Predatory Universe: Beast Plots [The Vault #21]

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The wild hungers.  It's driven by blood, hot on the tongue, thick on torn flesh and spattered on the ancient bones of the earth. Countless lives have passed unremembered into the maw of annihilation. When the veneer of civilization is stripped away by the primordial laws of nature, who will survive?

This week we offer you some plots to use with the "Beast" encounter type. Unlike every other type used thus far, beasts lend themselves less to dialogue or other interaction other than physical conflict (unless you endow them with speech and intelligence, as in Narnia--which we suggest in some plots below). We recommend these be paired with exotic locations and numerous Tracking, Notice, or Survival checks, for natural environments are not the home of civilized men.  Outside the cities, the beast holds the native advantage.  Face the Predatory Universe in these 20 Beast-based Plots:

  1. _The Maw of Winter_ (#Maw) Starvation is the true foe during an extended trek through tundra. The native beasts are particularly interested in human food.
  2. _The Lost Boys_ (#LBoys) Children are being taken alive by a beast, but where to? Will a brave adventurer consent to having their shape shifted to that of a small child and then allow their own abduction? 
  3. _Natural Enemies_ (#Nat) The adventurers witness two groups of beasts at battle, only to discover they can now understand their speech. Can they reconcile the two warring animal clans? How did they gain this ability, and more importantly, why?
  4. _Call of the Wild_ (#Call) A secret society has invited the adventurers to undergo their Initiation Ritual. If successful, much status, treasure, and prestige will be theirs. If they fail they may die. > Begin play without :loot: and only 4 abilities (no draft play). 
  5. _The Boar Hunt_ (#Boar) The liege lord of the adventurers has invited them on a jovial hunt for boar. There is much drinking. Are you seeing double the boar, or are there really two of the deadly beasts?
  6. _The Cursed Span_ (#Span) An invasive species of shrieking eels has crossbred with flying fish. Now the most magnificent bridge in the known world--one vital for trade and commerce--has become a nightmarish killing ground. Can the adventurers transport cargo across the cursed span?
  7. _Bounty_ (#Bounty) A bounty has been placed on dangerous game. Eventually, though, the adventurers will discover the collector of specimens has intentions that aren't in anyone else's best interest.
  8. _Ratcatchers_ (#Rat) An outbreak of deadly plague necessitates culling the booming rat population. Even a tiny bite could prove fatal, but someone must do the deed and the prince is paying handsomely...
  9. _From the Deeps_ (#Deep) Legend tells of a creature lured into an old mine years ago, when villagers could not kill it.  Now children who were playing around the shaft have gone missing. Can they be found and saved before the creature devours them?
  10. _Uprising_ (#Uprising) Wherein dangerous floods drive hordes of rats and vipers to higher ground, and rising waters aren't the only peril facing the party. 
  11. _Endangered Species_ (#Species) A hideously wealthy noble hires you and another adventuring group to accompany him on a "hunting expedition". Only later does the party realize their employer wishes to kill the last members of an endangered species.  Will they become complicit in the extinction or contend with their employer and his other bodyguards? 
  12. _Hawking with Friends_ (#Friends) A leisurely hunt gets real when the adventurers' hawks return, enlarged by magic, and dropping other beasts that attack.  Who has played this deadly prank, and what lengths will you go to in order to restore your birds to proper size?
  13. _Big Game_ (#Game) A group of intelligent, speaking animals has deprived the adventurers of arms and armor, then subjected them to the indignities of a deadly hunt. Will they be able to regain their scattered gear in time to turn the tables on the deadly predators?
  14. _Bearbaiting_ (#Bear) The most popular (and illegal) gambling enterprise in the city is an underground bear-baiting ring. When tasked by the authorities to find it and bring its organizers to justice, the adventurers may run afoul of bandits and beasts alike. And what will they do when one of the beasts speaks to them in human tongue? 
  15. _The Familiar_ (#Familiar) A wizard contracts the adventurers to recover his animal familiar alive, only to find the creature doesn't want to return and has learned some magic of its own along the way.   
  16. _Trappers_ (#Trappers) The adventurers receive a commission to stop illegal poaching in the King's Forest. The beasts are anxious and riled, but the greater threat may be the profusions of traps, snares, and human hunters.
  17. _Skin Trade_ (#STrade) Under threat of dire snowstorms, the adventurers resolve to outlast the ice and sleet at a camp of fur traders known to them.  They arrive only to find a bloody shambles and that the deceased traders' own skins have been taken. Will they stay in the blood-slicked shelter in spite of the ominous holes leading to caverns underneath the camp or risk the fury of the storm?
  18. _Gaia's Revenge_ (#Gaia) Long having tolerated the irresponsibility of humankind, with one will and surprising cunning, all the creatures of the wilds have risen against men. Packs of bears and wolves rampage through streets, making it as likely one will be trampled by the panicked as fall by tooth or claw. 
  19. _Of Beasts and Men_ (#Beasts) Fighting for their country on a distant field of war, the adventurers contend with fell beasts under thrall of the foe's potent Archmage. Will they show mercy and restraint when battling the compelled creatures or slaughter them without thought, plunging the ecosystem of the region into imbalance? Can they win through to stop the Archmage and break the enchantment?
  20. _Red of Tooth and Claw_ (#Red) A powerful circle of druids has awakened from ancient slumber and cursed all humankind. With each kill the adventurers slowly turn into the predatory, bloodthirsty animals their actions reflect. Can they confront the druids and break the curse before the metamorphosis is complete? > Create a simple chart with body parts assigned to number rolls. After each kill, change some bodyparts into animal features. Deprive them of abilities as appropriate (certain #melee when they lose hands, #magic if they lose speech, etc.). 

