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.

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.

13th Age: Gibbering Glob

Recently, I posted the above picture to our Twitter and Facebook accounts, asking people to share their thoughts on what abilities it should have. Some background on this, we published this monster as the gibbering glob as in the Pathfinder Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes in an effort to update the gibbering orb, a CR 27 monster. Such a high level monster wasn’t really practical in Pathfinder so we made the gibbering glob a CR 25. That small difference still made it a viable monster for a level 20 group and even lower if they were mythic.

There were some awesome ideas for new abilities among the responses. One response, however, really caught my eye. Submitted by Vojtech Pribyl, this was a near-fully fleshed out monster. Well, I talked it over with our 13th Age developer and we finished the fleshing out. So for your enjoyment, we share with you the gibbering glob for 13th Age. We hope it makes it’s way in to your game.

Be sure to check out all of our 13th Age PDFs at the JBE Shop.

Gibbering Glob

Large 11th level Wrecker [ABERRATION]

Initiative +14

Bite +16 vs AC (4 attacks)—25 damage

Natural even hit: 10 acid damage

Got to bite em all. 1/battle the gibbering glob’s bite attacks and engages all nearby targets.

Dissonant voices +16 vs. MD 20 psychic damage to all nearby targets

Limited use: 1/round, as a quick action.

I see what you want to do. For one attack per turn, the gibbering glob can switch its PD and MD as an interrupt.

Inescapable. -5 penalty to all disengage checks made to disengage the monster.

Nastier Specials

Bites All Around. The Got to Bite em All ability is now 1/round.

AC 27
PD 21
MD 25
HP 576

Poll: Where Do You Buy Your Pathfinder Compatible, 5e Compatible, and 13th Age Compatible Books and PDFs From?

Today we would like to ask you where you buy your books from, be they print or PDF. Please note, we are only asking about Pathfinder Compatible (so not Paizo’s books), 5e Compatible (so nothing from Wizards nor from the DMs Guild), and 13th Age Compatible (so not Pelgrane’s books). Vote for your top 3 answers. If you don’t see where you purchase your books and PDFs from, please let us know in the comments below.

Sorry Traveller, we would include you in this poll, but the license allows for only one place for Traveller MGT2e books to be sold at DriveThruRPG.

Thank you in advance.

GM’s Day Sale 2019 Is Here!

The GM’s Day Sale is here and it is better than ever. Get 20-40% off of our Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, 13th Age, and Traveller 1e books you have been wanting for a while now. Grab these books now while they are available at a great price. Which books you ask? Here are some highlights.

Fifth Edition

Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 (For Fantasy Grounds)
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2
Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (2019 Edition)
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence

13th Age Compatible

13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers
13 Rogue Talents and Powers
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 2
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin

Pathfinder

Book of Heroic Races CompendiumBook of Beasts: Legendary Foes
Book of Bests: Monsters of the River Nations
Book of Bests: Monsters of the Shadow Plane
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium
Book of Heroic Races Compendium
Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes
Book of Magic: Gemhancements
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer
Book of Magic: Patron Hexes
Book of the River Nations Complete
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane
Deadly Delves: Quests of the Sands
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence
Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion
Deadly Delves: The Guilded Gauntlet
Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface
Treasury of the Sands
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion

Traveller 1e

Creatures of Distant Worlds Compendium
d66 Compendium
Foreven Worlds: Vehicles of the Frontier
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Fighters and Small Ships
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Mech Squadrons
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Warp Ships 1

Download these and other titles now at DriveThruRPG.

5e/Pathfinder/13th Age: Guide to Mini-Bosses

There’s a short story by Janni Lee Simner called Practical Villany that I particularly love. It’s from the villain’s point of view. The opening line is “The first thing I want you to know is that I drowned those kittens for a reason.” It’s a dark comedy about a villain talking to his latest kidnapee about his rebellious daughter that turned hero, betraying the family business. In the story, the author talks about how evil is a business while heroes are just one person. That is where mini-bosses come in. Mini-bosses are akin to mid-level managers. The real question is why would someone in a fantasy RPG world need them.

No matter which level-based fantasy game you play, you get more powerful by level. You are obviously more powerful at level 2 than level 1 and even still more powerful at level 3 and so on. The same is true for your main enemy. They didn’t try to take over the world at level 1. They worked to amass enough wealth and influence and easily outclass the adventurers at the start of the campaign. So why are they employing people that can’t hold their own against a plucky group of low levels?

