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Slayers of the Great Serpent: A Fantasy Campaign in 5 Parts

A complete 20-level campaign for Pathfinder and 4E. 'Slayers' is a heroic saga that recaptures the language of fantasy and myth.

Slayers of the Great Serpent: A Fantasy Campaign in 5 Parts

A complete 20-level campaign for Pathfinder and 4E. 'Slayers' is a heroic saga that recaptures the language of fantasy and myth.

$2,431
pledged of $4,500pledged of $4,500 goal
35
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Sat, February 2 2013 11:39 PM UTC +00:00

About

Origin

This fantasy roleplaying campaign is inspired by the Dreamlands stories of H.P. Lovecraft, the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, the works of Romantic poets like Coleridge and Byron, and the folktales of cultures the world over. These influences combine to create adventures that recapture the language of fantasy and myth.

The vision behind Slayers of the Great Serpent is about making something that truly fits the definition of the word epic. It is about creating a story of great heroes versus a terrifying monster, but also about making a world that is majestic and awe-inspiring. What I envision is a quest that requires the adventurers to undertake a lengthy and harrowing journey through unknown lands, knowing only that their destination lies to the distant east, beyond the borders of the legendary kingdom of Xi.

Update-Anyone who pledges at the $150 tier or higher will get a T-shirt featuring art from the books. It reads, "I Slew the Great Serpent." The shirt will be delivered with the final installment of the series.

A Twenty-Level Campaign in Five Parts

This campaign subscription is comprised of five linked adventures. Each module in the series will be at least one-hundred pages in length.

I: To the Edge of the Map

The adventurers hear of a powerful and tremendous evil that is stirring on the other side of the world. All they know of the Great Serpent is that it sleeps in an unknown country far to the east of distant and exotic Xi. The heroes quest forth with only a vague notion that somewhere beyond the Forest of Night there is an ocean and a port city named Syrn, where hopefully someone will know the way to the splendid and magnificent land of Xi. They face many hardships as they cross steep mountains and freezing plains on the way to the forest, all the while being harassed by agents of a vile cult that worships the Eater of Worlds.

The Cult of the Destroyer

II: Beyond the Forest of Night

Emerging from the treacherous Forest of Night, the adventurers must traverse an impassable river gorge, an effort complicated by the fact that the bridge castle guarding the only crossing is under siege. They also learn that Syrn is on the other side of a dreadful and notorious landscape known as the Swamp of Woe and Lost Hope. The only living person to enter the swamp and make it out again is now unjustly incarcerated in the infamous Prison at Burning Claw, where the heroes may be tempted to rescue him. Surviving these dangers, the adventurers make it to Syrn, where a sinister carnival and a shady sea captain further complicate the journey.

III: The Quartz Ocean

Setting sail, the party visits many strange islands and sees incredible things, including the fabled City of Forbidden Pleasures. A shipwreck leaves the heroes stranded on a dangerous tropical island. When the party makes it out to sea again they are picked up by a merchant ship of Xi and taken to the Imperial capitol city.

IV: Fabulous and Mystical Xi

Courtly intrigue and games of power intrude as the adventurers seek the aid of the Xian emperor, who agrees to help should the heroes go on a quest for him. The party rescues his majesty's illegitimate daughter from an evil spell caster who has trapped her in the Land of Dreams Within Dreams. The emperor reveals to them the location of the ancient and storied Library at the Top of the World, where they may learn of the location of the Great Serpent’s country. Those who worship the monstrous snake raise an army of seven nations and attack the party.

V: The Heart of the World

The quest takes the heroes to the island of Ob Uk Re, where they seek out a reclusive tribe known to trade there. The party must barter with the tribe for a ride back to their homeland, a jungle realm to the south and east. After crossing trackless badlands and the volcanic Gates of Fire, the heroes find and do battle with the monstrous serpent known as the Eater of Worlds.

The Story of this Tale

The project had its conception as a campaign that I was planning to run with my long-time gaming group. I wanted to do something daring and unexpected, but also classic. It was an entire twenty-level campaign done as a single epic quest: an effort to find and slay a terrible, world-shattering monster before it awakens. I wanted to make a story about humble would-be heroes taking on a daunting and seemingly impossible challenge, knowing only that they must set themselves to the task and find some way of accomplishing it.

After splitting the campaign into five parts, I began to work on all of them simultaneously. At this point I was mostly worried about working the kinks out of the story, making sure that the obstacles that the party faced would have enough variety to fill twenty full levels. I also wanted the players to always feel as if they were making progress toward their long-term goal when they faced a short-term challenge. The idea wasn't to have a bunch of random encounters and strung-together incidents; the idea was to build a compelling narrative about people on a quest. It was at this stage that I realized that an epic storyline does not have to be complicated. Simple stories can be the most compelling of all. The Odyssey is about a man trying to get home to his wife. Star Wars is about a young knight who rescues a princess from the black knight's fortress. Tolkien wrote volumes about a group of people dropping a ring into a volcano. My story would be about killing a REALLY big snake.

However, it was not until I began crafting the world of this campaign and writing the read aloud text for the different adventures that I really felt as if I was on to something special. I attempted to write read aloud text that captured the language of an epic novel or narrative poem without sounding cheesy or long-winded. You know what, I think I did it. I had decided at this point to share the campaign with the wider world. I came to kickstarter for funding because I was determined to create the best possible campaign possible, one that would be breathtaking and memorable for the groups that played it.

Sneak Peak (Spoilers)

Sample Encounter (from Part I: To the Edge of the Map)

Pathfinder

Throne Room (CR 4)

When the PCs enter the chamber, read the following:

The walls of this high-ceilinged cave are completely blanketed by the ever-present cobwebs. Egg sacks embedded in the walls pulse with unseen life. Only the very center of the chamber is untouched by the layers of webbing. Here rests a raised pedestal of finely hewn stone, and atop that is a glorious throne carved from a block of solid obsidian. Occupying this ebony throne is the skeleton of the dwarven king, adorned in armor and crown. A jeweled sword rests in his right hand; a broken mandible is clutched in the other.

This chamber is part of the network of natural caves once occupied by the dwarves. The ceiling is 25' tall. The apex of the room is occupied by a vertical shaft; its lower opening is sealed with a trapdoor of webbing. This area is sealed from the outside and is pitch black. Bringing torches or lanterns into the room provides dim light. The thick webbing on the floor makes this entire area difficult terrain.

A DC 22 Perception check allows a character to notice that the spider webs are thicker and more tightly woven at the very top of the chamber.

Creature: The throne room is inhabited by The Silk Spinner, a primal elder among the spider-kind. During the dwarven keep’s fall to whatever forces assaulted it from below, this creature made its way up from the cavernous depths to claim the fortress as its nesting grounds. Whether The Silk Spinner was brought up as part of this army or simply followed in its wake is unknown. Far more than a simple arachnid, the ancient mother-spider is clever enough to realize that humanoid prey is often tempted by the shiny objects in the center of its favorite hunting chamber. The spinner is the size of a small horse and covered in black bristles. The creature’s right mandible is missing, the price of its victory over the dwarven king.

When the PCs enter the chamber, The Silk Spinner is resting in the covered crawlspace at the top of the room. It waits until the party is distracted by loot before stealthily lowering itself from its hiding spot.

Trap: The king’s throne is cursed and will toy with the mind of anyone who seeks to steal from its deceased former occupant.

THE SILK SPINNER CR 3
XP 800
N Large vermin
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.; Perception +8

DEFENSE
AC 21, touch 16, flat-footed 14 (-1 size, +7 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 38 (4d8+20)
Fort +9, Ref +8, Will +5;
Immune mind-affecting effects; Resist acid 5, cold 5, electricity 5; SR 6;
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
Melee bite +6 (1d8 plus poison +8)
Ranged web +10 (DC 12, hp 4)
Space 5 ft.Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks Death from Above (The Silk Spinner deals double damage on a successful charge attack).
STATISTICS
Str 19, Dex 25, Con 20, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 10;
Base Atk 3; CMB 8; CMD 18
Skills Climb +20, Perception +8, Stealth +11; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception, +4 Stealth (+8 in webs), +16 Climb
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Poison (Ex) Bite-injury; save Fort DC 18; frequency 1/round for 4 rounds; effect 1d2 Strength damage; cure 1 save.

TACTICS

During Combat The Silk Spinner waits in the crawlspace above the chamber until the PCs come under the influence of the ebony throne. Once its prey is distracted, the spinner stealthily descends into the throne room, and attacks the foe it judges to be the weakest physically. If its hiding place is discovered, the spinner immediately flies into battle and attacks the creature closest to it.

Morale The Silk Spinner fights to the death.

THE OBSIDIAN THRONE CR 1
XP 400

Type magical; Perception DC 26; Disable Device DC 26

EFFECTS

Trigger a creature attempts to remove an item from the fallen king’s body

Effect any creature within 15 feet of the ebony throne must make a DC 11 Will save or succumb to the influence of the throne. Creatures suffering from this effect are overwhelmed with the desire to possess the fallen king’s crown, sword, or another item. Those who are in the grip of avarice will go to any reasonable length to obtain the object of their desires.

If the only way to gain possession of said object is to resort to lengths that a character would find highly objectionable (such as stealing for a lawful or good character), that character may make a second saving throw to counter the throne’s influence. This trap’s magic will not compel a creature to do something that it is vehemently opposed to, so a character affected by this trap will not murder a comrade in order to gain the desired object, but he or she may argue, quarrel, or (for some characters) steal in order to get it. If an influenced creature is attacked or senses danger, this effect ends immediately.

Treasure: The body of the fallen king is still in possession of his majesty’s greatest treasures. The following items can be gained by looting the corpse: the king’s armor is a suit of dragonhide plate, the king’s blade is a cold iron longsword, masterwork, and on his arms he wears a set of +1 bracers of armor. The king’s crown is a simple adamantine band; its center piece is a rough cut fire opal surrounded by amber and shards of ruby (500 gp).

Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition

Throne Room

Encounter Level 4 (850 XP)

SETUP

The Silk Spinner

The Obsidian Throne

This chamber was once the throne room where the master of this hall held court. It is now the home of an ancient creature known as The Silk Spinner, a primal elder among the spider-kind. During the dwarven keep’s fall to whatever forces assaulted it from below, this creature made its way up from the cavernous depths to claim the fortress as its nesting grounds. Whether The Silk Spinner was brought up as part of this army or simply followed in its wake is unknown. Far more than a simple arachnid, the ancient mother-spider is clever enough to realize that humanoid prey is often tempted by the shiny objects in the center of its favorite hunting chamber.

When the PCs enter the chamber, The Silk Spinner is resting in the covered crawlspace at the top of the room. It waits until the party is distracted by loot before stealthily lowering itself from its hiding spot.

When the adventurers reach this room, read:

Branching out from the barracks room is a tunneled-smooth corridor thick with the ever-present cobwebs. The corridor leads you to a high-ceilinged cave whose walls are completely blanketed by the stuff; egg sacks embedded in the walls pulse with unseen life. A raised pedestal of finely hewn stone sits in the center of the room, and atop that is a glorious throne carved from a block of solid obsidian. Occupying this ebony throne is the skeleton of the dwarven king, adorned in armor and crown. A jeweled sword rests in his right hand; a broken mandible is clutched in the other.

Perception Check

DC 26: Peering up through the failing light, you see the walls of the cave slope upwards to form a high peak some twenty-five feet above the floor. You notice that he spider webs are thicker and more tightly woven at the very top of the chamber.

The Silk Spinner
Large natural beast (spider)

Level 3 Solo Skirmisher
750 XP

HP 188; Bloodied 94

Initiative +7

AC 17; Fort 18; Ref 19; Will 17

Perception +9

Speed 6, climb 6 (spider climb)

tremor sense 5

Resist 5 poison

Saving Throws +5 Action Points 2

Traits

Soft Fall

The spinner ignores the first 30 feet of falling damage.

Standard Actions

Bite (poison) ♦ At-will

Attack: Melee; +8 vs AC
2d6 + 3, and the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage and is slowed (save ends both)

Death from Above (poison) ♦ Recharges on 5-6

The silk spinner shifts 6 squares and makes a bite attack. On a hit it deals an extra 1d6 damage and knocks the target prone.

Move Actions

Leap ♦ Recharges on 3-6

The spinner shifts 10 squares.

Skills Athletics +11; Stealth +12

Str: 17 (+4)
Con: 15 (+3)

Dex: 18 (+5)
Int: 3 (-3)

Wis: 14 (+3)
Cha: 8 (+0)

Alignment Unaligned

The Silk Spinner is a spider the size of a small horse. Its body is covered in black bristles. The creature’s right mandible is missing, the price of its victory over the dwarven king.

The Obsidian Throne     Level 1 Warder

Trap                                 XP 100

The center of this room is occupied by a raised pedestal containing a throne carved from solid black stone. The magical qualities of the obsidian throne cause nearby people to fall under the spell of unreasoning and grasping covetousness.

Trap: The throne is covered in magic runes and sacred symbols that unleash their magic whenever someone tries to steal from the dead king.

Perception

·No check is needed to see the throne or the carvings on its surface.

Trigger: The throne’s magic activates whenever a character attempts to take one of the remove one of the treasures from the king’s body.

Attack ◊ Psychic

Opportunity ActionBlast 3

Target: Each creature in blast.

Attack: +5 vs. Will

Hit: 3 psychic damage, and the target must spend its next standard action trying to obtain the dwarven king’s crown, sword, or another treasure in the room, even if it means arguing with, stealing from or grappling with an ally (save ends).

