66

Your options are sort of limited here. You're asking: "In an age where people have not built any large above-ground structures, what sort of large above-ground structures are there?" You need to either reach out to fantasy or think outside the box. Natural, mazelike terrain Open-air passageways through an icy tundra, or cracks in its ice. ...


61

As these are all new players, there's nothing wrong with a bit of "out-of-game" DM guidance at these early stages. After describing the situation you can simply say: "What you do now is your choice. You can attempt to calm the situation, shout at the attackers, fetch help, attack or something else!" Then ask each player: What do you do? You can even ...


52

The Five Layer Model for horror scenario design is a handy tool put out by Graham Walmsley, as an aid for GMs to come up with good horror. It's put out as a supplement to Cthulhu Dark, and as such, is really more of a guideline than a set of hard and fast rules. The rules themselves are in Dark Depths: Creating scenarios for Cthulhu Dark, and linked on the ...


47

They're really not that different... ...because you left out an important adjective: abandoned. Often, those "fantasy" adventure locations you cited - a crypt, a prison, a cave system, a necromancer's lair, or a castle - are only interesting because nobody is currently and legitimately/legally living there. They're full of loot because it's stuff ...


41

Establishing a Protocol Many RPG groups have a protocol for handling potentially uncomfortable situations. At the start of your game, you give all your players a card with an X on it, and you say: "We might touch on uncomfortable topics in this game. If you encounter a topic that makes you uncomfortable, show us this card. We won't ask why the topic ...


38

Players are often stuck because they simply don't know what they should do. Percival's message deals with player engagement very well, but I'd like to offer a slightly different take on this question. If you can't figure out how the plot might be solved, players definitely won't Players' ingenuity often amazes GMs, but you can't assume they will figure out ...


37

The traditional dungeon is really a literal 'node-path'. There are encounter locations represented by rooms connected by linear hallways. Really, the rooms are just physical places where combat, plot-points, or background color / descriptive bits can be handed out. The hallways are just the way you get the players from one node to the next. With this ...


37

I would strongly suggest you to use famous Same Page Tool. Sit together, read the questions, discuss them. Now it looks like you all are trying to play different games, and no one is happy about it. Your assassin has no goal, no connections, and why would she ever stick with someone she doesn't trust enough to reveal herself? Jeweler's son has no goal, but ...


34

By being loyal and cooperative citizens, making sure to have an inside traitor, making their plans telepathically, being aware of the security features of the state, and by removing them only in the terminal phases of the plan. Most of the town-centric plot will be subtle power plays between the "three factions", defector stories from the police force (see ...


32

I hate railroading and GMs breaking immersion to enforce their hackneyed vision of "the plot" so I figured I needed to contribute another perspective in the answers. Try not being completely in love with the specific idea of "there at night" you have. So they can go there during the day, and it's still scary. You can employ fog, rain/snow, and/or thick ...


31

Doing this mechanically RAW, is probably impractical: At first glance, the third level spell Plant Growth could be what you're looking for Plant growth is a third level spell on both the Druid and Ranger spell list, so available at 5th level, at the earliest. A character casting this spell repeatedly, might be able to create the effect that you want to ...


28

There are several choices. Just make it night. No matter how long it looks like it should take them to get there, they get there just after sunset. Might feel like railroading, but in a horror setting your players shouldn't mind too much. You can even use it to play up the creepiness factor: in the movie Army of Darkness, at one point the sun sets ...


25

I like the cultural taboo ideas, but another idea to consider is that there are spells that can trap souls (such as Trap the Soul) and thus negates the issues created by True Resurrection's existence in the world. The king may have tried a True Resurrection and it failed because the soul isn't willing or able to return. For True Resurrection to work, the ...


24

Finding out why the elven magic has stopped working could be a very interesting adventure! The direction of the adventure largely depends on how magic "works" in your setting. This is only really limited by your imagination and what you and your players will enjoy. Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 1. Magic comes from the gods, ...


