For at least a couple years now, the near-unanimous answer to the question, “What’s next?” has been, “Monster manual!” And to date, there’s still no monster manual. That’s largely because I didn’t quite grasp its importance until very recently, and to be frank, I preferred writing adventures.
Then, about a year or so ago, I realized – after extensive play-testing – that I was approaching adventure design all wrong. The adventures were too restrictive, too driven by story and narrative, and as the RPG Pundit points out, RPGs are not “a medium of narrative storytelling, but rather a medium of liminal wargaming”. So, I changed my approach, trying to design adventures that were equal parts narrative and sandbox, providing structure but enabling free agency. After many long months, I’ve found that such an approach is like trying to mix oil and water (not quite, but mostly).
Even more recently, it struck me that I’ve been denying a plain fact: Adventures aren’t necessarily what GMs and players need (or want). For a while, I thought that was the case, but my judgement’s known to fail. GMs and players need a system that enables their own creativity. Such a system is incomplete without antagonists. Y’all need monsters.
This is all to say that things are changing. Exactly how, I’m not sure yet. A monster manual would be a good start, so start that I will. A new approach to adventure design would also be advantageous. E. Reagan Wright says that adventures should begin at the dungeon door, not the tavern: OSR-style, and as a man who cut his tabletop teeth on D&D 4e, I understand that now.
So, in that spirit, I’ve added morale check rules to the core rules section three, For Game Masters. For convenience, I’m copying the addition here:
During combat, an opponent’s morale may be affected by two events: the first time its ally is slain, and when more than half of its allies have been slain. Any time one of these two events occur, the GM should roll 1d10: if the result is 2 or below, the opponents’ morale falters, and they will likely begin to flee. It is up to the GM to determine how the opponents flee – whether they drop their weapons and run, retreat while fighting, or otherwise.
Morale checks, combined with the reaction table, promise a different interaction – even within the same adventure – every time, if you choose to use them (which I highly recommend). In one instance, a group of monsters are hostile and aggressive, attacking relentlessly until the last; in another, they are hostile yet uncertain, and flee at the first sign of organized resistance. These tools make encounters more natural and realistic, which, after all, is exactly the point of RPGs.
Finally, none of this (rambling) is to say that I’m abandoning Adventures in the Greenrun. I’m going to continue working on it, and with any luck (and a heavy dose of direction), it will be better for my efforts. But in the meantime, I’m going to focus on mechanical things that produce greater value for the (few, wonderful) individuals that use TD10.
Beside that, I’ll be working on dungeon crawls, the first being The Ice Tomb of the Winter Queen, in which a petulant queen celebrating her 30th birthday enlists adventurers far and wide in a quest to enter the ancient Ice Tombs and recover the Sun Ring as a gift to her. In exchange, the successful party will receive knighthood and vast riches… or will they? This crawl was designed especially for my wife, who very recently celebrated her 30th, and will forever be my gracious and good-natured queen. Play-testing (with her) is underway as we speak, and the crawl introduces some fun new elements: monsters, traps, and even competing (or cooperating) adventuring parties.
Good things are coming, everyone. Good things.