All in the Cards...[The Forge #10]

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Hail Quest Crafters! We're tackling something completely different today--how to make your own cards in the Card Creator. It's fast, it's easy, and it lends endless variation to Expedition bounded only by your imagination. Let's get to it!

The first thing we'll do is go to the Card Creator from the webpage and also the Example Card Sheet in which we'll need to enter all our data.  As the Github guide states, copy that sheet into your Google Drive folder (File--> Make a copy).

Below we've chosen the "Loot" subsheet/tab at the bottom of the Google spreadsheet and created our custom Loot in each of the fields.

We do want to warn you that there are two scripting conventions you may have used in the Quest Creator that may cause you some problems if you use them in the Card Creator:

  1. In the Quest Creator we've used the :music: script to get a music icon to appear.  Use of : in the Card Creator will cause the text afterword to be placed all in CAPS, it will NOT get us an icon.  If we want the icon for music to appear in the Card Creator, we need to use a # prior to the type of icon we want.  So #music gets us the desired icon in the Card Creator. 
  2. If you leave an empty row between entries (ex. you delete everything in "joined chant" row in pic below), nothing beneath the empty row will appear in the Card Creator.

After we've made all our cards, we want to select the URL at the top of the page of the Google Sheet and copy it.


After we've made our Google sheet, we want to go to our browser window where we have the Card Creator opened. You'll notice at the top right-hand side of the sheet there is a drop-down menu. We want to select "Custom".  It will give us a box where we will paste the URL to our spreadsheet.  That is shown below:


Now that we've pasted our URL, we need to reload the page. If we want to narrow down our look at our created cards (say, to look only at the "Loot" sheets), we can select the card type from the drop-down menu at the top left, but we need to refresh the page from the reload button by the URL at the top left, NOT from the icon next to the ? icon on the right. 

And just like that, we have our new Loot items, the Scroll of Precision, Gauntlet of Change, and Quiver of Elemental Arrows, as you can see below...


Easy peasy, just as we promised.  It takes far less time and learning than creating a quest for the app (though we have shown a way you can quickly craft a quest in about 70 minutes, or come up with a mad-lib style plot for GM-mode [no app] in about 15 minutes). 

Now print those cards from the web with Ctrl+P or Command+P . If you're running Expedition as a GM instead of from a created quest in the app, this is a perfect way to add new enemies, abilities, and Loot.  Maybe now you'd consider crafting an adventure to share with the community!  Show off those shiny new cards!

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Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.

Beastly [The Vault #20]

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We'll finish our cycle of Horror themed Vaults in a month or two, after you've gotten more familiar with the cards and they've lost their gloss, but today we'll give a grooming to a standard Encounter type from the base deck: Beasts!

As part of a Horror-themed quest or game, you could add one of these titles to a beast corrupted by the Horrors. We present twenty Titles to spice up Beastly foes!

