Wednesday, June 22, 2016

More for my Vampire Players...

Here's the latest round of "era" posters for our ongoing Vampire game.  Now rocking the very grungy 1990s... 



It is barely possible I will do more blogging soon, assuming that I can get caught up with all my game prep....

Monday, December 7, 2015

For my Vampire Players...

I've been temporarily on hiatus, to return soon, once I finish my (seemingly endless) prep for the next installment of my ongoing Vampire (V20) campaign, "St. Louis by Night."  


In case you're interested, here's the "vampires in the city" poster we print out and hang on the wall...





And here's the second game poster, to help everyone keep track of all those pesky mortals...




Too much?  Yep, I think that's about right...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Alternative Divine Disapproval Tables

As I've mentioned before, I am: 

(1) a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics the RPG ("DCC"); and

(2) an obsessive-compulsive tinkerer with all things gamey.
 
In particular, one of the things I love about DCC is how clerics can call on their gods and cast spells as often as they like - they don't "run out of juice" or "run out of spells."  But at some point, like a parent dealing with a whiny teenager, the gods just say "enough is enough," and cut you off.  Or, if you've pushed your luck too far, maybe they smack you right in your face for your impertinence.  In DCC, that's called "Divine Disapproval."  With each spell you cast, your disapproval score, and the risk of that smack in the face, grows.
 
The only quibble I have with the DCC rules is that the "Divine Disapproval" table is the same for all kinds of clerics.  But a lawful cleric and a chaotic cleric really should not be rolling on the same table - and the godly "lord of justice" and the demonic "defiler of the dead" should definitely not be expressing their displeasure in exactly the same way.
 
So, of course, for my Skull Mountain game, I tried to fix that.  The result are the three tables below - a separate divine disapproval table for chaotic, lawful, and neutral clerics.  The results go from mild  disapproval (low numbers) to truly terrible, often permanent penalties (very high numbers).

The tables are intentionally pretty similar.  But I tried to add just enough twists that each feels unique at the table.  And, of course, tables like this work best when you *don't* share them with your players in advance.  Each time the PCs roll, it should be a surprise.


 
Divine Disapproval for CHAOTIC Clerics
(Result of Divine Disapproval Roll)
 
1.

“Trifle Not With Me, Mortal.”  Your cruel master looks upon your constant beseeching with mild disfavor, and you must atone for your sins.  Take a -1 penalty to all spell checks until you spend 10 minutes uttering obscene chants and intonations to obtain your deity’s forgiveness.

