragon hunter for the Ranger, or a scaled warrior for the fighter. Those ideas were cut because they did not fit under the heading of Book of Magic very well. From here, we are no longer held back by the label we put on the product. From here out, you should enjoy seeing our products covering a wider range of topics. Now we are freed up to include new archetypes and class options as well as magic items designed to work with those new class options and spells to make better use of these archetypes. Plus we can consolidate them all under one title to give you more print books for your shelves.

I should point out that Shadowsfall will still be separate but that is because it is its own setting and not designed for use with any setting, like the Book of Heroes line is.

Check out all of our Pathfinder, D&D 5e, and 13th Age products at the JBE Shop. Order and download them today.

Pathfinder: The Shadowsfall Elevator Pitch

Every setting should have what is called an “elevator pitch.” If you never heard the term before, it is a quick speech that a writer/producer can pitch to a producer during an elevator ride. It should quickly telegraph exactly what kind of stories you are going to tell in the setting. Just take a look at your favorite TV shows and movies and you can quickly figure out what the elevator pitch was. *Spoiler Warnings* MASH: A bunch of doctors in an army field hospital work to save soldiers and civilians. When they are not working, they are bored out of their skulls and occupy themselves with relationships, practical jokes, and writing letters home. Star Trek: The voyagers of the starship Enterprise are on a 5 year mission to explore strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations. Together they boldly go where no human as gone before. Marvel Cinematic Universe/Avengers: The adventures of Earth’s mightiest heroes. They are each a force powerful enough to deal with serious dangers. However, when they encounter something so powerful that none of them can stop it alone, they put aside personal differences and team up for the good of the world.

This is also true for role playing games. Take the Pathfinder Campaign Setting as an example. The elevator pitch is basically a setting where each country has their own flavor allowing for just about any kind of story to be told there. The god of humanity died when he was foretold to ascend to even greater power. Now the world is in an age of lost omens where prophesy no longer works reliably. How about Eberron? Its elevator pitch is a high magic society run amok. Various magical wars have left some of the landscape barely hospitable yet the people have access to magical equivalent of modern tech such as street lights and high speed transportation.

The obvious question is then, “What about Shadowsfall?” Of course we have an elevator pitch. Here it is. A lich very nearly took over the world when he decided to take on the sun goddess and destory the sun. The after the goddess’ death, the gods destroyed the lich and his phylactories, leaving the undead a leaderless horde. You are one of the survivors, beating back the masses of zombies and skeletons while trying to reestablish civilization.

So how does that pitch make it different from more stand RPG settings like a Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, or Pathfinder? In these settings, a common source low-level violence involves raiders, be they human, elf, dwarf, orc, goblin, kobold, gnoll, or whatever. An adventure jumps off from there because the raiders took something and you have to get it back. In Shadowsfall, that source of low-level violence is a horde of skeletons and zombies. Since these can’t take something (unless controlled by an intelligent creature), adventures go in a different direction. Are there too many zombies? You have to get everyone to safety. Do they all bare the markings of the orc tribe your village trades with? You have to go and investigate. Do all the skeletons bare the same arcane symbols to reanimate them? Someone is actively raising them and you have to go find out who and stop them.

Another source of adventure in most campaign settings is delving into ancient ruins looking for treasure. In Shadowsfall, you’re trying to steal food from ancient fields and orchards protected by constructs that can no longer tell living from undead or from fey growing magical mushrooms that can feed anyone that submits to their whims. Political campaigns in standard settings revolve around taking down a corrupt city ruler and getting the backing of the powerful NPCs to install an honest person. Shadowsfall political campaigns involve getting humans, elves, and gnomes, to coordinate their efforts with orcs, hobgoblins, and trolls and getting them to see that working together will help for the greater good.

The Greater Good. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

What about high level campaigns? Your standard campaign settings frequently fall back on 4 different sources of danger (mixing and matching as desired): giants, dragons, the planes, and undead. Well, one of these is kind of obvious for Shadowsfall. Undead are definitely there. The question then becomes, who or what is the power behind the undead. Is it a powerful wizard or sorcerer that wants to unify the worlds under their rule? Perhaps it is an archkyton that want to keep the people afraid of the undead enough to submit willingly to their torture? Maybe it is a fey lord trying to clear her lands of undead and inadvertently sending them to the mortals? Maybe a construct machine that has seen all the fighting the living and undead have wrought and decided to wipe out the source of the undead by eliminating the living. The possibilities are endless. Sure you can have an undead only campaign but you need a reason behind them or else it will become boring fast. You need to have a conscious mind with clear goals and that is where all the other creatures come in.

Shadowsfall is shaping up to be a fun and exciting place to adventure in. We hope you will join us.