  1. _Bristlecoat_ (#Bristle) The arrows and bolts of past victims testify to its deadliness. > Loses 2 hp. Anyone using a :melee: attack against it suffers 1 damage. 
  2. _Bonecrusher_ (#Bone) A bone cracked for its marrow dangles from its jaws. > Each round damage is dealt, one adventurer takes an additional 1 point of damage. 
  3. _The Ghost_ (#BeastGhost) It makes no noise, and indeed disappears with ease. > The first round of combat, those that fail a Notice :ranged: check equal to 10+ it's Tier are caught unawares and cannot use abilities. 
  4. _RazorTooth_ (#Razor) Every sharp tooth gleams in the light. > Increase damage dealt at the end of the round by 1. 
  5. _Ironhide_ (#Ironhide) It's thickened, scar covered hide is resistant to damage. > Reduce all damage suffered by Ironhide by 1. 
  6. _The Darkness_ (#Darkness) It blends in to its surroundings, making it harder to track and hit. > Non :melee: abilities suffer a -2 to rolls. 
  7. _Bloody Maw_ (#Maw) It's been feasting... > All adventurers must make a Persona :roll: equal to 10+it's Tier Value (gain +1 for every level above base Persona or -1 for each below it). On a failure lose 1 Persona. 
  8. _The Black Pack_ (#Pack) There are many of them and they've become accustomed to killing together. > Lower each ability :roll: by 1 for each member of the pack. 
  9. _The Hounding Fury_ (#Fury) It targets the strongest among you with relentless cunning. > The :adventurer: with the highest hp takes 1 extra damage this round. 
  10. _Lockjaw_ (#Lockjaw) Once it bites it won't let go until one of you is dead. > The adventurer with the lowest ability :roll: on the first round becomes the target of Lockjaw. They lose 1 Persona per round until Lockjaw is dead. 
  11. _The Screamers_ (#Screamers) The sound of the hunt is terrifying and close, cacophonous and unnatural. > All :music: and :influence: abilities suffer a -3 to rolls. Each round, one :music: or :influence: failure becomes a critical failure (1). 
  12.  _Poisontongue_ (#Poisontongue) A nasty green froth coats its tongue and teeth. > Anyone taking damage from Poisontongue suffers the effects of poison (we will have a future Vault post with 20 to choose from) or loss of 1 Persona and -1 to all rolls until healed.
  13. _The Clutching Dread_ (#Dread) It wraps you in a crushing embrace. > The :adventurer:  with the lowest roll on the first round is tackled.  Any attacks made against the Beast also effect that :adventurer: on a roll of 10 or 15. 
  14.  _The Phantom_ (#PhantomBeast) It's almost supernatural in its ability to strike then fade away. > On being reduced below half hp, choose one :adventurer: to make a :melee: roll. On a :roll: below 10+it's Tier level, it disengages and escapes. On the next combat encounter, add The Phantom to the battle, having restored it's hp to 3/4 full. 
  15. _Once-Man_ (#Once) Cursed long ago into the form of a Beast, it has retained its cunning in the ways of men. > The :adventurer: with the second highest ability :roll: each round finds that the beast deftly avoids their attack. 
  16. _Deathclaw_ (#Deathclaw) Massive and powerful beyond what is normal for its kind. > Every other round, the two adventurers with the lowest ability :roll: s each suffer 1 hp of damage from the raking claws. 
  17. _Eyebiter_ (#Eyebiter) It goes straight for the face, every time. > Once per round, if the :adventurer: with the lowest ability roll takes any damage, they also suffer damage to their eyes. For the remainder of combat anyone so damaged suffers -4 to all rolls (until healed). 
  18. _The Ever-Hungry_ (#Everhungry) It's been eating well, and often, though such seems not to have slaked its gluttony. > Two rounds after the first :adventurer: suffers damage, this Beast catches the scent and comes to feast. Add a Beast of Tier equal to the highest already in the Encounter, then update the Tier sum and add another +1 to it. 
  19. _The Cursed Pack_ (#CPack) It's said any man that strikes down one of these profane beasts will be plagued by ill luck. > Any time an :adventurer: kills a member of the Cursed Pack they suffer a -1 to all rolls afterward (until the curse has been broken, perhaps with a :magic: check above 10+it's Tier value--only one attempt may be made per quest). Curses are cumulative. 
  20. _The Mangy_ (#Mangy) It's been healthier and less irritable... > Reduce the tier value by 1 and reset it. 

