Saturday, December 30, 2023

Reflecting on 2023 and Looking Ahead to 2024

Here are a few highlights of what happened this year, along with what I'm anticipating for next year.

  • As I'd hoped, in 2023 I finished writing the Apotheosis Campaign for Treasure Hunter Adventures. This was an enjoyable experience. When I started writing scenarios back in 2020, I started with material that I'd been planning back when I worked using D20 Modern. After finishing some of them, a larger storyline began taking shape, and I hope that it's a series of adventures that GMs and players can enjoy. 


  • I have written another adventure to run at Con of the North the north this year. This one, in fact, consists of material that I cut from last year's scenario due to time constraints. It leads the heroes to investigate a lost Nazi treasure cache, and has what I hope is a big set-piece climax with plenty of action for the finale.

  • For a few years now, when my players and I discuss options for that school year's campaign, I've offered to run the Star Wars RPG. They have decided otherwise—until now. This was a surprise for me, but a good one. I've written a series of scenarios on one of my other blogs, the Tierfon Campaign, for use with the RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games. A second surprise was that they wanted to play with the old D6 System from West End Games. For that reason I've been adapting them on the fly—and happily, it's an easy system to which to convert.

  • Taking that a step further, I'm planning to participate in this year's January Character Creation event. I'll be posting conversion of the characters on my other Star Wars RPG website.

  • After waiting a solid year for it, I have the print copy of Graveyard of the Gods and am excited about it. I'd thought that I might be running a campaign with it this year, but my players decided otherwise, as mentioned above. This book is gorgeous, and I'll print a review when I've finished reading it. I am excited to run that campaign some time in the future. 


Thursday, November 23, 2023


As I have wrapped up a major project earlier this year--and because the holiday shopping season starts after Thanksgiving--I thought it would be appropriate to bundle some of my offerings on This proved to be a little more difficult than I imagined, making sure that aspect rations for covers are correct and that PDFs are properly attached to everything. After a few fits and starts, however, I have three of them ready to go!


The Apotheosis Campaign

The Complete Treasure Hunter Adventures Toolkit

Captain Quin's Logbook: Encounters in Wildspace

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Ready-Made Crews for Spelljammer Encounters

I am late to the party when it comes to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The advent of 4th Edition pushed me into playing Pathfinder, which I quite enjoyed. Although I helped playtest D&D 5E,  I did not feel any need to stop playing Pathfinder. Then there came a 2nd Edition of that game, and I did not want to buy a bunch of new books. The birth of my son also meant that I did not have a lot of time for playing these games anyway. Also, there was a pandemic. 

That was when three different events coincided to change the situation. First, my buddy-in-law Brent sent me a 5E Player's Handbook so that we could play some games in Google Meet or Zoom. Second, the guys for whom I'd run my last campaign decided to start a new one, playing 5E online. Finally, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would publish new Spelljammer material, and I was all in. I ran Light of Xaryxis as my campaign for the 2022-23 school year, and have been thinking about the subject since then. 

All the while I was reading the 5E books, and quickly realized that the Monster Manual provided great stat blocks for monsters, with many of them having variations for different challenge ratings. What is more, many of them feature a leader-type and a magic-user, characters who nicely fill the roles of captain and spelljammer on ships. With that in mind, here's a table with which the DM can randomly generate Spelljammer encounters. 


Friday, November 3, 2023

Treasure Hunter Adventures at Con of the North 2024!

I am pleased once again to be running some Treasure Hunter Adventures at Con of the North 2024. This year's scenario is "The Dead Man's Tale," and it is a direct follow-up to "Infernal Devices" from last year. 

Con of the North 2024


Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Apotheosis Campaign Guide

The Apotheosis Campaign Guide is now available from It provides an expanded background to the campaign, as well as tips for setting the level of magic in it, pacing the adventures, and advancing the heroes and NPCs. 


The Apotheosis Campaign Guide

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Preview of the Apotheosis Campaign Guide

Here's a preview of the Apotheosis Campaign Guide, which includes suggestions for running that series of scenarios for Treasure Hunter Adventures and the Savage Worlds RPG. 


Setting the Level of Magic

From the outset, it's important to decide how much of a role magic and miracles will play in the course of the campaign.

  • No Magic—The relics that the heroes recover have no in-game effects, but are valuable because of their historic importance, for the materials from which they're made, or both.

  • Low Magic—These relics have powers that provide in-game benefits, but those effects are not visible to observers. Characters with the Detect/Conceal arcana power can recognize them, though, and generate similar effects when wielding their Powers.

  • High Magic—The relics have effects that are visible even to the untrained, and characters have access to Powers with similar trappings.

