My Take on Adventure Design

I was going to post the second instalment of my RMU playtest but I will try and post it later in the week. Instead, inspired by Brian’s post I thought I would share how I like to go about trying to create new and hopefully original adventures.

The basic premise is ‘take to its extreme limit’ by which I mean I like to take an idea or inspiration and then try and see how far I can take that idea.

When I say idea it is often not so much an idea but rather an inspiration. It could be a profession that I want to make the bad guy, it could be a particular spell on a specific list. In the past it has been a tactic that the players have used and I wanted to use against them.

Once I have this inspriation point I then see just using that core idea how much could you achieve with just that one thing. In a recent post I outlined an evil illusionist and his plans. Once I know what is happening I can then see where would this encroach on the characters lives. How would they first become aware of what is going on and how? Often this first possible contact is completely ignored by the characters. It could be just a mention in the Waterdeep broadsheets or a rumour in the market place. Once I have placed the events in the world though I try and advance the villains plans and see where and when the characters could next become aware of them. They may or may not take the bait that time but it doesn’t matter. In theory at least as the villain’s plans proceed he should be getting more powerful and the longer the characters ignore them they should be advancing in level as well so both are in step.

I think every spell list has the potential to be the inspiration for an adventure. If you only had Sleep V as a spell and nothing else what crimes could you commit?

Not every adventure needs a spell caster behind it. How about a single intelligent creature, an enterprising goblin for example? What could a goblin achieve if he really thought through his plans? Once he starts to make some alliances he suddenly gets a lot more threatening. If he plans a few raids and they are successful then others are more likely to follow a winning leader that beings in loot and freah meat. Put his lair or hold on an easily defending island or in a marsh, inhabited by something equally threatening from lizardmen to the undead to noxious marsh gas and the Goblin chief now has natural defences as well as his band of goblins and their allies.

Each and every adventure can be embedded in the game world and existed before the characters came along and continues to grow in scope until the characters deal with it.

Occaisonally if the characters are either staying in an area or revisit an area then I have had these embedded adventures actually come into conflict with each other. If you have two villains both of which have designs on taking the same town or goblins trying to raid traffic on a particular road and someone else using it to smuggle goods then there is going to be a conflict. Put the characters in the middle of that and you have potentially complicated situation for the characters to sort out.

I think to put it in a nut shell I think I am saying, take something simple and take it to its extreme.

2 Replies to “My Take on Adventure Design”

  1. Also, I think another key point you make here is that you think through an NPC’s motivations and allow them to plan and adapt. It’s easy for NPC’s to be reactive: waiting for the PC’s to show up and battle them rather than be proactive.

  2. I would certainly say my NPCs are proactive. It could be a consequence of having such long periods between game sessions that I can develop these off radar plots that may or may not ever get used. I have a diary where I mark the days off as the characters play and in that diary I mark key dates in the various villains schemes.

    That helps with when rumours or news may start to spread.

    If I come up with a new scheme then I retrospectively add it into the diary and then carry the future events forward.

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