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Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.

Characterizations [The Forge #9]

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This week will see the beginning of a departure from our previous schedule, which saw one "Vault" and one "Forge" entry going up each week. We will be alternating posts for the foreseeable future in order to focus some attention on...other development (cue devious and maniacal laughter). 

Several members of the community have raised questions as to how one might best introduce and use non-player characters (NPCs) in their quests.  This week we will address both the mechanics of using them in combat and skill checks (and drop some scripts from the Quest Creator to help) and the aesthetics of making them memorable.

Precocious Personalities

Think about the characters you've come to love or hate in fiction works.  What made you engage with them emotionally? Did you see yourself in them?  Associate with their hopes, dreams, or fears?  Detest what they stood for? What gave them personality?

Did they intrigue you, hinting at hidden stories or depth beyond the surface appearance?  The famous psychologist Carl Jung made the case that there are basically only 16 personality types and human beings could reliably be sorted into one of those Archetypes.  The general validity of Jungian psychology can be seen in the fact that most schools and organizations use personality typing to this day, at some level.  

Expedition has already tried to integrate some personality in our "adventurer" and "persona" cards. When you find yourself playing someone else's quest or writing one, you can pull out those cards to give a little flava' to that generic storekeep, guard-captain, or bartender.  

In fact, you could endow quests with "mini-games" whenever you encounter vague NPCs. Get some player to give them a name and choose (or fabricate) a personality or backstory for them. You'll soon find your game world takes on textures you didn't envision before.  For example, you go to the Inn to obtain information, and draw the leftover "Idealist Monk" adventurer card as the personality of the barkeep. How has he come to be the purveyor of libations? Is he a teetotaler under magical compulsion or punishment? Is he a jovial "Friar Tuck" type who enjoys carousing with common folk? Is he trying to prevent his lazy parents from having their inn repossessed? 

The possibilities with one card become manifold.  

A Rose by Any Other Name...

...would still be a rose, Shakespeare claimed. The Essential nature of a thing remains the same, but the facade we see is often more interesting.  The "Titles" we've been creating in Vault entries piggyback on the insights of George R.R. Martin and the developers of the "Shadow of Mordor/War" games that a simple descriptive name (The Hound, The Mountain that Rides, Ratbag the Orc, or Mez-uz the Defiler) goes a long way toward making an otherwise forgettable encounter memorable. 

NAME YOUR CHARACTERS. And don't give them common names, unless your quest is a comedy (think of the Enchanter, "Tim" from Monty Python's "Search for the Holy Grail").  Give characters names that speak to their natures or histories in the world. Some authors have lamented that they struggle with this task. Borrow names. Borrow from books, from histories/historical periods, or from mythological pantheons.  When they encounter that "Loki" in the story, it isn't always a bad thing if the players are wondering, "Is this THE Loki?"

 If you must, give generic archetypes to each NPC: the trickster, the tyrant, the fair maiden, the fool, the wisdom figure, the angry but loyal brute, etc. Many allegories make use of symbolic archetypal names. 

 Mechanics, Combat, and Skill Checks

When it comes to having your characters influencing the world around them, you have several options. You could have them play a random ability from a deck that seems to fit them. Or you could write some custom combat or skill script, randomized to allow success or benefit at some times but to do nothing on another random roll.  Below we will see what that script looks like in the "Rage of Rodents" quest I'm experimenting with (currently unpublished).  The Archmage's golem has just pointed you to the sewers, insulting you ("Cretins!") if you failed the skill check to track your prey. A beast emerges before you can descend.  Below are four responses the golem may make while you fight it: 


The * {{ randomInt(0,2) == 1 }} on round  tells the app to randomly select a number between 0 and 2 each round beginning with the first. 

If that number is "1" the golem bludgeons the Soul Eater for damage before you resolve your attacks. If a "0" the golem does nothing (the Soul Eater cannot harm it as the golem has no soul).  The one weakness to this approach is that you can have the same response repeated many times. In one test of the script I had the golem declare, "Another specimen for the Master!" for three rounds while players battled the beast. It was only on the fourth round that the golem attacked and dealt damage. Slightly amusing, perhaps, or infuriating. 

