This time last month I was talking about 2 page adventures. My thinking was that a book on how to random adventures may be more useful to GMs needing an instant, low prep adventure than try to sell written adventures.
I have described adventure writing as a fool errand and a thankless task in the past.
Over the past month I have taken the tables in one of the adventure writing books and automated them.
The basic version spits out text intended to be read by someone about to use them to write an adventure. I have edited them to spit out text intended to be read by the GM at the table. This is a mammoth task. There are 19 tables, of a typical 10 entries each and in the original wording said things like this.
Number 1 on the Adventure Hooks table says:
On some occasion when the hero is out wandering the streets or is otherwise all alone, a dying man bumps into him, hands him something, says a few words, and dies. The deliverer can be dying of a curse, poison, a wound from a weapon, malnutrition caused by his long captivity, or from some bizarre and inexplicable cause. The dagger still protruding from
his back is the most common cause of death among dying deliverers. The object given to the hero can be a famous weapon or artifact which has long been missing and presumed destroyed, an object which could not possibly have found its way into this wretch’s hands (such as the king’s crown or the most holy talisman of the local church). or a sheaf of papers. If it’s a sheaf of papers, it can signify any number of things; it can be a certificate of birth, proving that some nobody is actually the heir to the kingdom (naturally, agents of the current “heir” will kill anyone who possesses it ); it can be proof that an upstanding citizen is really the head of !he city’s criminal syndicate (of course, said upstanding citizen is very anxious to get his hands on the papers, and on the heart of anyone who’s read them); it can be a duplicate sc roll describing a ritual of monstrous demon summoning whose elements are suspiciously reminiscent of events going on right now in the city. And the man’s dying words are the real hook. In general. they should tell the hero where to look next. If he names his killer, the hero will know to go take a look at the accused. If he describes where he was attacked, the hero will probably go there. If he tells the hero where to take this maguffin, then the hero will probably go there (even if he isn’t necessarily inclined to hand over the goods). If he says something inexplicable, like “Emerald eyes of the ram;’ before dying, then the hero will be baffled until later, when he hears of the golden statue of a ram with emerald eyes being commissioned by some famous personage.
You can see how that is all useful advice but what I am doing to breaking that down into yet more random options and then presenting one of them as the actual plot hook. A combination of separating out all the possibles and a change in emphasis in the way the plot hook is presented.
The intention was, past tense, to build this huge sophisticated tool that when you click a button presents a nearly complete adventure. You just needed to incorporate Setting, NPC and monster stats and the adventure would be good to go.
Taking the idea one step further it would be to have a goal of producing an adventure a day. If one had a tool, similar to JDales NPC generator that, for example took an option for level and biome and would select suitable monsters for you complete with stats or at least book references.
Copy and paste all these elements into a single document and all you would need is a couple of hours of proofreading and tweaking before the adventure was ready to publish. I was aiming for a sort of 1 a day production schedule.
When adventures are that ‘disposable’ it doesn’t really matter if they don’t make much money individually. They will sit on DriveThruRPG in perpetuity providing a trickle of income.
But my mind doesn’t often let ideas just lie there. It would have taken months of work to build the finished tool. Then you would still have the odd grammatical problem. I have build tools like this before and you always get an occasional mismatch when you are trying to build natural sounding sentences programmatically.
I want to add in another piece of information.
I released and adventure called something along the lines of The Jungle Collection. I am a bit vague about the name as I released two versions with slightly different names, one for RM and one for Zweihander. In total the adventure has earned me $96, $62 for the Zwei version and $34 for the RM version.
What I didn’t want to do is spend months creating a piece of software and then discover that the adventures it creates are crap. So I thought why not run it once. Look at the quality of the output and make one edit to it to improve the output. Then take what I have and write it up as an adventure, put it on sale and then rinse and repeat.
So I did that. I ran the programme, took the output and it took me 5 days to turn it into a viable adventure. I then put it on sale. The way I had set the book up was with all the adventure stuff at the beginning and then an NPC Rosta and monster stats in the last three pages.
So I thought why not just create some new NPCs and get some different monster stats and target a different system? This is what I had done with the Jungle Collection.
So I made the setting a spaceship and released it for Traveller, Stars Without Number, OpenD6 Space and White Star. Then changing the ship from a spaceship to a merchant ship I released it for Zweihander and this week I will make a Rolemaster version, an OSR D&D version and probably a handful of other fantasy systems.
The goal being to have released possibly 10 versions within the 2 weeks since running the script. So far I have made a little over $26. The Jungle adventures made $96 since mid-March so about 6 months or so.
So why so many versions?
My logic goes like this. Rolemaster is pretty niche, but has a loyal following. You cannot make a rolemaster adventure pay for itself as there are just not enough players and GMs who buy adventures.
Zwei on the other hand has sold in the hundreds of thousands of copies in the past 2 years. How many of those get played is a different question but the game is current and has a following. Traveller has a long history and strong following, it is nearly as old as D&D, and talking of which D&D has a pretty big following. Ultimately for a ‘drop in’ adventure that has no hard setting the bigger the audience the more you are going to sell.
There are diminishing returns when it comes to audience size. I could make the adventure suitably unique and sell it on DMs Guild but there are tens of new releases every day and the chances of yours getting noticed is slim to non-existent. The 0D&D/OSR community is smaller than the 5e community but still massive by Rolemaster standard. The rate of releases is somewhat less and the chances of getting some attention are somewhat higher.
All of these variations will then give a massive total audience size and make the project financially worth while, or so I hope.
I idea of nirvana for this is to have a piece of software that will turn out a print quality adventure in an hour. Whether that will ever happen I cannot say.
What you will see is a new Rolemaster adventure released this week called Plague, Famine & War I. That will be the first product of this plan.
I will let you know how I get on.
I have had so much feedback for Navigator RPG that it is taking a while to get a new version of the playtest done. When the PDF gets updated this week it will be the third version. The document has already grown by 3 or 4 pages which is cool. It gets prettier by the day as well.
The playtest is two weeks old and as of this morning there had been 224 downloads and the PWYW donations have totalled $39.17 of which I get $27.42. That is from 13 paid purchases.
So far I am extremely happy with the results. By the end of the week I will be uploading an even better version of the game. I cannot remember if you have seen this version of the cover?
This weeks release also has the starting adventure to help get people going. The previous versions had playtesters using the original White Star beginning adventure.