With my last two post having been about antagonists in the Old World and creating campaign settings to be ideally suited to run adventures in them, I’ve spend the last days thinking about what adventures specifically could take place in the Old World.
Here are a few basic adventure plots for which I want to create a good selection of sample locations and backgrounds. I believe that adventures should be very much tailored to the setting in which they take place to make the campaign feel truly distinctive and the worldbuilding feel more than just cosmetic. Not every adventure can work in every setting and in a world with little civilization and without most of the institutions of ancient and medieval society a setting like the Old World is particularly restricted. But even when the campaign might be just about barbarian hunters in the wilderness, there’s still quite a lot you can do other than fighting other clans and searching for food. The following adventure types should all be working in any Old World campaign, whether it’s set in the vast frozen emptiness of Venlad or in the sorcerous city states of Senkand.
- Defending against Raiders: The old classic. The Seven Samurai. The Thirteenth Warrior. A community is under regular attacks by an enemy they can not defeat through their own strength so they turn to the heroes to protect them in their hour of need. The antagonists can be either clanless outcasts or a rival local clan, or even reavers coming across the sea while the heroes happen to be around. Usually a pretty straightforward affair, but it can all be made more interesting by having the attackers kidnap prisoners, giving them complex motivations for their raids, or splitting them into multiple groups with slightly different motivations.
- Hunting a Beast: Also incredibly oldschool. A dangerous beast or a group of them has come to the area and poses a serious danger to the locals. The heroes have to find its lair or lure it into a trap and somehow get rid of it for good. Which can turn out rather more complicated than that in a wide range of ways. Understanding the nature of the creature and anticipating its moves is key to overcoming it.
- Hunting an Enemy: The person in question might be an assassin who must be caught before murdering someone or a criminal who is on the run. Alternatively the heroes might be tasked with kidnapping or killing an enemy leader to help their allies win a larger conflict.
- Scouting New Locations: The leaders of the settlement have learned about the existance of a previously unknown ruin or cave, or a hidden path to an unexplored valley and they want to know more about what’s inside them. Whether they could be dangerous or may hold anything of value to their people that should be claimed before someone else does. A task best suited for experienced explorers who are capable of dealing with whatever they might find. As settlements in the Old Worldare few and far between, new places can still be found everywhere, even just a few hours outside of a major port city. Since it’s meant to be an adventure for the players there should be something worth telling tales about. People like exploration, but it’s not the act of exploring that is fun, but the joy of discovery. Even when you don’t know yet what it is you will find. A well done exploration should include a regular series of discoveries that each hint that there is more to find if the heroes press on instead of turning back, even when that would be the reasonable course of action. The discovery near the ens of the exploration can be almost any of the other items on this list, with the difference that the players don’t know what it is until they find it.
- Calming Angry Spirits: The spirits of nature are a major feature of the Old World, and one that should regularly appear in most adventures in some capacity. In adventures of this type they take the center stage. Somehow the actions of people have upset the peace with the local spirits, putting the survivial of any nearby villages at risk. The heroes have to find out what angered the spirits in the first place and put an end to the offence, and then find a way to appease the spirits’ anger. There’s a lot of things that someone might have done to offend the spirits, which can be unique for any agreement between a spirit and a settlement. The offense might have been an accident, a crime that was hidden from other people but did not went unnoticed by the spirits, or a deliberate attack by a hostile group. Village shamans might be able to learn the general nature of the spirits’ anger, but to truly understand what upset them and to fix the conflict someone has to visit and investigate the sites of the offenses in person. Which can often be a highly dangerous task in itself and too big for a simple shaman to handle.
- Uncovering malicious Sorcerers: Sorcery has a corrupting influence on the minds and the hearts of those who practice it and who are falling under its spell. Raiders, wild beasts, and angry spirits are a constant threat to any village or town, but sorcery is a threat that can strike from the inside and be just as devastating. Except for the city states of Senkand and distant Kemesh, sorcerers always practice their craft in secret as few people are willing to tolerate them in their midst. Witches are already highly suspect and rarely fully trusted, but signs of the much darker magic of sorcery are usually treated as major threats to be dealt with before it can do greater damage and doom everyone. To most people it makes no difference whether a sorcerer is actively trying to corrupt and control the leaders of their community. Once their existance is discovered there will be no rest until the hidden threat is dealt with for good.
- Breaking a Curse: In many ways this is quite similar to dealing with both angry spirits and nefarious sorcerers. The heroes become aware of a curse that lies on a place or group and people and are tasks with putting an end to it. Usually this means there has to be an investigation of how the curse started in the first place, what exactly it is doing, and how it can be reversed. Often the curse is some kind of haunting by a raving spirit, but sometimes it is the work of a witch or sorcerers who deliberately drove the spirits to such hostile behavior. The spirits might be able to tell, but often it is very difficult to get them to reveal their reasons unless the original source of the curse is discovered and a method found to force the spirits to show themselves and state the conditions to stop their haunting.
- Recovering a Relic: Most often these adventures take the form of learning about a magic item that is located in some kind of dungeon and has not yet been claimed. The most plausible source for such information in the Old World are spirits who know about the item but have no interest in it themselves. Though conversations with spirits, shamans and witches might have learned of the existance and stories of such objects of power, which might have been known among experts of the occult for centuries even though no mortal has ever seen them. When a witch comes into possession of enough clues to identify the likely location of a relic it will still have to be retrieved from a potentially distant and likely dangerous place. Which is a great job for heroes looking for adventures. Alternatively they could try to follow the trail of people who were known to be in possession of such relics but disappeared in the wilderness and were never seen again. Or the item might have been stolen with the thief being still on the run.
- Rescuing People: Same idea as recovering a relic but the object of the quest is to return people to safety. They could be prisoners or people who have been lost in the wilderness or a ruin. Finding them is only half of the adventure as taking them back to the village might be even more difficult.
- Destroying hostile Cults: All throughout the Old World are cults of Wilders who worship the Ancients who live deep beneath the earth and the oceans. Not all such cults are hostile or dangerous, but their association with sorcerous powers makes them widely feared in lands that consider themselves civilized. And often enough their suspicions are true, as some are thralls to malicious spirits craving for sacrifices and rewarding their followers with dark powers. Larger cults can often appear as raiders coming from the wilds but being more interested in captives than in plunder. But sometimes small cults arise in secret within villages and towns that worship the spirit of the land. These are a threat very much like sorcerers, but instead of just one or two apprentices the leader of such groups might have dozens of followers among the local people.
- Escaping from Dangerous Places: This is a variant of most of the above. Instead of the heroes having to find the main object of the adventure they have to get away from it. They could unknowingly enter the territory of a dangerous beast or angry spirit, become trapped in a ruin or cave and have to explore to find an exit or break the curse that keeps them from leaving, or become captives of raiders, sorcerers, or cultists.