When asked what his highest expectations were for someone taking something like the Midgard Worldbook and bringing it into their home game, Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur replied, “My highest expectation for Midgard is someone will strip it for parts.”
In that spirit, Spare Parts examines how and why we might take published adventures apart and repurpose them for our home games. We’ll use Kobold Press’s 5E megadungeon adventure, Scarlet Citadel, as an example along the way.
The Scarlet Citadel is an adventure in the classic dungeon delving style. The town of Redtower serves as a home base where the adventurers can rest and gather information in between forays into the six levels beneath the red brick ruins. Let’s go down to see what elements we can bring back to the surface for our home games.
Chapters 1 & 2: Marking for Later Reference
The first chapter provides an introduction to the adventure and an overview of the various dungeon levels. This is immediately relevant to our purposes as it shows us where we can find the crypts, alchemist’s furnace, and dwarven barracks, all of which can be directly ported to a home game.
The remainder of the first chapter is dedicated to dungeon adventuring procedures and rules. The rules clarify some vague points in the 5E rules that can cause grief, such as multiple characters making the same ability check until someone succeeds. These are so useful and widely applicable that we’ll visit this in more detail in the next entry in this series.
The second chapter provides a gazetteer of Redtower and the surrounding region. Chock full of history, locations, NPCs, and rumors, the town as a whole can be conveniently transplanted into your home campaign. We’ll come back to Redtower in the fourth installment.
Chapters 3 to 10
The next eight chapters detail the citadel ruins and the dungeon levels. The dungeons are full of modular possibilities, whether you’re taking a single trap, an encounter, or an entire level to use in a new way. They’re not terribly linear, so you can cut out these pieces and attach them elsewhere without much fuss. We’ll dig deep into the dungeon levels in parts 5 and 6 of this series.
The appendices provide immediately useful bits in a modular sense. Appendix 1 includes monsters and NPCs, magic items, and the spells from Deep Magic that appear in the adventure. If you’re ambitious, some of this material is identified as Open Game Content, so you can use it in your own published adventures if you follow the proper steps.
Some monsters in Appendix 1 appear in Tome of Beasts 2, but a good portion of them do not, and there are some splendid beasts among them. The dire owlbear and the two gelatinous cube variants are fresh spins on classics. Perhaps you have the perfect place for an ooze mephit in your ongoing home campaign, or an eldritch tower calling out for a sorcerer with Gellert the Gruesome’s stat block to make it their home. Monsters are made to drop in wherever you see fit, and while the flavor text can serve to inspire, you can take just the stat blocks and reimagine the appearance and story of any monster to fit your needs.
Reskinning monsters is a useful practice. When you reskin a monster, discard and reinvent the flavor text, and you can safely change anything that doesn’t affect the challenge rating (CR) calculation. You can freely change its type—turn a fiend into a fey!—or play with its senses by giving it blindsight or devil’s sight.
Knowing how to change CR can also be useful, and one monster in the Scarlet Citadel appendix deserves a closer look. Two options are given to determine Scar the ogre’s stats. He can either be a tusked crimson ogre from Creature Codex with reduced hit points and some limits to his damage dealing capacity to reduce his CR from 5 to 3, or he could be a standard ogre with a higher armor class, Blood Frenzy, and Multiattack to bump up CR from 2 to 3. Both cases might inspire you to tweak the monsters you already have to fit your party’s strength.
Magic items are like monsters in their high modularity, and Appendix 1 provides almost two dozen options. While some of these also appear in Vault of Magic, many do not, including some of the most useful ones for our intentions. The potion of gelatinous form is a fun wild card to hand to your players, and you could build whole adventures around the alchemist’s furnace or time construct.
Deep Magic is a fantastic collection of hundreds of spells, but if you don’t have that book, the twenty-one spells reproduced here can provide surprises. Experiencing a spell like wall of time can bring back some of the mystery and wonder magic should have in a fantasy setting.
Appendix 2 has a set of rather particular magic items, owlbear bezoars. A magical bezoar is a mass of indigestible material that collects in the gut of a magical creature, and it can be swallowed to gain certain temporary powers. Owlbears, being eaters of all sorts of nasty things, can pass some of that unpleasantness on in the form of cursed bezoars. Despite that risk, what proper adventurer wouldn’t want to swallow a magic lump that formed in an owlbear’s innards?
The final element for repurposing is the accessory Map Folio. This fantastic add-on reproduces the maps at full miniature battle map scale which can be safely drawn on with dry erase markers, and even includes overlay tiles to display terrain changes and hazards. The maps for Level 5, the Black River, include a boat overlay and extension maps that can be arranged with the main maps of the level in 20 different combinations, ideal for any trip down an underground waterway.
Next time, we’ll get into the rules and procedures The Scarlet Citadel provides for dungeoneering, so put some oil in your hooded lantern and get ready to tap the floor with a ten foot pole.