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Gamemastering advice on preparing adventures for Sword & Sorcery campaigns

Yora

Hero
You just have to think of the right kind of village.
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And the players should not care. They may care. Players should choose themselves if they feel like heroes or bastards.
 

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pemerton

Legend
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.
I agree with the first part of this, but not the second. REH's Conan isn't as you describe; and I'm not sure that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are that ruthless either.
 


Numidius

Explorer
What system are we using?
Yes, that would be my initial concern, also.

For my village I'd roll classic 2D6, where extremes are something very bad/good the Gm elaborates in a fancy situation to be played;
average: just a note on the party log: village plundered, stuff taken as per normal village, moving on...
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes, that would be my initial concern, also.

For my village I'd roll classic 2D6, where extremes are something very bad/good the Gm elaborates in a fancy situation to be played;
average: just a note on the party log: village plundered, stuff taken as per normal village, moving on...
If I was resolving a pillaging of a village in BW, I might just call for a Scavenging check FoRKing in appropriate weapon skills and Intimidate, plus Village-wise if the PCs have that.

If there was some reason to give the village a defender, there might be an initial encounter to resolve that. Or if the village has defences (say a palisade and militia) then maybe some initial Range and Cover would be in order.
 

Numidius

Explorer
If I was resolving a pillaging of a village in BW, I might just call for a Scavenging check FoRKing in appropriate weapon skills and Intimidate, plus Village-wise if the PCs have that.

If there was some reason to give the village a defender, there might be an initial encounter to resolve that. Or if the village has defences (say a palisade and militia) then maybe some initial Range and Cover would be in order.

I could see the "reason" for defenders or defences to be chosen by the party in order to gain more wealth, in a risk/reward manner.
 

pemerton

Legend
I could see the "reason" for defenders or defences to be chosen by the party in order to gain more wealth, in a risk/reward manner.
Thinking again of BW, the village defences could be established by the players (via successful Village-wise or Militia-wise, say) or by the GM (if a Wises check is failed; or if the players don't engage with it one way or the other and so it's the GM's job to frame it).
 

Yora

Hero
Written for the "Hyperborea" rpg but will work with any system

RANDOM SWORD & SORCERY ADVENTURE GENERATOR
Written by Ben Ball

Yeah, I found that too some days back. But I don't find it terribly useful.

Let's say I make the rolls and get "Acolyte of Darkness", which is about "destroying" a "crown", because the PCs are "cursed by a god". The antagonist is a "cunning madman" and they get help from a "honorable captain of the guard". However, an "invasion or occupation by foreigners" and an "inscription that needs translated" make things complicated and "the entire adventure is actually a delusion or dream". But at least there's "precious jewels" as a reward.

Now what?
I guess the whole thing could be improved by saying that "someone wants to destroy a crown", and that there are a cunning madman and a honorable captain of the guard who could both either be allies or antagonists to the PCs. But in the end, it's still just random word salad. That's the trivially easy part. Making an adventure out of that stuff is where actual structures, advice, or suggestions would be helpful to GMs.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
It feels like you are flogging a dead horse at this point. It's really not that hard, not much more than a basic sandbox setup, ie. one settlement, a wilderness, some adventure locations, a couple of antagonists, a rumour table. Sword and Sorcery is not that complicated, and coming up with an adventure to suit is pretty easy. There are plenty of supplements you can pick from to populate your adventure space. The players will do the rest, you are over-thinking it. If you think it is complicated, I wonder what Sword & Sorcery fiction you have read.

I have to say, you seem to be complaining a lot that there's no help or that what there is is useless. It's not, you just have to do a bit of invention yourself, and don't do too much, then run the game.
 
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Dioltach

Legend
Well, if it's just one issue, the chances are it won't be that defining anyway - seeing as no-one has managed to give a clear-cut definition of S&S to start with.

I'd recommend beginning with the basics. Short, largely unconnected adventures that are thrust upon the PCs. Supernatural, evil foes. Challenges that the PCs can overcome using their muscles and ingenuity. A clear end to each adventure.

Then start the following adventure from fresh. No carry-overs in terms of gold and gems - those are the rewards for the first adventure, but it's the achieving that's more important than the having. Maybe some upgrades in weapons and armour, or spell scrolls or a few potions. No long-term villains or goals - at least initially. Just make it episodic.

That, to me, sounds like a solid basis for a S&S game.
 

Yora

Hero
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
 

Aldarc

Legend
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
Why start in town when you can start at the dungeon?
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
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.

Do you have any names?
Names of adventures? Primeval Thule is published by Sasquatch Game Studio, and here is their DrivethruRPG page:
DriveThruRPG.com

Note that they also publish the relaunched Alternity game so you'll need to scroll.down a bit.

For other RPGs? I mentioned DCC, and literally every one of their adventures is Sword &Sorcery, though some hit different niches such as Sword & Planet. DCC is a rather different game than 5e, so actually converting an adventure will take a lot of work, but as plots and structure go they can't be beat.

Adventurer, Conqueror, King is another game based pretty entirely on Sword & Sorcery. Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperboria might be the standard-bearer, though; it's too notch design and does a great showcase on how subclasses (especially wizard subclasses) SHOULD work to be distinctive. Again, these are challenging to straight up use in 5e, but for advice and inspiration they can't be beat.
 

BrassDragon

Explorer
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
No offense but that's a nothingburger of a premise. Surely you have more of a sense of place and conflict? It's the GM's job to come up with interesting, evocative questions to pose and discover the answers through play.