You'll also notice that one of the options that can occur entails the golem holding the creature while you wail away on it ( > Gain a +3 to your next roll. )  

As long as you watch your indentation and formatting, emulating this simple script can give some "Ooomph" to your NPCs. 

We hope these suggestions enliven your quests and aid Quest writing!

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Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.


Horrorscapes [The Vault #19]

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Dream vistas twisted by alien intelligences of frightening power. Environs out of Nightmare. Lands inimical to the continued life of thinking races. All these and more dwell in the provinces of the Horrors. Many have been catalogued by brave and foolhardy wizards. Some have only been spoken of during palaver with the Fae and the shades of the Dead. Few have been survived. The Codex of ibn Al-Kazad relates twenty such locations:

  1. _Cloud Castle_ (#CC) Large, black, and ominous... > Perception :ranged: :roll:s must be made each cycle around the table. Failure means the :adventurer: falls through a thinness in the cloudfloor or wall, suffering 3 hp of damage OR 1 Persona loss.  
  2. _Deathlight Spire_ (#DSpire) The darkness beaming from it's pinnacle steals the minds from all things it touches. You watch a flock of birds cease their flight and plummet... > Approaching the Spire is difficult and must be done between the cycling of the deathlight. An athletics :melee: check of 13+ is required or 1 Persona is lost. If Persona hits minimum the mind of the :adventurer: is stolen by the light, as their body crumples into coma. 
  3. _Crystal Caverns_ (#CCaverns) Stalagmites as large as humans litter the floor. Twisted simulacrums of the adventurers leer from their surfaces. > On a failed Persona check a simulacrum of the victim leaps from the crystal. It has half the hp of the :adventurer: and uses 1 ability drawn at random from the type(s) known by the :adventurer:. 
  4. _Spore Halls_ (#Spore) A long corridor covered in fungal blooms. > Make a Perception :ranged: check. For every multiple of 5 draw 1 :magic mushroom: encounter cards. They take -1 damage and deal +1 damage while in the Hall. 
  5. _The Writhing Plains_ (#WPlains) Spoken of by the surviving members of The Shining Band before they were committed to an asylum. They related a tale of a farmer's field, covered not in stalks of corn, but in grasping tentacles. > Passage through the plains requires 3 successful Athletics :melee: checks of 10+. Each failure results in loss of 1 Loot OR 2 hp.  
  6. _Sucking Sands_ (#SSands) Stand still for any length of time and you're dead. It is as though something follows beneath the sands, but at a pace just slower than one can walk. > Traversing the sands requires 3 successful Endurance :melee:  or :music: checks of 8+. Failure results in being sucked below the sands for 4 hp damage and combat with a foul horror.    
  7. _Hairy Hole_ (#HH) The Devil's Navel, some call it. It quivers at your touch, but you see not what lies below. > Make a Persona :roll: of 11+. On failure you're compelled to enter and lose 1 Persona. On success it belches forth 1 random Loot item.
  8. _The House of Hieronymous_ (#SHouse) A vast shell, large as a small castle, now vacant. Lesser creatures live inside it now... 
  9. _Serpentskin Tunnel_ (#SS) You realize you're not in a tunnel adorned with glistening mosaic walls. Rather, this is the molted skin of a vast, dread serpent! > Make a Persona check or enter a trance induced by the glittering scales. Suffer -3 to all checks until you take damage. If combat is initiated, entranced :adventurer: s must attack another adventurer on the first round. 
