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Gamemastering advice on preparing adventures for Sword & Sorcery campaigns

Yora

Legend
Even when you think of a Sword & Sorcery campaign as a series of disconnected adventures, I was still unable to find anything anywhere on how to actually set up individual Sword & Sorcery adventures either.
I also think that your ideas of helping/interacting with the locals don't scream S&S. Your PCs should be heading straight to rescue their friend (or loot his gear) from whatever the threat is. Anyway, in most S&S fiction, I think commoners who are on the run would be very leery of accepting help from strangers.
The players should be free to do whatever the hell they want. I think the task of the GM is to provide them with stuff they can interact with.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Even when you think of a Sword & Sorcery campaign as a series of disconnected adventures, I was still unable to find anything anywhere on how to actually set up individual Sword & Sorcery adventures either.
IMHO, avoid adventure paths and focus on shorter modules.

The players should be free to do whatever the hell they want. I think the task of the GM is to provide them with stuff they can interact with.
It may help to think about this less in terms about what you can do as a GM but what the players can do. Whether players are playing in a sandbox game or a S&S series of adventures, it's important for the players to understand their characters' goals, ambitions, and drives for themselves. Why are they actually doing this? What do they want out of life? How do they hope to achieve it? How does adventuring contribute to that goal?

Once they know that - once you know that - then it becomes easier to frame conflicts in terms of those goals. Players are free to pursue their own goals, and it's your job to put challenges and complications in the way of those goals for them to overcome.

Much like I said in the other thread, if epic fantasy often involves threats to THE World the characters inhabit, then S&S should mostly be framed in terms of threats to THEIR World as individuals.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Even when you think of a Sword & Sorcery campaign as a series of disconnected adventures, I was still unable to find anything anywhere on how to actually set up individual Sword & Sorcery adventures either.
I don't think you're going to find a tutorial anywhere. But something you could look into are adventures that are explicitly designed and marketed as being "sword & sorcery" for ideas.

I mentioned Primeval Thule in the other thread, and I still think it's a great approach to 5e Sword & Sorcery games. It manages the tone and the feel without removing classes or changing anything about any of the systems it was designed for (it's available for 5e, 4e, Pathfinder 1e, and 13th Age). There are several adventures available, for a decent spread of levels, many of which are only available for 5e. Though some of the best adventures are in the campaign setting book itself.

And that's just 5e. There are other systems (Dungeon Crawl Classics springs immediately to mind) that have tons of stuff written as Sword & Sorcery. I'm not saying you need to play those systems, but if you're looking for adventure inspiration they're great resources.
 

Dioltach

Legend
It may help to think about this less in terms about what you can do as a GM but what the players can do. Whether players are playing in a sandbox game or a S&S series of adventures, it's important for the players to understand their characters' goals, ambitions, and drives for themselves. Why are they actually doing this? What do they want out of life? How do they hope to achieve it? How does adventuring contribute to that goal?

Once they know that - once you know that - then it becomes easier to frame conflicts in terms of those goals. Players are free to pursue their own goals, and it's your job to put challenges and complications in the way of those goals for them to overcome.

Much like I said in the other thread, if epic fantasy often involves threats to THE World the characters inhabit, then S&S should mostly be framed in terms of threats to THEIR World as individuals.
Of course, the players could start off playing their PCs with a typical fantasy "we have to help these poor farmers" attitude. Then after they've been betrayed by those same farmers a few times, they learn that the whole world is actually quite selfish. That would be very S&S.
 

pemerton

Legend
I would not start a S&S game with 1st level AD&D, or 3E or 5e D&D characters. I don't think those characters are powerful enough to play the role of competent S&S protagonists.

1st level 4e D&D PCs should be OK.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I would not start a S&S game with 1st level AD&D, or 3E or 5e D&D characters. I don't think those characters are powerful enough to play the role of competent S&S protagonists.

1st level 4e D&D PCs should be OK.
That's also the thing that sometimes gets ignored. There's not really a zero-to-hero arch for S&S characters. They start out competent when we first meet them in stories, and they are much the same at the end. Conan may start off as a barbarian on the fringe and end as a king at the top of civilization, but he doesn't really have the sort of power level progression that we generally associate with D&D characters going from levels 1 to 20.
 


S'mon

Legend
I would not start a S&S game with 1st level AD&D, or 3E or 5e D&D characters. I don't think those characters are powerful enough to play the role of competent S&S protagonists.

1st level 4e D&D PCs should be OK.

Yes, for typical S&S I'd start with 3rd level 5e PCs. And use the XP system with fairly slow advancement.
 

S'mon

Legend
I don't think you're going to find a tutorial anywhere. But something you could look into are adventures that are explicitly designed and marketed as being "sword & sorcery" for ideas.

