If you’re new to this series, we’re collaboratively developing a short Torchbearer adventure.
If you need to catch up:
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part II)
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part III)
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part IV)
Last week we took a look at a concept map from Mordite Press developer D. Koch. Above Koch has provided an updated map adjusted for many of the things we discussed. You’ll note that the break in the bridge has been enlarged and the Middle Tower now has a portcullis on either side with murder holes that could be used against attackers trying to pass through. There’s also a stairway on the southern side of the Middle Tower that grants access to the upper levels of the tower.
There are still a few issues that I need your help to address, but first I want to circle back to some of the questions raised in Part III. The suggestions are below. What do you think about them? Which ones do you like or not like? Do they suggest any additional ideas to you?
How have the inhabitants altered the location to serve their needs?
A shrine to the Lords of Valor and Terror. The Bjorning cleric and wizard have affixed an idol of their Lords to the fireplace mantel of the top-most room in the tower. They have built up this elaborate ceremonial chamber. It would be where the buckle1See Part III for more on the buckle. is kept hidden (separate from the other loot). The irony would be this idol is very valuable and could serve to turn the tables or provide an additional bargaining chip for cut-throat hobo parties.
What traps or terrain features make navigating the adventure location difficult?
Here are the ideas you suggested:
- Boiling oil tripwire trap above the stairs and main entrance.
- A magical rune ward on the treasure vault.
- A covered-up Pit trap. Thin stone, like shale, cover up a pit that falls into the river or into the lower levels.
- Not a “trap” per se, but I had an idea for a possible twist for when the adventurers try and access the secret passage. The idea of the captive nykr immediately made me wonder what’s moved into the river since the nykr has gone missing: After years of the nykr’s absence, those souls that it lured to watery graves with its enchanting melodies have grown restless and long for the nykr’s song to soothe them back to slumber. They are cursed to not be able to leave their river tomb, but will grab at anyone they find within the water, moaning horrifying atonal dirges to try and get their victim to restart the song.
- What if the nykr is not trapped? What if, through its shapeshifting powers, it is actually running the show with the Bjornings. The nykr enchanted and entranced the raiders with its music and they are doing its bidding.
- Or another idea, and perhaps better yet, maybe the raiders know about it but have not contacted it yet. They are digging it out and trying to get to it (this could explain why they are distracted when the party enters). The have heard its haunting music and want a favor for freeing it. The Bjorning raider cleric believes that if they can offer a sacrifice to it, they can learn its power and its songs — which might give them more motivation to stick around the tower.
Why is the tollgate in ruins?
Now on to some questions from last week’s post. Here’s what you suggested:
- Can we connect it to the Bjornings and the nykr somehow? There could be clues that the tower fell recently (the raiders are still clearing away the debris, townsfolk along the road talking about the tower falling). All of this could have happened within the last few months, but it had something to do with the Bjornings and the Nykr. Perhaps there was a group of Bjornings that came out here first, but they mysteriously disappeared. This second group of raiders is continuing the mission against the Gott and also trying to discover what happened to the other group (thinking them killed by the Gotts). This would play off the theme of “power.”
- On the other hand, I do like the idea of the Black Wyrm. I can imagine it swooping down and pushing on the tower with its hind legs. This would connect the theme of history repeating itself (the conquerors become the conquered).
What is the state of the tollgate now?
The Bjornings have cleared away enough of the debris to salvage the lower gatehouse of the southern hightower. They have a makeshift roof of tied-together blankets that keeps the snow off of the supplies inside the room. They use it for extra storage and non-essential items.
How do the Bjorning raiders cross to the north bank?
The Bjornings have created a crude rope bridge to cross the gap caused by the ruined bridge that serves as a secondary defense mechanism of sorts. A detail known to the Bjornings, the bridge can hold no more than two men at a time, or little more than one man with a full pack. To help with the burden of more successful raids, the bandits have installed a net on a secondary rope line above the bridge, which can be pulled to either side of the bridge with pulleys hooked to the wooden pillars the rope is bolted to. The line is able to hold significantly more weight than the bridge itself.
The bridge is firmly staked on the northern side of the gap, but on the opposite end is only knotted to a wooden beam at two points to allow for quick collapse in case of emergencies. Easily missed is a smaller, thinner cord attached to the last board on the southern side of the bridge that serves as a means to pull the bridge back up after it has been disconnected rather than having to rebuild the bridge from scratch. This has lead to many a Bjorning to return from a raid on the northern bank only to find themselves offering trinkets or an extra turn fetching firewood to a watchman who has disconnected the bridge on the other side.
The Secret Bit
One thing we haven’t figured out yet is the hidden entrance in the Middle Tower that leads to the lower part of the tower and the underwater passage to the nykr’s prison (area 9). Where is it? What does it look like? How is it hidden? How does it work?
So what do you think? What works for you? What doesn’t? Give me your suggestions and critiques. New ideas are welcome too! In the next Robber’s Bridge installment we’re going to nail these details down and start thinking about what the various players want.
I personally enjoy the idea that the bandits are actively searching for the nykr in order to gain its power with a sacrifice, with the other suggestion of the nykr shapeshifting and secretly running the show with the bandits as a possible consequence if the party leaves this situation be.
The rope bridge seems far fetched now given the increased distance of the gap. Perhaps there are instead rope ladders leading down the water on either side, with a boat to move between the two? This could be how the Bjornings first learn of the existence of the nykr, and could be digging through the tower instead of the water because they’ve also learned of the spirits in the river.
If everything shifts like so to focus more heavily on the nykr, I like the tollgates having been ruined by a dragon just for the sake of some variety.
As for the secret entrance, I imagine hidden footholds that scale down the side of the bridge on the middle tower, which lead to a trapdoor under the arch over section 9. This trapdoor opens to reveal a stairwell beneath the middle tower that leads down to the nykr prison.
How have the inhabitants altered the location to serve their needs?
Like the Shrine
Like the idea of dead souls around Nykr
Like the other traps
Add a cheval de frise or a bunch of spikes on northern road
Like the dragon
How to cross?
Like Art’s idea of climbing down
A magic rune behind a brick in the fireplace that teleports the party
1) We all seem to like the dragon. It could provide another layer of history and background that would be cool.
2) For crossing the river, it seems like using the river might work. They climb a rope down to the giant skull island below the tower where their longship is hiding. Then they sail it east, down the river, and portage the ship back to the west. To the west, we could say there are rapids and rocky cliff walls that prevent the Gotts from approaching that way. But for the Bjornings, they are familiar with these rapids and know how to traverse them.
3) For the secret door, it sounds like we like the idea of going down to the river and approaching from outside.
Here are some ideas for the trigger:
– A song could trigger the secret door to Nykr. Singing the words in reverse closes the door.
– Pushing on stones along the base of the tower in a certain order – the details of which are found in a journal in the Lord’s Quarters. Once the correct sequence is pressed, the door slides open.
– A tiny mousehole in the tower foundation is actually the keyhole to unlock the door.
– A wooden chair is nailed to the floor which is strange that everything else has been removed from the room. The chair must be lifted from its current location, moved to another room, and placed in notches in the floor that opens the secret door.
4) For the Nykr, it seems like this should be a subplot. The main focus could be on the buckle, but if the party explores, they can gain clues that reveal there are secondary objectives here as well. I like foreshadowing something about the Nykr early on so that the group knows to look for more information.
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