Recovering the Sword of Burigar

Adventure Start:
Having set out from town you are hungry for adventure and treasure. As you laugh with your traveling mates about the plans and dreams you have for all the wealth you will bring back with you, you almost fail to notice the robed and hooded figure approaching you in the middle of the crude road leading to your bright future. Once you do take notice, the figure removes his hood, revealing himself to be an elderly man leaning on a heavy oaken staff. After a brief moment of considering whether to push the old man aside, or offer assistance to help him to get to his destination, he clears his throat to speak. The Elderly man introduces himself as Dalar, a scholar who has learned of the final resting place of Burigar the terrible, a once powerful warlord who terrorized the lands years ago. Intrigued, you gesture for him to continue. The elderly man provides some general directions to find the keep that houses the resting place, and informs you of a powerful blade once wielded by Burigar, now waiting for a brave hero to take it up.

First Challenge:

Regardless of what the party does to/with Zalyk the next step is to utilize the directions provided by the goblin to find this keep, and plumb them of whatever riches remain.

Pathfinder OB 5 (With +1s for vague directions from the goblin)


Potential Twists:

  • As they struggle to find the ruins, a flash storm besets them and they begin getting pounded by heavy rain. Ob 2 health check to avoid becoming sick
  • A group of bandits waiting for misled travelers attempts to ambush them. Scout versus nature to discover the bandits before they notice the party. Failure leads to conflict, success allows the group to avoid the bandits
  • A group of elven hunters is offended that the group is trespassing on elven land. Trick/Convince conflict to avoid any further entanglements

Arriving at the keep:

Once the party has managed to locate the keep they are surprised that the walls surrounding, and the guard towers still stand in relatively good condition. A few of the guard towers have crumbled from weather and time, but the wall stands solid. A brief examination sees that the portcullis that serves as primary entry to the courtyard and buildings within has been battered down, but closer inspection shows that a massive pit has been excavated directly behind the battered opening. A crude makeshift bridge can be seen on the other side of the pit indicating that something with at least rudimentary intelligence has taken home within the walls.

Crossing the Pit:

A brave adventurer can attempt to jump across the pit with a health check of Ob 4. Climbing around the ring of the pit is a bit easier, with an OB of 2.
Climbing the pitted walls is a dungeoneering check of Ob 2 (or more, for more people)
Once across it is a relatively easy task to drag the bridge across to allow the rest to cross.

Failing to jump or climb the pit will lead to falling in the pit. This can either lead to an injured condition, or a twist with a handful of giant rats lairing deep within the hole.

Failing to climb the wall will lead to tumbling down the other side, which leads to an angry or injured condition, or another appropriate twist

Loot: At the bottom of the pit are the remains of a few hapless explorers who had plans of finding the sword of Burigar themselves. Ill equipped and ill prepared, the only scavengable items they have are 2 torches, and a handful of copper coins (1D worth of treasure)

The Courtyard consists of three buildings. To the east is a large building that has a corner that has crumbled into a wide opening. The door itself seems to have rusted over with age. Near the opening is a quartet of bobbing lights, noticeable in the dim light of the courtyard. The building itself has several piles of rusted out metal, as well as an anvil partially overgrown with ivy.
To the North is the main building within the keep, a large stone two story affair. A massive set of wooden double doors sits on the front of the building, with a massive rusted lock firmly affixed to it.
To the west is another large building with several smashed crates and barrels lining the wall. The door seems to be in better repair then the eastern building, and it almost seems like you can hear noises coming from within.

Armory (east building):
The eastern building is actually the lair of a troll who found this keep after being driven off by a party of adventurers many months ago. He prefers this new lair as the threat of orcs and other wild creatures keeps most explorers away, and it’s easy enough for him to pick off the occasional orc straggler whenever he gets hungry. The new influx of orc raiders has set the Troll off, and the two groups have been wary of each other. The Troll would like nothing more than the orc raiders to go away, and leave him for his hunting and eating.

Armory (Outside) Challenge:
Corpse Candles: If the adventurers approach the Corpse Candles to identify the strangle lights, they must succeed on a Ob 3 will check or be drawn into the lair of the troll.

