Solo campaign design choices ... opinions welcome


4th Edition


I am DMing a solo campaign for my wife shortly. Her player motivations (DMG p.8) fall under Slayer and Storyteller. She wants to kill lots of monsters with an engaging story. She loves to roleplay, but she wants to keep the plot simple and forthcoming, so she has room to develop her character some and then get back to the action.

Solo Encounter Design
My current plan is to start off with a few encounters with just the PC and add one or two NPCs geared toward story and solving the combat/non-combat encounters that are coming up. I would switch the number of NPCs up and down as I feel is appropriate and adjust encounters accordingly.

I don't want to overburden myself with too many DM controlled PCs. If I substituted the PCs with NPCs (DMG p.186 basically one power per tier, etc.), the options at higher level play should be more manageable and less time-consuming in the long term.

We only have two-hour blocks available after our energy filled, bouncing off the wall, getting into everything, causing you near limitless amounts of frustration, before they melt your heart and make it all worth while hug and kiss followed by a I love you Mommy and Daddy smile, light of our lives children fall asleep. I think I went off point there...ahem, to continue.

Do you recommend creating actual PCs or NPCs to fill the missing roles?

Would a single PC and four NPC allies/henchmen be powerful enough to count as a full party of five, or should I bring the encounter level down one or two?

What is the sweet number of NPCs with a single PC?

What suggestions do you have to run a solo campaign in 4th edition while not forcing her to choose a defender or leader role character?

Primarily, how would you design combat/non-combat encounters to give advantage, or at least even the odds for a single PC?

In this case, my wife would like to start with a ranger geared towards archery. I plan to run a few encounters soon to test how well going solo will work.

In general, what kind of combat/non-combat encounters would you use in a solo campaign? To satisfy a PC with Slayer and Storyteller motivations? Never hurts to have more ideas.

My initial impression of encounter structure is as follows for a 1st level character (I'm sure the options are a little easier at higher levels by filling the XP budget with lower level monsters. One PC vs. one monster, four minions, one trap, and one non-combat encounter complexity one. The monsters should probably be minions, a similar role of the PC, or have an advantage against an opposite role. Non-combat encounters should focus more on the skills of the PC.

Opposite roles: (please correct me if I'm wrong)


  • Defender (Brute, Soldier) vs. Controller (Controller, Artillery)
  • Striker (Lurker, Skirmisher) vs. Leader (Controller, Soldier)

Solo Adventure Design
Initial encounter design (DMG p.196 I'm using Fallcrest as common ground example here and possible link into H1 Keep on the Shadowfell)

The PC is patrolling the woods east of Fallcrest along the King's Road after Lord Warden Faren Markelhay of Fallcrest hears rumors of bandits.


  • PC vs. 1 minion
    (should be simple and within a couple rounds)

    Along King's Road She discovers a bandit looting the corpse of Bavel Slightsoot, a well-known, if not-liked, personal guard for a local halfling merchant, Selarund Halfmoon of the Halfmoon Trading House (common PHB equipment and gear). There is a caravan wagon that provides cover for the bandit if not defeated quickly.

  • PC in difficult terrain with tree cover vs. 4 minions
    (gives her time to pick them off as they come for her)

    If necessary, a short rest, otherwise bandits that heard the encounter catch up just as the ranger begins to head into the forest.

  • PC vs. 1 brute
    (she should be fine)

    This is a potential non-combat encounter called The Rescue presented below. If not, then it's a simple fight in a clearing with a thin tree line forest, simple camp with two large tents with a chest, a campfire, and three caged prisoners, the halfling merchant Selarund Halfmoon, personal guard Percy Glimmershine, and hired guard Bracnor Honourshield. The dwarf can be released as part of the non-combat encounter or can join the fight depending on the mood of the player.

    The chest contains level 1 parcel 3 (magic item +3, my choice for ranger is a frost longbow lvl 3 called Coldwind), and partial parcel 6 (80 gp).

    Selarund and Percy escape back to Fallcrest immediately after recovering their immediate supplies and returns to recover the wagon with additional guards later that day. Bracnor joins up with the PC.

