One of the key things I, as a Gamemaster, appreciate are those little nuggets that make improvising a session easier. I realise that every GM probably handles these situations in their own way, some with greater ease than others. I personally find that if I have a solid idea, the adventure sort of forms around it – a bit like a snowball. The well-formed, compact ball at the core makes all the difference.
Admittedly, like a snowball, if you use just a nugget of an idea to fuel more than a session you find that it can get harder and harder to keep going; but, in the short term, for that unexpected one-shot it just works.
I have a folder on my computer and a bunch papers in files containing nothing but nuggets. The ideal nugget has nebulous potential. It serves as a the springboard for adventure time and time again. I suppose all writing – plays, books, TV and movies – relies on that principle, that some well worn concepts just work – and you can theme or skin them to meet your specific needs. A nugget can just as easily be a map, an object, or an image filled with hidden potential. Anything that’s fuel for thought.
Fire in the Darkness, from Evil Beagle Games and written by Sean Patrick Fannon, is an example of someone else taking a nugget and turning it into a one-shot. Sean has taken a battlemap set, The Crypts by DramaScape, and spun a one-shot adventure around it. As a model for how you can use a nugget – like an atmospheric map – and run with it, Fire in the Darkness is focussed, cheap and gets the job done.
Fire in the Darkness is a four-page PDF with a page of credits and two-and-a-half pages of game content, statted-up for Savage Worlds. The PDF has a two-column layout with clear text. The PDF has a fancy parchment background, but at 3-pages this shouldn’t make it an onerous chore to print out if you need to – and would be ideal as a quick point of reference from a smartphone or tablet.
Fire in the Darkness takes the environment portrayed in the battlemaps of The Crypts and weaves them into a three encounter adventure, which with some introductions and an appropriate denouement, should fill an evening or a convention slot.
You don’t need the maps to use this PDF – but if you’re curious about them, you can buy them separately or check out the product page. The description on the page outlines, in some detail, the sort of environment involved. The first map depicts a maze leading to a room with coffins. The second features a pillar supported dungeon crypt. And, the final map presents a chamber, cracked, worn, and split by a river of fire, leading to a daemonic statue.
The adventure joins these three maps into a meta-environment – a complex of crypts at the heart of which lies a magic locus and the final resting place of a great and terrible warlord. The first half page sets out the stall, giving background on the Crypt of Jazhak Val and how a local settlement of Dwarves seek the support of adventurers to resolve a problem. The community has long served as guardian to the ancient crypt, but three nights ago the guards on duty went missing.
The PDF includes a brief overview of the each map’s content, covered in about a column a piece, including stats for all opponents.
The first chamber of holds the restless followers of the tyrant Jazhak Val – and includes stats for Skeletons, slightly tougher than those provided in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition. The second chamber contains the remains of the warlord’s faithful lieutenant, still loyal even in death. The spirit has been trapped and driven mad by the seclusion – and is tougher, if a little less focussed, than a common Ghost.
In the sweltering heat of the final chamber, the characters discover the threat here is not, as they might suspect, from Jazhak Val but a fiend from the nether realms seeking to harness a twisting filament of raw magical energy for nefarious ends. Here you get stats for Gargoyles, Abyssal Brutes and a Horde Fiend, providing a prodigious climax. I might be tempted to throw in an enraged Jazhak Val at this point, fighting for himself, with the stats of a Young Vampire (if you have the Explorer’s Edition) or a Wight (from the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion).
This is a simple, short adventure nugget, fleshed out from the environment of three battlemats. It includes a plot, a purpose, and all the statistics you need to run it straight from the page. You can pick up the PDF for next to nothing – or get it cheaper bundled with the maps at 45% off the normal price.
To be clear – this adventure is stripped down essentials and stats; but, sometimes that’s all you need just to kick off a session, and keep a gathering of players entertained for the evening. For the price of a Royal Mail First Class stamp or thereabouts), you can add a one-shot adventure to your arsenal – and for two more stamps you can have the battlemats, too.
Check the comments below to see what readers have to say.