(Magical) Weapon Lore

Handing your players their first magical weapons is a hallmark moment in a campaign, usually signalling the party’s transition from being absolute garbage wannabe adventurers to being someone in the world.

But why make your first weapon a generic +1 sword? Magical work should well, be, magical and somewhat noteworthy.

The table contains little vignettes of lore for the weapon in the player’s hand. Perhaps it can trigger a mini-quest to discover where the weapon came from. I refrained from descriptions of the weapons, because those are really dependend on which weapon is being handed out. Nevertheless, some detail in the weapon description should hint to the pleayer that the weapon has a history…

Roll 1d20 and read across the rows (the entries go together). Still, if you want to shuffle, you could roll 1d20 per column, and then rework names accordingly. Who am I to tell you not to spice it up!

DiceOnce belonged to..Forged by..Consequence
1Omenax, an orc warlord who waged war on the elves.The Galmans, a renowned group of goblin smiths operating secretly in caves.Elves may recognise the weapon and shun the weilder.
2The guards of Falen, a mad wizard who ruled the area.Falen summoned the weapon in a ritual.There are 7 identical copies of this weapon in the world.
3Rowen, an infamous assassin who rebelled against the local guild in gruesome fashion.The original smith is unknown, but the weapon is covered in runes of an unknown language.The weapon was cursed by the guild who defeated Rowen and will disintegrate if it is ever brought into Rowen’s tomb.
4Ecalna, a lizard priestess, who used it in sacrifices.The weapon was forged by Ecalna herself, magically binding together tree branches into a blade (or whatever the weapon is).The weapon cannot be used to slash trees or inflict damage on nature.
5Edgar, a human merchant (or slaveowner) corrupted by his own wealth.Calimel, the elven blacksmith who manifactured the royal guard weapons, made it on commission. His signature in elven is etched on the weapon.The weapon is beautifully decorated with gemstones and the hilt or handle is veeneered in gold. It will get noticed.
6Doreen, a paladin who led a war against the undead.The weapon was gifted to Doreen by her God.The story of the weapon is long-forgotten, but recorded in annals and will be known by well-read priests at the relevant temple.
7The weapon was never owned by anyone. It was made to celebrate the 25th year of rule by an ancient king.Krugar, the head blacksmith of a dwarven forge, on behalf of the dwarven diplomatic delegation to the king.The weapon was meant to be ornamental. It is not properly balanced and a bit uncomfortable to wield. But the tempering and bladework are impeccable.
8The weapon was used by a cavalry commander in the battle of Termanov between humans and lava monsters.The “fine weapons” division of the imperial forges. It was made for regiment commanders.The weapon is particularly effective against fire creatures, and will not conduce any heat.
9Neema, a noble lady famous for her hunting prowess, who was assassinated in a palace plot.The weapon was magically forged by woodland elven tribes as a gift to Neema.The weapon can be opened up and conceals a cyphered message from Neema, her testament.
10Calghan, a farmer who ran into some fortune. He commissioned this weapon as a family heirloom.The maker is not famous, nevertheless the weapon has the hallmarks of good craftmanship and has a small sigil depicting a stag.The weapon is well made, sturdy, but needs a slight reworking to perform to its potential (e.g. temporary -1 damage)
11Remnic, an immigrant who came into the area from a distant land, escaping persecution.The weapon was made with a completely unknown technique using glass-like material, perhaps by another race.The weapon is clearly of foreign making. Some may mistake it for being acquired in looting during a war.
12Harold, a vampire who ruled the area with an iron fist. The weapon represented the unbreakable bond between Harold and a promising underling.Harold himself infused the weapon with magic when he pierced the heart of a vampire hunter.Holding the weapon enters the player in a bond with the long-dead Harold. The player will hear the vampire’s voice in his of her head, and will be intimidated (at some point) to do the vampire’s bidding.
13A shadowfell creature trying to open a rift between this world and other dimensionsThe weapon was conjured out of darkness and chaosThe weapon deals damage to the mind of the creatures it encounter (e.g. convert the regular damage type to psychic)
14Tasany, a gnome inventor in pursuit of a machine for growing steel out of rocks.Tasany made the weapon in her workshop.The weapon is the key to reactivate a mechanism in Tasany’s workshop. The workshop lies under a giant tree, and the mechanism can move its roots to make the tree walk.
15A pirate captain who could communicate with and enlist monsters on his ship. The captain stole the weapon from a nobleman and had a wizard he kept captive enchant it.The weapon is covered in notches and automatically notches kills.
16A plane travelling adventurer who had seen into the future that the player would own the weapon.The weapon was originally forged in a city outside of the material plane.The weapon marks the holder as chosen to cross through a portal.
17Nervalek, kobold shaman with a taste for the finer things in life.The weapon was bought at a brothel.The weapon glows purple when it is in the vicinity of wine.
18The weapon was part of/wielded by a golem constructed to protect a prison complex.The weapon was fashioned out of a pile of fine weapons, smelted into pure metal and magically recast into the golem by the state alchemist.The rests of the golem lie scattered in the world. Completing the sword with arms, torso and legs may bring it back.
19Calhoon, a djinn freed from its imprisonment in a library who sought to regain its power.Calhoon summoned the weapon from the desert sand.The weapon is extremely light to hold, and has an almost immaterial quality to it. It is disappearing over hundreds of years, which will happen whe Calhoon’s enchantment runs out.
20Nasha, a legendary bard, who composed the famous “ballad of the living waters”.Nasha retreived the weapon from a shipwreck while accompanying a group of lochatah on a raiding missionThe weapon is mentioned and described in a stanza of the ballad. The players or others may be familiar with it.