  • PC and 1 NPC ally with height, difficult terrain, and surprise advantage vs. 1 soldier and 4 minions
    (should be easy for the ranger to pick off minions before they reach the PC and NPC ally, though the solider may make it tough, adding the Battle Champion template may complete the boss effect)

    The bandits can't run away, because the PC caught them selling goods to none other than Darian Sandercot, eldest son of Nimena Sandercot of Sandercot Provisions. He spots the PCs shortly after they watch him purchase a few items and put them in his wagon. He orders the bandits to get rid of them or their whole arrangement would be blown. Darian bolts off down the King's Road leaving the bandit leader Galbon Traselle and his minions to deal with the interlopers.

  • Major Quest Success: They return to the Lord Warden to report their dealings with the bandits and Darian Sandercot's involvement. Darian is arrested and they have now made an enemy out of Nimena Sandercot. The bandits have been routed and it will be a season or two before the remaining bandits become a viable threat again.

    Reward: partial parcel 6 (100gp gem)

  • Major Quest Failure: Adventurers retired from the adventure for extended rest or choose to disregard the remaining patrol. Darian was not caught red-handed and the bandits continue to raid the King's Road.

Skill challenge: The Rescue

The PC meets up with an NPC ally, a dwarf fighter named Bracnor Honourshield, Selarund the merchant, and a halfling personal guard named Percy Glimmershine, who all are in separate hanging stick cages with their feet sticking out. Bandit leader Galbon Traselle's younger brother, Ascan Traselle, is poking Bracnor's cage and getting a jolly at watching the dwarf swear and blanch from swinging sickness. The ranger can perform a skill challenge to get the dwarf free so we can laugh as the dwarf kicks his ass, or she can attack the bandit.

The bandit, the cages, and the camp is in a clearing surrounded by trees with little foliage.

The foliage isn't enough to provide cover, just the trees which are spaced every other square.

Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 2 failures - haven't read the errata changes yet)
Primary Skills: Bluff, Insight, Perception, Stealth


  • Acrobatics (easy DCs) Perform an acrobatic stunt to spring off a fallen tree to gain the height required to have cover amongst low hanging limbs and complete the stunt with a roll behind the only foliage available for cover. Offered only once after Perception successfully discovers availability. (I want to encourage creative solutions, easy DCs)
  • Athletics (moderate DCs) Cut the rope to drop the cage. If the PC wants to lower the cage, then request this immediate athletics check to lower the cage.
  • Bluff (moderate DCs) Distract the bandit by throwing a rock or making a disturbance away from the prisoners, so you can move a quarter of the way closer.
  • Diplomacy Starts combat.
  • Insight (moderate DCs) Discover that use of the social use of Bluff, Insight, and Intimidate skills cause automatic failure. Discover that the bandit is cocky, but jumpy. He is easily distracted by rustling of the wind in trees, animal sounds, and just anything else a creative PC may suggest within reason. Provides +2 to Bluff checks to distract the bandit.
  • Intimidate Starts combat.
  • Perception (easy DCs) Discover that along the next quarter of the tree line, there is the potential for cover if the PC performs an acrobatic stunt using the Acrobatics skill. It can only be successfully used once in this encounter. No penalty for failure.
  • Stealth (moderate DCs) Quickly and quietly move from one tree to another, so you can move a quarter of the way closer.

Success:
The PC reaches the cage and frees Bracnor. The dwarf takes his revenge upon the bandit by chasing the bandit around the camp until the bandit is killed, knocked unconscious by Bracnor, or knocked unconscious by running into a tree while watching the dwarf. DMs choice of style. I'll choose the tree, because my wife will laugh.
Failure:
The bandit discovers the PC and combat starts. The PC has the option to release the dwarf during combat to initiate the success portion of the encounter.

Finally, how would you adjust H1 Keep on the Shadowfell and accompanying adventures to work for a solo campaign?

If you read this far, then I thank you for your patience and assistance.

Note: Corrections appreciated

The Exchange

I would not flesh out the entire party. You will find yourself fighting yourself the entire time. I think one NPC, sort of Warder to her Aes Sedai, or Sam to her Frodo, gives you a way to inject information into the narrative stream and also support her in combat.

The DMG lists Leader and Defender as the optimal two person combination, so I would encourage this if she is not toally in love with ehr character. If not, you'll need to rn a Leader to support her.

Your encounters seem reasonable, and I see nothing fundamentally wrong with your skill challenge.

Conversion of H1 & H2 is going to be alot of work. Frankly, if I were going to convert over something to single play, I think I would go with D0/D1 or U2. If you have to go to the trouble of flipping an entire adventure, you might as well do it with one with a great story. D1 and U2 both have great NPCs to work with also.