  10. _Dreadhome_ (#Dhome) An immense cube floating in the sky. Every few decades cyclopean stones move and shift along its surface. Sometimes things exit to bedevil the world, or plummet to gory and enigmatic deaths. > On the approach to the Cube, make a Notice :roll: of 9+. On a failure, you are attacked by 2 :nightgaunts: for each person who failed the :roll:. On a 1, the :adventurer: is also struck by a falling body (or flying body parts from impact) for 3 hp damage. 
  11. _Incubation Plain_ (#IPlain) Barren plains scorched by sun and salt crystals, hatched eggs as tall as two and three story houses litter the flats. One remains, surrounded by a tentscape of adoring cultists.  A ritual is about to take place atop "the One". > If the :adventurers cannot stop the 5 :Acolytes: from completing the ritual in 5 rounds, a :Cthulhi: comes forth. 
  12. _The Sloar!_ (#Sloar) It's not a smoking cavern. It's the belly of a terrible beast. Like the Keymaster said, "Many shubs and zools knew what it was like to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, I can tell you!"  > Every round in the Sloar one suffers 1 hp of damage. Two successful Climb :melee: checks of 11+ must be made to escape back up it's gullet. 
  13. _Horror Flats_ (#HFlats) The flat landscape is pocked with holes the size of wagons. Gore lingers at the edges of some. Something came from below... > Whatever foe you encounter while traversing the Flats gets a free attack against the adventurers (resolve no abilities the first round). 
  14. _HellMist Hall_ (#HMHall) A venerable manor, shrouded in mists without and within. Where are they coming from? Why won't daylight dissipate them? Why do you feel so...odd? > The mists distort :music: abilities. Failure on their :roll: is treated as a "1" :roll: instead. 
  15. _The ShieldWall_ (#SWall) It stands higher and thicker than a skyscraper. What was it meant to keep out? Luckily the lifts still work...for now. 
  16. _The Annihilation Arch_ (#Arch) Majestic and horrific at once, sacrifices are thrown from it into the mouth of a vast, sleeping terror far below. If it could be held against it's fanatical worshipers, the terror below might be starved to death...
  17. _Webwoods_ (#WebW) If only those that spun them were spiders... > Any :roll: of 5, 10, or 15 results in the adventurer being ensnared in a web. Next round they take 1 extra hp in damage and suffer -3 to ability rolls. 
  18. _The Voidswamp_ (#Void) An unnatural vacuum above the swampy surface makes all breathing impossible. > No sound travels in the void. :Music: abilities do not function here, and :magic: abilities suffer -3 to rolls. 
  19. _The Trackless Dream_ (#Dream) In this place all objects return to their prior form. Nothing inanimate can be truly destroyed here. > Any :loot: spent or destroyed mysteriously re-forms two rounds later. 
  20. _The Quaking Caverns_ (#QCaverns) They are constantly moving and shifting, perpetually threatening to bury anyone traveling through them. > Two Perception :ranged: checks and two Athletics :melee: checks of 9+ are required to come out of the caverns. Each time a Perception :ranged: check is failed the adventurer who failed is separated from the party and must fight a Tier I Encounter card. Each time an Athletics :melee: check is failed, the adventurer suffers 2 hp damage from moving walls and falling stone.  