Climbing encounters, mishaps and hazards

The party has to reach the top of a mountain, navigating a difficult route climbing on a glacier. Ice… cold… isolation… madness.. maybe? Or maybe not. Climbing is kind of hard to DM well, honestly. I can’t say I have done a great job of it myself in the past.

“We climb the wall”. “OK, make a check”. “An 18!”. “It’s no problem for you, you zoom along and get it done”

We climb the wall”. “OK, make a check”. “A 5!”. “You find it difficult, at some point you lose grip. You take a short fall and take 1d8 damage”.

In the mountains, the biggest danger is the weather, the conditions, what happens around you. These are things that are so much more powerful than the climber, or anybody, really. Sure, a climbing mistake can happen even to a level 12 ranger. But the conditions worsening, something showing up, or some other natural or magical force working against the party while they are hanging by a rope are much more fun to navigate than a mistake.

These things- which is what is in this table- should be brought in when a check fails, or perhaps regardless of checks, for a scripted difficult section, or for something interesting anyways.

The following table contains descriptions to read to players. It somehow came easier to write in this format. I hope it can inspire a DM to design a mini-encounter or diversion during a climbing section of an ice adventure. For the players of 5e official modules (we don’t judge here), this may be used somewhere in “dragons of icespire peak” or “icewind dale: rime of the frostmaiden”.

I may have had to use this

Anyways, roll a d12.

1“As you secure the next grip and throw your climbing hook over a ledge, you feel the ice wall a few inches from your face. It glows with a deep, otherwordly, purple color. Suddenly, your hook gets swallowed by the ledge, and appears as a reflection inside the ice sheet“.
2“The climb is taking a toll on your arms and legs. Your face is getting covered in snow and you feel a numbing sensation. You look up and see that the end is in sight. However, the head of an ice goblin is poking over the top of the cliff. You can see he is up to something. After a few seconds, you see the goblin show up again, this time holding a large saw. He looks at your rope with malicious intent and begins to repel down towards your top anchor point…”
3“As you climb up, you begin to realise the wall is much frendlier than it seemed from below. Several platforms and resting points you could not see from below are on your route. When you reach one, you are surprised to find it covered in orange mushrooms that poke strong roots through the ice sheet… wait a minute. Are those spores?”
4“You continue moving up the mountain, trying to stay on a safe route. Every now and then you look at the sky, and you see clouds moving very fast across it. The weather is holding, but you don’t know for how long. Just as you think that, some light snow begins to fall. The combination of the frozen wall with the wet snow makes the surface horrible to grip. And yet, the rock just would not let you go. Suddenly, you realise that the features of this wall are actively gripping you, keeping you safe. But will they want to let you go at the end of this?”
5“You are past the midway point. You do not want to look down, but you give yourself the luxury to look to your side. About 300 feet across a traverse, you see something sticking out of the rock. It appears to be a mirror, fixed to the surface for god knows what purpose..”
6“During a difficult section of overhang, you have to pull yourself over a ledge by sheer strength. Your face comes very near the rock wall. You notice that this rock is covered in cuts and marks, as if made by a blade. Something was fighting here in the middle of a climbing wall. With a sword. But how? You feel the rock feature your are holding on beginning to move… you look up and the entire wall is shuffling. You will have to hold tight to see this through!”
7“You pull your gear up below you after securing yet another anchor point. As you pull it up, you feel sudden strong crosswinds. Your gear is swinging wildly from side to side, threatening to smash into your fellow climbers.”
8“The rock is crisscrossed by a number of small cracks. The quietness of the environment is broken up by loud, deep noises. You look in horror as the cracks begin to widen.. and widen… the pincers of a large insect1 smash through one of the openings.”
9“Below the ice you are climbing, you hear a constant flowing sound. Looking above, you see a series of stones that seem to have been fixed into the ice by someone. You continue climbing up, until you approach some of the stones. As soon as you attach one of your hooks to it, the stone rolls over and a huge spurt of hot water comes flowing from the hole, like a geyser. The ice you are secured to begins to melt….”
10“On a section of horizontal traverse, you find a series of metal poles pushed into the wall, acting as a series of secure points, or as jumping platforms. You use them to tie your rope as you move across. As you tie your rope to the first one, you hear the ice resonate with a hollow note. A crystal staircase appears from the poles, leading you up the mountain..:”
11“You swing your hook up, planting it firmly over the next ledge, beyond sight. KWOOOOOOOOOK!!! Some small rocks and branches fall over your head, the remainders of the nest of a large bird you have just smashed. You see it taking flight above you, ready to dive straight down…”
12The wall has a series of cylindrical features, lining up on top of each other. This makes the ascent relatively easy. You climb the first 6 or 7 of them, and take a short break. As you look down, you see the wall lifting itself off the ground you started from. With a thunderous noise, two giant rock columns, two legs, rip through the ground at the bottom of the climb, lifting your position. Two large sections of rock are now widening, creating a gap, to your left and right. You are resting on the spine of a huge rock golem that has just woken up…
1: You can use an Ankheg for this.