Hmm. Some major adjustments would have to be made to Kots. I know the Iron Tooth encounter would be a nightmare for one player.

I agree with tadkill that a complimentary character might be best. As a single pc character she will have to be largely dependant on her own skills. I would suggest letting her play whatever she wants to play and suggest multiclassing as a way to fill her out a bit. Do this for her partner or partners in crime (I imagine this sort of like NWN or Diablo).

Second, you might want to look into items to bump up her abilties. Healing potions become invaluable to a player who has no option of extra healing. If she can use them wands might be a valuable way to increase her fire power.

Look around for some fan creations of one use items. A Thunderwave Rock might give her some much need area effects for example. You may also want to be kind and give her relevant and useful magical items.

Can you tell us more about her PC ?


Azigen wrote:
Can you tell us more about her PC ?

My wife wants her character to resemble a female elven version of Aragon from Lord of the Rings. The archetype leads me to suggest that she creates a ranger multi-classed as as a fighter or warlord.

The student of the sword multi-class feat and power-swap feats would give her access to a few melee burst powers and focus on greatsword powers would resemble Aragon's primary attacks.

Of course, now she tells me she wants the fighting style to more closely resemble Legolas with leadership qualities of Aragon, so I think we're onto the warlord multi-class.

The student of battle multi-class feat and power-swap feats would give her access to several healing and tactical powers, with the inspiring word power available immediately.

Add in a few healing potions and I think we have a winner with the warlord multi-class feats. She likes this path best, so far.

She prefers her ranged attacks to be more powerful, so she's taking the archer fighting style. Though she isn't taking the two-blade fighting style, I don't see why she can't still perform two-weapon fighting with a longsword (versatile) and short sword (off-hand), since the powers allow it.

That's as far as we have reached in the character creation so far. Slow process on our part, but with kids you sneak in whatever you can.

Suggesting a multi-class NPC ally that my wife can choose like a henchman similar to Neverwinter Nights or fits into the story properly is a great idea. Story driven NPCs will make encounter setup easier knowing ahead of time their weak roles. During a more free-style dungeon quest, I could make encounters a little weaker to avoid a bad PC/NPC combination with the option of switching back at camp, so she can have the rogue to sneak in to rescue a prisoner stealthily and then come back with the fighter to kick the doors down.

My bandit quest above could then consist of Bracnor Honourshield as a fighter-cleric to provide extra healing just in case their is a need. I don't want her to do nothing but heal in the first quest if I can help it.

A purely stealthy higher level quest could best be accomplished with the ranger-warlord and a rogue-wizard (a burst power and possibly invisibility) given plenty of combat advantage opportunities, stealth based encounters, and acrobatic opportunities using DMG p.42 judiciously to mimic the Prince of Persia game.

Great suggestions on two character adventure for solo campaign and the multi-class suggestions to overcome missing roles. Thanks, I really appreciate the assistance. Please keep the ideas coming.


Thinking on it some more...

It may be a litte Diable/NWN-esque but the npcs could provide nice side quests as well.

Beyond that, you may want to look at magical equipment. Doing something like increasing the level of treasure by one step ( Ie Level +1 or +2) would mean that she would have equipment that is slightly better than most characters of her level. Allowing the npc something like this too would give you extra oomph.

As a special reward, occasionally allow her to select a second npc to come along with her. This will allow you to increase the complexity of the challenges and make it feel like she got something special. But make it rare though.

Epic stories, like the the Lord of the Rings, often involve doing something that no one person can do. Frodo was really the only person who could destroy the one ring, and he went through hordes of badies to do so ( we'll his allies did for him). You could do a "Flight" part of the story during later levels where her camp of allies is forced to flee and she/they must fend off bands of monsters after them or an item they recovered.


I remember the side quests from NWN helped the NPCs feel more alive. It annoyed me that the NWN's reason for only allowing one henchmen at a time in most cases was just because. I plan to provide reasons, such as one of the henchmen must deliver a message to the baron, work on the restoration of a shop as their new headquarters, or follow up on leads for the next quest.

Increasing the treasure parcels could help increase her overall effective level to take on tougher challenges, so that's a great suggestion. Cheap healing potions should also help.