This consideration, then, sets the tone for the magical activity in the campaign, and influences the scope and scale of any secrets that the heroes can discover as they approach the climax of the overall story.

Campaign Timeline and Pacing

Presented here is the suggested timeline for the pacing of the campaign, along with details of how that timing affects each scenario and which Advances the heroes achieve after each one.

Adventure Background

Here is a brief history of those who have pursued the Great Secret.

  • These mysteries dates back to early history, especially Ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Israel. The story of Isis and Osiris includes the body of Osiris becoming trapped in a tree, and the song of Innana (Ishtar) describes a journey through the Underworld.

  • The destruction of Jerusalem created the Jewish Diaspora, with people of that faith living as minority populations through Europe and the Middle East. It is their tradition of Khabbalism that envisions all of Creation as a mystical Tree of Life.

  • The Romans, as a conquering force throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, began to notice similarities between their religion and those of conquered people, and even added foreign elements to their own traditions.

  • Christianity appeared around this time, with its central element being the self-sacrifice of their Messiah on a cross.

  • The rise of Islam is another example of conquerors spreading throughout the region. They were exposed to local beliefs as they won battle after battle, and brought with them learning from ancient Greece that had been lost by the rest of Europe.

  • During the series of conflicts known as the Crusades, ideas from the Middle East were carried back to Europe. No group was believed to have done this more than the Knights Templar, who are even rumored to have discovered relics and lore where the Temple of Solomon once stood in Jerusalem.

  • At some point members of the Throckmorton family in England began to serve the Inquisition. Although in theory they were helping to reveal heretical practices in the territory controlled by the Catholic Church, in truth they began gathering relics and lore for their own gain.

  • The Age of Exploration, pitting Spain and Portugal against England, introduced even more belief systems to Europe, from North and South America, Africa and Asia. This was also when the schism between the Catholic Church and England forced those Throckmortons who served the Inquisition to move their activities to the Continent.

  • As colonists settled in the Americas, pushing further and further westward, one member of the Throckmorton family decided to move his operation to the “New World.” He came just like any other immigrant, but hid his arrival by setting fire to the building that held immigration records at Ellis Island in 1897. (A descendant of his would use the same tactic to conceal his World War II service with a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in 1973.)

  • Other periods of conflict provided opportunity for exploring these traditions. Examples of this include Gabriel de Baz-Rhin, who served under Napoleon during the series of wars named for him; Udo Friesinger, a servant of King Ludwig II of Bavaria who was active as Germany began to be united; Roy Williams, the “American Adventurer,” who conducted his investigations until he was murdered by one of the Throckmortons in 1912; and Emanuel Grey, as an agent of the O.S.S. during World War II who was killed by another member of that family.

Developing and Advancing the NPCs

The various scenarios that make up this campaign have recurring villains, along with possible allies; the same set of base stats is generally used for each appearance. Presented here are some suggestions for developing them from one adventure to the next, adding Advances to their stats. As always, the GM should feel free to tailor NPCs as desired.

  • Eddie Legrand (AC-01, 11, 12): He increases Notice, Persuasion and Research.

  • Layla Clark (AC-01, 10, 11): She gains the Connections Edge, and then increases Language and Persuasion.

  • Rutger “der Falke” von Blum (AC-02, 03, 08, 09): He focuses on Advances that increase his prowess in combat, such as increasing Fighting and Shooting, and adding the Combat Reflexes and Command Edges. Note, too, that Mercenaries who accompany him and survive can gain Advances as well.

  • Annie Smith, aka Anastasia Valentinov (AC-03, 04, possibly 05 and the end of 06, 09): Playing a dangerous game of deception, she focuses on Edges that can keep her alive, like Luck and Great Luck, and increases Shooting and Fighting.

  • Earl Walton (AC-04, 11): Having had a taste of adventure, he increases his Fighting and Shooting skills, just to be ready for anything.

  • Xander Hayden (AC-04, 11): He adds the Improved Dodge and Thief Edges.

  • Bob Anderson (AC-06): He vows revenge for losing his collection of stolen items, and increases his Shooting skill.

  • Kurt Torkelson (AC-07): Having studied Astrid Moeller's notes about the items from the ship burial, he gains the Artificer Edge.

  • Astrid Moeller (AC-07): She learns the secret of the Channeling Edge.

  • Arndt “der Adler” von Blum (AC-12, 13): Through his studies, he gains Power Points and learns New Powers.

  • Cyril Throckmorton (AC-14): His Advances depend on which version of the character the GM is using. The Occulstist version of this character learns New Powers and gains Power Points, while the swindler version acquires the Great Luck and Elan Edges.

  • Cyrus Throckmorton (AC-15, 16): His Advances also depend on which version of the character the GM is using. The Unholy Champion adds the First Strike and Rapid Fire Edges, while the Soldier of Fortune adds First Strike and No Mercy Edges.

