Grim portents for gritty “It’s a trap!” adventures

Grim portents for gritty “It’s a trap!” adventures

Grim portents for gritty “It’s a trap!” adventures

I own a bunch of adventures written by James Raggi. If there’s a consistent design feature of his adventures, it’s that the dangers are usually “laying in wait” for the players to unleash upon themselves. In one adventure I won’t name [SPOILER ALERT] there are a few environmental hazards, but the major world-transforming menace depends on the players taking a specific action to awaken something awful. If it weren’t for their curiosity and avarice, the delvers could just walk in, grab some loot, and leave—and that’s okay: Play to find out what happens. The fact that players have to work for their impending doom is part of what makes the adventure appealing from a GM perspective, and it’s a pattern that appears in different ways in other LotFP adventures.

But the idea of “nothing happens unless you stir up trouble, and then hell explodes” seems counter to the way Fronts are set forth in Dungeon World. In DW, grim portents are described as the bad things that happen if the adventurers don’t intervene. In Raggi World, the grim portents often follow the delvers’ own choices.

Is it trying to fit a square peg in a round hole to use adventures like this for Dungeon World? How would you convert threats like this into Fronts?

#weird_fantasy   #traps   #fronts   #grim_portents   #impending_doom  

7 thoughts on “Grim portents for gritty “It’s a trap!” adventures”

  1. Yeah, you can totally do dangers/fronts that lie in wait and do nothing until the PCs uncover them. I called that “Dungeon Fronts” and wrote it into the text of Lair of the Unknown and Truncheon World.

    Works great in play too, especially if you have a bunch of pre-written dangers you want to use. Scatter them around a map, let the PCs wander around, and once they kick up trouble, you’re playing adventure/campaign fronts just like normal DW.

  2. I had two games that opened major demon portals because of players failing roles so there is that. Just put those elements into the game and trigger them on failed rolls i’d say. 

  3. Thanks. Here’s a similar example from an unpublished adventure I wrote for a Tunnels & Trolls campaign I ran a couple years ago:

    The delvers were exploring an underground temple, and in the “holy of holies”, the figure of a giant stationary leech towered up through a hole to the lower level, and cultists bowed before it, reciting prayers to “Squi’goloth”. Grooves on the floor channeled blood from fresh sacrifices into the dark hole. An eerie chill filled the high-vaulted room, and after dispatching the cultists, the adventurers noticed strange crystal formations all over the leech god.

    Later, they came upon the bottom half of the leech “idol” while exploring the lower level. The lower room was dark and frigid and the floor was a thick sheet of ice. Here, they found Belchlurk the Unborn, a rhinoceros-sized gila monster with glittering silver scales. They decided this thing had to die, and barely eeked out a victory even against its breath weapon of frosty blasts. A hearty NPC ally died in the battle. When Belchlurk fell, the icy floor cracked, and the delvers skeedaddled.

    Now, I knew that the leech idol wasn’t a statue, but a frozen abomination that was being guarded by Belchlurk since old times. Without Belchlurk there to maintain a frigid environment, it was only a matter of time before  Squi’goloth would thaw out and begin tunneling through the muck to find more populated areas. I thought I was careful to transmit signs of the danger, but the players walked right up to the door and opened it themselves.

    Anyway, Raggi’s adventures have situations like this turned up to eleven. It doesn’t seem like it’s appropriate to link “freeing the Elder Thing” to an arbitrary fail result since the conditions that kept him frozen were very specific. But I think there were ample clues “pointing to a looming threat”, and they definitely gave me a golden opportunity!

  4. Yeah, that’s totally good. The way the book describes things, all that would just be some rough notes you bring to the first session, and then before session two, you’d write up all the stuff they triggered as full front and dangers, but that’s also a device to save you a lot of time (because what if they run from Belchlurk?) or pushing them toward certain outcomes (“dammit I worked all week on this abomination, you’re gonna wake it up!”).

    But if you have that stuff done already, hell yeah, throw it in there and see if the PCs wake it up. If they don’t, good for them! If they do, great, they’re in for an adventure!

  5. Thanks again, Johnstone Metzger!

    I actually had a couple LotFP adventure locations on my rough map for an existing campaign, and the players set off toward one of them in our last session. I was looking over the adventure again with the DW module-conversion rules in mind, and I noticed that all the beats in the adventure, what you might call “grim portents” and “impending doom”, have to be triggered by curious explorers; like the leech god example, I think it would violate player agency to treat them like DW portents, which are more proactive. It would be, as you say, pushing toward certain outcomes rather than playing to find out.

    It seems like the wise approach is to let them decide whether they open the gates of hell, and treat everything on the other side of that choice as “scribbled notes” until then, letting it steep into the atmosphere as needed.

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