I like the idea of a falling fight scene similar to Gandolf and the Balrog with the PC and an ally. The flight scene I've had in mind for a while was similar to the end of the Fellowship of the Ring where the battle was basically a fighting retreat with each NPC joining up for a bit before surging ahead or falling back due to circumstances only to be joined up by another NPC ally for the next encounter.

I currently plan on adding a new NPC ally as the new henchman per major quest to help build the portfolio of NPCs for a large fight at the end. I could have a large fight scene with multiple NPCs if I only allow the PC to choose one ally to help each round while the others hold back the other monsters as scenery. Another option is to follow the end of the Two Towers by having the NPC move from each part of the castle to the next to the join the NPC fighting in that area like Aragon on the parapets with Legolis and Aragon at the gate with Gimli.


Lord Iriam wrote:

I remember the side quests from NWN helped the NPCs feel more alive. It annoyed me that the NWN's reason for only allowing one henchmen at a time in most cases was just because. I plan to provide reasons, such as one of the henchmen must deliver a message to the baron, work on the restoration of a shop as their new headquarters, or follow up on leads for the next quest.

Increasing the treasure parcels could help increase her overall effective level to take on tougher challenges, so that's a great suggestion. Cheap healing potions should also help.

I like the idea of a falling fight scene similar to Gandolf and the Balrog with the PC and an ally. The flight scene I've had in mind for a while was similar to the end of the Fellowship of the Ring where the battle was basically a fighting retreat with each NPC joining up for a bit before surging ahead or falling back due to circumstances only to be joined up by another NPC ally for the next encounter.

I currently plan on adding a new NPC ally as the new henchman per major quest to help build the portfolio of NPCs for a large fight at the end. I could have a large fight scene with multiple NPCs if I only allow the PC to choose one ally to help each round while the others hold back the other monsters as scenery. Another option is to follow the end of the Two Towers by having the NPC move from each part of the castle to the next to the join the NPC fighting in that area like Aragon on the parapets with Legolis and Aragon at the gate with Gimli.

Exactly what I was suggesting. Some 4e version of Victory points would help in this.

The Exchange

I suggest applying Free Kriegsspiel to your situation: There are no rulebooks to use - you simply resort to experience of the referee to tell a story

    Priorities of Free Kriegsspiel
  • Friction of War - The stress of personality clash amongst your own side.
  • Control and Communication - This mostly applies to larger issues like getting messages through.
  • Fog of War - These are the screwups. Killing the Villager who decided to follow your PC at a discreet distance into the Caves of Doom.

It will allow you to get in a full hour of story/Roleplay if you are prepared to communicate for that long.

What you then need to do is chart the appearence and departure of Players in the Play. Stats are something you rarely use and will mostly be irrelevent unless they are extreemly weak or powerful.

Example: PC is in Bar with NPCs A, B, C, D, F. NPC E walks in and attacks the PC. PC Lobs a fireball in close quarters incinerating all the NPCs except A (who flees screaming into the street and throws himself into the Horsetrough) and E(who escapes injured with a Dimension door Key- using the firestorm to cover his departure). Outside NPC G shows up with NPC H and after helping NPC A, form a Lynch mob to hang the Mass murdering PC.

As Referee: you took note of the NPCs at each node, and the mistakes of the Player (Player forgets that the fireball is going to kill everyone in the room). You Charted the Story progression from inside to outside.


There was a poster on Cirvs Maximus (ENWorld sister board) that was detailing a solo paladin campaign for 3.5. The basic concept could work for you also.

Have the ranger work for the King and is sent to a small village near the borderlands to the wild as a Peace officer, warden, whatever. Then the basic plots are defending the area. It can be a wild beast moving into the area, an orc warband passing through, etc.

The paladin campaign was setup such that the adventures were designed to introduce the powers of the paladin as they were gained.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Definitely go with an NPC stat block rather than a PC write-up for any NPCs that accompany her PC.

I recommend only making a single NPC. You can easily scale down challenges by reducing the number of opponents.

I used Gestalt rules from 3.5 with great success for a two-person party (where each PC basically got the abilities of two different classes) - this would be even easier to do in 4th edition without over-complicating your lives. I suggest:

You can grant her PC an extra "power" that would normally not go with her role - for example, if she isn't playing a Leader, let her PC have the warlord's version of healing twice per encounter as a bonus power. Or if she IS playing a Leader, choose an ability that is missing due to the lack of another role, and let her have that instead. You might also want to give her PC, and your NPC, one or two bonus trained skills from their classes, just to round out the abilities available in the "group" a bit more, without complicating your lives with lots of NPCs.