Failure: The failing adventurers wander heedlessly into the lair of the troll, only snapping out of the stupor once the troll lets out a bone chilling chuckle at the new prey that has stumbled within.

Armory (Inside) Challenge:
The Troll is recently sated from its hunger by a hapless orc that did not heed the warnings of his companions to not wander near the corpse candles, and so will not immediately attack the adventurers who have wandered in. Depending on how interlopers into his den approach, he may be agreeable to a bargain. Drive off the orcs, take what you will from the building, and never return. He is clearly too powerful for the party to kill, so outside of discussion, the best they can hope for is to drive him off.

Result: Conflict (determined by the actions of the party)

Loot: Two rolls on the loot table 1.

Barracks (West Building):The bulk of the remaining orc forces (currently six orcs) sit huddled in the back corner of this large, mostly ruined barracks, arguing about whether they should continue to try and salvage arms, equipment or treasure from the building. Any who are orc-wise can identify that it is an even split between the orcs who wish to leave and not face any further undead (not to mention being picked off by a hungry troll) to those who are braver and wish to continue.

Barracks Challenge:
Attempting to enter the barracks without being noticed by the arguing orcs is a scout Vs Nature test (+1S because the orcs are distracted). On the table nearby the door is a large brass key that can be snatched up with the successful scout test.

A failed scout test will alert the orcs to the presence of the group. The twist would be a conflict against the orcs, who would seek to drive off those that are here to steal their treasure.

Loot: Aside from the key, the orcs also have a small stash of oil flasks that would provide +1D in an attack conflict to drive off the troll. The orcs keep that close to hand to keep the troll at bay if needed.

Main Building:

The large double doors are made of a thick wood, reinforced with heavy metal bands. A massive lock is built into the door, but it has rusted badly with age. The orcs managed to find a key to the lock and have it carelessly stored in the barracks.

Main building (Door) Challenge:

With the key in the barracks, the door can be opened without trouble.

Criminal Ob 3: The rusted lock provides a relative challenge for a skilled thief to open.

Failure: Failing the criminal check will allow the door to be unlocked, but the hero attempting will become angry at him/herself for struggling with it.

Health Ob 5: The heavy door is very difficult to break down, but with some work and effort it can be done.

Failure: Failing the health check will make the attempt noisier than the heroes hoped, drawing in either the Orcs or the Trolls (in that order of whichever haven’t been already alerted to the presence of the heroes.) If both groups are already aware, then the players involved will become Hungry and Thirsty from the effort of breaking down the door.

Servants Quarters:

The servant’s quarters are a simple room with several moldy cots and small nightstands. There are a few chests that have been smashed and rooted through by the orcs.
Ob 3 scavenger will find 1 roll on the table chart of loot missed by the orcs.


The kitchen is mostly barren, but there is a finely built stone oven that lines the east wall, as well as several solid oak tables used for preparing food. A frazzled goblin is pacing back and forth, captured by the orcs and forced into providing cooking duties. The goblin is in a panic because he knows the orcs will not let him out of this house until he has come up with a suitable meal, and he also knows the house itself possesses enough threats. The goblin is a skilled (enough) cook but lacks both the tools for cooking and the food to be cooked. Provided the players don’t kill him immediately, they can help him with both. The goblin (Dralyk) knows there are adequate cooking supplies in the room to the north, but the room is infested with giant rats. If the group can kill or capture enough rats, Dralyk can provide a some fresh rat stew for the players, which will alleviate a thirsty/hungry condition.

Challenge: None

Loot: If the players help Dralyk he will thank them with both rat stew, as well as 1 piece of loot rolled on the loot table.

Dining Hall:
Several of Burigar’s most trusted men were within the dining hall when the wizard enacted his curse upon the house. As a result they were killed immediately, and reanimated with the powerful magic. The 4 lieutenants sit at a large table re-enacting their final meal, only to change the routine should a living creature enter the dining room.


Kill Conflict against the players
Loot: 2 rolls on the treasure table.