2.
“Blood, Blood For Mine Altar.”  Your god demands a blood sacrifice.  The victim need not be human (an animal is fine), but must be ritually prepared and dispatched (a process taking 10 minutes).  Until the proper sacrifice is made, you suffer a -1 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks.  If you sacrifice is truly impressive (a monster or dangerous humanoid, or a lawful cleric, sacrificed with all appropriate rituals), make a Luck check:  if successful, you gain a permanent hit point.
3.
“Spread My Word, Mortal, and Great Power Shall Be Yours.”  Your god demands that you recruit a new follower to your dark faith.  Until you recruit such a follower, you suffer a -1 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks.  Recruiting a follower requires a sincerely willing participant of Chaotic alignment, and at least 30 minutes to conduct the proper rituals.  If a follower of Level 1 or greater is recruited, and the ritual is performed properly, you gain a temporary +1 to all rolls for the rest of the adventure.  You may also immediately bond the follower to your god as per the Patron Bond spell, with appropriate benefits, rolling a spell check without penalty for the result.
4.
“Look Ye, Upon the Dark Vicissitudes of Chaos!”  Your god lashes you with the energies of primal chaos.  You immediately suffer Corruption as a Wizard.  Roll 1d6 minus your Luck modifier to determine the severity:  up to 3 (minor), 4-5 (major), 6+ (greater).  Determine corruption randomly, with an eye toward freakish, demonic, and monstrous transformations.
5.
“Destroy Mine Enemies, Faithful Servant, to Prove Thyself Worthy.”  Your god decides that a minor quest is in order—e.g., to loot an enemy shrine, slay a nearby priest of a rival faith, destroy a particular monster, etc., as determined by the GM.  Until the quest is completed, you suffer a -2 to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks.
6.
“Thy Flesh Is Weak.  Grow Stronger, Mortal!”  Your god enervates your body of strength and vitality to test your faith.  You immediately suffer 5 points of Strength damage, which can only be healed by normal rest (1 point per day), you may not use magic to heal the loss. 
7.
“Bother Me Not With These Petty Trifles.”  Make a Luck check.  On a success, you simply lose access to the specific spell or ability (lay on hands, turn undead) that resulted in Disapproval for the rest of this adventure. On a failure, you are wracked with pain and immediately take 1d3 damage per character level.
8.
“Wear My Markings With Pride.”  Your god alters your physical form in accordance with his/her/its ethos.  Roll 1d6 for the feature affected:  (1) eyes change; (2) hair changes; (3) skin/flesh/complexion changes; (4) voice/manner of speaking change; (5) symbol appears on body; (6) equipment changes.  That feature is permanently changed to something appropriate to your faith (actual change and game effect, if any, determined by the GM). 
9.
“Test Not My Patience, Mortal.”  You immediately suffer a -3 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of this adventure.  This penalty is immediately negated if you personally slay a lawful creature or being.
10.
“Only The Strong Are Worthy.”  You are suddenly wracked with pain, and suffer 2 point of damage per current rank of Disapproval.  If this would reduce you to 0 hit points or less, you are left with 1 hit point but reduce your Luck permanently by 1 point.  If you accept the full amount of damage, and choose to fall unconscious, increase your Luck score by 1 point.
11.
“The Howls of the Damned Shall Chastise Thee.”  All inert corpses and remains within range of you (100' per character level) are immediately animated as undead zombies or skeletons.  They are hostile to all life, including you, and will wander about searching for victims.
12.
“You Wish To Serve?  Then Prove Thyself Worthy in a Trial of Arms!”  Your god decides to test your devotion with a feat of arms.  1d4+1 per level minor (Type I) demons immediately appear, attacking you to the exclusion of all others.  If you defeat the demons, even with help, you gain 1d3 Luck points.
13.
“Cast Aside The Shackles Of Flesh.”  Your god demands a sign of devotion, and the sacrifice or destruction of something personal to you.  Roll 1d8 to determine the demand:  (1) destroy/cast away your best weapon; (2) cast/give away/destroy all your treasure; (3) cut off all your hair; (4) cut off one of your fingers; (5) destroy all of your equipment  and cast away all treasure except 1 weapon and a loincloth; (6) burn/abuse your body for at least 6 points of damage, which must be healed normally; (7) mutilate your body in a way that reduces your strength, stamina, or agility (your choice) by 1 point; or (8) slay a favored retainer, friend, or ally.  Until the desired sacrifice is made, you suffer -2 on all spell/lay on hands/turn checks.  At the GM’s discretion, any sacrifice that is truly worthy (that results in ability damage or the loss of significant item or wealth) will be rewarded with 1d3 points of increased Luck.
14.
“Ye Must Choose:  The Power I Offer, or Thy Petty 'Friends.'" Your god deprives you of the ability to cast spells of the highest level known to you for the rest of this adventure.  But your powers will immediately return (and you will gain 1d3 Luck points) if you sacrifice or murder someone who regards you as an ally or friend.
15.
“Suffer My Wrath, Ye Ungrateful Servant!”  Your god punishes your faithlessness, blasting you (and all within 10’ of you, friend or foe) with crackling, black energy for (your level x 4) damage.  This damage may be healed as normal.  Anyone slain by this energy will, on the next round, rise as some form of hostile undead - which hates the cleric above all, and can sense him/her no matter the distance.
16.
“I Will Waste No More Effort On You…”  You lose the ability to turn unholy for the rest of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town (i.e., next game) your powers return as normal.
17.
“Only The Weak Cower!  Prove Thy Strength!”  You lose access to the ability to lay on hands for the rest of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town (next game) your powers return as normal.
18.
“Perhaps You Are Unworthy of My Gifts....”  You may no longer cast spells for the rest of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town (next game) your powers return as normal.
19.
“Begone From My Sight, O Worthless One!”  Your god has tired of listening to your impudent demands for now.  You lose access to all spellcasting and magical abilities (spells, lay on hands, turn undead, and divine intervention) for the rest of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town (next game) your powers return as normal.
20+.
"My Pets, Destroy This Impudent Mortal!" You have truly offended the howling hordes of chaos, who immediately send 1d4+1 demons to destroy you.  Roll 1d6 to determine the strength of the demons:  (1-3) Type I, (2-4) Type II, (5) Type III, or (6) Type IV.  Upon slaying (or at least escaping) the demons, your god is appeased...at least for now.  If you are slain by the demons, they carry off your body and any carried equipment to the netherworld, never to return.
 