Finally, any and all of these characters could appear in the finale (AC-17), given the flexible nature of that scenario. Whether or not they survive to gain Advances, however, depends on whether or not they survive that confrontation with the heroes.

Art Credits

Additional Material from the Treasure Hunter Adventures Supplements

While by no means necessary for this campaign, some of the supplements for Treasure Hunter Adventures provide additional material that could be used, including the following possibilities.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Reckoning

The final chapter of the Apotheosis Campaign is now available from It takes an inventory of the adventures that have come before it, suggesting ways in which to tie up any loose ends. For that reason, I've made it a Pay What You Want item. 


The Reckoning

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Preview of The Reckoning

This is it--the final chapter in the Apotheosis Campaign, a series of linked scenarios for use with Treasure Hunter Adventures and the Savage Worlds RPG. It's a relatively short scenario, because it focuses on tying up any and all loose ends from the previous adventures. That's why I'm posting the entire text, so that potential purchasers know what to expect from it. 



For a long time now a band of treasure hunters has been investigating clues to lost relics and lore, including ones that relate to an ancient mystery. As they have done so, they've found a number of allies, but also numerous rivals and even a few dedicated enemies. After a mystical expedition in which they saw glimpses of the past, present and future, they have mostly concluded their search. Not everyone is satisfied with the how that expedition ended, however, and a few people seek to do something about the grudges that they hold.


This adventure begin for the heroes once they have finally discovered what they could beneath the shrine of the Sybil, and are now reacting to what they learned and moving on with their lives in the aftermath of those discoveries.

Scene 1: The Powers That Be

To begin, it's important to take stock of any allies and enemies the heroes have accrued during their adventures, along with the locations where they might be spending their time. The chart that is included below lists many possibilities from the scenarios in the published campaign; of course, there could be others if the GM has been modifying those scenarios or adding customized adventures. With that in mind, then, there are a few ways in which the action can proceed.

The NPCs Seek Revenge

This option is highly probable. Unless the heroes have neutralized all of the rivals and enemies whom they've faced during the campaign, there is probably someone who has a grievance against them. In this case, some or all of those people decide to strike out against the heroes. This could simply involve raiding the heroes' base of operations to steal what they can—especially if they believe the heroes claimed relics or lore which belong to them—or even to bring about a more permanent end to the matter.

The Heroes Seek Justice

On the other hand, the heroes might seek to bring their enemies to justice. This could easily happen if they have become involved with the Office for Strategic Services, or if any character has other connections to law enforcement. In this case, they are the ones who are staging a raid to recover illicit antiquities, looking to make arrests for crimes committed, and the like.

Adding Details from the Heroes' Own Stories

Finally, this is a chance for the GM to work in characters from the heroes' background details. For example, the enemy might kidnap one or more of the heroes' loved ones, if they are known, to use as leverage in exchange for valuable items or information.

Scene 2: Settling Scores

With all of those details established, then, it remains for the confrontation to begin. Here are some suggestions for how that might start.

  • The heroes are pursuing a lead that someone uncovered during the events of Past, Present & Future. In this case, the location related to that lead determines where this confrontation takes place; who else is involved depends on the inventory, as is detailed above. The villains might be monitoring the heroes' movements, and strike when they think the heroes are most vulnerable.

  • The villains kidnap someone who is important to the heroes, and thus they can choose the time and place for a confrontation. That might be on their own turf, in a place like Throckmorton's compound or Bob Anderson's storage facility, or in a neutral location. Whatever the case, they seem to have the advantage, and use it to pressure the heroes into meeting their demands.

  • The heroes and their allies stage a raid on one of the locations mentioned above, and so they decide when and where it happens. This is likely to be a villain's own domain, with the intention to find illicitly acquired relics along with evidence that can be used against them in court. Such action is especially likely if the heroes have become involved with the Office of Strategic Services, in which case they may be able to call upon additional agents to assist with this business.


While it is never possible to anticipate all of the twists and turns that this adventure can take, here are a few suggestions for some of the more likely developments.

  • If this is not already the case, then it becomes increasingly likely that the long arm of the law becomes involved in this business.

  • It is possible that the heroes stage multiple raids on different locations. In that case, the villains are likely to start working to remove items and information from those places that have not yet been raided.

  • There's always the chance that action taken by one side in the conflict provokes a counterstrike by the other side. For example, if the heroes and their allies raid Cyril Throckmorton's compound, then the charlatan's allies could send their own people in the hope of rescuing Throckmorton and recovering any valuable relics or lore that are hidden there before they are confiscated. Or, if the heroes suffer a setback, then their allies could send help to rescue them.