Shane Leahy wrote:

There was a poster on Cirvs Maximus (ENWorld sister board) that was detailing a solo paladin campaign for 3.5. The basic concept could work for you also.

Have the ranger work for the King and is sent to a small village near the borderlands to the wild as a Peace officer, warden, whatever. Then the basic plots are defending the area. It can be a wild beast moving into the area, an orc warband passing through, etc.

The paladin campaign was setup such that the adventures were designed to introduce the powers of the paladin as they were gained.

I could not quickly find the Cirvs Maximus board. Please post a link to the article, so I can read it in more detail. Thanks!

I've never been to http://www.enworld.org/ before. I check it out soon.

The defender of a region is simple and straightforward. I imagine quests to root out an infestation of some monster possibly causing normal animals to behave differently, establish a trade route with an elven village deep in the woods to provide some desperately needed commodity, and the standard discovery of ruins with unknown potential and danger. My wife and I love classic adventures.

I like the idea of providing simple encounters that slowly introduces the PCs powers. That was the goal of the first major quest in the OP. Perhaps I should add a few more encounters with a couple minions in different situations to test the powers some more before the skill challenge at the camp. A few simple encounters might help us get over the learning curve before entering tougher encounters that may overwhelm us both if we're not prepared.


Cintra Bristol wrote:

Definitely go with an NPC stat block rather than a PC write-up for any NPCs that accompany her PC.

I recommend only making a single NPC. You can easily scale down challenges by reducing the number of opponents.

I used Gestalt rules from 3.5 with great success for a two-person party (where each PC basically got the abilities of two different classes) - this would be even easier to do in 4th edition without over-complicating your lives. I suggest:

You can grant her PC an extra "power" that would normally not go with her role - for example, if she isn't playing a Leader, let her PC have the warlord's version of healing twice per encounter as a bonus power. Or if she IS playing a Leader, choose an ability that is missing due to the lack of another role, and let her have that instead. You might also want to give her PC, and your NPC, one or two bonus trained skills from their classes, just to round out the abilities available in the "group" a bit more, without complicating your lives with lots of NPCs.

Using NPC stats for the NPC means the PC shines a bit more as a step above the rest, reinforcing her star stature. You can never go wrong by making the PC shine. I'm worried that if I scale down the encounters too far, the fun factor is lost without the appearance of an adequate challenge. I think I'm more willing to overpower the PC and accompanying NPC than undercutting the NPC. I have a thought on that, but I think I'll make a new thread for it.

At this point, my wife and I have already decided to apply the student of battle multi-class feat to her ranger to gain access to the inspired word power. From what you're suggesting, maybe I should give her the feat for free. I'll take that under advisement, thanks!

I like having multiple NPCs in my stories, just not at the same time. So I don't mind changing them out as the story progresses to provide the appropriate NPCs to help with combat and skill challenges through each quest. Adding another trained skill may balance the missing roles. Another idea to consider, thanks!


yellowdingo wrote:

I suggest applying Free Kriegsspiel to your situation: There are no rulebooks to use - you simply resort to experience of the referee to tell a story

    Priorities of Free Kriegsspiel
  • Friction of War - The stress of personality clash amongst your own side.
  • Control and Communication - This mostly applies to larger issues like getting messages through.
  • Fog of War - These are the screwups. Killing the Villager who decided to follow your PC at a discreet distance into the Caves of Doom.

It will allow you to get in a full hour of story/Roleplay if you are prepared to communicate for that long.

What you then need to do is chart the appearence and departure of Players in the Play. Stats are something you rarely use and will mostly be irrelevent unless they are extreemly weak or powerful.

Example: PC is in Bar with NPCs A, B, C, D, F. NPC E walks in and attacks the PC. PC Lobs a fireball in close quarters incinerating all the NPCs except A (who flees screaming into the street and throws himself into the Horsetrough) and E(who escapes injured with a Dimension door Key- using the firestorm to cover his departure). Outside NPC G shows up with NPC H and after helping NPC A, form a Lynch mob to hang the Mass murdering PC.