 
Divine Disapproval for NEUTRAL Clerics
(Result of Divine Disapproval Roll)
 
Quick note:  In my own game, all Neutral clerics worshipped the god of chance, so the results below have a definite "luck" theme.  Of course, feel free to disregard and tweak as appropriate for your own game.
 
1.
“Perhaps Ye Rely Too Much On My Help...”  Your god looks upon your constant beseeching with mild disfavor, but stays its unfathomable hands/tentacles...at least for now.  Increase your Disapproval by 1d6.
2-3.
“A Small Test Of Thy Boldness, Perhaps....” Your god demands an appropriate show of faith—a reckless risk, while calling out his/her/its name...  Until such an sacrifice is made, you suffer a -1 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks.  If your sacrifice is truly impressive, you may make a Luck check:  if successful, you gain 1d3 points of Luck.
4.
“Let’s See How Lucky Ye Really Are…”  A scratched ancient gold coin falls from the darkness above:  Flip it, and roll 1d6+your Luck modifier.  On a 3 or less (tails), increase your Disapproval by 1d10.  On a 4+ (heads), you are fully healed and gain 1 point of Luck.  You may keep the coin.    
5-6.
“No, No, Ye Won’t Be Doing That Again For A While...”  You immediately lose access to the specific spell or ability (lay on hands, turn undead) that resulted in Disapproval for the rest of this adventure.
7.
“Oooh, Lucky Seven!  Good For You!”  Startlingly, and for no apparent reason, your unknowable god is pleased!  You suffer no harmful effect, reset your Disapproval, and gain 1d4 Luck.
8-9.
“Ye Scheme Too Much, and Risk Too Little.  Here, Let Me Help…”  Your god decides to make it easier for you to rely upon chance…by damaging your brain!  After a few seconds of agonizing pain, you suffer 1d3+1 points of intelligence damage.  This damage is permanent unless somehow healed by magic from a different cleric - Your god certainly won't help. 
10-11.
“Ye Weren't Pronouncing These Properly Anyway…"  You lose access to all spells of the highest level known for the rest of this adventure.
12.
“Cowering Is Undignified Anyway…”  You lose access to the ability to turn unholy for the rest of this adventure.  
13.
“Thirteen?  I Forget...Is That Lucky or Unlucky?"  Roll 1d6+your Luck modifier.  On a 3 or less, you immediately gain 1d6 points of Luck.  On a 4+, your Divine Disapproval does not reset, and you gain 3d6 more Disapproval.  Keep playing with fire at your own risk.
14.
“Whine, Whine, Whine…What Is It About “Chance” Ye Find So Confusing?”  You suffer a -4 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of this adventure.
15.
“Now That I Think Of It, Where’s The Sport If I Just Keep Healing Ye?”  You may no longer use lay on hands for the remainder of this adventure.  
16.
“Ye Spin the Wheel, And Takes Your Chances!”  The cleric feels a strange sense of foreboding.  For the rest of this adventure, all spells target a random creature within sight, instead of their intended targets.  Eventually, he'll figure it out.
17.
“Sorry, The Magic Shop’s All Closed For Today.”  You lose access to all spells for the remainder of this adventure.  
18.
“This Should Halt Thy Mewling!”  Your god has tired of listening to your impudent demands for now, and struck you (roll 1d6):  (1-3) blind, (4) deaf, (5) dumb, or (6) deaf, dumb, and blind.  Your senses return to normal (roll 1d6):  (1-3) the next dawn, (4-5) the next midnight, or (6) never.
19.
“Pressing Thy Luck, Eh?  Well, Now Ye Burn.”  Your god has decided to visit some random misfortune on you.  The GM selects a random spell, and rolls a misfire for that spell, and inflicts it upon you.
20+
“I’m Afraid Thy Luck Has Run Out…”  You risk your very soul with each toss of the dice.  Whenever you attempt to use any of your cleric powers for the rest of the adventure, make a Luck check.  On a failure, your god cackles and tosses you into oblivion.  
 