The storage room was once filled with food and tools for the kitchen staff to prepare meals, but over time most of the foodstuffs have rotted and become mostly inedible. Some of the dry goods have gone past what any reasonable person would eat, but still remain a viable food source for a small pack of giant rats that have recently moved into the building. Large shelves contain cast iron pots, rusted knives and ladles.

Kill or capture conflict against 2d3 giant rats

Loot: 1 Roll on loot table


The Library was a late installment by Burigar once he struck a deal to be granted eternal life by the wizard who tricked him, but it was nonetheless well appointed. A half dozen solid bookshelves line the walls, filled with tomes of all sizes and subjects.

Challenge: An OB 3 Scholar test will glean helpful information on the arcane rituals utilized in creating the magic seal on the room upstairs. Success on this test will yield a +1D in breaking the seal.
Failure causes a twist:

Twist: After spending over an hour reading the books you find one particularly interesting looking tome. You begin to read aloud to your companions not realizing the passage is in fact a binding spell. By reading the spell aloud you have actually sealed both doors in the room, which now must be broken down, or unsealed in some other fashion.

Loot: As mentioned in Challenge.


This confined but well stocked room served as a lab and experimental room for the wizard. It has some ancient and mostly useless alchemical devices, as well as several faded journals. A shelf with a dozen or so jars of ancient reagents still stands.


The wizard was unable to remove all of the personal belongings he had stowed away in his laboratory before enacting the ritual binding the souls of the dead to this place, so he left a magical guardian behind to protect it. A large guardian statue stands vigil waiting to attack any who enter the room.

Conflict: Guardian Statue

A successful OB 3 Arcanist can glean enough information about the type of magic used by this particular wizard to give a +1S on breaking the seal upstairs.

A Successful OB 4 scout will turn up a carefully hidden amulet, a magical focal device that will provide +1D on breaking the seal upstairs.

An Alchemist may be able to glean some useful items from the reagents available and craft something useful (OB varies as appropriate)

Broken Stairs:

The Stairs leading up to the final room have long since collapsed and prove a barrier to get upstairs. There are several large wooden tables that once displayed various trophies that Burigar had collected, but those have been looted by the orcs who came before.


A carpentry OB 2 check could be utilized to fashion crude repairs using the wooden tables as raw supplies.
A Dungeoneering OB 4 could be utilized to fashion a suitable rope system to allow the group to ascend the top landing
A labourer 5 could also be utilized to stack the tables atop each other to craft a crude scaffold system.

Upper Landing:

The Upper landing is devoid of furnishings save a large double sided door covered in ancient arcane sigils. Within are the throne room and the final resting place of Burigar the Terrible. The wizard who crafted this ward was quite skilled.

An OB 5 Arcanist or Theologian check is required to break through the seal:
Twist: In attempting to break the seal, you have attracted the attention of outside magical forces. A banish/Abjure conflict is required to drive these forces off before they are released into this world.

Throne room:
Burigar was quite full of bravado and pomp, and once he became a successful warlord, was quick to utilize his wealth to elevate himself. To that end he crafted an elaborate throne room to display his wealth and power. This room now has become a tomb and prison, as Burigar now lives on as a ghoul cursed by an eternal hunger and an inability to sate it. He has gone mad past the point of reasoning and will either attack or attempt to flee his resting place once the seal has been broken.

Within the room are two rolls of the loot table, as well as the famed sword of Burigar. The sword, while well crafted and surprisingly well maintained, is not actually enchanted. The legends around the man were greatly inflated.

Please comment/crticize and share any ideas you have. I’ll continue to add to the main post as I have more. Primarily I need ideas for the main building that aren’t combat/conflict related. I skimmed the sample adventure in the PDF and was amazed by how easy they implemented a bunch of other tests that WEREN’T combat related. This is the struggle i had with MG as well. I’m so accustomed to the D&D/pathfinder mentality that it’s hard to break outside of that way of thinking in adventure design.

Have you drawn a map?

I have! Not a completed one as of yet. Still a bit of a work in progress. I’ve sketched the overall framework of the keep, and now am working on the main building.