Download all of our Pathfinder RPG books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

Pathfinder: Kytons

Like all outsiders, kytons do not feed on the same food as humans. That does not mean they do not need to consume something to sustain their existence. For devils, it is despair. Any type of despair will do but they particularly love the aroma of despair from oppression. If a soul they take for their own gives up and accepts that there is no escape from Hell, they feed upon that despair. That is their food. Which is why devils work so hard to make someone give up and accept the terrible situation around them instead of fighting to change it. For azatas, it is joy. They feast upon the child-like joy and wonder of a soul experiencing a place for the first time. This is why the chaotic good plane constantly sprouts new flowers and features an ever-changing landscape, perfect for adventure.

Kytons feed upon willful surrender. They love someone that willingly accepts pain. These outsiders will never remove the ability for a soul to not accept the pain they offer because a forced surrender taints the taste of that surrender to them, making it unpalatable to them. So the pain they offer is pleasurable to those that give of themselves willingly. This differs from devils in that a devil always aims to outmaneuver their target, so they have no choice but to give in to a devil; such actions are an anathema to a kyton. The chainclad want that sweet taste of willingness.

Below are some of the images of kytons of Shadowsfall. Some of these will be in the upcoming campaign for Shadowsfall while others will be in a a future Shadowsfall monster book.

Below is a whelp kyton, one of the lowest form of kytons in existence. Its eyes are not under a blindfold as many believe. It keeps what humans would consider eyes closed until it uses its unnerving gaze where the target sees itself in a similar position of voluntary servitude as the whelp. The chain it wears around its neck attacks anyone that attack it. Additionally, the chain lifts it off the ground by the neck when it needs to fly. It carries out small jobs that are beneath the status of more powerful kytons. For all this, it gets to feed upon the willing submission from those that kneel to its master.

Kyton, Whelp CR/HD 2

Init +1; Perception +7 (darkvision 60 ft.)
Size Tiny; Speed 15 ft., fly 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 14 (touch 12, flat-footed 12); Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +5; CMD 12; Concentration +5
hp 20; DR 5/good or silver; Immune cold, fear effects


Attacks


Melee chain +3 (1d8+3), 2 claws –2(1d6+1)
Attack Spells (DC 13 + spell level) 1/day—inflict light wounds, scare
Attack Options unnerving gaze (30 ft., DC 13, shaken for 1 round); CMB –1


Statistics


Utility Options alertness, telepathy 60 ft.
Dex +1, Int +2, Cha +3; Bluff +10, Escape Artist +7, Fly +7, Perception +7, Perform (act) +10, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +10,
XP 600; LE Outsider (kyton)

Be sure to download all our Pathfinder books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, and the Open Gaming Store.

Pathfinder: The Undead of Shadowsfall

Last week, we announced that we are creating our own setting known as Shadowsfall. It is a worlds where a lich tried to take over the world, killed the sun goddess, and was destroyed by the other gods. Here, you are a survivor fighting for the living in the aftermath of all that. Nine out of every ten creatures are undead and more than half of them are mindless.

So saying that undead feature prominently in any Shadowsfall game is an understatement. With the survivors either in protected cities, living near some fortification to retreat there when the undead hordes come close, or wandering the wastelands hunting for food and slaying small groups of walking corpses they encounter, seeing a zombie or skeleton here is as common as seeing a goblin, kobold, or orc in a standard fantasy setting. Today I just want to take a few moments and share with you some of the undead creatures that “live” in this land of poor sunlight. Long time fans of JBE will recognize these pieces as being from the Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane.

You can also see some of the other walking corpses like the orc skeletal champion and a ravager wolf. Today, however, we’re going to share with you the stat block for the unquiet giant. This big brute is jovial in the way it smashes everything in its sight. Its a fun monster to have wandering around.

Unquiet Giant CR/HD 13

Init +0; Perception +17 (darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision)
Size Huge; Speed 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 30 (touch 16, flat-footed 23); Fort +14, Ref +14, Will +14; CMD 35 (39 vs bull rush)
hp 198; DR 15/slashing; Immune undead immunities
Weakness easily distracted


Attacks


Melee greatclub +22/+17/+12 (3d8+23) or 2 slams +22 (3d6+25)
Ranged spirit stone +16/+11/+6 (28)
Attack Options improved combat maneuver, rock throwing (120 ft.), stun attack (13/day, Fort DC 14); CMB +26 (+30 bull rush)


Statistics


Str +9, Con —, Wis +4, Cha +6; Climb +21, Intimidate +17, Perception +17
XP 25,600; CE undead (giant)


Special Abilities


Easily Distracted (Ex) Although it is immune to all mind-affecting spells and spell-like abilities, an unquiet giant is highly susceptible to mundane distraction. At the start of its turn, it must succeed a DC 15 Wisdom check to fight normally. If it fails, it attacks a random creature within its reach.
Spirit Stone (Su) An unquiet giant imbues every stone it throws with the essence of its final battle, flying unwaveringly, and even veering to follow its target. An unquiet giant uses its Charisma bonus instead of its Dexterity bonus to its attack rolls when throwing rocks. All rocks thrown in this manner are considered to be magic weapons for purposes of damage reduction.

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