 
 
Divine Disapproval for LAWFUL Clerics
(Result of Divine Disapproval Roll)

1.
“Do Not Abuse My Gifts, Mortal.”  Your god looks upon your constant beseeching with mild disfavor, and you must atone for your sins.  Take a -1 penalty to all spell checks until you spend 10 minutes uttering chants and intonations to obtain your deity’s forgiveness.
2.
“You Must Offer More Than Mere Lip Service….”  Your god demands an appropriate sacrifice—a donation to the needy, the dedication of a special weapon, or any other appropriate sacrifice.  Until an appropriate sacrifice is made, you suffer a -1 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks.  If your sacrifice is truly impressive (a dangerous monster dispatched, a vast treasure dedicated, a beloved weapon discarded) you may make a Luck check:  if successful, you gain 1 point of Luck.
3.
“Gather Ye The Faithful.”  Your god demands that you recruit a new follower to the faith.  Until you recruit such a follower, you suffer a -1 penalty to all spell checks, lay on hands checks, and turn unholy checks.  Recruiting a follower requires a ritual requiring a sincerely willing participant of the correct alignment and at least 30 minutes to conduct the proper rituals.  If a follower of Level 1 or greater is recruited, and the ritual is performed properly, you gain a temporary +1 to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of the same game session.  You may bond the follower to your god as per the Patron Bond spell, with appropriate benefits, rolling a spell check without penalty for the result.
4.
“Destroy Mine Enemies, Faithful Servant, and Prove Yourself Worthy.”  Your god decides that a minor quest is in order—e.g., to loot an enemy shrine, slay a nearby priest of a rival faith, rescue a person in danger, destroy a particular monster, etc., as determined by the GM.  Until the quest is completed, you suffer a -2 to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks.
5.
“A Test Of Your Faith Is In Order.”  Your god visits a wasting sickness upon your body to test your faith.  You immediately suffer 2 points of Strength, Agility, and Stamina damage, which can only be healed by normal rest (1 point per day), you may not use magic to heal the loss. 
6.
“Bother Me Not With These Petty Trifles.”  You immediately lose access to the specific spell or ability (lay on hands, turn undead) that resulted in Disapproval for the rest of this adventure.
7.
“Wear My Markings With Pride.”  Your god alters your physical form in accordance with his/her ethos.  Roll 1d6 for the feature affected:  (1) eyes change; (2) hair changes; (3) skin/flesh/complexion changes; (4) voice/manner of speaking change; (5) symbol appears on body; (6) equipment changes.  That feature is permanently changed to something appropriate to your faith (actual change and game effect, if any, determined by the GM).  If your form has already been altered, roll again ignoring this result.
8.
“Test Not My Patience, Mortal.”  You immediately suffer a -2 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of this adventure.
9.
“Greedy Mortal, Cast Aside These Petty Trifles...”  Your god looks with disfavor at your unseemly accumulation of wealth.  You suffer a -4 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of this adventure or until you cast aside (destroy or dispose of, not simply gift to a friend) at least 100 gp in treasure that you have accumulated.  If you destroy or cast off more than 1,000 gp in treasure, you gain 1 Luck point. 
10.
“Abuse Not What I Have Given Ye.”  Your god deprives you of the ability to cast 1 spell, determined at random or picked by the GM, for the rest of this adventure.