As Referee: you took note of the NPCs at each node, and the mistakes of the Player (Player forgets that the fireball is going to kill everyone in the room). You Charted the Story progression from inside to outside.

I've run a few adventures where the PCs screwed up and started quests revolved around correcting their mistakes to make things right again. The game Demon Stone by R.A. Salvatore is a good example where the PCs initial quest ended in releasing two major bad guys that they quested to imprison through the entire game.

Though the group (except my wife) ran the characters in that direction, they later told me, including my wife, that they did not enjoy themselves and felt depressed over the issue. For my wife, I plan on running the game simple and clean, explaining the results of her actions. If she knows that the results would go against her character's wishes, then she would avoid it all costs, even to her detriment. She's not a rules lawyer like some of the others, thank goodness, so she'll rely on me for that information. In the end, it's all about keeping my wife happy and playing.

I've added my own examples to your list.

    Priorities of Free Kriegsspiel
  • Friction of War - The stress of personality clash amongst your own side. Example: One of the knights hold back from the defense of the Baron in hopes that he would be killed, so the knight could take his place, if only the PC hadn't stepped in the way.
  • Control and Communication - This mostly applies to larger issues like getting messages through. Example: The PC needs to protect or destroy a key bridge before the enemy or for your allies to cross. Lighting the signal flares to summon help from a nearby city-state.
  • Fog of War - These are the screwups. Killing the Villager who decided to follow your PC at a discreet distance into the Caves of Doom. I'll will avoid the PC causing the screw-up, but instead have her resolve the screw-up. Example: The humans chopped down the woods, killing a dryad by mistake. The elves set fire to the farmer's barn made from the dryad's tree as a funeral pyre. The humans are preparing for war in fear of the elve's blatant attacks. The PC, a neutral party, is asked to investigate and possibly end the war before it starts.

My wife wants her stories and roleplaying full of action. Though I could and have run many adventures without a single miniature and only a few roles of the dice over a few hours time, the visual placement of a few baubles on a battle-mat goes a long way in understanding the scenes being played out.

Your flowchart examples remind me a lot of the Heroes of Battle flowchart and victory point conditions. It's a great book and even better concept. Thanks for all of your suggestions!

The Exchange

How about a Villain fir your Wife.

Into the Sewers
The street urchins have been disapearing. Orc Reavers loiter outside the Town at the large Sewer Drain. Bypassing the Orcs armed with Greatcleavers, you encounter further in the tunnel a naked wildman.
He is covered in blood and carries a Large Iron Spike in Each hand - he is carrying the head of a child and is chewing on the wet end.

Your Guide screams "Villiam the Bloody" and flees back toward the exit Taking the Torchlight with him.

<Villiam casts a Magic missile Variant> The first Iron Spike hurls the distance down the tunnel to burn through the PCs armor for an autohit just as you are plunged into darkness.

The PC is In the Dark with a naked killer who "Throws" Iron Spikes for weapons and eats raw human.


Hello - I'm not an expert on mechanics, but I do love roleplaying and have a lot of experience of running story/RP rich single player campaigns.

The party size is quite interesting in such a game. On the one hand you can easily create a lot of diversity, having the PC work alone at times and in a big party for other situations. I've usually given a lot of thought to this issue before starting, usually choosing between:

1. Largely solo adventuring
2. Player and NPC 'Best Friend'
3. Player as member of small team (3-4)
4. Party size and identity of companions changing all the time.
5. Or - any of the above, plus membership in a Guild, Order, School or an important/notorious family.

My personal favourite is option 2, player and one NPC. Bear in mind this NPC is NOT battle fodder and the player will often rather die themselves than loose this dear friend. Of course it doesn't have to be a heart-warming friend, it could be someone with a different viewpoint to emphasise the PC's personality (think X-Files), or an annoying sidekick (Slaine & Ukko) or the PC could be the student to a mentor who may or may not have a similar or widely different skill-set to the PC, or the PC may be the bodyguard of the NPC - or vice versa. Or they could be enemies, for example a soldier trying to escourt a prisoner to jail through many hazards, or they could be rivals who are stuck with each other - imagine Harry Potter and Malfoy sent on numerous training quests together.

Lots of fun to be had. However - crucially - the NPC must have a personality that contrasts with the PC's widely enough to help the PC define themselves. If they are too similar the PC gets lost, and the PC needs someone to bounce off of. Lethal Weapon Martin Riggs would not seem so dangerous and violent if he was paired with Dirty Harry, and there would be few smiles. Aragorn seems more experienced because of the innocence of the Hobbits, he belongs to a bigger world than they do. If your player fancies themselves a bit of Strider, at some point they need to feel how much more wild and survivalist they have become than someone who doesnt come from that world.

The most succesful pairing I enjoyed was contrasting the PC's rough and ruthless, blood and guts hero with an elegant, image conscious, perfectionist from a noble family. Good times, I'll never forget them : )

Having read your adventure - may I go out on a limb with a constructive criticism? It lacks the WTF factor. Like seeing a man with a silver face, or starting the campaign by waking up in a tomb, or having the PC cough up blood every so often, or realising your hand is turning into a claw, or seeing a star vanish, or having the King's infant child laugh at you like it's 50 years old, or just that crazy worrying thing that maybe even the DM doesn't-know-what-it-means-yet. Maybe the ranger discovers a strange nest in the woods...

http://mcfrog.deviantart.com/art/Evil-Nest-93583253

Whatever - the stuff that makes the player sit up, take notice and say WTF!!?


Arcane Joe wrote:
Lots of fun to be had. However - crucially - the NPC must have a personality that contrasts with the PC's widely enough to help the PC define themselves. If they are too similar the PC gets lost, and the PC needs someone to bounce off of. Lethal Weapon Martin Riggs would not seem so dangerous and violent if he was paired with Dirty Harry, and there would be few smiles. Aragorn seems more experienced because of the innocence of the Hobbits, he belongs to a bigger world than they do. If your player fancies themselves a bit of Strider, at some...

I like your suggestion of an NPC whose personality contrasts with the PC. In this case, I'm imagining Bracnor huddled over a campfire eating a well-seasoned cony only to grow disgusted when he learns where the ranger gathered the ingredients. The dwarf could ramble on a lot (not unlike myself) whenever she's not speaking, because he can't stand the silence while the ranger loves the sounds of the forest. Good suggestion for character development.

EDIT: You mention the WTF! factor. My wife nearly said that when she saw the nest in the artwork link you provided. I see your point. The goal for the first adventure was mostly to keep it light and familiar while we learn the rules. I could easily see the nest come into play as cocoons for some monstrosity or perhaps as a nest of harpies later. Perhaps, that nest is actually a simple, but fortified elven sentry tower. Just because the scene provides an additional fantasy flavor, doesn't mean it has to be evil or an abomination all the same.

We typically shy away from the aberrations except for a few horror moments. As an example, the PCs quested to stop the copper thieves from stealing, well, copper. Through a rigorous journey, they found a kobold tribe who stole the copper as sacrifice to the avatar of their deity. The PCs were sacrificed as well to The Mouth of Kurtulmak in the pit below. They eventually destroyed the gibbering mouther and threw the tribe into civil war with those who believed and those who didn't. In the end, the PCs were unsure of what to do with their hoard of copper.


yellowdingo wrote:

How about a Villain fir your Wife.

Into the Sewers
The street urchins have been disapearing. Orc Reavers loiter outside the Town at the large Sewer Drain. Bypassing the Orcs armed with Greatcleavers, you encounter further in the tunnel a naked wildman.
He is covered in blood and carries a Large Iron Spike in Each hand - he is carrying the head of a child and is chewing on the wet end.

Your Guide screams "Villiam the Bloody" and flees back toward the exit Taking the Torchlight with him.

<Villiam casts a Magic missile Variant> The first Iron Spike hurls the distance down the tunnel to burn through the PCs armor for an autohit just as you are plunged into darkness.

The PC is In the Dark with a naked killer who "Throws" Iron Spikes for weapons and eats raw human.

I understand that based on my OP you chose a sensitive topic that would insight great emotion from my wife, creating a villain my wife would definitely hate and want to bring down. While it was a good suggestion and you clearly have a creative spark for the horror and thriller genre, I couldn't bring myself to run a quest that harms kids.

My wife and I tone down the vivid descriptions, because we lean more towards the action movie aspect where the really bad stuff is hinted at but never shown. Take the Star Wars Episode 3 scene where Anakin cleaned out the Jedi academy and entered the room with the kids and the door closed. Nothing more needed said as you know what was going to happen. Even that hits a bit hard as a parent.