Mirror mirror on the wall….

Magical mirrors, abandoned in a dungeon, or in someone’s study. For players to interact with and puzzle over.

Roll once per column and happy holidays.

1Observe the last person that looked into the mirror.A spherical mirror projecting in all directions.
2Appear in another person’s dream.A large wooden frame lying against the wall.
3Reveal what the watcher will look like 1d12 years from now.A small handheld mirror covered in gemstones.
4A tendril reaches out of the mirror and slashes the looker.A fountain full of shimmering silvery liquid.
5Read into the mind of a person you are focusing on.A pitch black obsidian stone with inscriptions on its sides.
6Summon a ghostly version of a creature you are thinking about.A perfectly cut circle entirely made of silver,
7The mirror talks and answers one question from the looker before going dark.An hourglass of reflective dust.
8The mirror only shows a reflection if a person has committed a human sacrifice.A concave mirror in a stone frame.
9A person can reach into the mirror, but the arm comes back withered and old.A tapestry made with sillver threads.
10The mirror shows a secret passage in a wall if the looker knows a password or wears objects belonging to the owner.The pommel at the end of a hilt of a sword mising its blade.
11The mirror has several cracks. Looking into it, something that presents a threat to the looker is shown. But then the mirror cracks once more, and it shatters.A mesh of magical bamboo-like plants capable of reflecting.
12The mirror reflects only magical objects.A mirror in a hexagonal frame with a different colored gemstone at each vertex.
13Sacrificing a magical item to the mirror returns a pearl capable of reviving a party member once.A mirror hanging from the ceiling overshadowing the room.
14Looking into the mirror creates a connection with a monster who will haunt on the looker’s behalf for the next 2 days.A small mirror similar to a photo frame, that is tucked away and hard to notice.
15The mirror dresses you (not your image) up according to the fashion sense and epoch of the mirror’s owner.Water from a specific place in nature that has been moved into a container.
16The mirror is sentient. It is very lonely though. It whines and demands gifts.A spoon.
17The mirror reveals the blood running through the looker veins, unveiling his or her ancestral origins.A taxidermied monster with spherical mirrors for eyes.
18The mirror is incapable of projecting any image and will sap the willpower of anybody looking at it.A window turning into a mirror at night (or in the darkness).
19The mirror freezes an image of the looker to be used as a disguise at a later time (the looker memorizes it and can deploy it once).A firepit presenting a reflection to the looker.
20The mirror does to the looker what the looker does to it.A mirror dude, gimme a break ;)R
None of these mirrors reads the Daily Mirror.

City Watch

City guards – what are they doing?

Ah, yes. The bumbling city guard. The elite pool of citizens ensuring safety in the big city. <insert city’s name>’s finest.

City guards make for a good low-level antagonist or comedic relief moment, as Terry Pratchett knew all too well.

This table generates a platoon of city guards intent on doing something that the party can run into. These are designed to be small social encounters you get in, have a laugh or interact in some sort of way, and get out of.

I guess this is not a great table for serious, high fantasy campaigns, but some of the most memorable moments I had as a player were when the tone went from 1000 to 0 real fast, and 15 minutes of absolute nonsense followed, before getting back into adventuring or plotting on a more “serious” level. Can’t have nonsense all the time, I guess. But you need some nonsense, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it’s not all comedy here, the important thing is to have something that sparks the attention of a player and triggers an interaction. Or perhaps this is just something to provide color in the background while something else happens.

Whatever floats your boat, DM!

Roll once per column.