For general ideas, why not look at the skills of (sample) characters, and imagine how the location would challenge those skills? And as general brainstorm, laborer for heavy loot, traps, lore for cultural background of keep and colorful clues, an injured animal that must be placated and healed, etc.

That’s a great suggestion! I’ll do that today. Thanks for the advice!

So that’s pretty much it! I had to cut a few things from the post (the prelude and conclusion) for length, as well as a few rooms that were non challenges. Please feel free to comment with any suggestions or changes!

Who’s the old man, Dalar? Why does he approach murder hobos on the road to tell them about a legendary sword? Does he want the sword?

I assume there was something in the prelude that you cut for length about the wizard who betrayed Burigar. What was his deal, and why did he leave a stocked alchemy lab and library behind?

The storeroom isn’t on the map.

No sleeping chambers for Burigar and his family?

Isn’t a ghoul and a non-magical sword going to be a big letdown for the players when they reach the Final Room?

I gather from the book and conversations on the forum that you aren’t meant to determine the type of conflict in this game, which you do in a couple rooms. Rather, the players are to decide how to deal with each threat, and the threat is limited by the players’ responses. So in the room with the dead lieutenants (tomb guardians?) you specified a Kill Conflict, but the players should have the option to flee, drive them off, whatever. Likewise with the other rooms where you specify the type of conflict.

Sorry, I restructured the opening sequence. Originally it was going to be an inside joke as the quest was given to the party by a running gag character (Zalyk the goblin) but then I edited as I designed the adventure. The old man is the wizard who originally cursed the warlord with undeath. His life was unaturally lengthened by magic but he knows he’s nearing death now, and feels that the warlord has finally suffered enough. He wants him to have a final rest before he (the wizard) dies himself.

From a metagame perspective, to allow the players a bit more opportunity for tests and give them tools to break the seal. It’s not obvious, and it’s based on how well they think outside of the box, so I thought it would be good opportunity. From a story standpoint, he enacted the ritual which caused the remainder of the soldiers to turn on him so he needed to leave in a hurry. He took the most valuable belongings and fled. Presumably he was already a powerful wizard to begin with, and all of the books/tools within the keep were given as gifts by Burigar, so he didn’t need to take them, as he had alternative options elsewhere.

I edited the map post-scan. The dining room is halved and the store room is half of where the dining room was. The common soldiers ate in the barracks, or in the courtyard, the dining room was only for Burigar and his trusted leaders.

Upstairs, behind the throne room area. I didn’t map the upstairs because I don’t have much planned past the ghoul show down. I’ll narrate it on the fly as needed, but presumably they’ll be pretty beat up by the time they get there and won’t want to tarry around once they get what they came for.

I can only hope. :oops: But in seriousness, not every adventure lead is true, correct? Also, in the epilogue I had to cut, the wizard catches them on the way out to thank them for doing him one last service before he dies. He’ll ask them to escort him back to the city, and properly reward them then. If, of course, they lay Burigar down for a final rest.

You’re 100% right about this, and I took away the same from some posts I read earlier. I did determine some conflict types “later” in the adventure, mostly because I was rushing to get it typed up. The game is on Saturday and I wanted to get it written to get great feedback (like yours!) while there was time to tweak. I will decidedly not determine a conflict type, and merely describe the narrative, allowing the players to determine their actions, and assign conflict as appropriate.

In terms of that, does a conflict count as a twist? And if so, does the GM decide a conflict then? Also, how far do you push the players before “forcing” a conflict, if ever?

Thanks for reading through and prodding the questions. If you don’t agree with any of the questions I’ve answered, please do let me know why, so I can address them! I Know it’s a real dick move to rob them of the big treasure at the end, but I also think it set’s a precedent nicely that adventuring isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And I will make sure they get something good anyways.

I think so. The rule for Twists (p65) says:

Twists are new challenges to overcome. They can be immediate obstacles—you’re ambushed!

That will lead to a conflict of some sort. The type of conflict is still determined by the players’ actions, but they must respond within the constraints of the narrative.