24

My first major campaign was almost exactly this structure, and it was a lot of fun. The setup was, the land was in danger of destruction due to the loss of eight magical load-bearing MacGuffins, so the rulers of the land offered enormous prizes for anyone who retrieved one of the MacGuffins. In my case, the PCs weren't aware that the rival party were evil ...


23

I'd recommend the 5x5 method which discussed on the in detail on the critical-hits.com blog in the context of both adventures and campaigns The basic idea of this technique, is that you take 5 ideas: Overthrow the evil empire Prevent the sorcerer from ascending to demon-hood and 3 more... and so on, and then for each idea create 5 milestones that will ...


23

The reason the rolls seems unfair is a problem called Goblin Dice. When talking about combat, d20 decide if a goblin lives or dies - but we all know sooner or later he will kick the bucket. When we use d20 to determine the success of one-of-a-kind events (like making a bluff check, a diplomacy check or a riddle-solving check), the high variability of the ...


23

Strangely enough, there's no real reason to resort to Magic to make this scenario work. The southern United States has been dealing with this problem in the real world since the 1940s! That problem is a plant called Kudzu. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu_in_the_United_States) Kudzu was originally introduced to the US in the late 1880s as a cover ...


23

If something is too dark depends entirely on what your group is comfortable with. To illustrate the point, Let me start with three examples: I have played in at least one group in which destroying an orphanage was totally ok... no, let me rephrase that: We pulled an Exterminatus on a whole planet and it was very much expected because we played rather evil ...


22

Some ideas: I built a city in a ravine. The ravine was about 300m across and twice as deep. A town had been cobbled together inside the ravine. It was a maze of stairways, catwalks, multi-level plazas, rooftops, and arcades. A river flowed through the bottom of the ravine providing food, water and sewerage disposal. Two cranes at the top of the ravine ...


22

I ran a game where players had their spirits projected into the realms of the damned and they were damn1 glad to get out of there by the time they'd escaped. Wraith: the Oblivion is a game you should consider having a look at for ideas but there are several things (depending on your world) that can threaten those who are already dead. Insanity – There's ...


22

I often have that problem, though not to quite the degree you describe. I often stall on how to develop a basic idea into a meaningful adventure scenario. I can do it, but I get some really nasty Blank Page syndrome some days and need a kick to actually get down to work. The most reliable tool I use for painlessly expanding an idea into a larger amount of ...


22

Plot armour I am talking from experience with computer games rather than with D&D, but the general idea of being somewhere out of your depth and only ever 1 decision from death is the same. The premise of this is that you want your players to get attached to their characters rather than the plot. So you create something that means death is not ...


20

The most direct approach, and also the best approach, is to just avoid high levels altogether. Pathfinder tends to break down at high levels. The might of 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells is just too immense, too world-changing—true resurrection is a good example, but so are things like greater teleport and gate. (There are more; the list really does go on.) ...


19

Before you got much further, I want you to consider the possibility that you already know the answer. This is possible because you already told us the answer: If they took the ability to cross over into the NeverNever (the spirit world) then that would tell me they wanted NeverNever shenanigans, if they took Spider Walk then that would tell me they wanted ...


19

They still need the body This spell functions like raise dead [...]. This spell can even bring back creatures whose bodies have been destroyed [...]. The fact that it can bring back creatures whose bodies have been destroyed, doesn't necessarily mean they can just cast it wherever they want if the body does still exist. If the body does still exist, ...


19

The Lich can instead prevent others from detecting magic on it. With use of the spells Nondetection or Mindblank, which guard against divination magic, the Lich can prevent a divination spell like Detect Magic from revealing that the Lich is also under the effect of a spell such as Alter Self or Disguise Self. Adding Nystul's Magic Aura into the mix will ...


19

What you're facing is one of the hardest problems to tackle as a DM, and probably one of the harder lessons that any teacher must face in their career. That problem being the balance between shielding them from failure and letting them learn from their mistakes. On the one hand, you want your players to have fun, and you want to create an interesting ...


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