DiceWhat are they doing nowSomething noteworthyAttitude towards party
1Breaking into a tavern to demand protection moneyOne of the guards has a janky wooden shield made by his momFriendly
2Heading back to the garrison while ignoring pleas of helpA pair of twins is in the platoonCurious
3Hot in pursuit of a pickpocketer crashing through the partyOne of the guards is a rogue character capable of phenomenal disguises and trackingConfrontational
4Betting on a street kobold fight before breaking it upThe whole platoon is made of nonhuman racesAggressive
5Patrolling the city walls looking in the distance for some enemyThe commander shouts his orders very pompously, and the guards seem to ignore himNonstop questions
6Tailing the party undercover because they look like foreignersThe platoon has a pet manticore that is constantly sniffing people.Flirty
7Distributing little pastries through a neighborhoodThe guards are wearing regalia or ceremonial clothesDismissive
8Acting as the personal bodyguards for some merchantThe platoon has a person meticulously taking notes of everything that happensThey are in awe of such mighty adventurers
9Transporting stolen goods from between smugglers and buyersThe guards have tall halberds that are way too unwieldy for the crowded city streetsDon’t notice the party
10Inspecting wagons entering the cityOne of the guards notices the players and says “didn’t I see you at a gambler’s parlor last night?”Looking for help or clues
11Rounding up all people with crooked noses because of some weird city decreeThe platoon includes a cleric/chaplainMistake the party for someone else
12Registering and fining all donkeys and horses outside a busy tavernThe platoon commander is very superstitious and will interpret something the players do as a bad signSuspicious
13Sitting on a corner sharpening swords and polishing armor while telling exaggerated war storiesThe guards march in formation and treat the peasants very aggressivelyTriggered by some feature or characteristic of the party (race, objects they carry…)
14Investigating the scene of a crime, perhaps where something magical happenedThe platoon is on horseback (or riding some other beasts.Offering helpful advice
15Training new recruits in an archery field where the targets have emblems of some noteworthy city factionThe platoon commander is a spellcaster and will show it by creating a magical aura to disperse crowds. Confused by anything the party says
16Acting as bouncers for an expensive banquet taking place in a decadent mansionThe guards have a running bet on who can trip the most drunksImmediately referring the party to some other authority
17Tracking down the last few crates of very precious healing potions left in townThe platoon commander is very talkative and will spill secrets to the partyForcing the party to go fetch them something
18Drinking in the tavern to celebrate the retirement of a brother in armsThe platoon is an elite investigative unit on some crazy long-term huntReferring the party to some shitty inn or establishment that pays them a kickback
19Providing security for a theather play but getting too much into the plot to pay any attention to what’s going onThe platoon is a “loser squad” made up of previous prisoners serving some sort of punishment.Neutral
20Extinguishing a fire with tiny buckets of water.One of the guards is clearly going blind and the others keep pointing things out to him or herMistake the party for colleagues on a break
‘I shall deal with the matter momentarily,’ he said.

Criminal networks and gangs

Everybody needs a spicy network of criminals, cultists and the like. The important thing is to give them an agenda that is clear to the GM and needs to be discovered by the players, and some features to make it stand out. The network may be populating a dungeon-like area, over or underground, or be one of the factions in a city or location that the players have to understand and deal with. Ultimately, not all criminal networks are made for the players to “fight their way through”. They are often best used as the shadowy presence moving the strings in the world around the characters, popping in and out for specific quests. A hack and slash through bad guys is also fun, as long as it’s not a hoarde of similar-looking enemies.

In this table, the columns that flesh out the network also double as bits of information that may be revealed to the players if they ask around or overhear conversations about crimes in the area. It’s often good to make clear to the players, through NPC conversations, that these people have ears and eyes everywhere and nobody is to be trusted.

The feeling of paranoia can be used to ratchet up the tension and can create amazing moments at the table. Beware of potential “analysis paralysis” if the players decide to really not trust anybody and be extremely extremely suspicious of everything to the point that no fun is being had and players are cheesing every potentially ambiguous situation. In this case, a trap or an event that happens at them (big explosion, kidnapping of friendly NPC, etc), can set things in motion again.

Some other good tables for bandits and criminals are in the incredible Yoon Suin book, which is of course a “godfather book” (cos we are talking about criminals, get it? get it?) for procedural generation, crimes and exploration.

Most of the entries in this table are pretty “straight”, nothing too outlandish. Roll 1d20 per column.