If I would involve kids per your suggestion, then I would have the wild man kidnap children to work as personal slaves. He would force the urchin siblings to beg or work for coin and food for the wild man in sewers, lest their siblings come to an untimely end. The PC would then have to rescue the children before dealing with the wild man, so none of the kids are hurt. My wife just said no to that even. Sigh.

I haven't put a whole lot of thought yet into the villain yet, figuring that something would come to me after a few levels. By then I'm usually able to tie the adventures and their bosses together to a villain.


Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings on NPCs : )

I'm glad the artwork sparked so many possibilities in your mind. I love to peruse fantasy art for inspirational scenes and characters, and enjoy having an artists steer my thoughts towards things I might not have conjured from own jumbled imagination.

Re the villain discussion, and with a nod to Yellowdingo, I see some fun ahead in your campaign with designing bad guys : )

Players have different comfort levels, and these must always be respected. Some love confronting very insidious evil, others not so much. Horses for courses. No one is saying otherwise, but let me add my voice of agreement (from sad experience) on that important point.

I'm interested in your bandits and wondering how well organised they are and if they belong to a moderate network of outlaws. I was reading some interesting articles on Wild West outlaws, and the Hole in the Wall Gang. This was a group of several losely related gangs who all operated from the same cavernous base, where it was extremely perilous for the local authorities to enter. Doubtless there were some intimidating personalities that stopped the outlaw bands from killing each other, a few heavy rep killers.

Such a location in the middle of a Ranger's 'territory' would be troublesome indeed. More so if another, less scrupulous Ranger was co-operating with the bandits, for a little mutual give and take.


Arcane Joe wrote:

I'm interested in your bandits and wondering how well organised they are and if they belong to a moderate network of outlaws. I was reading some interesting articles on Wild West outlaws, and the Hole in the Wall Gang. This was a group of several losely related gangs who all operated from the same cavernous base, where it was extremely perilous for the local authorities to enter. Doubtless there were some intimidating personalities that stopped the outlaw bands from killing each other, a few heavy rep killers.

Such a location in the middle of a Ranger's 'territory' would be troublesome indeed. More so if another, less scrupulous Ranger was co-operating with the bandits, for a little mutual give and take.

I intentionally left the term bandit vague in my OP. I had originally thought of using goblins, but when I read about Nimena Sandercot, I leaned more towards human bandits in so giving human names for the bandit leader. Based on the description found in the Fallcrest town descriptions, Nimena's husband (now deceased) has been working with the same bandits for some time.

In order to have lasted that long, they are at least a little organized. Partly a family business, since one brother is the leader and the other responsible for watching the camp. The group is slightly nomadic to avoid light incursions into the forest by patrols. However, they basically stay around the edge of the Fellwood of Moon Hills, about six miles east along the King's road near the fork of Trade Road and King's Road. Though not very large at about one mile in diameter (not enough for the map on DMG p. 206 to take note), the Fellwood is believed haunted.

The Fellwood has what appears to be large nests grown and hung taunt between trees several yards off the ground (sound familiar ;) ). The nests are around fifty yards apart and outline the outer edges of the forest. No one, not even the bandits have investigated further into the forest. A feeling of being watched and a sense of dread makes the hairs on the back of your head stand on end.

The bandits have found one of the nests with several support strands cut and now lying on the ground on its side. The almost spherical top has been pulled back with branches snapped and bent outwards, occurring before the bandits arrived. The bandits have trimmed back the conical bottom-half of the nest and have made two small living quarters and a storage room within (5x5x5, 3x3x3, 1x1x1).

The bandits have been using this as their base of operations for several years, though they commonly camp near their next scheduled caravan raid. Darian informs them of upcoming caravans that do not supply the Sandercots. Though the other nests have a sense of foreboding, this one does not. They have not progressed further into the forest due to similar feelings. The patrols have yet to find the hideout.

How's that for a lead into a future adventure?!

The magic treasure for the adventure was a frost longbow lvl 3 called Coldwind. I decided that it was Galbon's, the bandit leader, weapon of choice, but he left it behind because he was meeting with Darian for a short visit to trade and receive the next schedule on the King's Road. Basically, as is his brother, he was overconfident and didn't think he would need the bow. He could easily be an NPC Ranger, explaining how he originally found the nest where others did not.

Oh, and thank you all for reading my ramblings as well. ;)


I like it!

Well constructed and with a nice air of mystery : )

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