Design 07: Asterview Details

Now that we have a layout for Asterview, we need a few notes on the setting for the village.

Your campaign may have different geography to drop Asterview into, but I’ll assume that the river flows West to East and the asters are north of the village.

The locals call the river the Winding River, although it has various other names upriver and downriver.  North of the river the land slopes uphill, and to the northwest there is a small mountain range.  Multiple brooks and streams from the mountainous area feed into a small pond about five miles upriver, and the pond itself empties into the Winding River. About ten miles downstream the river leads into a large lake which is drained by a large river that heads southeast.  Fishing is fair from the docks, but better upriver or downriver from the village.  Both the pond and the lake are good spots for fishing, but the further people travel from the village the more dangerous it becomes.

As the party approaches the village there is a large, well-traveled crossroad heading east and west.  There is an area northeast of the intersection that serves as a farmers market most of the year and as the setting for a large fair four or five times a year.  There are a number of permanent small booths and roped-off areas that are leased out to traveling merchants.

Visitors may not pitch tents or sleep outside near the farms or within about a mile of the village, but there is a tavern that doubles as an inn with rooms that cost about 1 to 3 gold per day (plus an extra 5 silver for each additional person).  Staying outside town will leave adventurers subject to all sorts of potential encounters.

Adventurers who are willing to sleep in barns at near-by farms will be able to work a few hours or pay 3 silver pieces per night for a place in the barn and two meals.

Details about the residents will be added as we meet them.

A party of six unknown characters will immediately attract attention as they approach the village, and one of the sheriff’s deputies will come out to meet the party as they get past the crossroads.  We’ll deal with that encounter tomorrow!

While we debate the need for fishing in a D&D adventure (just think of the time it can kill!) here’s Brad Paisley to sing about his experience fishing.

Design 07: Asterview Map

It’s always fun trying to figure out how to get files and webpages to play nice – it’s even worse when you add in a blog!  It took some doing, but I finally got the map at the top of the page!  Here’s a key to the map:

  • (A) A small dock with rafts and canoes for rental
  • (B) Fishing supplies
  • (C) Brewery
  • (D) Mill operator (buys grain)
  • (E) Mill
  • (F) Residence
  • (G) retired cleric (scrolls, parchment, inks, books)
  • (H) Residence; there is a 6′ high fence behind it
  • (I) Stage and logs for audience seating
  • (J) Sells meat, fur, fish; Small dock in back
  • (K) Tavern and Inn
  • (L) Weapons and armor
  • (M) Blacksmith
  • (N) Residence
  • (O) Residence
  • (P) Mayor; Jail, Sheriff and Deputy
  • (Q) Tailor
  • (R) Residence
  • (S) Jewelry Shop
  • (T) Residence
  • (U) Residence
  • (V) General Store
  • (W) Fairgrounds
  • (X) Residence
  • (Y) Stables


We had a Yu-Gi-Oh Day special event today, and with the crowd and noise about all I could get done was some copy editing on past columns.  The main thing I did was fix the links so that when you clicked on one it opened in a new tab automatically so that the blog stays open.

HTML lesson: how to put a link into your blog.

[a href=”whereto” target=”x”] Underlined and Blue [/a]

Simply copy and paste the above line and make the following changes:

  • change whereto to the web address you want to link to.  The safest way to do that is to go to the page you want to link to and copy the link that probably starts with http:
  • change the two [ characters to <
  • change the two ] characters to >
  • change the words    Underlined and Blue    to whatever you want to show up as your link.  Readers won’t see any of the < and > or href stuff, just the words you put in that space

The strange target=”x” tells the web browser to open the new webpage in an area named x, but since you probably didn’t create an x location the web browser shrugs and opens the page in a new tab.

Facebook is once again showing the alternate news that California is looking to leave the US (guess why!)  Back in the 70s Danny Holien wrote a song begging Colorado not to follow California…while it may have been under different circumstances, and concern losing the wilderness more than anything else, leaving with California now wouldn’t work too well unless a few other states left with it.  Time and patience is probably a better plan than leaving, and in the meantime the video does have a lot of nice scenery!