The “Rawr! Monster Twists” rule (p151) is also relevant here:

If a monster is introduced as part of a twist, the players can only choose a conflict type from the monster’s listed selection. They cannot choose an “all else” conflict.

This clearly illustrates that a twist can result in a conflict. It is still the players’ actions that determine the type of conflict, but the range of actions available to them is limited by the twist (eg, they can’t try to Trick a Tomb Guardian).

It’s your game, and I’m sure your players will enjoy it any way you slice it, but if it were mine I’d try to only use red herrings and false leads as segues into further adventurous awesome.

If your enemy lies to you to send you on a wild goose chase while he strongarms your parents into selling their land to him (or selling themselves into bondage) then you can be properly righteous and furious when you realize his double duplicity. The dwarves can all swear some seriously metal grudges.

In Firefly, the crew is hired to steal a mysterious box of cargo from a train, only to find out that the box is full of medicine that a nearby town desperately needs, giving the crew a chance to show their humanity (or their ruthlessness, I suppose).

The leads in these cases don’t just end in “well, sometimes life sucks.” They lead to more adventure, even if it’s not the adventure that the characters expected. Of course, The Maltese Falcon did exactly what you’re doing - the treasure turned out to be a worthless fake. But The Maltese Falcon was all about the Byzantine interactions between several interesting characters who never know whether they can trust each other, where most dungeon crawls have pretty anonymous enemies who are defeated once and then out of the plot.

Also, I realize that there’s a trope of powerful wizards asking puny adventurers to do their errands. Forgotten Realms made a whole franchise on it. But if the wizard regrets his terrible crime and doesn’t want Burigar to suffer in undeath any more, why doesn’t he go to the keep himself? Surely he could release the wards he put in place more easily than the PCs. Is he crippled by some terrible disease in his old age?

Ooh, that gives me an idea! Maybe it would add some character to the adventure and make it more memorable if the PCs had to tote an ancient arthritic wizard with a terrible wracking cough along with them to Buriger’s keep. The wizard can release the seal and perform a ritual over the slain undead to release them from the curse, but in the meantime he’s going to need to be carried through the rough patches, defended, fed and watered. He’s going to need frequent rests. He’ll get cranky and have to be placated or argued with. I bet your players would long remember that game where they had to drag a crotchety old wizard all over creation. In fact, I might do that to my group…

If I was confident of that I wouldn’t be soliciting feedback and advice. :expressionless: Part of the problem is that my group is firmly entrenched in Pathfinder. I’ve tried to sell them (With mixed success) on Mouse Guard because while I do like PF a lot, I think the Burning wheel system (based on MG and Tb, I haven’t looked at any of the BW proper stuff) has a lot to offer. Particularly in terms of focusing more on fiction, etc. The reason this is relevant is because there’s a solid chance this will be a one-off session (I’ve sold it that way to begin with, as part of my birthday celebrations), so I need to walk the line between leaving some openings, while still making it feel conclusionary.

Great example, and something I’d definitely steal from in the future.

Also something I plan on stealing in the future. :slight_smile:

You’re not wrong in your assessments, and I don’t disagree with you. Part of the concern, as mentioned above, is time and pacing. We’re only going to have about 4-5 hours including character creation, and there is a chance we won’t continue after this first session. I guess my reasoning behind the less than satisfying resolution is to leave them wanting more. If I make the resolution to the adventure too satisfying, ti gets tied up TOO neatly, and there’s no reason to come back.

That being said, if I’m following your line of thinking properly, I could have there be a moment at the end where they are told, or independently realize, that the sword isn’t the actual sword of Burigar. Perhaps as they test the blade, it breaks, or part of the metal scrapes away revealing a map/riddle/clue.

I definitely have a weakness for tropes which I need to try and fix, regardless of system, but my thinking was that the old man is no longer all powerful. He’s nearing the end of his life and despite the power he once wielded, he’s no longer capable of doing so. He doesn’t have the strength to get to the keep, nor the power to put Burigar to rest, which is why he requires the assistance of some freebooters to do it. Presumably, he’s tried to get more established or proven adventurers, but because he’s old and weak, they laughed him off? I want to play up the weakness of the old man. I suppose this is cancelled out by having him mysteriously show up after they do the job, so maybe i adjust that to them having to seek him out.

