The Wandering Winter Forest

Today’s box-text is a mysterious winter forest. Sorry for the slow update, holidays always hit you fast. I will be trying to return to my normal once a week updates soon!


Cold, bright light dances through the snowy forest, and you have to squint your eyes to avoid being blinded. Icicles hang from the branches and shine with a false warmth, but the cold air bites at your face reminding you its a trick. The sounds of your breath and steps fight to overcome the silence which crowds in on you, but the snow muffles them. The snow is so deep you often look down at your feet concentrate on your steps, when you look up you swear the trees look different than they should. Sometimes they are enormous, pressing in on you. Sometimes they are slender saplings far apart.  You pass a tree with an unusual knot shaped like an exotic animal. You pass another tree with the same knot within ten minutes. Then another.

Ideas for the Winter Wandering Forest:

  • Time travel. The forest wanders through time, people in the forest may find themselves within any time of the forests existence. When you exit the forest, you exit at whatever time you are currently in the forest. This can be a great way to time travel, but very unpredictable.
  • The forest is sentient and moves around to get people lost.
  • It’s always winter in the forest, no matter what season it is elsewhere.
  • The knotted tree is the spirit of the forest.
  • The knotted tree is a stalking creature.



Meeting the Nomadic Queen

Just one ‘box-text’ description this week. I was planning on doing a few ‘Meeting Nobility’ box-texts, but then started working on a Halloween Adventure. If you have any ‘nobility’ scenes you’d like to see me write about, please put them in the comments.

Lines of black tents crouch low in the desert sands, the roofs of each sagging upon their supports; one tent toward the center of the encampment towers above the rest. From a distance, the tents look abandoned aside from some small black goats. Inside the tall tent, however, many people in billowing black dress lounge on low couches covered in colorful cushions. Rugs completely cover the sandy ground. An updraft sweeps through the tent and through the tent’s roof, providing much needed relief from the heat. On the finest couch sits a woman whose black dress is embedded with golden thread shimmering even in the dim light. White diamonds and gold hang heavily from her ears, fingers and neck. She holds a long pipe in one hand and with her other, sips from a dainty cup smelling of strong coffee.

New New Tinkertown

Here are five ‘box-text’ descriptions for the town of New, New Tinkertown, a technologically-forward city that acts as a magnet for inventors. This town was designed by Eric Lochstampfor, and you can find his full design layout here. His idea was expanded upon with permission for this post.

The purpose of ‘box-text’ descriptions is to set the scene by reading them aloud during your game.

Center Town

The main business and tour district.

“Welcome to Center Town!” loudly proclaims the giant sign atop New New Tinkertown’s Grand Pavilion. Under the pavilion, an automaton band continuously plays the latest hit tunes, although it’s hard to hear with all the other sounds competing for attention. People rush by in vehicles of all sorts: odd two-wheeled ‘cyclers,’ golem carriages, even giant kites which soar through the air. Inventors’ contraptions whirl, blink and dance outside the shops to lure customers inside.

The Burn

An area abandoned after a Tinker’s invention violently exploded.

While a few steps away the streets hum with traffic, here not even a stray haunts the burned-out ruins. Continue reading “New New Tinkertown”

Three Libraries

Happy Labor Day! Today is a short post, just three libraries:

Grand Library

Whispers echo off all the walls of the grand library: a huge column lined with shelves upon shelves of books. A pinpoint of light shines down from the glass-dome ceiling. In the middle of the floor, surrounded by a low-banister gaps an open pit. More bookshelves line its side, descending into the dark. Librarians at a central desk use summoning spells to move to the books between the shelves and patrons’ hands. The books’ rustle in the air as they move so that the whole library sounds like a flock of birds in flight.

Hidden Library in the Tundra

Only a simple stack of rocks with a wood door marks the library’s entrance on the tundra. Opening the door reveals a well-lit staircase leading far beneath the ground. After traveling for ten minutes, you reach the library’s main chamber. Cool air flows from the many passageways which branch from here. Shelves chiseled directly into the cave walls hold an array of books and scrolls.