Indiana Weather – Sigh

Less than a week ago it was 60 degrees here in Anderson, but at the moment I can look out the window and see snowflakes falling (and watch cars sliding around in the parking lot).  It really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since it’s still January, but the swings in temperature certainly seem wider than they used to be.

Fortunately the weather didn’t dissuade customers from showing up to plan Magic in Friday Night Magic tonight – for the first time in a month we have enough players for both a Standard event and a Commander casual event.  Maybe with the release of Aether Revolt and the banning of a few cards more players will return for Standard.

In the meantime we’ll keep trying to run Frontier on Sunday afternoons, but so far we seem to get only four players each week (at least it’s mostly a different four each week).  Frontier is yet another attempt by players to use their old cards instead of constantly buying new ones – Frontier doesn’t go back as far as Modern or Extended, only back to Magic 2015.  The advantage is players get to use some of their old decks/cards, and if they don’t have a deck that works there aren’t any cards in the format that cost more than about $15 with the exception of a few cards from the last two sets (which should be cheap enough if players are patient about buying them) and the $15 cards are just the special lands.

If attendance doesn’t improve we may switch to running a type II league where players start out with a few packs and simply add another pack each week.

Of course, that would leave us playing Games Without Frontier:



Adventurous Interuptous

An interesting and related Kickstarter popped up today (one that I have nothing to do with!) that contains materials from a lot of people I’ve worked with.

Since it’s in Kickstarter none of us have any way of knowing when it will ship or how good the material will be, but it’s certainly worth a look.

How to Write Adventures That Don’t Suck

There’s a difference in writing an adventure for your local campaign and writing for a wider audience of unknown players and judges.  With your own group you have a good idea of how your players will react to most situations, and that makes it easier to design encounters for them.

When writing for a wider audience  you have to worry about parties with evil players (or players who think their chaotic neutral characters are evil) and parties that simply kill everything that they encounter and parties that don’t want to fight anything.  That’s a lot tougher!

I spent most of the day ordering comics for March from Previews, so there wasn’t enough time to finish up the map of Asterview; tune in tomorrow!

Meanwhile, Simon and Garfunkel visit their own little town:

Design 06: Welcome to Asterview

The party’s trip is uneventful for the next day, and about 3 in the afternoon they reach Asterview.  Since this will be the center of their adventuring for at least several levels, we need to have a lot more information on the village itself (and leave some room for expansion later).  Today I’ll simply detail the locations we want in the village, and tomorrow I’ll try to create a map.

The path the party is following widens into a road and passes between a number of small farms.  The farms will include farms that specialize in either agriculture or livestock, although all the farms will have at least a little of both.

Before reaching Asterview the road will intersect with a larger road that is perpendicular to it and clearly well-traveled in both directions.  There won’t be any additional farms from this point, but the party gets a good view of the village.

Asterview has grown up next to a river that is about 8 to 10 feet deep and 15 to 25 feet wide.  Across the river the bank rises rapidly towards rolling hills and is covered with the asters that give the village its name.  Between the road and the river are about a dozen buildings, most of which have fences and small garden areas.

Here is a (possibly growing) list of buildings we will need in the village:

  • a blacksmith
  • a general store
  • an inn/bar – they will probably pass this before they reach the store
  •  weapons and armor shop
  • jeweler
  • a retired cleric who has a small collection of books as well as paper, quills and inks
  • a brewery
  • one or more mills at the river
  • a small platform over the river that serves as a small dock
  • a tailor who sells cloth, wool, fur, and clothing
  • a building for the mayor and two peacekeepers (and the jail)
  • several residences for local merchants

We’ll need to identify the residents in the buildings as well.

Everybody knows Lefwynn, who unfortunately is usually either drinking at the bar or nursing a hangover from the day before.

Design 05: Night Encounter

As it gets darker, the party will notice three small lanterns approaching them from the nearby woods.