Along that line of thinking, they could show back up at town only to find out he’s died in their absence, but left them a letter thanking them for letting him die with a clear(er) conscience. As a reward he’s left a map leading to his home, which he has long been away from. They’re welcome to whatever is left behind, provided no-one else has taken up residence.

I’m torn between implementing this, because I think you’re right that it would be a more memorable adventure, or going with my line of thought above in having him die while they carry out his last wishes. One makes the adventure more memorable, the other makes the conclusion a bit more dramatic and impactful.

As for test, conflicts, and twists, to my mind the process goes something like:

  1. GM describes a situation
  2. Players describe how they interact with it
  3. Go back to 1 until the players describe an action that the GM thinks calls for a Test or Conflict (in order to qualify the actions must generally either carry some risk or reward, if there is no risk it’s just a Good Idea)
  4. GM decides, based on player descriptions what the Test or Conflict should be
    5a) They succeed and generally get what they wanted (possibly with compromises)
    5b) They fail but the GM chooses to give them a condition and treat their action as a success
    5c) They fail and get a twist, which essentially just brings us back to 1

Does that help?

Along that line of thinking, they could show back up at town only to find out he’s died in their absence, but left them a letter thanking them for letting him die with a clear(er) conscience. As a reward he’s left a map leading to his home, which he has long been away from. They’re welcome to whatever is left behind, provided no-one else has taken up residence.

I think this is fantastic idea. The players receive the letter and are crushed by the news, but buoyed by the prospect of some further financial gain to offset their loss, however they’re likely to get killed in the process. As a player, I would enjoy wrapping up the quest, find myself a little pissed at the conclusion, and be extremely eager to set off again to rectify my lack of shiny stuff.

I like the general concept and design of this expedition a lot, and I’m still trying to get a good handle on the rules, so I tried running it as a solo playtest against a party of all elves (using the Mythic GM engine when needed). If you’re particularly interested in the results, I can post a detailed actual play, but I had a couple overall pieces of feedback:

  1. Wow, this is a REALLY tough module. 6 orcs, a troll, and a stone guardian were the first 3 conflicts… ouch. They didn’t make it past the 1st floor yet, nor defeat anything past the courtyard. Fortunately, my elves managed to use Celestial Music to split up and defeat the orcs and kill the troll with sunlight. They fled from the guardian, but it won a major compromise.

  2. The loot is significantly below standard level based on the standard recommended loot tables. For example, the troll should normally have 5 rolls for placed loot, right, instead of 2?

  3. You’ve get a bunch of +1s notations above where Margin of Success doesn’t matter. I changed them all to +1D.

  4. The Ob5 Pathfinder was interesting, and had multiple suggestions, so I rearranged it slightly: I used the MoF to decide among the 3 twists, ranking them from highest to lowest Ob. However, that weather one is particularly nasty, even at Ob2, as it potentially gives a severe condition to EACH party member. I probably should have ranked them in opposite order, 'though I did allow for a Weather Watching test (Survivalist).

  5. I decided that returning to town required a Pathfinder test with +2D if mapped. This may have been a bad call, but I ws thinking of the notes about modules which require no tests to get backto town being “easy”. Sadly, this resulted in an already battered party adding sick to 2 members.

  6. The final tally when returning from the adventure site: A angry & afraid & exhausted, B sick, C afraid, D afraid & injured, E afraid & sick
    The final tally when leaving town: A angry & afraid & exhausted, B sick, C afraid, D afraid & injured, E afraid & sick
    … and that’s AFTER the additional 11D of treasure that got added due to wandering monsters (the remaining orcs) and boosting the troll & orc loot.

  7. This took essentially 2 sessions, and they have explored only half of the first floor. One character has enough Artha to advance to level 2 once he spends it, although the others are not particularly close. Persona points are the limiting factor.