DiceCriminal operation (discovered only through investigation)Based in.. (high DC)Masterminded by… (very high DC)Famous for/rumors (low DC)
1Smuggling magical componentsA giant underground bank vaultA captain of a ship or militiaNever committing violence on “civilians”
2Kidnapping the children of noble familiesAn invisible temple on top of a towerA sleazy politicianA rivalrly with another gang
3Doing the bidding for a bloodthirsty local lordA shipAn elemental possessed by an evil soulPutting the heads of those who cross the network on pikes
4Robberies of merchant caravansSecret chambers in the palace of a wealthy familyA super strong golem of a long-gone wizard/inventorBeing wealthy and spending lots of money around town
5Minting fake coinsA guildAn unexpectedly cunning goblin/kobold that has risen to the top of the gameRecruiting its members among barkeeps, bards and socially connected people
6Overthrowing the local governmentA local forest warded with magical glyphsA friend of the PC’s who was hiding a contract he was forced to sign with a demon/spiritLeaving a logo or a sign on the sites of their crimes
7Harvesting the power of nature for themselvesA casino or gambler’s parlourA very powerful creature capable of manipulating people (mind flayer, dragon, beholder , vampire etc)Having laid low for a while, or not reported any activity. Maybe they just went away?
8Eliminating one class/race of peopleThe lair of a beastA merchant that lives a lifestyle apparently outside his or her meansHaving a secret code or language
9Fanatical fullfilment of an ancient prophecyA library that has been overrun by a corrupt entityA local farmer who grew paranoid and erchant that lives a lifestyle apparently outside his or her meansviolent before committing to a life of crime (the Kaiser Soze)Being extremely adept at disguise
10Activate forbidden artefactsA caravan roaming from city to cityA traveller from another world who is trying to pay his way backHaving local officials in the back of their pockets
11Imposing the rule of a foreign powerA series of huts located in mountains, a secluded bay or other inaccessible regionsA living tree or a natural spirit that has resentment for humanoidsBeing very popular with farmers and poor people because of donations
12Stealing a ship of the royal navy or a giant beast/machine from the armyAn abandoned mine that they expanded into a network of tunnels under the city/locationA coven of witchesBeing the heirs of an ancient society of fighters or explorers that lost its purpose long ago
13Eliminating all forms of magicAn alchemist’s shop that acts as a frontA seemingly poor and unassuming bard/jester, who can roam undisturbedNever having confessed a crime, even under torture
14Opening a portal to another worldRuins of a manor or settlement covered in lush vegetationA child who inherited vast wealth and power from their parents and is controlled by his or her guardiansBeing aware of everybody and thing that comes in and out of the area
15Underground racing with fantastical beastsA fantastical cave with mushrooms, underground lakes and a strong magical presenceA cryptic from a morally corrupt ancient civilizationBeing capable of building hidden structures that can only be revealed by magical means
16Diverting ore for forging illegal weapons for an armyA red desent with canyons to hide, hotsprings and geysersA divine creature that is now stripped of his or her powersBeing made up largely of members of a given race or class. Which brings a stigma onto the innocents.
17Growing plantations of harmful plants Warehouses around the docks that are magically shifting or moving aroundA blacksmith driven mad by the desire to acquire the immense resources needed to forge a legendary weaponHaving recently been through a bloody internal war for succession of leadership
18Sealing the region off from the outside worldA theaterA shaman of a tribe that was long ago murdered or displaced by the local communityBeing extremely quiet and striking only at night, minimizing collateral damage
19Enslaving harmless creaturesThe barracks of a local militia, which is infiltrated by the networkA spy, diplomat or functionaryUnleashing monsters to do their bidding, using terrorist tactics
20Exploring, colonizing, and stealing artefacts from the “uncivilized” (or “civilized”) worldA valley with strongly independent but poor locals sustaining themselves on sheperding (and the criminal activity)The head of a powerful guild (mage guild, artisan guild etc) trying to secure a dominant position for its factionKnowing secret passages through the area and being seemingly capable of teleportation
“gabagool? Ova heeeeeeeh”

Portentous Portals

Most fantasy worlds include portals. Broadly speaking, they come in 3 varieties: portals to travel somewhere else in the world, two-way bridges to other dimensions or planes and one-way portals used to summon creatures, gods and monsters.

One of the biggest issues with portals, in my opinion, is that they are usually same-y and never quite manage to produce the level of amazement that they should. The characters, upon meeting a portal, are coming to the life-changing realization that interplanar, dimensional or extremely fast travel exists, and this has huge implications. Surely the characters would wonder, who can do this? Is this destroying our world? Would the gods approve? Would I be alive on the other side of it?

And yet the players, who have been reading and playing fantasy, and are accustomed to fast travel in video games, just see that big archway with ondulating energy at the end of the dungeon and think “here it is, a teleportation device”. And that is not so fun. Or maybe they just see the villain create and use one to get away in the nick of time, which should be the real meaning of the phrase “the yawning portal”.

No journey through a portal should be consequence-free. They are, after all, magical reality-bending devices.

Roll 1d12 per column. The portals in this table are mostly evil…

DiceAppearanceConsequence on the travellerAdditional twist
1A small pond with fishing rods all around it. Large glowing fish swim in the water and that teleport the person who catches them.The traveller ages 1d12 (human) years with a 50/50 chance of being older or youngerThe portal can only be crossed by multiple creatures at once
2A spiral wooden staircase going down into a thick fog.The traveller leaves a copy of him or helself behind which becomes a golem controlled by the portal itself.The portal is known by most through a prophecy, and those who cross it will not go unnoticed.
3A full plate armor suit that one has to get inside of.The traveller arrives carrying a severely debilitating disease that can be cured by doing the journey in reverse. However, the pso beware they can pack a punch.ortal relocates after transport.The portal appears shattered, broken, or in disuse, but recomposes itself for those who carry a key.
4A prisoner cage floating above the floor. Only those who have the key can travel.The portal is sentient and reports the journey to its creator, even if the creator is dead.The portal is part of a network.
5An arrow with fletching made of dozens feathers collected from monsters. Pulling each feather teleports the traveller to a destination (or summons a different monster)The portal collects a piece of soul of the traveller, stores it, and binds it to the next traveller. Whoever crosses will in turn carry a piece of a soul of a previous traveller, who may have been wicked or cursed, or may just give insights into their thoughts.Somewhere in a library, there is a log of every person or creature that has travelled through
6A vine crawling up and over a mossy wall.Travelling through the portal brings an ancient creature back into the world.Crossing into the portal causes vivid, terrifying nightmares.
7A book chained to a shelf. It has dozens of pages with names of places or monsters written in, one per page. Writing in a new page results in transport.The traveller acquires a ring on his or her index finger marking his journey through the portal. The ring cannot be removed and is immediately recognizable by others.An hourglass next to the portal slowly counts down the time until the portal disappears. It started decades or centuries ago.
8A small wooden lifeboat in the middle of the room or on land. Pulling out the oars and rowing results in transport.The traveller loses eyesight severely, and will only be able to restore his or her sight by committing a murder or another atrocious act.The portal itself is the familiar of a wizard or someone’s creature. It has allegiance and loyalty.
9A set cobblestones lying on a shelf that needs to be laid down as a road leading into a wall. There are markings on the floor of people having done that before.The portal imposes a tax on the traveller and an item he or she carries will be shattered during the journey. The portal seals shut after the journey for 2d20 days.
10A goblet filled with solid red wine, which liquefies immediately after being picked up and portals those who drink it.The journey through the portal disorients a character permanently, and he or she will no longer remember what home looks like.Travelling causes strong thunderstorms, sandstorms, or other extreme adverse weather at the destination.
11A sundial that transport whoever stands on the tip of the shadow it casts. No matter what time of the day it is, the shadow always points to noon.The first journey through the portal teaches the character a spell or a skill. All subsequent journeys curse the traveller for his or her arrogance.The journey feels instant but takes 1d8 hours in real time.
12A table with an orc corpse that has been stabbed hundreds of times in the chest and yet seems fresh and does not bleed. Pierce through its heart once more.Travelling through the portal drains spell slots and abilities for twice the normal amount of time (e.g. 2 long rests).Wild animals and creatures will be able to smell the scent of the portal on the travellers for days and they will be marked as prey.

