Thelsikar’s Ambition: Adventure Design

This post was prompted by a request for aid in adventure design in the Facebook Pathfinder fan group.  As anyone who knows me knows, I stink at adventure design.  When I first got into Pathfinder GMing, I was pleased at how simple the introductory adventure in the Beginner Box was.  It gave plenty of advice on how to run each encounter, which I needed.  My only criticism of the introductory adventure is the presence of Black Fang.  In my run of the adventure, the Young Black Dragon almost caused a TPK.  But if you’re going to have a game based on Dungeons & Dragons, you need to have Dragons present in the adventures.  😉

So, I was excited when I concluded the adventure and wanted to start a campaign based on the information in the Beginner Box.  The players had fun.  I had fun.  This is the goal of the game, so we all wanted more.  I wrote up a sheet of house rules, giving credit for their inspiration to the two players at the time.  I also followed the Beginner Box’s advice and extended the dungeon in the initial adventure to a second level of the dungeon.  I followed the adventure design suggestions in the Beginner Box’s booklet.

For your reading pleasure, here is the entire outline of the adventure:

Black Fang’s Dungeon-Part 2

Sandpoint:  The Rusty Dragon

Common Room:  A storyteller bard, Gene, is enacting two merchants haggling over a shipment of fish, in the background.  The inn owner, Ameiko, is serving drinks behind the bar.  Adventurers are welcome at The Rusty Dragon because they can get inexpensive room and board, even if they haven’t completed a quest.


Black Fang’s Dungeon:  Area 2


Area 2 has hewn stone walls (CD 25 Climb check) and hewn stone floors  (DC 10 Acrobatics check to charge)

  1. 1. Entryway: Two dogs guard either side of the room and the door into the next room.


  1. Larder: Crates of salted meat fill this room.  There is a nest of three rats snuffling about in here.


  1. Giant Spider Lair: Large, ropy webs fill the corners of this room.   Hidden in one corner of the room is a giant spider.

Treasure:  200 gold pieces, 1 agate (10 GP), 1 bloodstone (50 GP)


  1. Vault: This room has two empty chests in it and a third one filled with gold coins.

Treasure:  200 gold pieces


  1. Octopus Pool: One side of this room is filled with a wading pool of one-foot-deep water.  An octopus is in the water, guarding a treasure.

Treasure:  100 gold pieces, 1 gold armband (100 GP)


  1. Goblin Argument:  A dead Bigmouth tribe goblin lies slumped in this room.  It wears a silver ring.  A DC 12 Heal check will reveal that it has been stabbed with a short sword.  Three Bigmouth tribe goblins are arguing over the body.

Treasure:  1 silver ring (60 GP), two amethysts (100 GP each)


  1. Meeting Room: There is an ornate wooden desk with an animated object, a chair, on the opposite side of it.  The chair has the Grab special ability.

There is a piece of paper on the desk, with a message written in Common runes.  The language is Goblin.  It reads, “Black Fang is reluctant to reveal the secret to me.  Perhaps he can be persuaded to part with it when we move to Raven’s Watch”.  It is signed “T” (for “Thelsikar”).

Treasure:   500 gold pieces, a piece of paper written in Goblin.


  1. Hall: There is a long, low table in this room with room for ten.  At nine places at the table are scraps of meat.  The tenth place, at one head of the table, is clean.


  1. Oubliette: This room has jail cells on each wall.  In the center is a hidden pit trap, lined with hay.  The floor is tilted so that it at an angle toward the pit.


  1. Torture Chamber: Tables with bodies on them are in this room.  At the rear of the room, in shadow, sits a bugbear.  Two Bigmouth tribe goblins are tormenting a lone human chained to a wall.  The human is a local farmer.  A third goblin lies dead in front of a pair of empty shackles on the wall.

Treasure:  600 gold pieces, 1 masterwork mace, `1 masterwork staff, one more masterwork weapon.

If rescued, the farmer, Henry, says, “There was a Halfling here not two hours ago.  He got out of the shackles and killed that goblin with his own short sword.  He said his name was _________________.” (one of Chuck’s brothers)


Given my sarcastic, satirical writing style, I had to restrain myself from including the skeleton of a Drow holding two rusted scimitars in its bony hands, inspired by a certain fanboy favorite Chaotic Good Ranger from tie-in fiction based on the world’s oldest role-playing game.

As you can see, it’s not great stuff.  It’s a basic dungeon crawl with elements from the first adventure.  It also includes foreshadowing and tie-ins to the major villain of the campaign arc, Thelsikar.

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