I mentioned Primeval Thule in the other thread, and I still think it's a great approach to 5e Sword & Sorcery games. It manages the tone and the feel without removing classes or changing anything about any of the systems it was designed for (it's available for 5e, 4e, Pathfinder 1e, and 13th Age). There are several adventures available, for a decent spread of levels, many of which are only available for 5e. Though some of the best adventures are in the campaign setting book itself.

And that's just 5e. There are other systems (Dungeon Crawl Classics springs immediately to mind) that have tons of stuff written as Sword & Sorcery. I'm not saying you need to play those systems, but if you're looking for adventure inspiration they're great resources.

The official Primeval Thule adventures have been great to run and give a very S&S feel. I think my favourite of all was The Watchers of Meng, definitely worth getting the pdf to take a look at it.
 



S'mon

Legend
Let's say session begins and Players want to go pillage a village. How does play proceeds?
I'd run the attack on the village; being S&S there'd likely be some kind of a twist though, such as an heroic defender or a magical artifact in possession of the villagers. Maybe they even summon a demon.
 

Dioltach

Legend
Let's say session begins and Players want to go pillage a village. How does play proceeds?
They encounter a troop of soldiers who are doing the same, having been sent by the Evil Vizier (TM) to find the shrine to a Forgotten God (TM) that's rumoured to be buried beneath the village. The soldiers decide to send the PCs in first to "find traps".
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I would not start a S&S game with 1st level AD&D, or 3E or 5e D&D characters. I don't think those characters are powerful enough to play the role of competent S&S protagonists.

1st level 4e D&D PCs should be OK.
The first half hour of films such as Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, and The Sword and the Sorcerer suggests this approach may not be as necessary as you seem to feel.

In my experience, the lowest levels absolutely define a character, and in a genre as character-defined as Sword & Sorcery it becomes even more of an asset.

Though (changing topics), a rule I see many people axe when it comes to Sword & Sorcery games is 5e's "full healing after a long rest" approach. I think the rule is fine and in fact works really well for A&S games, and for two main reasons: 1) it allows you as a GM to keep more encounters in the Deadly range without having to worry too much about a TPK and 2) I don't recall any of the classic takes detailing Fafhrd's long convalescence or Conan slowly regaining his health after a battle. Full overnight healing helps keep the focus on the action, where it belongs.
 

Yora

Legend
Once they know that - once you know that - then it becomes easier to frame conflicts in terms of those goals. Players are free to pursue their own goals, and it's your job to put challenges and complications in the way of those goals for them to overcome.
Correct. Once the players and GM know that. Which won't be until after an adventure or two has been played. Everyone has suggestions how to continue an established campaign, but that's useless when you have not started a campaign yet.
I mentioned Primeval Thule in the other thread, and I still think it's a great approach to 5e Sword & Sorcery games. It manages the tone and the feel without removing classes or changing anything about any of the systems it was designed for (it's available for 5e, 4e, Pathfinder 1e, and 13th Age). There are several adventures available, for a decent spread of levels, many of which are only available for 5e. Though some of the best adventures are in the campaign setting book itself.

And that's just 5e. There are other systems (Dungeon Crawl Classics springs immediately to mind) that have tons of stuff written as Sword & Sorcery. I'm not saying you need to play those systems, but if you're looking for adventure inspiration they're great resources.
Do you have any names?
 


Yora

Legend
My approach would be to draw up a village, put down some stuff the players might want to take, and get stats for the people who'd try to fight back. And then see what happens.

Though I'd first ask the players what they think the campaign's going to be like after that. Playing a group of bandits that makes a living raiding easy pickings doesn't sound like it'll go anywhere interesting
 

pemerton

Legend
Aldarc said:
Once they know that - once you know that - then it becomes easier to frame conflicts in terms of those goals. Players are free to pursue their own goals, and it's your job to put challenges and complications in the way of those goals for them to overcome.
Correct. Once the players and GM know that. Which won't be until after an adventure or two has been played. Everyone has suggestions how to continue an established campaign, but that's useless when you have not started a campaign yet.
I don't think this is right. The players can set goals for their PCs from the start. I posted an example of that already just upthread.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I am not even sure "village" and "townsfolk" especially fits that well with sword & sorcery. The protagonists are frequently in cities, in the wilderness, desert, ruin, temple, tomb, not so much knocking around with the standard d&d locations of 'village and castle' or spending too much time with 'townsfolk' - why would they care about the fates of a bunch of villagers? almost never. S&S "heroes" are almost always out for themselves, who cares if a demon devours a village? - great! we can plunder the demon's lair while it destroys the village.
 


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