Legends and folktales

Every area, no matter how small, has its folktales, legends and superstitions. Not only do these quirky and unique beliefs build up a shared cultural heritage for the characters inhabiting a region, they also provide fertile ground for the mythos swirling around the players. They may be used as adventure hooks, as flavour to bring life to the world, or as foreshadowing of events that will unfold and involve the characters.

The legendary dragon hiding deep in the forest may just be a wyvern. The farie collecting gold coins on the last day of winter is a bloodthirsty demon in disguise. The water spring is the opening to a huge dungeon. Folktales circulate as children stories, but they are windows into deep truths underpinning a fantasy world.

Roll 1d20 per column. Roll location if needed.

DiceStorylocationKnown and told by…
1A troll from location comes to snatch up children who stomp on antsFrozen riverelderly women
2The local location did not use to be there. It was a gift from the gods to the dynasty of the current local ruling familyNearby rolling hillsa merchant visiting the local market once a month
3One day, a summer will come. It will be so hot that will make location disappear.A birchwood forestthe local lord’s jester
4Don’t look at people’s eyes when they are toasting their drinks. It will make their soul visible to spirits from locationWaterfallAn actor who suddenly turned mute
5Deep in the lord’s castle, there is a desk with drawers full of soul contracts from hundreds of years agoHotspringsAn experienced hunter
6In location lies an ancient anvil that can be used to reforge swords from a lost eraTopaz minesA lady who owns dozens of cats
7The people here are very perceptive and can sense someone’s motives. It’s in their blood.The hunting grounds of the local castleA compulsive gambler trying to get cash for telling tales
8A long time ago, a queen went wondering in location. Every now and then, some local crazy person claims to have met her on a full moon night.A magnolia forestThe skeptical barkeep at the local inn
9The local harvesting is done 3 weeks earlier than elsewhere, since a late harvest here can trigger the onset of a period of darkness.Uninhabited nearby valleyGullible young people
10A family’s common-looking dagger could once be used to summon elementals. Artificial lake created by an ancient stone dam“How don’t you know this? Everyone knows this! Are you not from here?”
11There is a sect of goblin vampires that gathers in location. They feast on the older people of the town.Peach tree orchardsCriminals and pickpocketers
12The local location was prophesized to present an immense treasure on the first full moon eclypse. The event came and passed 40 years ago, and yet the rumor just won’t go away…Moldy swampA single family in the town passing the story down from generation to generation
13In a nearby location, there is a tree with fruits capable of polymorphing people.Ruins of an uninhabited cityA teacher
14The local town was once located in the belly of a giant sea monster. One can still find enormous teeth providing the area with strong magic when digging deep in locationLake of black waterThe local lord him or herself
15People from distant lands are hiding in location as refugees from a war. They are extremely skilled, and are hard to spot. But they will reveal themselves to children.Glacier high up in the mountainsAn old librarian
16The dreams of left handed people are messages from another plane of existenceAbandoned lighthouseIll people who have been visited by spirits
17For geneations, once a decade, orcs come at night and kidnap people carrying a certain bloodline to locationTemple of a god who is no longer worshippedA minoritarian race (e.g. dwarves in a human community)
18Location is, in fact an illusion. If only a powerful wizard could come by, he or she would reveal what is hiding in its placeA staircase ascending up a cliffOnly men or only women
19When the temperature is below freezing, the health of the town is protected by a powerful spirit living in locationFern and moss brushChildren, who forget it when they grow up
20One day, this town will birth a hero so mighty that he or she will defeat a giant in single combatFoggy moorlandA cleric
Shoutout to deep carbon observatory for one of the entries

Swamp Encounters

Swamps. Still air, still water. Predators lurking beneath the surface. Poisonous molds and mushrooms populating the trunks of trees away from the sun. A perfect hiding spot for those who do not want to be found.

Swamps are an underrated adventure setting, they are a perfect place for a journey into a dark mystery, or into the wilderness that inhabits the playing characters themselves. Things are not as they seem in the swamp.