  • Evidence from a raid might provide clues to another lost treasure, setting the heroes off in search of it. That would be a fitting final quest for a hero who has long been trying to solve a particular mystery.

  • Finally, such a development could give the villains one last chance to ambush the heroes, since they would already have possessed the item or information and thus could position themselves to catch the heroes unaware.

Scene 3: Denouement

Once this business has been concluded, there are still questions that need to be answered. Here are a few possibilities.

  • What happens to each of the items that the heroes have discovered throughout the campaign? The old saying is that, “It belongs in a museum.” It is more appropriate for these items to be returned to people from their cultures of origin. This could lead to the heroes attending gala premiers of exhibitions, with the items in question being important parts of the displays.

  • There is also the question of what the heroes do now that this business is resolved. What is the next step for each character? They might work on writing a book about these adventures, help curate items or locations that were discovered, decide that it's time to settle down for a bit and start a family, or even continue their lives as globetrotting treasure hunters. This is a chance for each character to have a short scene—just like during the end credits of the movie—to show what happens next.


In this case, the events that are glimpsed during Scene 3 provide the resolution to the overall story. It has been a lengthy adventure, indeed, and hopefully one that has won the heroes fortune and glory, along with illumination and contentment.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

I Will Be on a Savage Universe Podcast!

This is a first for me. On Thursday I'll be joining J-M DeFoggi for a SWAGtember podcast episode over on Savage Universe! Here's a link to the announcement on the Pinnacle website, along with a screen capture of the site itself. 


PEG News Update

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Past, Present & Future

Now available from, this full-length scenario is designed for use with Treasure Hunter Adventures and the Savage Worlds RPG. It is a direct sequel to The Shrine of the Sibyl, taking the heroes into the tunnels beneath that shrine, where they can discover secrets about themselves, the world around them, and even, perhaps, what lies beyond it all. This scenario can also be run as part of the Apotheosis campaign. 


Past, Present & Future

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Second Preview for Past, Present & Future

This post presents the maps for the scenario Past, Present & Future. Rather than detailing the entire location, they can be used in varying order depending on when and how the "gas leak effect" hits each of the heroes. 


Flooded Chamber

This is the water-filled passage that the heroes must traverse, and it can also be the place where they run into the nest of vipers.

Chamber With No Exit

There are many false doors on the walls of this cavern, but no real one. This is the end of the line.

The Crossroads Temple

This structure could play a role in certain visions, as detailed in the Visions & Vignettes section, above. It consists of a raised platform on which sixteen columns support the stone roof above it; the roof is open in the center, and a big, old tree stands in the middle of it all.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

First Preview for Past, Present & Future

Over the past three to four years I've been writing a series of scenarios for Treasure Hunter Adventures, starting with The Death Mask of Hatshepsut in June of 2020 and building up to last month's The Shrine of the Sibyl. The forthcoming scenario Past, Present & Future is meant to be part of the culmination of that storyline, in which the heroes face physical and metaphysical challenges, and great secrets are revealed to them. Those experiences are listed below. 


Finding a Lost Loved One

This is one of the more straightforward vignettes. A character who, as part of their background story, has been seeking a lost loved one, has a glimpse of what happened to that person. This takes the form of witnessing a scene that reveals the person's current whereabouts.

For example: Gavin Kline knows that his brother, Garrett, disappeared while pursuing a treasure hunt of his own. When Gavin “wakes up” after succumbing to the gaslight effect, he finds himself on the heaving deck of a boat in stormy water. If he succeeds as Strength and Agility tests to cross the slippery and fight through crashing waves, then he sees his brother in the passenger compartment, poring over a map that reveals his destination.

Solving a Mystery

Similar to the previous one, this vignette can help lead into another adventure for the hero in question. In this case, the vision provides a clue to locating something that the hero has been seeking.

For example: Magdalena Gonzalez has long been seeking the treasure hoard taken by the Spanish Conquistadors after defeating Emperor Montezuma during the conquest of Mexico. Through research she knows that it was taken aboard a treasure fleet returning to Spain, which was attacked by pirates. When she regains consciousness, she finds herself flying through the sky, in the form of a bird! Through a series of Notice checks she can see a shipwreck, along with something that helps identify the location.

Fixing a Mistake from the Past

Ideally, this vignette involves something bad that happened earlier in the campaign; the character in question relives that experience and has a chance to handle it differently this time around.

For example: During a snowmobile chase on a frozen river in England, Linh Soung tried a risky jump and lost control of her sled; her rider was thrown off of it and badly injured (or even killed?). When she comes out of her stupor, she is driving that sled, during that chase scene. Does she attempt the same maneuver this time, or try something less dangerous?