The party has attracted the attention of three pixies (Monster Manual page 253), but more importantly the bag of gumdrops has attracted their pet Pixie Dragon:

Pixie Dragon, tiny dragon, neutral good

Armor Class 18    Hit Points 12 (4d4 + 4)   Speed 6 foot, fly 40 feet

STR 3 (-4)   DEX 16 (+3)   CON 15 (+2)   INT 12 (+1)   WIS 15 (+2)   CHA 20 (+5)

Skills Arcana +2, Perception +1, Stealth +3

Senses darkvision 60 feet, passive perception 11

Languages Draconic, Sylvan

Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Superior Invisibility. As a bonus action, a pixie dragon can turn invisible until its concentration ends (s if concentrating on a spell).

Limited Telepathy.  Using telepathy, a pixie dragon can communicate with any other pixie dragon or pixie within 60 feet.

Innate Spellcasting.  3/day: color spray

ACTIONS:    Bite.  Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 feet, one creature.  Hit: 3 piercing damage.

Breath Weapon. (Recharge 3-4)  The dragon exhales a cloud of small randomly colored sparks that is a 15 foot line that is 5 feet wide.  Anybody caught in the cloud must make a DC 14 CON save or be unable to see anything but bright colored sparks for 2D4 rounds.`

A pixie dragon is about 3 feet long, a very tiny dragon.  It’s leathery skin will be multicolored, with various colors merging and fading over its body and wings.  As it flies a trail of colored sparks will follow it and small tinkling sounds will be heard.

A pixie dragon will usually be found near one or more pixies.  The dragon will not usually take any aggressive actions unless one of its pixie friends is attacked.  In most cases it will use its breath weapon on any group that is attacking itself or nearby pixies, after which it will use its invisibility and fly off, returning after its breath weapon recharges only if any pixies are still in danger.

Pixie dragons are attracted to sugar and candy, which they can smell up to 40 feet away, and will usually urge any pixies in the are to help it obtain candy.

One of the pixies will use dancing lights to produce the lanterns as a distraction, after which the pixie dragon will fly around inside the trees, hiding behind the leaves and branches but leaving a trail of sparks that people will see.  Once most of the party seems distracted, one of the pixies will sneak in and grab the bag of gumdrops (untying it from a belt or pulling it out of a backpack as necessary.  Characters will get a chance to detect these actions, but the first thing they are likely to notice is the bag being dragged off out of sight (a fire should provide some light, but characters will have trouble seeing in the dark after staring at the lights).  As necessary, the other two pixies will mischievously cast spells to occupy and distract the party.

Once the pixie has gotten about 20 feet away from the party, they will open the bag and pop a green and yellow gumdrop into their mouth (a party member may get close enough to see this).  The pixie will get a huge smile on their face, but almost instantly they will grab their stomach and fall over, groaning.  They have eaten one of the gumdrops that provides a full meal for a normal humanoid, and will be stuffed and suffering from a huge stomach ache.  The poor pixie will be unable to concentrate well enough to go invisible or cast any spells.

If the pixie appears to be threatened the pixie dragon and the other two pixies will attempt to defend them.

On the other hand, if the party is friendly about things (but insistent on getting the gumdrop bag back) the pixies and the dragon will be friendly as well, offering to trade a Keoghtom’s Ointment for more gumdrops (but no more Green and Yellow gumdrops!)

Before Bruce Springsteen clawed out chart success, Manfred Mann covered one of his songs and had a major hit on their own that might tell where some of the party members are headed:

Design 04: Encounter on the Road

Other than passing a few adventurers and/or merchants, the party will not have any encounters on the main road.  Every half hour or so there will be another road or a well-used path heading off in one direction or another.  After about six hours the party will reach the path they need to follow.

Have the party roll perception rolls, and use the of the party member with the highest adjusted roll.

 You have gotten so used to trees growing up near and sometimes over the road that you nearly missed your turnoff.  After passing a pair of red-leaf maple trees, notices that there is a path leading back almost in the direction you have traveled from.  They stop and look and notice that the path seems to curve back to the left almost immediately, with the heavy clump of trees preventing the rest of you from noticing the path at all.