I will be the first to admit this table is limited in its purpose: it offers only a small set of short encounters that can complement a swamp-based adventure, or populate the travels of a party through a swamp. This is by no means an attempt to flesh out a swamp setting, that would require a lot more than this small d20 table…

1A slimey tree trunk with flies flying all over it. The trunk is empty and contains a corpse wearing a rusted armor. One of his arms has been torn off by a river beast, the other wears a magical ring.
2A moldy wooden walkway across a poisonous muddy river. The bridge cracks as the playes go across it, and alerts nearby creatures.
3A group of 1d10+3 worshippers in a shack in the swamp. They are all sick with a bubonic disease, and are following a lizardfolk shaman instructions to get rid of it through sacrifice.
4A rotten carcass of an enormous crocodile. The carcass is full of venomous worms and insects (spawn of Kyuss)
5A majestic old brick mansion, covered in ferns, that has been taken over by a rot troll with his kobold minions.
6An area covered in magical fog, where visibility is limited to 10 feet. The fog is filled with spores from a corpse flower located at the center of the area.
7A quiet hunter hidden in foliage who is observing the movements of creatures in the swamp. He will ask players for help hunting down a nearby monster.
8A steep incline covered in slippery algae. On a failed dex saving throw, a player slips down a 50ft incline into viscous slimey quicksand.
9A rock formation rising from the swampy waters. On top of it, a bird predator (Wyvern or Roc, for example), is protecting its nest.
10A beautiful pool of water lilies that can be used to prepare potions.
11An old, rotten canoe laying upside down. Underneath it, a group of scared kobolds is hiding from the PCs.
12A cluster of mushrooms growing on a tree trunk. The mushrooms release spores distracting the players. A group of lizardfolk hunters uses them to set up an ambush.
13A graveyard with corroded tombstones referring to a battle between humans and creatures that happened thousands of years ago.
14A religious symbol erected on a patch of dense grass and ferns. It has a book of visitors tied to it, and frequent writings are in mysterious runes.
15A grove of vines that will try to engulf one of the players.
161d4 abandoned stilt houses. The inhabitants have left recently and in a hurry, scared of something. 3d10 worth of gold may still be found. One of the houses has a trapped door and a summoning circle on the floor.
17A moldy, humid and dark cave with russet mold covering the ceiling.
18A shack where a friendly couple is manufacturing birch tar from the nearby trees. They will offer shelter to the party.
19The players hear the booming voice of a hill/swamp/marsh giant looking for a good dinner about 200 yards away.
20A wizard who lost a duel to his/her rival and has been polymorphed into a lizardfolk. He will attempt to get the PCs to dispel magic on him.

A wizard’s study room

Libraries filled with scrolls and dusty tomes, tables covered in strange alembics, shelves with vials holding strange liquids and parts of creatures in formaldehyde. Or perhaps, mummified animals lining the walls and a weird purple goo covering the floor. A wizard’s or study is a reflection of his or her mind and plans. It may be located deep in a dungeon, or in the halls of an academic institution, or in a pocket dimension inside a yurta in the middle of the desert. A calm, peaceful place, or the result of maddening years of self-isolation on a quest for arcane power.

Roll 1d3 times for the first 2 columns to populate the room.

DiceFurnitureObjectOverall Appearance
1Book shelvesMagical mirrors and lenses capable of changing object’s and peoples’ sizes and appearanceAn elegant, old darkwood study
2Alchemy tableVials full of creatures’ noses and feetA sterile chamber made out of metals and ivory
3World and astronomical
or planar map
Scrolls written in incomprehensible languagesA room entirely made of black stone
4Arcane FireplaceCrystal globes filled with dreams and nightmaresAn ostentacious, rich room covered with frescos and gold
5Writing deskBooks containing essiccated leaves from exotic plantsA forest-like room covered in vines and branches
6WardrobeTelescopes and astrolabes that also work in reverse (distant objects get to see the observer)A peaceful light-wood room with a small patch of grass in the center
7Apothecary deskClay and metal miniature animals that can be activated by somethingDeep blue walls color this room filled with pipes and wires
8AquariumStacks of blueprints for constructing buildings that don’t obey physical lawsAn academic study with vault ceilings and comfortable sofas
9TapestryPiles of feathers of different creatures imbued with inks of fantastical colorsA dark, grotto-like chamber lit with candles and smelling like burnt flesh
10Anatomy deskAn ornate cloth that draws attention
and does not relinquish it as it draws the viewer deeper in
A long hall with stone and bronze statues of monsters and other magical beasts
11AltarDozens of pyramidal objects made of exotic woods arranged geometrically. They glow until one is movedAn anatomy theater repurposed for magical study
12Goldberg MachineA shadow for an object or person that is not thereA room with walls made of blackboard, covered in chalk writings
13Golem podsAn hourglass percolating grains of a purple substanceA giant map room that could belong to a military general, complete with full armors
14Elemental enginesLeather skins carved with tribal ghlyphsA desert oasis, with sand as floor, and weird illusory palm trees
15Viscous goo study stationNotes taken on an interplanar or fantastical journey with sketches of creaturesA room covered in gelly-like blue and green substances, with books and scrolls sticking out of the goo
16Steam observation chamberHundreds of mortars and pestles filled with powders and solid materials used in spellcraftingA room with multiple teleportation circles and artefacts from foreign lands
17Magical item crafting fumehoodCubes than when pressed change the room color and smellA chamber that was formerly a place of worship, whose energy has been harvested for the wizard’s arcane study
18Summoning circleA dagger that looks like solidified magma but is freezing cold to touch A room that may be mistaken for an architect’s study, with model buildings and terrain displayed on tables
19Window into the worldA bone flute with a gust of wind trapped inside of itA velvet red room used to harvest the power of lust for magical summoning
20Astronomical observatoryCopper and brass pipes making eerie noisesAn illusory cavern with a tranquil lake, stalactites and rock formations