11.
“Cast Aside The Shackles Of Flesh.”  Your god demands a sign of devotion, and the sacrifice or destruction of something personal to you.  Roll 1d6 to determine the demand:  (1) destroy/cast away your best weapon; (2) cast/give away all your treasure; (3) cut off all your hair; (4) cut off an offensive limb, or genitals; (5) destroy all of your equipment  and cast away all treasure except 1 weapon and a loincloth; (6) burn/abuse your body for at least 6 points of damage, which cannot be healed by magic; (7) mutilate your body in a way that permanently reduces your strength, stamina, or agility (your choice) by 1 point; (8) slay a chaotic aligned ally or nearby creature.  Until the desired sacrifice is made, you suffer -4 on all spell checks.  At the GM’s discretion, any sacrifice that is truly worthy (that results in permanent ability damage or the loss of significant item or wealth) is rewarded with 1d3 points of increased Luck.
12.
“Remember Whom Ye Serve.”  Your god deprives you of the ability to cast 2 level one spells, determined at random, for the rest of this adventure. 
13.
“I Will Waste No More Effort On You…”  You lose access to 1d4+1 spells, randomly determined from all you know.  These spells cannot be used for the rest of the adventure. 
14.
“Prove Thy Strength, My Champion!”  You lose access to the ability to turn unholy for the rest of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town, your powers return as normal.
15.
“I Am Growing Displeased, Mortal.”  You suffer a -4 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn checks for the rest of this adventure.
16.
“Are You A Being of Faith or Flesh?”  Your god wishes to test your faith.  You receive a permanent -4 penalty to all spell/lay on hands/turn unholy checks until you donate at least 50% of your wealth to your temple back in town.  This penalty does not reset at the end of the adventure—only the proper donation will suffice.  If you donate more than 1,000 gp in treasure total, you gain 1 Luck point.
17.
“You Have Squandered Enough Of My Power.”  You may no longer use lay on hands for the remainder of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town, your powers return as normal.
18.
“Perhaps You Are Unworthy Of My Gifts.”  You lose access to all spells for the remainder of this adventure.  After appropriate sacrifices back in town, your powers return as normal.
19.
“Begone From My Sight, O Worthless One!”  Your god has tired of listening to your impudent demands for now.  You lose access to all spellcasting and magical abilities (spells, lay on hands, turn undead, divine intervention) for the rest of this adventure. 
20+.
“You Beseech Me Again?  Behold The Face Of A Wrathful God!”  Your god, irritated with your incessant demands, allows you a brief glimpse of his/her/its unfathomable immortal form, a sight no mortal was meant to see.  Make a DC 20 Will Save.  If you fail, you are blinded for the rest of this adventure, something that no mortal magic may cure, and knocked unconscious for 2d4 rounds.  If you succeed, you are merely stunned for 2d4 rounds. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

20 Ways to Shake Up Your Next Game

Got an adventure idea, but worried that it's a little stale?   Looking for a way to "freshen up" your next game? 

Well look no further - here's 20 ways to bring a little excitement back to your bedroom...er...I mean, your gaming table.

Yeah, totally getting this tattoo, but not on my arm...


(Full disclosure, I put this together for my man-crush Zak Smith's "Thought Eater" contest, here, but now that I have been vanquished by a noble opponent, I can share).