1) Your Big Bad Has a Source of Revenue and Power that Must be Maintained

Your big bad has a source of income that still needs to be maintained, and they are busy with taking over the city/country/worlds. So the actual job of generating that income has to be in the hands of some trusted aid to oversee the operation. Whether that operation is a kobold mining company digging up gold, orc hunters that sell skins for leather armor, or an ogre timber consortium, they have to perform operations far to trivial for the big bad to do. The problem comes in when they interact with the humanoid races. Do the kobolds breech into a dwarven mine or a gnome village? Do the orcs kill the cows of a small hamlet? Are the elves upset the trees are being felled? The people doing the work need direction and someone to pay them for their work, someone that represents the big bad to the workers. That is a mini-boss. Remember, any good business has lots of moving parts to it (different managers in charge of different workers at different locations all doing the same job, different departments doing different jobs, etc.). That is a lot of different mini-bosses at a number of different difficulty levels. In this case, the employees are minions.

2) Your Big Bad Doesn’t Have Every Skill or Ability

The person at the top simply can’t have every skill or talent possible in the whole world. CEOs hire accountants and lawyers to help them navigate those arenas. Your big bad trying to take over the city/country/world needs someone to advise them on the way to the crown and how to finance it. So your mini-bosses can be advisers to the big bad in their specialty field. Other possible advisers include a cleric of an influential church and the big bad isn’t a follower of the deity or doesn’t have any divine casting ability, a public relations bard to smooth over incidents like the kobolds invading the dwarven mines, and a spiritual advisory monk.

The important thing to remember with advisers is that they should fill two roles: the official one and an unofficial one. The official one is the job for which they are known. This is their day job, how this adviser is presented in the public. The unofficial one should be the real reason that person in particular was hired by the big bad. Does the financial advisory funnel money from the crown to the big bad? Does the cleric get people (more minions) to act against their interests in the name of the religion? Is the public relations bard in charge of spreading disinformation? All of these roles a big bad needs done and these make great mini-bosses.

3) Dirty Workers

Bad guys are not known for fighting fair. Once the adventurers have been identified as disrupting some small plans, they should have someone to deal with them. Assassination attempts have been done and the players will see that coming. Instead, trying having the big bad hire the adventurers for a job they are not qualified, like killing a monster that is more powerful than they can handle. Have the public relations bard hire them, apologizing for any previous incidents involving low-level managers, and praise them for bringing such bad actors in their organization to light. The job is something like clearing out a cave where some new miners will be going soon. The adventurers aren’t told there’s a dragon in there. The dragon will be warned and compensated for it’s trouble. Naturally the dragon will have his own minions to soften you up in your way there. The idea behind this is that if the adventurers never return, no one will miss them or possibly figure they left for another problem elsewhere. As an added bonus, the public relations bard can claim they had bad information and apologize for their near deaths. By doing this, you turn what would otherwise be a single encounter into a night’s game session and they might even believe the big bad isn’t so bad.

Every mini-boss need minions and we have some excellent ones in the Book of Beasts series, available now for Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, and 13th Age. Download them now.

13th Age: A Rogue’s Dirty Tricks

A rogue would not be a rogue if they fought fair. Dirty tricks are their stock in trade. So today we are giving you a new power for rogues called Dirty Trick. It applies a condition to an enemy you hit, making them a less lethal opponent to you and the rest of your party. Be sure to check out the vicious strike power and the magical savant talent that we showed off already. If you like these, download 13 Rogue Powers and Talents for your 13th Age game today from the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Dirty Trick (3rd Level Power)

Special: Opponents wise up to dirty tricks pretty quickly—you can only use this power on each enemy once during any battle. Additionally, If you have the swashbuckle talent, you can use dirty trick in place of an attack during a stunt.
Melee attack
At-Will
Target:
One enemy
Attack: Charisma + Level vs. PD
Hit: WEAPON + Charisma damage, and the targeted enemy gains your choice of one of the following conditions until the end of your next turn: dazed, hampered, or vulnerable.
Miss: Damage equal to your level.
Adventurer Feat: Once per battle, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the confused, stuck, or weakened condition.
Champion Feat: Once per day, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the stunned condition.
Epic Feat: Once per day, you can perform a dirty trick to inflict the helpless condition.

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