Facing a Hindrance

This vignette forces a character to confront a fear, make a decision regarding loyalty, or the like. This could include giving up loot in order to save an ally, or even sacrificing oneself.

For example: Vaughn Adkisson, who is Heroic, wakes up to find that his friends are pinned down by the mercenaries, sure to be overwhelmed in battle. The mercenaries, in turn, have positions of cover in an ancient temple from which they can casually snipe at the heroes. Vaughn might recognize that, by toppling one of the columns holding up the roof of the temple, he can bring it down on top of the mercenaries. In doing so, however, he might not survive.

Having a Religious Experience

It is important that this vignette be handled in a tasteful manner, since it touches on topics that are important to a lot of people. With that in mind, the experience that this character has can take any number of forms.

For example: Thaddeus Woodward is a Christian. When he returns to consciousness, he is lying on the ground in the desert, with a stone for a pillow. Nearby he sees a ladder that stretches up into the heavens; angelic figures climb up and down it. (This is the image depicted on the cover of this scenario, taken from the Book of Genesis 28:10-19). One of the figures—perhaps even the angel Gabriel—approaches him to talk. He might be very tempted to ascend the ladder himself, but he could be torn between that and staying in this world to continue his good works.

Seeking Unlimited Power

This vignette has the potential to be the most dramatic, since it provides a glimpse of how the world would be changed if High Magic and the No Power Points setting rule, are unleashed. While this might be appealing to some occultists, the dangers inherent in such a world might quickly become apparent.

For example: Magdalena Gonzalez is Driven to learn the mystical secrets of the world. It might appeal to her, then, to learn Powers such as Blast, Bolt and Burst. When enemies press Magdalena and her friends during combat, she could also be tempted to unleash such magic. The resulting carnage should be an unpleasant surprise. What is worse, if her enemies gained access to such Powers, then they would not hesitate to use them, too.

Confronting Oneself

In this vignette the hero can face oneself. This could be to gain some kind of insight or to confront a character flaw.

For example: Throughout the course of the campaign, Vaughn has done a lot of fighting. While he has done this to protect his friends, the persistence of their enemies has pushed him to become more ruthless in his efforts. In this vignette, Vaughn comes face-to-face with a different version of himself—one that has become Bloodthirsty instead of Heroic. He might need to defeat himself in combat, or perhaps show himself mercy.

Meeting a Historical Figure

This vignette is a chance for a character to meet someone they admire. There is a chance for conversation, and thus perhaps to gain important insight.

For example: Gavin has been intrigued by what he read about the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang Ti, who had the Terracotta Army built for his tomb and is said to have sought the alchemical Elixir of Life. Gavin could wake up in the Emperor's tomb, where the two of them discuss how you use the time you have on this Earth, and what you leave behind as your legacy when you are gone.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Shrine of the Sibyl

This complete scenario, available from DriveThruRPG and for use with Treasure Hunter Adventures and the Savage Worlds RPG, takes the heroes to a seemingly ordinary chapel in Rome, beneath which they can reveal the secrets of the prophetesses known as the Sibyls. 


The Shrine of the Sibyl

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Second Preview for The Shrine of the Sibyl: Puzzles and Art

This post adds more preview details, including two of the puzzles from the scenario along with the corresponding artwork. 

Here is the message that starts this treasure hunt. 

These statues, and the engraving, are very similar to the ones found in the temple. 

A fresco like this is painted on the wall in a hidden chamber. 

The stairs in this stairway are engraved with names. Beware making a misstep!

In the Shrine itself is a slab containing a mechanism with levers that correspond to each of these letters. What is the correct order in which to pull them? 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

First Preview for The Shrine of the Sibyl

Here is the first preview of the forthcoming scenario The Shrine of the Sibyl; it features the maps for this adventure. 

We start with a chapel in Rome that might not seem noteworthy, but it hides an important secret. 

Then there are the catacombs and shrine hidden beneath the chapel. 


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Lucasfilm Lofi: Travel with Indiana Jones

I am relatively new to this Lofi stuff, but I have been looking for good background music to play in my classroom at school. This just popped up on Youtube for me, and I am sharing it here in part so that I can find it while I am reading or writing in the future. The background video is fun to watch, too. 


Thursday, July 6, 2023

Support Material for Light of Xaryxis

Here's a list of material from the Dungeon Masters Guild that can be used to supplement the Light of Xaryxis campaign. Feel free to post in the comments if I've omitted something. I did not include material intended specifically for VTT play.

Stars Over Stormwreck

This scenario acts as a bridge between Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, the scenario from the D&D Starter Set, and the Light of Xaryxis campaign. Although I used Spelljammer Academy to launch my campaign, I'm thinking of using that pairing to launch a future campaign that would then lead into Graveyard of the Gods.