The path is only one or two people wide most of the time, so the party should have a marching order at this point.  Seriously, you should be using miniatures or at least pieces of paper with character names on them, so place the marching order on the table to help with the encounters.

After travelling along the path for about an hour, the party will have its first actual combat.  The party travels around a bend that forces them back into single file, and you should adjust the marching order accordingly, drawing the path and a few large trees to show the limited movement available to them as the move to single file (roll randomly on each pair to determine which character goes first).  The last person in line will be attacked when the trees block the view of most of the party.

Pass a note to the person who is last in line telling them that they hear the beating of wings behind them, and ask them to write down their response without speaking out loud.  More than likely they’ll turn around; unless they also speak or yell at that point everybody else will continue to walk forward.  When they turn around they will see a strange creature that seems to have the body of a lizard, the head of a large bird, and the wings of a bat: it is a cockatrice (but do not tell them the name of the creature).

Cockatrice: Monster Manual page 42

The special attack of the cockatrice can temporarily turn somebody to stone; if this happens the party will have to spend the night at this location since it is difficult to move a stone body.  No other encounters will follow until all party members are no longer stoned.

If the party searches in the wooded area the cockatrice came out of, they will find a large nest in a fallen tree that is filled with grass and straw.  If somebody searching makes a perception roll they will find some treasure: a plain red gem worth 20 gp and a brilliant but small green gem worth 10 gp.

If nobody was stoned, the party can continue walking through the woods for about two more hours, at which time they will find a small clearing off to the side (if somebody was stoned, the party will have to spend 24 hours at the site of the attack, and will reach this clearing near nightfall the following day.  There is a spring pushing water out from between two large stones, and the water travels off to the east, leading to a pond that is about 30 feet across.  The party can fish in the pond if they have the proper equipment and can find some blueberry bushes and an apple tree near the pond, or they can simply make do with any rations they brought with them.

Here’s Ray Charles sending the party into combat!

Design 03: The Bag And The Package

The bag that was dropped on the table appears normal enough, just a small velvet, blue bag with a dark black leather drawstring that can be used to easily attach the bag to a belt (or the bag will easily fit into a backpack, or a sack, or almost anything – think about something the size of a small dice bag).  In fact, it is a magical item, Bartholomew’s Bag of Gumdrops.  The bag and its contents will not detect as magical except for spells cast by spellcasters of at least level 16.

Inside the bag are 18 gumdrops of various gumdrop colors.  If one or more gumdrops are taken out of the bag and eaten they taste delicious and apparently have no other effects.

If the bag is closed after one or more gumdrops are removed from the bag, they will be magically replaced.  One gumdrop will be replaced every 20 minutes.  The colors and flavors of the gumdrops will vary, and other than some occasional exotic flavors (such as lemon-watermelon or chocolate-coconut) the gumdrops are all normal.

There are two exceptions:

Rarely a deep-blue gumdrop will show up.  Eating one of these will allow water-breathing for a period of 20 minutes.

Rarely a green gumdrop with yellow dots will show up.  Eating one of these will be the equivalent of eating a full meal, and the person who eats it will be fully nourished and not need to eat or drink for at least six hours.

Non-magical items that are put into the bag will disappear when the bag is closed.  There is no way to recover items lost in this manner.

Magical items that are put into the bag (assuming they are small enough to fit in the bag!) will not disappear, but no gumdrops will be created until the magical item is removed from the bag, after which gumdrops will start regenerating every twenty minutes.

The package is a rectangular box inside the wrapping paper and ribbons.  If anybody attempts to unwrap the ribbons a blast will go off that affect anybody within a 30 foot radius who fails a savings throw against a ninth level spell.  The affects will be random for each affected creature in that radius:

1-5   Stunned for five rounds

6-10  Stunned for five minutes

11-15  Stunned and sound asleep for ten minutes

16-20 Stunned and sound asleep for an hour

The ribbon will not be removed, and the package will not be opened after the attempt to open the package fails.

We’ll find out about the journal that is inside the box when it finally gets delivered.

The party should wander around town to pick up any gear they need, and decide whether to head out that night or the next morning.

Either way, there are gumdrops in their future: