Lead Mine & Manufactory

There is a lead mine bored into a spur of Ankeny Hill. Redsnout Clan kobolds, wise in the ways of the earth, found a seam of galena ore and have been following it deeper into the hill. As the mine expanded, they excavated vertical ventilation shafts and built a smelter to drive the lead out of the galena. Since then, they’ve been digging ore, isolating lead, and using proxies to send ingots and sling bullets to market.

Traps. Fuckin' traps.
Kobold lead mine and manufactory. Player (clean) copy. Click for full size.

Sometimes you just want a kobold adventure. Tight quarters, traps, and infinitely infuriating guerrilla tactics. Did I mention traps?

Traps kill dungeons. That is, unattended traps kill dungeons. Any GM knows that once the party has run into a trap or two, that party is going to be moving much more slowly through the remaining areas of the dungeon. Absent an outside force hustling the party along, the progress will slow to a crawl.

This is unpleasant to game through and an unrealistic use of traps. Fun and unrealistic is fine for gaming; boring but realistic does appeal to a certain subset of gamers; boring and unrealistic has no place in a game.

Soldiers since time immemorial have known that unobserved obstacles are useless. Without observation, you have no way of knowing if the enemy is breaching, and if you don’t know the enemy is breaching, you’ve given the enemy all the time they need to reduce that obstacle. Obstacles’ purpose is to impede and canalize someone–to control the space they have access to–so that you can direct force upon them while they’re constrained.

To bring it back around, kobolds observe their traps. Either visually, or with a noisemaker, or some other indication that it has been sprung. The traps aren’t really there to kill intruders directly. The traps are there to slow, divide, and distract intruders so that the kobolds can kill them. If an arrow trap pins some wicked little gnome to the wall on the way in, that’s just a bonus.

To put it more bluntly, when the party slows down poking and prodding for traps, that’s when the kobolds come around the back to tear them apart.

Not again.
Mine and manufactory gridded and keyed. 5′ squares. Click for full size.

It should be remembered that the mine was excavated by kobolds for kobold purposes. Don’t think 10’x10′ finished stone hallways; think meandering pickwork drifts and 4′ ceilings. Don’t think this; think this.


the villa

I once sat in on a game of D&D 3rd edition where the party gathered in a city. We met each other, found an artificial way to know each other, and spent the rest of the evening dithering. One PC wanted to head into the hills to deal with rumors of gnolls, another wanted to go down into the sewers, and another wanted to RP communing with her god in the temple. None of the players wanted to be so rude as to force the others into playing a game they didn’t want to, so no one got to play a game they wanted to. We could have used a ticket onto the railroad.

One of the things I’ve always liked about Shadowrun is that it is very good at dispensing with player confusion about what should be done during a game session. You have a Johnson, you get a mission, you do it.

And so we have the Villa. The man who owns it needs to be killed, and the PCs have to go in and do it.1

Not all monsters lurk in the wilderness. Sometimes they hide in the city, in plain sight.

Villa Players Copy
The Villa. Players’ copy.

The Villa was built in the latter days of empire, when merchants were kings and no one barred their windows. Those days have passed.

But the Villa remains. It still looks like it used to, but traps line the sills of those windows and the old workshop houses the cots of a squad of mercenaries.

Villa GM Copy
GM copy. 5′ squares.

(GM copy gridded and keyed with numbers. Haven’t decided if I want to write up the full location keyset.)

So who owns the Villa now? A local viscount? Upjumped guildman? Warlock? And why does he need to be dead?

1 For bonus fun, maybe he doesn’t need to be killed, only retrieved. How happy is he going to be about that?

what’s in the homestead?

Off the Queen’s Road, past the thorp of Wightrise, is an old estate across the cataract from the millroad. But what sort of estate is it?

But what's in there, really?
The old Erranton estate.

I like maps like this, because they are alive with possibility. They lend themselves to multiple types of adventures. Sometimes I wonder if less really is more: with no grid, no directions, merely a space, any GM can fit such a map into her campaign. Perhaps the archetypal use would be a simple explore and loot.

Not gridded; the fundamental touchstones of measurement are how big you want the house to be, and how big the roads.
GM copy, flagged with encounter areas.

1: Crossroads. The millroad leads from Wightrise up to the ford in Erran’s Run where the stream slows enough for the mill to take advantage. The overgrown path turns to the bridge leading to Erranton Estate.

2: Bridge. Built in the days when craftsmen cared for their work, this wooden bridge spans the gash that separates the road from the homestead.

3: Home. The ancestral Erranton home backs up against the woods. In former days the family lived here; now it crumbles down upon itself, pressed down by the inexorable weight of time and rain and indifference.

4: Caretaker’s Cottage. Formerly the hearth and home of the servants that managed the estate.

5: Outbuildings. A smokehouse, chicken coop, and root cellar. Located away from the main house to keep the odors down.

6: Stables. Stables and paddock. Shelter for livestock and a place to graze; tools and equipment.

7: Well. Reliable water source; center of daily life.

8: Gardens. Self-sufficiency garden for the estate.

So, now we’ve got the environs. What sort of adventures can we set here?

Option 1: Dungeon Crawl: The PCs have heard that the old Erranton place has been ransacked and overrun by goblins/orcs/bandits. The PCs go out there, fight the monsters, explore the place, and loot it.

Option 2: Reverse Dungeon: The PCs have been sent by their patron/mentor/employer to go to the Erranton Estate and negotiate to purchase something. The Errantons have the something, and are surprisingly reasonable about the transaction. The catch? At an inopportune moment someone else appears at the crossroads looking to ransack the Estate. Now the PCs have to team up with the Errantons to defend the homestead. It could be monsters being monsters, troops looking to collect back taxes, or just adventurers raiding other peoples’ homes just to steal their stuff. Can you hold the bridge?

Option 3: Swords & Shadowruns: The PCs are hired by Guildmaster Johnson to assassinate the scion of the Erranton family line. Old Man Erranton is on his last legs anyway, but his son has aspirations to local power, and someone doesn’t want that. But the PCs need to be quiet and make it look like an accident. No door-kicking and fireballing. Can the PCs get in, get done, and get out?

Option 4: The Returned: The old Erranton place has been avoided for years. Recently the local Order lured all the Returned into the house and burned it down around them, lighting the bridge aflame as they withdrew. But as of a month ago, the house and bridge still stand–and look just as they always have. A scarecrow stands in the field, eternally shouting something in an elder tongue. How can the PCs clear out the house for good? Why is the stableyard covered in fresh furrows? Why is there fresh meat in the root cellar? And why is that little girl standing on the lip of the well?

Option 4a: The Glamour: Everyone knows the old Erranton place is haunted, a place where the dead walk and maintain a mockery of a farm. But what no one knows is that there are no dead at the homestead. How long will it take the PCs to figure out that reclusive fae have taken the place for their own, and are using magic to frighten interlopers away? And how will the PCs react when they discover that they’re the invaders, and the fae aren’t even wicked?

What kind of scene would you set here?

Atavists’ Retreat

In an isolated grotto hides a settlement of saltwater lizardfolk. Reclusive, primitive, proud, and fierce, the lizardfolk have colonized the sea-cave and–it being the repository for the tribe’s eggs–will defend it to the last.

There are two natural entrances from the sea, and the cavern is perpetually flooded. There’s an interior beach where the main settlement rests, an islet with a watch-hut, and another with the sacred hut of the tribe’s shaman. During the day the sea channels admit enough sunlight to illuminate the grotto; at night, the tribe lights a driftwood bonfire and the torches lining the beach.

Day in the grotto is clean and clear with a saltspray tang; breeze carries away the smell of the lizardfolk. Evening finds the grotto dark and moody, all flickering firelight that never quite reaches as far as you would like.

The grotto of the lizardfolk. Players' copy.
The grotto of the lizardfolk. Players’ copy.

Lizardfolk are stern and sober, and don’t take well to visitors in the grotto without exceedingly persuasive justification. Any aggression–or uninvited visitors–will be met by a hail of javelins followed by the males of the tribe swimming out to greet the interlopers.

GM's version with grid. 10'x10' squares.
GM’s version with grid. 10’x10′ squares.

1: A small islet with a guard/warming hut. Typically occupied by warriors armed with javelins and a warning horn.

2: The tribe’s sacred island. Hut with a low fire perpetually burning inside; used by the tribe’s shaman for vision quests and mystic isolation. Equal odds at any given time that the shaman is on the island, or back with the rest of the tribe.

3: These communal longhouses shelter the majority of the tribe. Lizardfolk are communal creatures, huddling together when temperatures drop.

4: The tribe’s firepit. Every evening the tribe stokes up a huge driftwood fire, later taking shovelfuls of coals back to the longhouses to warm them through the night.

5: Prisoner posts. When the tribe captures prisoners, they are bound here as both an example to the tribe of the chieftain’s might, as well as a way of keeping the tribe’s food fresh on its feet.

6: The chieftain’s hut sits on a ledge a few feet higher than the rest of the village, befitting the largest and oldest male in the tribe.