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Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.

Lovecraftian Lyricism [The Forge #8]

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"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." --H.P. Lovecraft, "Supernatural Horror in Literature"

What are the elements of Horror or Mystery? How does one distill the essence of the genre and infuse it into a crafted Quest? This week we're not going to spend time with scripting in the Quest Crafter, but on the techniques that endow your story with the aesthetics of Horror.

Should you wish to see a detailed examination of all the elements, I strongly recommend reading the entire 30 page essay from one of the masters himself.  I hyperlinked Lovecraft's article above ("Supernatural Horror in Literature"). 

But if you want the footnoted version, I shall endeavor to abbreviate some of his insights below. Incidentally, focusing on many of these suggestions will improve non-horror stories as well. 

  1. Keep Secrets.  Secrets create tension. Secrets beg to be discovered. They wait like a treasure chest, just asking to have their locks sprung. All quests should have a secret. The best have a secret with a twist (I prefer moral twists). For example, "commoners" have hired the adventurers to destroy a nest of zombies outside of town. What they haven't revealed is the zombies are actually protecting the townsfolk from them, for they are secretly bandits wishing to prey on the town. 
  2. Use Suspense & Foreshadowing.  Hint at the dark terrors that may await, but use a light touch.  This is the most difficult thing to do in many stories, and spoiling things early on will certainly do much to ruin the mood.  To do this well almost requires you to psych yourself out.  Even better, hint at more, but don't reveal the totality of secret. Create fragments of history. Leave gaps in the puzzle for players to fill from their own imaginations. Consider leaving certain questions unanswered completely (at least in your first "episode"). Fortunately a Quest need not be linear...each and every possible outcome and terror can be a possible path and ending. For example, in my quest "Dark Gifts" (Worldbreaker #2) player choices determine who the real kingslayers are...the identity of the villains is not set in stone, but determined by player choices, and *SPOILERS* even allows for a party member to be the assassin. This leads to the next point.  
  3. Create False Trails. Make false allies. Make false enemies.  Twist things. You might even allow the adventurer(s) to choose to be the villain, but never force adventurers to be evil (remember, we have kids playing with their parents). 
  4. Make the Adventurers' fears mirror those of Players. The best Horror connects us with the characters in the story either because we associate with the personalities of the protagonists or the fears addressed resonate with universal human fears. Visual horror can appeal to instinctual biological impulses (jump scares, creepy images or sounds). Written horror must appeal to psychological fears. Social Alienation. Damnation. Meaninglessness of personal actions or efforts (or existence itself--though a well grounded person will find such suggestions empty and uncompelling). Poverty.  The best horror or suspense imparts us with a sense that our actions DO matter, but that we ever teeter on the brink of failure, and a poor choice will result in disaster. 
  5. Set Atmosphere. Make Places into People. Look at how Stephen King perpetually personifies the inanimate in his works. The Dome is intelligent. Black House is capable of motion and intent. The Dark Tower looms throughout a series of novels like a monolithic foe. In the aforementioned and linked essay, Lovecraft wrote, "Atmosphere is the all-important thing, for the final criterion of authenticity is not the dovetailing of a plot but the creation of a given sensation." (Emphasis added.)

I would like to think my commissioned Horror quest, "Raventree Manor" does all of these at some level. I spent 40 hours listening to Lovecraft's stories in audiobook format to try and get it right. That leads to my last point:  Borrow brilliance from others. Learn from the masters. Get inspired. 

Wikipedia has a pretty good write-up of some scholarly analysis of Horror elements. We'll leave you with a quote from that entry with some good parting advice:  "Sometimes a story intends to shock and disgust, but the best horror intends to rattle our cages and shake us out of our complacency. It makes us think, forces us to confront ideas we might rather ignore, and challenges preconceptions of all kinds. Horror reminds us that the world is not always as safe as it seems, which exercises our mental muscles and reminds us to keep a little healthy caution close at hand." --Elizabeth Barrette's "Elements of Aversion"

Happy quest writing!

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Malevolent Mysteries [The Vault #18]

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"The Horror" is upon you!  Most of you have it in your possession as I write. If not, it lurks, waiting to take you unawares! Of course this means some of you may be pricked with the peculiar madness to craft your own horror-themed quests. Yesterday's "Forge" entry should help with that, and we're not going to stop there. Provided below are 20 plot seeds for your Horrific protagonists:

  1. _Parasitic Peril_ (#Peril) During the greatest Feast Day in the kingdom, infected meats risk making many commoners hosts to larval horrors. 
  2. _Predictable Prophets_ (#Prophets) A mad prophet wielding fell powers has enthralled and terrified a village. 
  3. _Pharaonic Family of Ra_ (#Ra) A cult of inept dandies seeks to summon a divine being. They awake a Horror instead. 
  4. _Sky Beast_ (#Sky) It lives, tentacled, in the clouds.  Poisonous rains are the only warning and herald of its approach.
  5. _Minister of Madness_ (#Minister) All he wants to do is teach, and his students have grown to be many. Some are even old associates of the adventurers.
  6. _Dark Deals_ (#Deals) With the adventurers on the verge of death in battle, a horror rips them out of time and space to propose a way out. For a price.
  7. _The Ancient Door_ (#Door) Cyclopean and foreboding, it has stood unopened since the foundation of the city. Now, though, a crack has appeared in the door, terrible light spilling out. Most the light touches become dangerously homicidal. What will occur if it springs fully wide?
  8. _The Offer_ (#Offer) A strange, mighty, and unknown magus instructs the adventurers in the ways of power. The price of such power is sanity, forfeited one bit at a time.
  9. _Unhinged_ (#Unhinged) A riddle keeps driving sages and scholars insane, but leaving it unresolved could cost the kingdom everything. 
  10. _Personality_ (#Personality) A pacifistic leader is impregnating his willing followers, with twins, but one of each pair may not be human.
  11. _Dark Waters_ (#Waters) Something from the depths keeps visiting, taking others back to the deep with them. Curiously, it always leaves its victims' left hands behind on the shore. 
  12. _The Bower_ (#Bower) They want to make their home here, in the greatest Tower constructed by man. Closed doors seem incapable of keeping them in or out...
  13. _Terraforming_ (#Terra) "Invasive Species" threaten to overtake the area, one bulbous, mold encrusted tree at a time. 
  14. _Communion_ (#Comm) The adventurers manifest strange powers, but with each use the fabric of reality frays. 
  15. _Eaters of the Dead_ (#Eaters) The local cemeteries are being defiled, bits and pieces of the exhumed dead left behind. Their eaters are slowly becoming more human, with all the memories of the eaten. To what lengths will people go to be reunited with departed loved ones?
  16. _The Thousand Young_ (#Young) A cavern has been found that contains enormous eggs. No one knows the species, or what may come out if they hatch. 
  17. _Trojan Tentacles_ (#Trojan) Judging by the custodian's remains and the shattered glass case, the ancient and foreboding statue in the museum may not have been a statue. That means all the companion statues in the excavated city being unearthed nearby may in fact be an army. What set the first loose? How can the others be contained?
  18. _The Legacy_ (#Legacy) The adventurers unearth evidence that the monarchs of most countries are not entirely human, and some may be in the service of more ancient, even less human masters. 
  19. _Dreamstalker_ (#Dream) People are dying in their sleep, horrific marks appearing on their bodies from out of nowhere. Can the adventurers find the dreamstalker and stop them?
  20. _The Triangle_ (#Triangle) A shipping lane once vital to the commerce of many nations has been swallowing up all ships that brave its waters. Can the adventurers find the cause and stop it?

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Drinking to Horror [The Forge #7]

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We received a few community requests for this one, so here it is...Many of Lovecraft's characters turned to the bottle to deal with the terrors they'd uncovered in the dark. Ultimately, it didn't help them much, but here is a simple mod to make Expedition a drinking game. If you're 21+ and capable of drinking responsibly, you may want to toast to the spirit of "The Horror" this month. Every time you see the word "horror" (while playing Expedition with friends), you have to drink.  Whenever your adventurer loses a Persona point, you drink.  

But that's not all we've got for this week's have it in your hands...a dark compulsion to play tickles your psyche, hinting at thrills and terrors to come. Here are some suggestions for enhancing your Horror-themed quest. 

Adding Art

With the Kickstarter for "The Horror", we were able to allow addition of art to the Quest Creator. There are two ways you can do this...

Below is how you script for custom art you may have made yourself as a PNG file (note that at this point we will have to add it to the database first). There is a little bit more to this process--and I am not a graphic artist--but perhaps in the future our staff artist might be able to give pointers as to what colors work in the app. 


In the Quest Creator,  you'll want to have the normal Card prompt _Gardener and Hound_ (#Caretaker), then the [raventree_manor_png_full] produces the following picture in app.  You won't want to include any text if you're using a picture like this, given the size of phone screens, so do add that _continue_ to kick it over to the next screen. 


There is something that might throw you, though, if you're using the Art Repository we've created. You won't put the _png_ for existing art.  The script at the bottom for the [hound_of_tindalos_full] accesses that existing art. Here is another link to the full list available.  And we see how "little Tindy" looks in app to the right. 

Most of our default icons are in black font, so if you are scripting something that is going to appear in the Combat Simulator of the app (which has a black background), you'll want to make sure you enable the white font.  Here is how you do that:

Instead of :roll: (which would give us a black font on black background), we script :roll_white: .

You can see the difference...


You can also get white text for ability and encounter icons ( :magic_white: , :beast_white: , etc.). 

Finally, you've seen the Persona mechanic...In the course of several hours of playtesting, allow us to offer the advice that when you play, if you want to make full use of the Persona boosts, be sure to play multiple adventurers that have Influence abilities.  If only one member of the party has one Influence ability, it may be difficult for you to bump the Persona up to ever get Max.  Authors, be sure when writing "Horror" themed quests to allow for skill checks or choices that can increase Persona, not just those that decrease it.   

Of course, players could institute a House rule that any critical success (roll of 20) automatically increases the Persona of the adventurer who rolled it by 1. 

We can't wait to see what you come up with and happy questing! 

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