Library Ruins

Water drips onto the rotting books. “Books” being a generous term for the piles of rotting pulp sprouting mushrooms in this forgotten library. Under the constant sound of water, you can hear the scurrying of bugs and….perhaps larger creatures. But the ancient librarians had kept a few books safe beneath glass displays or locked away in special chambers. And a few books were lucky – hidden in spots that stayed dry.

Adventure Prompt: Part 2 of The Crystal Dust Road – The Disappearing Caravans

I’ve written this adventure prompt to continue the adventure I started in this post. I am using the Dungeon World system, but you could adapt this for any system.

Your party has traveled to a well-known trade stop on the Crystal Dust Road, Stone Fort,  where the merchant’s guild is offering a big reward for solving the mystery of disappearing caravans. Have your party introduce themselves. Then ask why each party member wants to solve the mystery (or just win the reward), how (or if) they know the other party members and why they are working together.

Suggested Bonds:

_________ and I have collected many a bounty together before, but I still don’t trust them.

I’ve heard rumor of _________’s investigative skills, I hope to learn from them.

_______ is just in it for the money, I will show them there is more to life.

_________ seems like a greenhorn, they better not get in my way.

Once you’ve settled all that, read the following outloud:

Wagons heavily laden with valuable crystal dust rumble along the cobbled streets. Now and then a small puff of dust escapes, contributing to the build-up of dust which gives the whole town a  faint glimmer. The wagon drivers shout at pedestrians to get out of the way, who in turn shout back to get out of their way. Merchants hawk their goods from wooden stands, their buckets brimming with all magical necessities such as siren feathers, newt eyes, and mermaid scales. In stone buildings painted in dizzying patterns, richly-robed merchant sell the more valuable items the discerning wizard requires. 

A Reward poster lies on the small café table in front of you.  Even though you’ve been sitting for only a few minutes, the crystal dust is already scratching your throat and eyes. The poster reads:

“REWARD: Ten Wagons of Crystal Dust or its Equivalent in Coin to Whomever Can Solve the Problem of the Disappearing Caravans. Inquire with the Merchant’s Guild for More Information.”

The next section includes some light descriptions of the town and the people the PCs might encounter. Let your PCs explore, and don’t be afraid to  let them go ‘off-script’

Around the Town of Stone Fort

Population: 15,000

Geographical size: Roughly 3 mile square

Economy: Trade Center

This a mid-sized to large town. Any common items can be bought, and a few rarer items.

People to Encounter:

The outdoor stands: The merchants at this level do not belong to the guild and hence do not know much beyond the fact caravans have been disappearing and there is an award.

Suggested Names: Gligee Potionbrewer, Pan Hawker, Selma Hexenhammer

The wagons: Most wagon drivers are too busy to talk to the PCs and will ignore them. However, there is one caravan in town which is getting ready to leave and will allow the PCs to travel with them.

Suggested Names: Gruf Oxmaster, Ruby Whip

NPC: Kari Undergem, the wagon master. While she is not a merchant, and therefore not in a guild, a guild member has  hired her caravan. She has heard rumors that the caravans are not lost, but taken, their occupants murdered or enslaved. She is nervous about the trip, and willing to let the PCs accompany her caravan.

The indoor shops: Almost all indoor merchants are part of the guild and can give the PCs a bit more detail on the caravans. They know disappearance started happening  6 months ago, and are almost always along a one mile stretch of road. The Guild sent scouts to the area, but so far whenever scouts watch, no caravans are attacked. The scouts also searched the surrounding area, but found no signs of activity.

Suggested Names: Hittie Gold, Clavyo Richmound, Xan Coinbags

Any other townsperson: For the most part, anyone else the PCs talk to knows very little information. Multiple rumors abound about what is happening to the caravans.