Spelljammer Academy Expanded

I've previously posted about this supplement, which adds more content for use during the PCs' time at Spelljammer Academy. If I had had more time for running my campaign this year, I definitely would have used it.

Orc Chief's Throne

This scenario is intended as a bridge between Spelljammer Academy and Light of Xaryxis, one that gives the PCs a chance to acquire their own ship. It looks like it could be pretty combat-intensive, and ultimately I decided not to use it, but I was tempted.

Saving Commodore Krux

This is the first of three scenarios that supplement specific chapters in Light of Xaryxis. This one expands on the events of Chapter 4, adding more activity while the PCs are on the Rock of Bral. The preview looked solid, but I ended up not adding it.

Of Mercanes and Megapedes

This scenario expands on the PCs' interactions with Vocath the Mercane and the factions of Doomspace during Chapter 8; once again, I chose not to use it due to time constraints.

Mind Flayer Over Matter

In a previous post I mentioned that I added this scenario to the campaign. It worked well for adding a few encounters between Chapters 9 and 10 during the lead-up to the campaign finale, buying some time for a player who needed to miss a couple of sessions and allowing everyone to advance their characters to level 9 before the big final fight. I did not do a good job of preparing to run it, however.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Watching Again: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Here are my thoughts while watching this one again.

  • I've played in awesome campaigns that had great endings, but we were tempted to try playing the characters one more time. One was Shadowrun, and the other was Spwlljammer. In both cases, the new adventures did not go well, and we ended up feeling like we should have left well enough alone. I think that could be relevant here.

  • One can feel the influence of George Lucas strongly in the opening scene, with Elvis Presley's “Hound Dog” playing as a hot rod car speeds along the road. Along that line, this installment has a 50s science fiction feel, which can be fun, but is notably different from the 30s pursuit of holy relics and fight against the Nazis.

  • And then they nuke the fridge.

  • After that, during interrogation, Indy mentions that Mac was MI6 while Indy was in the O.S.S.; they undertook twenty or thirty missions together in Europe and the Pacific. That's some really cool world building, but we won't likely see what came of that.

  • That is followed by the implication that agents of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI don't trust old OSS operatives, and even suspect them of being communists! That is quite intriguing.

  • This movie tells us that Marcus Brody has passed away. I wonder what other characters from previous films, such as Willie Scott and Short Round, are doing now.

  • Mutt Williams has a great introduction. That is followed by some exposition, a soda fountain brawl, and an inspired motorcyle-and-car chase through the college campus.

  • Then there is more exposition, some research, and riddle. This is solid.

  • In Nazca, Indy tells Mutt that he learned Quechua while he rode with Panco Villa—a reference to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That is good world building.

  • It's a touching scene when Mutt sees Ox's cell and thinks that Ox has gone mad; Indy puts his hand on Mutt's shoulder.

  • The graveyard scene is atmospheric and exciting, a good set piece.

  • Then we have some exposition after Indy and Mutt are captured. Indy is hooked up to psychic monitoring equipment and hears a message while staring into the crystal skull. If any players doubted the apparent change in style for the campaign, it should now be clear.

  • That is followed by a jungle chase and fight scene that is, in my mind, rather goofy. I can imagine the GM telling the players, after this session, “I let you get away with this stuff tonight, but I won't allow it in the future.”

  • The lost city of Akator makes for a cool area to explore, even if it really leans into the new style.

  • I like the wedding at the end; it is the kind of narrative conclusion that I can see happening at the table after a campaign finale.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Watching Again: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Here are my thoughts while watching this one again.

  • The opening flashback, to a time when Indy was young, could be a fun idea for a campaign. The players have a chance to work through such an experience, with one focusing on their regular character, and the others playing different ones, like Herman. It wouldn't be anything too dangerous, but helps build background and give insight into a formative experience.

  • The scene aboard the train is a great example of using the rules for Chases. In this case, each card in the sequence can represent one train car, with different obstacles and hazards—crates and baggage, a rhinoceros, snakes, a lion, the magician's caboose—for each card/car.

  • We move from there into a good series of clues, not too hard or too easy, with atmospheric exploration and then another good example of a chase aboard boats.

  • The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword is a good example of a rival organization—not enemies, but people who opposed to the heroes. They want to protect the location of the Holy Grail, but Indy knows that seeking it will lead to his father.

  • Indy's ruse of pretending to be Lord Clarence MacDonald, followed by a punch, is just the kind of hare-brained impersonation that one of my players might try.

  • We move from there into a series of encounters highlighted by great roleplaying and fast action. There's the confrontation in which Elsa's betrayal is revealed; a fiery escape and motorcycle chase; venture back into Berlin; escape on a dirigible; and airplane chase. The GM does a good job of keeping things moving here. At the same time, the two players do great work playing their characters and digging into their father-son relationship.