These characters didn't just spawn into a videogame. How did they get in that situation? Where do they come from? Are they strangers in a strange country (if so, how is this town different from what they're used to? Insect people? Fanatics who sacrifice their own to a monkey-headed statue? An enclave of frost dwarves?) Are they in their own little corner of the world? If so, who do they know and who knows them? Are people happy to see them back? Are there obligations and debts?

Who is after the players? Who took their stuff and how will they get it back? What's the most valuable thing they left behind? Who did they leave behind?

What does the town think of four half-naked people with weapons standing there? What assumptions do they make about them? Could to be mistaken for someone / something else? How can the towsfolk profit off these strangers? Turn them over to some authority? Which one? Sell them to the salt mines or the gladiatorial arena? Make them fight the undead who come out of the well in the night?

If all else fails, ask the players about the situation leading up to your premise. What do they imagine launched them into this story?
 

pemerton

Legend
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
I feel I've addressed this pretty extensively. Have the players author goals or beliefs for their PCs. (Using the language of 4e D&D, these would be player-authored quests.) Then start with some situation or call to action that engages some or all of that.

Or use Kickers. That gives you player-authored in media res. If you want to help inspire your players, give them the opening page or so of Queen of the Black Coast (Conan jumping onto the deck of the ship) or the bit near the start of People of the Black Circle where Conan breaks into the Devi's room, to show what S&S Kickers might look like.

Or, if you're absolutely committed to GM-driven play, then take a leaf out of Tower of the Elephant and have the opening situation be in a tavern where the PCs hear rumours of a jewel-encrusted tower. Or start the action in a bazaar where the PCs witness a scuffle and a kidnapping and the innocent-looking NPC gets taken one way while the valuable idol s/he seemed to be about to hock gets taken the other way.
 
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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
"Acolyte of Darkness"

Adomthra Gaus, the treacherous captain of the guard was as good as his word, apart from a few dozen screaming and fleeing peasants he has guided your small group safely and swiftly through Zhul-Bazzir's maze of back-alleys all the way to the tower of Abon-Tha.

Now you face the high outer wall of the tower's grounds. A single stroke of the captain's sabre slices a binding and brings down a concealed rope ladder.

"I care not for the awful necromancer's treasures, all I ask in payment is that you end Abon-Tha's life, all the spoils you find within shall be yours."

Adomthra shakes out the ladder and turns to you, the light of the fires burning through the city play across his helmet in a show of golden liquid light.

"Be swift, the city defences will not last the hour, and then your own army will be upon you. May the gods forgive my connivance this night"

With that he turns, reaches up to his dromedary mount, and rides into the night.

The PCs
Deserters from the invading army of Xylac, the PCs paid guard captain Admonthra Gaus to guide them to the tower of Abon-Tha.

Valthos
Once "Prince" Valthos, it is over thirty years since he has been called that. At least now he has a chance to reclaim his crown, the badge of office to a vanished kingdom. Abon-Tha was his father's vizier before he betrayed him and stole royal treasury.

Lunili
A sorcerer herself, Lunili has heard Abon-Tha keeps a hoard of grimoires in his tower apartments. She has not been able to get the thought of the promise of knowledge and power out of her head since learning of the spells contained within the arcane codices.

Melua
Driven by revenge, Melua's village was ransacked by mercenaries, almost all the adults were taken captive. Melua has found out Abon-Tha hired the mercenaries to provide him with sacrifices.

Sabuk
Years of travelling and months of planning have brought Sabuk to this place on this night. He knows that Abon-Tha holds a smoking mirror somewhere in the tower, a gateway back to his own world. Perhaps his new friends will follow him through.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Yora, I came across these posts of yours in your Hickman thread:

I am not at all a fan of Hickmann's work. I think almost everything that's wrong (in my eyes) with D&D today can be traced back to the terrible idea that was Dragonlance. I think the widespread adoption of scripted adventures was a disaster for RPGs.
I think even though I very much dislike the modern type of adventures that evolved from it, I think the original idea to have the players be participants of a story rather than sieving through what's left after a story had basically ended was actually quite briliant.
The big problem is when specific scenes are scripted in a way that requires that previous scenes have to happen in specific ways, and that the GM has to manipulate the actions taken by the players to ensure that the outcome of each scene follows the script.
At this point, you're no longer playing a game. You're performing a stage play. In which the main actors do not know the script and what they are requited to do. Players can still chose how they want to fight the battle, but their choices do not affect the outcome of the battle. The script dictates which battles will be won or lost. And players understand that, so there is little real pressure or incentive to do something smart.
Players enjoy listening to the story they are being told while rolling the (largely irrelevant) dice. But when you already have everyone at the table with characters and dice, it's just such a shame that the time is not being spend creating a new unknown story in a way that no other narrative medium can.
That this has been the defauly for published adventures and how GMs are taught to create their own content for the last three decades is the great tragedy of RPGs.
I'm struggling to reconcile what you say here with your approach in this thread. Why are you looking for a pre-scripted adventure for S&S RPGing?
 

S'mon

Legend
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?

Well you could do A Fistfull of Dollars with two rival houses struggling for dominance, each seeks to use the PCs for their own ends. I saw this used in The Warrior & the Sorceress, a low budget sword & sorcery film. Westerns and S&S are definitely close cousins. Sphaghetti Westerns especially.

Maybe a group of thugs from one House challenges the PCs; either the PCs kill* them and win the favour of the rival House, or the PCs ingratiate themselves with that House and are set on the rivals. The PCs soon learn both houses are evil and may try to destroy both, perhaps siding with more benevolent factions such as the local priests (per Warrior & Sorceress), a noble peasant leader, wise man etc.

*This is why you want to start S&S PCs at 3rd level - violence is usually the solution. :D
 

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