When it comes to creating and organizing the events (or “encounters”) for the adventure you’re writing, there are a couple of basic approaches you can take.
- Organize by sequence of events (the time-line approach)
- Organize by where the events will happen (the location approach)
It’s a Matter of Time
In this case, each event triggers the next; the events happen in a specific sequence. Event B must come after event A and before event C. This type of adventure has it’s merits and drawbacks. On the plus side, it’s easy to keep the PCs moving through the adventure, since each event will tell the players what to do next.
On the downside, players often have their own ideas of where their characters are going to go and what they’re going to do next. You’ll need to build some flexibility into your timeline, or you’ll find yourself railroading your players. No one likes being told what their character has to do during a game. With practice, you’ll be able to create time-line based adventures that subtly guide the PCs through your planned sequence of events, but still feel like they’re the ones making the decision on what to do when.
It’s a Matter of Place
Sometimes your list of events don’t seem to need a specific order. In this case, it may be more useful to group your events by location. With this second approach, one event doesn’t necessarily trigger another. Instead, the events trigger when the PCs arrive at a particular location. If they don’t go to that location, those particular events don’t happen. The classic dungeon crawl is an example of a location-based adventure: events and encounters happen when the PCs find them. If they skip an entire section of rooms, they also skip the events that would happen in those rooms.
The advantages of this method are that players usually feel they have more freedom in location-based adventures. They can explore things in any order they choose and if the party splits up and goes to different locations, each group of PCs will encounter whatever events are set to take place in their particular area.
The downside to this approach is if the PCs skip a location, they may miss crucial clues, making it much harder for them to complete the adventure’s goal. You can overcome this by listing two (or even three) possible locations for an event to take place at, depending on where the PCs actually go during the game. Often, you’ll find yourself using a combination of location- and timing-based events.
I’m back at work on the final rewrite of the Adventure Creation Handbook, which I hope to finish this weekend. No guarantees, though. I’m in North Carolina, so in addition to dealing with fallout from last weekends tornadoes, our appliances have been giving out one-by-one. Add to that a new part-time job…well, my writing time’s been a little difficult to carve out recently. Things are looking much better ahead, though.
Once this rewrite is done, I’ll be starting the actual book layout. I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress here.
- How To Cast A Spell On Your Campaign And Make It Sparkle Like Gold Dust (campaignmastery.com)