  • Then we have another convoy sequence, reminiscent of the one from Raiders, but with more characters and elements in play. Kazim and the Brotherhood make their return, too, showing that Indy gained some allies by showing mercy.

  • I can imagine the tank chase playing out on the tabletop, too. Indy and the tank are moving from card to card, as are Sallah and other vehicles, and there's combat taking place on and in the tank. This is fun stuff!

  • I can imagine that, when the out-of-control tank drives over the cliff, both Indy and Vogel make Acrobatics or Athletics checks to jump to safety; Indy succeeds, and Vogel fails. Henry, Brody and Sallah all fail Notice checks to spot Indy, and we have some more good roleplaying while they respond as if he is dead.

  • That is a cold-blooded moment when Donovan shoots Henry. What a way to sell the villain!

  • Then there are four cool traps/puzzles/tests. Donovan's failure at the fourth test is a nice throwback to the end of Raiders.

  • It's a cool image, seeing Indy with the Grail Knight.

  • Of course, the final test is whether to try claiming the prize, or letting it go. Elsa fails the test, but Indy and Henry are able to pass it. We've moved from pursuing “fortune and glory” in Temple of Doom to seeking “illumination” in this one.

  • And then they ride off into the sunset. That could have been a great end to the campaign, if that was actually the end of it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Watching Again: Raiders of the Lost Ark


Here are my thoughts while watching this one again.

  • I watched this movie many, many times on VHS—so many times, in fact, that the tape broke and we had to tape the tape. When it came out on DVD, it was amazing to watch it on my computer. Now I can see the high-definition quality on a big TV screen, and I love it.

  • The opening sequence is a great example of how a GM could use the end of a previous adventure as the start of a new scenario, kicking off the action in media res before slowing things down t introduce new plot elements.

  • The subtitles help me understand lines that I've misunderstood for more than forty years.

  • The opening sequence also introduces one of the main villains for the film—and Indy's fear of snakes—which is sensible story development.

  • It is fun to see Indy go from fieldwork to the classroom. This could also be interesting in an RPG, with characters having to shift between roles and skill sets in different settings.

  • Yes, the implication that Indy took advantage of a young Marion is discomfiting. There is no getting around that.

  • Toht is just one in a series of excellent villians; the GM did a great job of creating NPCs for this adventure. He, along with Bellog and the German mechanic, are so solid that the German boss villain, Dietrich, does not need to be so distinctive.

  • When Toht unwittingly burns the imprint of the medallion into his hand, it's a good example of how a failed roll can still bring about success.

  • I love the use of “travel by map” as a segue between scenes. It shows off just how much of the world Indy is covering in this globetrotting adventure.

  • We have some great foreshadowing here, when both Brody and Sallah warn Indy about messing with the Ark. This comes up again when Belloq is so excited to pursue it, whether or not he must then turn it over to Adolf Hitler.

  • Indy is presented with a chance for an awesome bullwhip vs. sword fight, but goes for his pistol instead. I could see many of my players making the same choice.

  • We see more use of Bennies to manipulate the story when the monkey gives away the fact that Marion is hiding from the attackers in a basket, and that the Nazis switched baskets before loading one onto the truck that ends up exploding.

  • The map room is a fun example of a puzzle that does not require puzzle solving. As long as the heroes acquire the needed item and made some skill checks, then they can find what they need to learn from this encounter.

  • That is a tough spot for Indy, having to decide if he frees Marion or continues his search for the Ark without her. This is a tough GM.

  • Continuing that theme, the GM clearly plays upon the hero's Hindrance in the Well of the Souls. “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”

  • When Dietrich has Marion thrown into the Well, we see some dissention in the ranks among the villains. That's good writing.

  • Indy's player has to be spending some Bennies during the fight with the German mechanic, and must be making some good Soak rolls.

  • That is the greatest love scene of all time.

  • When the Nazi stencil is burned off of the crate, that should be a warning to the villains.

  • The deus ex machina ending might seem disempowering for the heroes, but in this case I think it is entirely appropriate. After all, the foreshadowing (mentioned above) should make it clear that this is a sacred and powerful relic, not a magical item for them to use or sell.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Reflection on Light of Xaryxis

Earlier this month my group finished playing through this campaign; here are some thoughts from my players and myself. Here's a link to my notes from it. 

Spelljammer Campaign Notes

  • This was the campaign that I needed for this school year. We are still playing every other week, during the school year, which means we have some eighteen sessions for the campaign. That worked well, with one for each part of Spelljammer Academy (four total) and one for each part of Light of Xaryxis (twelve in all). It was exciting for me to see the new Spelljammer books and to delve more deeply into 5th Edition D&D.