Counter Measures

Targets automatically save against the psychic effect if they are attacked or sense danger.

TACTICS

The Silk Spinner waits in the crawlspace above the chamber until the adventurers come under the influence of the ebony throne. Once its prey is distracted, the spinner stealthily descends into the throne room, and attacks the foe it judges to be the weakest physically. If its hiding place is discovered, the spinner immediately flies into battle and attacks the creature closest to it. The Silk Spinner fights to the death.

Arcana Check

DC 20: The polished black throne bears an intricate series of mystical sigils and arcane seals. This enchantment seems to be designed to grant the person occupying this throne the ability to project his or her emotions upon others.

FEATURES OF THE AREA

Illumination: Darkness. This area is sealed from the outside and is pitch black.

Webs: A thick layers of cobwebs covers the entire room except for the throne; all squares in this area are difficult terrain.

Trap: The obsidian throne bears a curse that unleashes the forces of greed and envy within those who seek to defile the king’s final resting place. The Silk Spinner uses the discord caused by the throne to distract anyone foolish enough to explore the fallen keep.

Ceiling:This vaulted chamber has a ceiling that is 25 feet high at the center. The apex of the room is occupied by a vertical shaft; its lower opening is sealed with a trapdoor of webbing.

Treasure: The dwarven king’s right hand holds a +2 magical longsword. On his body he wears a suit of +1 plate armor, a pair of gauntlets of ogre power, and a set of bracers of the perfect shot. His crown is a simple adamantine band; its center piece is a rough cut fire opal surrounded by amber and shards of ruby. The right buyer might pay as much as 250 gp for this treasure.

Read Aloud (from Part I: To Edge of the Map)

The exhausted rider stumbles into the great hall and takes a cup of water, greedily washing it down. The water is quickly followed by a goblet of wine that disappears in like fashion. The stranger addresses the room and says, "I apologize for interrupting your festivities and riding up to your gate in such a dramatic fashion. My men and I are on a mission, one I adopted from another knight, a woman from a distant land who was a stranger to me. She was the last of her party and near death herself when we found her. I knew nothing of this woman. Nonetheless, by the conviction and fear I saw in that knight's eyes as she lay dying, I knew that I must carry on her mission, carrying the brave knight's message as far as my will can carry me."

"I will tell you of this valiant knight's herald, but first I must ask that children and the faint at heart be removed from the room at once, for I have come to tell you of an evil so powerful that merely to think of it is enough to invite it to haunt your nightmares. Speak its name in vain, and it will send plagues of vermin and dangerous creatures to torment you. If you should actively work against this evil, the very beasts of the world will assail you with shocking viciousness and unnatural creatures will seek you out."

He pauses to catch his breath, wearily the foreign knight continues, "I have come seeking heroes. That was the lady knight's message. I have come to warn you of the evil that is known as the Destroyer, the Great Serpent, and the Eater of Worlds. From prehistoric times the serpent has come, yet even after untold millennia, its actions still scar the cultures of the Eastern tribes and among pagans snakes are still worshipped to this day. Indeed, there are those who claim that this foe is a dark and terrible god in its own right. Another legend that the knight told me spoke of an ordinary snake that happened upon a hidden vale where the gods were reveling, and stole from them the secrets of the universe. Being a simple creature, it used this knowledge to form a simple plan; eat and grow larger. It then consumed many creatures in blood sacrifice, a ritual meant to ensure that it would never stop growing in size and power. The legend said that it was not long before the snake was of such might that nothing could stop it from eating at will."

"Some legends claim that the terrible serpent consumed the lost city of Urx, others say that it was the cause of the great calamity that destroyed the Empire of the Sun Priests. In the eastern lands, many are such legends that speak of the great beast, and all note how it sleeps in an unknown country, one that lies far to the east of fabulous and mystical Xi, a legendary land that is said to be on the other side of the Quartz Ocean. These folktales never fail to mention the seven signs that are sure to arise to mark the awakening of the beast, a time when the Eater of Worlds should once again cause the very earth to tremble with its might."

Solemnly, the road-worn knight bows his head and drops his voice to a mere whisper. "When the signs of the Great Serpent's return began to appear, when reports from the east began to match the ancient prophesies, a party was assembled to seek out the Destroyer and strike it dead while it still slept. The knight whose burden I now bear told me how a prince of the Spice Islands brought together a band of warriors, including veterans of foreign wars who knew well the jungles surrounding distant Xi. Also with him were experienced hunters of dire beasts, along with many porters, craftsmen, and sailors. Over a century strong were they when they left port in three mighty ships, fully outfitted with rations and material for the journey."