Sleazy politicians

Politicians. Can’t live with them, won’t get to the levers of power without them. Our adventures, be it in a fantasy, futuristic, or other settings, often encounter these figures. The heroes try to talk some sense into them while they ignore obvious threats to the community. Or perhaps they need to grease their hands so that they turn their eyes away when a precious Fabrege egg goes missing from the local museum. Or yet still, they are powerless middlemen in negotiations between factions splitting the region apart.

Whatever flavor and degree of sleaziness your adventure may need, here is a random table for it. Some of these politicians will be inept red herrings for players to run into, some others capable plotters and schemers. Almost none of them can be “just the guy we needed”.

Roll the dice once per column.

DiceFirst impressionFlawWill…Desires
1A young, ruthlessly ambitious manis in debt with criminal gangsTake the players’ money and pocket itInformation on the PCs
2An older lady, who has been navigating the halls of power for decadeshas a gambling addictionAgree to do what the players ask, but do the oppositeA political opponent to be hit
3A naive newcomer to the city from a poorer regionalways spills secretsAsk the players to do something for him first. And then ask for another thing.Scandalous rumours about a rival
4A foreign diplomat of some statureis completely and utterly incompetentSend hitmen after the playersMoney
5A businessman who has entered into politics with the notion of “running things like a business”talk behind peoples’ backs despite seeming niceInitially work with the players, then report them to authoritiesAccess to military intelligence
6A man always taking the unpopular position in every argumenthas his/her hands in several business unbeknonst to othersDo what the players ask, on a condition they join his/her factionA powerful artefact or instrument
7A learned scholar who does not understand the will of the peopleis plotting to take over his/her faction by leaking scandalous rumors about the faction headOnly do what the players ask if they reveal compromising secrets about themselvesTo be named as the beneficiary of the inheritance of an old rich person in town
8A wannabe tyrant and control freakHas an adviser who is secretly controlling him/herSecretly seek to have the players exiledTo be considered just despite his/her actions
9A lady who always talks as if she is giving a speechIs losing his/her mental faculties or is senileForce them to supply at shops with inferior products that he receives kickbacks fromA rise to a more prestigious position
10A middle aged man concerned only about financehas close ties to the military and will always choose the violent course of action even when warned against itForce the players to smuggle compromising product on behalf of a gangTo be idolized by the people
11An old, grizzled politician that has stayed in power by expertly switching sidesIs perpetually changing mindSell the players out to their enemiesTo lead an army in combat despite being completely incompetent
12A former military person who is keen to bring the lesson of the battlefield to politicsHas delusions of grandeurForm a coalition with other sleazy politicians to stop the PCTo have songs and poems written in his/her name
13An extremely religious person who has issues of faith at heartBelieves the current generation is morally corrupt and would like to seetighter disciplineSend creepy love letters to one of the PCsFor his/her children to obtain political positions too
14A loquacious bullshitterIs plotting for the return of an old dictator/tyrantTry to take full credit for the players’ actions and discredit them in the public eyeTo forge a pact with dark forces
15A paranoid former secret agent who talks in metaphors and codeSyphons money from the city to fuel his careerImmediately go public with anything the players told him/herTo continue acting normal despite facing a rising threat
16A saleswoman who will fiercely oppose any suggestion that something is wrongThinks the end justifies the means. Always.Use religion or business to put obstacles in the players’ wayFor people in his/her neighborhood to be richer, at the cost of everyone else
17A man calmly in control of the office/committee/fiefdom/domain he has power overIs an incredible sloth and will be easily corrupted with foodPretend to be extremely busy and do what the players ask only when it is convenient or too lateTo be seen as the person who “defined an era”
18A quiet person, only speaking about what is commonly known, but letting know he/she knows much moreUses his political clout to shield is criminal double lifeMeekly put forward the players suggestions only to be ignored by everyoneTo put his/her name on anything and everything.
19A restaurant owner who has become a politician through the goodwill of his customers and has a good word for everyoneIs completely controlled by a faction or businessCompletely misunderstand what the players want and do something completely unrelatedImmortal life
20An entertainer that got into politics and has an entourage of people talking for him or herDenies even basic facts about realityShow up after two weeks, having done nothing, saying the task is accomplished and asking for moneyFor his/her faction to be in charge of critical things (food/water supply, defense, artefacts or science) at any cost

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