So, here's my "Wand of Wonder for Adventure Design," if you will.  Start with your adventure idea.  Maybe it's "the mayor hires the PCs to stop goblins from raiding the town."  Or maybe it's "the high priest sends the PCs to get an artifact from an evil lich." Now, take that idea, roll on the table below, and apply the results.

Wand of Wonder for Adventure Design
(roll 1d20, apply result to your adventure idea)

Roll     Change-Up Your Planned Adventure By…

(1)     Peripeteia, a/k/a “the Old Switcheroo” — In classical Greek tragedy and comedy, a peripeteia is a sudden reversal or change in the circumstances or core assumptions of the plot.  Take your planned adventure and build one of those in.  Maybe those goblins raiding the town have repented their ways and given up violence.  Now, the PCs are left between a tribe of peaceful goblins and an angry mayor who wants the goblins dead – and if the PCs won’t do it, he’ll hire some other adventurers who will.  Or, upon breaching the sanctum of the evil lich, the PCs find her beaten and distraught.  She is evil, sure, but was tasked eons ago by the gods to guard the artifact – which was recently stolen, and now endangers the entire world.  Instead of fighting the lich, the PCs must help her track down and return the artifact before it is too late.

(2)     Boss For a Day — Keep your adventure setup exactly as planned.  But the mayor, high priest, or other quest-giver does NOT want the PCs to handle the job themselves – oh no, they are far too valuable and important to ever risk on such a dangerous and/or minor mission!  Instead, the quest-giver wants the PCs to track down, hire, and supervise other, more-expendable adventurers for the task.  Now, the PCs get to experience all the joys of “middle management.”  They have to round up and supervise a bunch of morally ambiguous murder-hobos who will, of course, demand ridiculous amounts of treasure before lifting a finger, burn down the inn, pick fights with the locals, loot and pillage everything in sight, and ultimately screw the job up royally – leaving the PCs to pick up the pieces and finish the task.

(3)     Start in Media Res — Jump right past the adventure idea you had, either to the middle of the action, or to its aftermath – right where a new, more complicated story is about to begin.  Start the game with the PCs already battling the goblin king in his lair.  After the battle, the PCs discover that the real adventure is just beginning – deciding how to deal with the surrendering goblins, figuring out a way to haul their cumbersome treasure back to town, getting the mayor to actually pay out the extravagant reward he offered.  Or start the PCs in the lich’s sanctum, while the now-defeated and slowly disintegrating lich cackles and taunts them.  It seems that the artifact is sentient, and is already telepathically summoning every powerful evil wizard, cleric, and monster in the region, all to ensure that it never reaches the high priest who can destroy it.

(4)     Bring on the B-Team — When the players show up, hand out character sheets for their hirelings, henchmen, allies, and friends.  Then inform them that their regular characters embarked upon your planned adventure several days ago, but have not returned.  Not content to wait any longer, their hirelings, henchmen, allies, and friends have resolved to retrace the PCs’ steps in the hope of rescuing them.  It is up to you whether the PCs were actually defeated or captured, and really need rescuing, or whether the PCs just got side-tracked, decided to stop over in a brothel, are planning a surprise party, etc.

(5)     Shift Genres for a Night — Take your adventure idea and rework it to fit within a completely different genre.  So, if your adventure is a standard heroic fantasy quest, take all those same elements, rework it, and run it as a horror story, or a pulp romance, or a murder mystery.  Maybe those goblin attacks are all the work of a single, deranged goblin serial killer (a short, green “Jason”?).  Maybe that lich is happy to do anything you ask, but only if you can solve her latest love-triangle dilemma (Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, but Edward is a red dragon and Jacob is an unusually handsome mind flayer).  