  • The storyline was pretty straightforward, with each chapter leading into the next one. My group was okay with this, although I wouldn't want it to be the play style for every campaign.

  • Juggling three books at one time was sometimes challenging. In one scene, for example, the PCs faced some psurlons aboard a nautiloid, requiring me to have all three of them open. I understand why they're organized in that way, but it was a little cumbersome.

  • Along that same line, it would be nice to have the Astral Adventurer's Guide available by itself, rather than requiring people to buy it along with the adventure book and Boo's Astral Menagerie. Players don't need the Menagerie, and certainly not the adventure.

  • Some of my players were surprised by the scope and scale of the scenario. I felt a little guilty running a campaign in which all of Toril was at stake, seeing as I haven't done much with the Forgotten Realms in the past. My players were familiar with the setting, though, and enjoyed the references to it in Spelljammer Academy.

  • It became a running joke when we referred to their “lengthy and comprehensive” training at the academy, seeing as their characters gained four levels in as many sessions and about twelve hours of play. That setup did work well for bringing them to 5th level to start the campaign book, at which point the pace slowed to an advancement every three sessions.

  • I was impressed by the amount of support material that was available from the DM's Guild website for use with this campaign. I only ended up using one of them—a scenario called Mind Flayer Over Matter—but there were many more available. While the Dungeons & Dragons game has long had third-party content available, I'd not previously seen it to be designed intentionally for use with an existing campaign storyline.

  • In the end, my players enjoyed the campaign, and that's what really matters.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Watching Again: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Here is my first reflection on these movies, which were highly influential on the development of Treasure Hunter Adventures


Watching Again—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Here are my thoughts for the film that comes first in chronological order.

  • What if the engraving of the mountain on the gong in Club Obi-Wan was a treasure map in its own right? That could be a fun challenge, making a copy of the engraving (or even stealing the gong outright!).

  • Lao Che makes a good recurring villain, one who is not crucial to this adventure, but who is powerful and could seek revenge against Indy.

  • Given the tendency in the 1980s to add young kids to aging TV series, one might first balk at having Short Round as Indy's sidekick for this adventure. I disagree, for two reasons. One I will explain later. The other is seeing these two actors reunited during the recent Academy Awards, and recognizing the respect that they have for each other.

  • I'm not sure that I could handle the Willie Scott character for a whole campaign, but she makes a fun foil for Indy on this adventure.

  • The bit about using the life raft to jump out of the airplane may seem silly, but it's just the kind of thing that, if the players wanted to try it, then the GM should let them. I can imagine Strength checks to hang on during the fall, and then Boating to steer it, first down the mountainside and then through the river rapids.

  • It is an interesting plot element, to have the heroes crash land due to previous conflicts, when the locals interpret it as divine providence.

  • Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”

  • I recognize the risk of portraying different ethnic groups as villains and running into negative stereotypes, which is an issue in this film. The dinner scene is evidence of this.

  • The dinner scene does provide an example of a character's previous actions catching up with him, as Indy is called out about his “misunderstanding” in Madagascar.

  • The “black sleep of Kali” is one of those plot devices that can be fun if used once, but should not be overdone. Players don't like having the GM take over their characters.

  • That brings us to the point where the heroes' decisions raise the emotional stakes in the scenario. Once they decide to free the children, this is about much more than finding fortune and glory through treasure hunting.

  • And then we move into a great sequence of set-piece combat scenes. From the fight on the conveyor belt, to the mine cart chase, to the confrontation on the bridge, the story moves from one exciting and dramatic moment to another.

  • I can picture the Chase rules being used during the minecart scene, with the opposing parties finding themselves in better or worse situations.

  • The bridge scene, then, seems like one of those times when the players' decisions have put their characters into an untenable situation, but one of them devises a strategy for turning the tables. Kudos to the GM for allowing the tactic to work, if the rolls confirm it.

  • Short Round's fight with the Maharaja pays its dividends when the ruler—having himself been saved from the Black Sleep—brings Captain Blumburrt brings his soldiers to snipe at the Thuggee archers.

  • The conclusion, given that we don't see Shortie or Willie in Raiders, leaves me wondering whatever happened to those characters. In an RPG, of course, they could pop up once again in future adventures.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Generic Heroes for Treasure Hunter Adventures

Generic Heroes is not available from DrivethruRPG. It takes the eight archetypal characters from the first Treasure Hunter Adventures supplement, adds the Technician from THA6: Expeditions & Excavations, and then reformats them as print-and-play character sheets that players can make their own by adding names, descriptive information, and other such details. 

Generic Heroes for Treasure Hunter Adventures