Suggested Names: Timur Drop, Gamzee Brave, Rosewater Smiles

The Merchant’s Guild: This location is easily found by asking any towns person or by walking into the biggest, shiniest building with the engraved sign “The Merchant’s Guild.” If the PCs enter this building read the following out load:

The words “Merchant’s Guild” are chiseled above an immense open doorway. A mosaic caravan scene surrounds the doors. As you walk in, the caravan imagery continues, bringing wares to a mosaic marketplace which covers the entire back wall. The masterpiece dwarfs a simple wood desk where a gnome sits cleaning out his ears with a stick.

NPC: Rydarcargemurlite (Rydar for short): A male gnome with the tendency to forget what he’s talking about. He knows the following about the missing caravans, but besides being forgetful, he’s tired of explaining it to every kid who thinks they can win the reward:

  • The caravans are often found intact, but the caravan members gone.
  • Bodies are rarely recovered, when found, they are brutally torn apart and partially eaten.
  • Large caravans are never attacked, but small trinkets are often missing.
  • Caves riddle the cliffs where the caravan has disappeared.
  • There is a massive and ancient graveyard near to where the caravans disappear.

Continue the story in Part 3

Three Inns/Taverns and One Coffee house

Coffeehouse – Small – Urban

Stacks of tobacco and coffee crates line the perimeter of a small corner store. A few patrons stand around outside, chomping on their pipes and staring at the passing pedestrians. Inside, the smell of coffee permeates everything. Rows of long tables and benches sit under white-washed walls.

Luxury Inn or Tavern – Large – Urban

Elaborate scenes from local lore fill the walls and ceilings of this grand tavern. Balconies line the open atrium, which is topped with a colorful stained glass skylight. Most impressive is the gigantic keg dominating the center of the tavern. From its spout, beer pours into a huge pool. An immense rack houses mugs for any patrons who wish to partake.

Road Stop Inn or Tavern – Small – Rural

From afar, the place looks abandoned with its rotting fence and crumbling walls. A closer inspection reveals the inn is open. A former room with two of its walls missing is now an outdoor patio. Food smells waft from inside and a small, but freshly painted, sign reads “Open.”

Seedy Inn or Tavern – Small – Urban
One could easily miss this small tavern tucked away in a side alley. Boards cover half the windows and graffiti coats every surface. Luckily, someone had the foresight to put the tavern’s name on a carved wooden board, so it could be read even through multiple layers of graffiti.

Four Towns

Box-text descriptions of four towns.

Town – Small – Rural

Amidst flat pastures and fields stands a small town surrounded by a slumping wall of dried logs.  A small drawbridge extends across a foul-smelling moat to the town’s only entrance.  Poorly-constructed wooden houses line the moat’s inner bank, serving as a kind of interior wall. Clothing lines drape from the houses to the outer wall.  Now and then a resident leans out a window and dumps the contents of a chamber pot into the stagnant water.

Town  – Recent Catastrophe (fire)

Black smoke still hangs in the air, but the fire has reduced most houses to smoldering ruins. Towns people rush to free survivors from the debris.  White cloths cover the dead, while the injured lie on stretchers, in too much pain to move. Some scream, while others mutter to themselves. One of the still-standing buildings sways with a horrible wrenching sound. People shout as the whole building crashes to the ground, burying whatever lay beneath it.

Town – Urban – Nautical

Giant mangrove trees anchor themselves in the brine along the coast. Their roots rise up high enough in the air to allow ships to pass underneath, and then plunge down deep into the muddy waters. Upon the land created by the tangled root system shacks cling. The middle-class’s dwellings lines the roots themselves, and in the upper branches, the well-to-do’s homes perch like over-sized bird nests.

Town – Industrial

Noxious fumes pollute the air around the town with a hazy smog. A merry stream skips toward the town from the surrounding meadow, only to be imprisoned by stone once inside. Workers dump the waste products from their various trades into the water, turning it into a sludgy stew. Most people wear cloths over their mouths to guard against directly inhaling the poisons, but many simply take the risk and wear nothing.