(6)     Make the Bad Guys “Good” — Keep your adventure exactly as planned, but replace the opposition with traditionally “good” monsters.  Then devise a plausible, justifiable, and reasonable explanation why a good-aligned creature would engage in the otherwise villainous activities.  Instead of goblins, the village is under attack by normally peaceful wood elves.  Are they being controlled by some evil wizard?  Have greedy loggers from the village ignored the elves’ pleas to stop?  Or are both sides arguably in the right – e.g., the villagers need to continue logging to survive, but the land is sacred to the elves.  Or, instead of a lich, the PCs find a silver dragon guarding the artifact.  The dragon explains that she has been posing as a lich for hundreds of years because it helps keep the riff-raff away.  The dragon confirms she has the artifact wanted by the high priest, but is afraid she can’t bear to part with it for at least a few hundred more years.  Now, the PCs must decide what to do.  Do they fail their quest for the high priest, who urgently needs the artifact?  Do they battle an otherwise friendly and good-aligned silver dragon?  Try to steal it and return it?  Something else?

(7)     Break the Rules (Or at Least a Key Assumption) — Change one of your game or campaign world’s default assumptions for a night, but NOT in a way that screws over your players.  Maybe there is a planetary alignment that greatly strengthens magical spells, allowing even apprentice-level wizards to draw forth vast amounts of power.  Maybe the gods themselves have placed a wager on the outcome of the PC’s quest, with some providing boons and advice, and others placing new and surprising obstacles in their way.  Maybe the god of death himself is taking a holiday, so no one – not the PCs, and not the monsters – can die regardless of their wounds.  The change be temporary, but fundamentally alter how the PCs approach the problem.

(8)     Unlikely Team-Up — Choose one (or more) of the PCs’ most hated and feared adversaries.  When the PCs show up to accept their quest, they find the villains already present.  It seems that the villains have also agreed to undertake this mission, and work with the PCs, for reasons selfish, altruistic, or entirely unknown.  Can the PCs work with their enemies?  Do they use the adventure as an opportunity to settle old scores?  Or will they grudgingly come to respect their former foe?

(9)     Reverse the Plot — Take the adventure you had in mind and reverse as many parts of it as possible – including, but not limited to, the quest-giver, the goal, and the opposition.  For example, instead of being hired by the mayor to stop the goblins, maybe the goblin king sends an envoy to hire the PCs to stop (through diplomacy or combat) other adventurers and townsfolk from making repeated attacks on the goblins’ lair.  This can lead to a fun “reverse dungeon,” where the PCs are planting the traps, setting up guard rooms, and organizing and training the goblins.  Or, instead of being hired by the high priest to assault the lich’s lair, maybe the lich wants to take a vacation, and is willing to trade away powerful magic items in exchange for the PCs serving as “guard dogs” for her haunted castle during her absence?

(10)   Too Much, Too Fast — The adventure proceeds as you planned, but the PCs’ employer gives them way too much firepower for the task.  Complete overkill.  Perhaps the mayor offers to loan the PCs a (recently confiscated) Staff of the Magi or other powerful magical item.  Or perhaps the high priest agrees to bestow upon one of the players the full measure of his own mighty power for the duration of the quest.  The goal is to give the PCs so much raw, uncontrolled power that the real challenge becomes restraining themselves from blowing everything around them sky high.  When the mission is done, do they return the incredible power they have been loaned?  Or do they betray their employer and try to keep it?   

(11)   All Too Easy — Keep your adventure the same, but today is the PCs’ lucky day.  Downgrade the opposition until it is almost laughable.  Maybe a plague has recently ravaged the goblin tribe, and the handful of warriors they can muster are sickly and weak.  Maybe the “lich” is really just a human charlatan, relying on ghost stories and folklore to scare everyone away.  The adventure is not a test of the PCs’ prowess or cunning, but of their moral character and mercy.  How long will they slaughter hapless, plainly overmatched foes before their conscience retrains them?

(12)   Toolbox Changeup — Pick one or more of the “tools” that you regularly use in your game (miniatures, maps, handouts, pictures, wandering monster tables, a GM screen, pre-prepared notes, character sheets, initiative rolls, dice, or whatever) and put them away for a night.  At the same time, pick a tool that you almost never use and try to work that into this session’s game.