His voice goes even deeper as he continues, "She said the people waited over a year for their return. Finally, long after all hope had been lost, a merchantman flying the colors of Xi docked in the Spice Islands. There were only a handful of survivors. It is said that some of them took one look at the beast and went blind, and now they only speak of an endless desert waste that no life can tolerate. Others among their number have gone mad, and now rave ceaselessly about the end of the world."

The messenger stands up and thumps his mailed gauntlet against his breastplate. "I come seeking heroes! After the failure of the Spice Island party, messengers were sent in every direction. Word is being spread by land and sea. Brave and hearty souls are needed to cross the vast ocean, travel to the distant and exotic east, and from there seek the location of the mysterious country where the Destroyer dwells. Heroes are needed to find this monster before it wakes and strike it dead!"

Read Aloud (from Part III Fabulous Xi) -

Upon the break of the new day, you hear a sailor give a joyous shout in his strange native tongue, and at last you spy the fabled shores of legendary and mystical Xi.

At the level of the water there is a large harbor that houses a mighty port, which is beset with piers and sea gates. A prosperous village has grown up around the docks, with many terracotta temples and shrines, and a sea of red-tiled rooftops that leads up the slope to a tremendous, nearly vertical cliff face, up which winds a superbly crafted road of the finest cut stone. Many bridges, gateway arches, and stone terraces mark the road up, and these are adorned with giant statues, massive colossi some thirty spans high. The gleaming white wall that encircles the mountaintop city is likewise graced by these enormous works of art. Crafted in the form of six-armed warrior gods, they are resplendent in bronze and gold, with gleaming weapons held high as if to warn off intruders.

The beauty and quiet grace of the city itself is a thing to make the presence of so many tremendous statues seem trivial. The houses are well crafted structures of stone, wood, plaster, and red tile, and each household has several such buildings in an enclosed courtyard, within which are precisely set pleasure gardens and atriums. Everywhere there are window box gardens and fruit-bearing vines strung across rooftops. Morning glories are in bloom across the surface of every ancient wall. The houses of the nobles are of the same design but more magnificent, with splendid gardens that stretch for many paces.

The most spectacular of all is the imperial palace which sits high above the city on the tallest peak of the acropolis. Hundreds of stone steps wind up to the multicolored stone wall that surrounds the imperial gardens and sacred groves. The many buildings of the palace sport tall towers topped with golden minarets, gloriously outlined against the rising sun.

A gentle river meanders through the city, ending in a spectacular waterfall that pours off of the cliffs and into the harbor below. The river is crossed and re-crossed in many places by bridges of ornate design. The broad avenues, open plazas, and many antique temples are replete with trees, flowering shrubs, and fragrant herbs. The very wind carries with it the scent of spice and intrigue.

Release Schedule

Slayers of the Great Serpent I will be released in April of 2013. A subsequent module will be released every three months after that. Part II will be available in July, III in October, IV in January 2014, and the final installment in March of 2014.

Status

The first module is ready for play testing and work has begun on the next four. The rough drafts of all the campaign maps are complete, as are many of the location maps.

Budget

The money being raised to fund Slayers of the Great Serpent will go towards all of the nuts and bolts of publishing, helping us to acquire the highest-quality art, cartography, and page design possible. Some money will also go toward paying me, the writer, but only at a fair market rate in cents per word.

The very first thing that will be paid for is the art for the first module, followed by the editing and layout. As soon as the first module is complete, the rewards will be shipped to backers or delivered via email.

Additionally, some money will be spent on play-testing, promotion, and printing modules for demo use and for in-store promotional sales.

This project will be available both as a series of PDF books and in softcover.

Graph courtesy of Can He Kick It

Link

Stretch Goals if We Surpass Our Funding Target

  • More artwork, including more full-color artwork
  • Longer page counts for each module
  • Conversion into other game systems
  • Promoting the series at conventions
  • Who knows? We might create additional supplements to go with the campaign, such as a world-guide or bestiary. This PDF would be provided free to all backers at the subscription level and higher.

Risks and challenges

Creating project that is published in multiple parts has inherent difficulties. Deadlines have to be met, even when an artist is late with a piece of illustration, even when there is a delay at the printer. However, adventure subscriptions have succeeded in the past, so I have no doubt that this one can succeed as well. Because of my strong organizational skills and years of experience in the industry, I feel confident that I can steer this project toward completion over the long run. The secret to meeting deadlines is to be aware of them and get a good running start on the work before you get close to one.

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Funding period

- (30 days)