(13)   Freaky Friday — The adventure proceeds as originally planned but, early on, the PCs stumble across an old skull, a mummified monkey’s paw, or some other obviously magical item.  The item is cursed and, when messed with, causes all of the PCs’ minds to jump to a different body.  Ask everyone too pass their character sheet to the player on their right.  Now, the adventure just got much harder, as our heroes must complete it while still in the “wrong” bodies.  The means for removing the curse are up to you.  Consider awarding bonus XP, hero points, inspiration, or your own preferred “player treat” for roleplaying the voice and mannerisms of the player/character whose body they are borrowing.

(14)   It’s All About the Competition — Keep your adventure setup the same, except that the quest-giver has decided to use the threat or problem as an opportunity to learn, once and for all, who are the greatest heroes in the land.  All of the PCs’ rivals show up to compete.  The group that solves the problem will be the toast of the town, and lavished with praise and gold.  The losers will become a joke.  Now, the PCs must rush to accomplish their goal, while facing sabotage along the way.   

(15)   You’re (Probably) Too Late — Everything in your planned adventure is true, but change things so that, part way into the game, the PCs suddenly discover that they have much less time than previously thought, and are perhaps already too late!  The villain’s nefarious plan came to fruition early.  The goblin camp is mostly empty because they have already departed to raze the village.  The lich has already activated the magical artifact, triggering an imminent apocalypse.  Now the PCs must scramble to come up with a new plan on the fly, or maybe just find some way to mitigate the impending disaster.

(16)   Swap Your “School Of Magic” for a Night — If you are running an “old school” game, switch it up by injecting some “new school” mechanics for the night.  For example, you might use something like John Wick’s “The Dirty Dungeon” (here) to let your players build the goblin tribe’s dungeon at the start of the session.  If your regular style is more “new school,” give Matthew Finch’s “Quick Primer for Old School Gaming” (here) a read, and try to incorporate as many elements as possible in your next game.

(17)   False Flag — The person giving the PCs the quest is not who they think (because of mind-control, illusion magic, intellect devourers, he took a bribe, or any other reason) and his or her motives are different than represented.  Maybe the quest-giver is really just a villain in disguise, hoping to lure the PCs away before launching his latest scheme, lead them into an ambush, discredit them, or use them to destroy his villainous rivals.  Maybe a group of doppelgangers wants to assume the PCs’ identities once they are outside of town.  Or maybe an old boyfriend is trying to stage a heroic rescue, in hopes of reconciliation. 
 
(18)   Uh, What Did We Do Last Night?” — Think Memento the RPG.  Begin the session just as the PCs approach the main villain of your adventure.  Unfortunately, a curse or magical mishap has just wiped out all of their memories for the last few days, and now they don’t remember where they are, who hired them, or what they are supposed to do – they need to piece all that together from clues and interrogating monsters they recently defeated.  At least one clever villain with a plausible, but utterly false, story about why the PCs are here is recommended.
 
(19)   No, You Do It” — A couple days before the game, give your notes to one of your players (the one with an interest in GMing) and ask him or her to run the next session.  You play one of the group’s hirelings or followers – preferably someone who is dumb and generally just goes along with whatever the PCs decide.  Play dumb and reveal nothing about the adventure – the goal is flip your perspective, and see how the adventure you wrote and planned to run feels from the other side of the screen.
 

Uh, yeah, maybe don't hand over the screen to that lady from Dark Dungeons...
 
(20)   And Tonight’s Guest Star Is…” — Grab someone from outside your regular group and ask them to “guest star” as an NPC for the session.  Tell your guest star in advance that they cannot personally hurt, kill, or steal from any of the PCs (to avoid hurt feelings), but that otherwise they should make life as difficult for as possible.  VIP protectees, local guides, and villains who talk a lot, but hide behind and army of goons can all make good choices for the NPC.

- Balthazar