In The Adventure Creation Handbook, I talk about using adventure archetypes as a way to help you develop plot details. Below are 18 adventure archetypes, along with the plot elements each one generally needs to be successful.
||Someone or something to watch over, someone trying to capture what’s being baby sat, a map of the “sitee’s” location
||Thing or person to escort, place to escort them from, place to escort them to, map of route, something or someone trying to prevent them from getting there.
||Place to raid, item(s) to obtain in raid, guards, map of location, defensive measures/traps.
||Someone to kidnap, guards, traps, and other defensive measures to prevent kidnapping, reason for kidnapping the victim, Location to bring victim to once kidnapped.
||Unknown area to explore, random encounter tables, perhaps reason for exploring
||Someone to rescue, a place to rescue them from, defensive measures to prevent rescue, reason why rescuee was taken
||Place to rob, item to obtain (can be specific item or general type of item, such as “valuable”), defensive measures to prevent theft.
||Person(s) to hunt, bounty reward, person or organization that wants huntee found
||Jail, defenses to prevent escape, person to break out (if not the PCs themselves), reason why prisonner(s) is/are being held, locations of other prisoners, location of target in prison.
||Person to assassinate, location of victim, person who wants assassination done, reason for assassination
||Vehicle(s) to be hijacked, driver(s) and passengers of vehicles, person who wants the hijacking done, reason for hijacking, hijacker’s demands, location to take vehicle(s) to.
||Critter to hunt, reward for successful hunt, location of critter, any defenses critter may have built
||Item or person to smuggle, authorities looking for same, authority checkpoints and personnel to carry out inspections, vehicle to smuggle with, location to take cargo to.
||Wreck in hard-to-reach location, map where wreck is located, treasure to salvage, possibly rumors of treasure’s existence, possibly other group(s) also trying to salvage treasure.
||Marks (people to scam), a plan, possibly assistants
||Information to gain, plan to get same, people/location to get it from, people who want the information
||Events to compete, other competitors, location of tournament, reward(s) for winners
White wolf publishing introduced the idea of a story worksheet in their Vampire Storyteller’s Companion (first edition) . Basically, it’s a “quick reference” sheet that covers key details of the adventure at a glance, such as a plot summary, key NPCs and situations, any rewards for the characters should receive and the conditions for success and failure. I found this so useful for planning adventures — even whole campaigns — I’ve expanded on it and adapted it to all of my other games. Using these sheets helps me focus on the important points of a story and not get lost in the details.
Any GM will want to tailor these sheets to fit their own gaming style and world. I use separate campaign and adventure sheets, as well as a quick-reference sheet for important locations. Frequently, I don’t need anything more detailed than these to run a game, but I’m a very “off-the-cuff” GM.
Here’s what my adventure/”story” sheets cover:
- Campaign / chronicle name
- Story name
- Geographical setting — where does this adventure take place geographically?
- Start date (real time)
- Start date (game time)
- PCs involved — since I frequently reuse entire campaigns, this helps me remember which campaign I’m currently running.
- Adventure concept — a one to two sentence summary of the adventure. This helps me clarify the adventure so I don’t get bogged down in subplots. Example: PCs are hired by the local king to eliminate the dragon terrorizing the local farms.
- Plot archetypes — is this a “bug-hunt” (like the example above), a rescue, a “baby-sitting” (ex: guard the prince while he travels through Lupine territory on the way to an important meeting), a murder-mystery, etc?
- Plot summary — a short paragraph detailing the beginning, middle, and possible outcomes of the adventure.
- Theme — another inspiration from White Wolf. My theme is an open-ended question or phrase I’d like the story to explore. Ex: Trust — who can you trust, how do you know you can trust someone and what do you do when you can’t trust anyone?
- Mood — what overall mood I want the adventure to have.
- Subplots — these are subplots I want to make sure I touch on in this adventure.
- Key NPCs
- Key Locations
- Key Situations
- Adventure opening — how do you get the players involved in this story, where does it take place, and who are the key NPCs the PCs need to encounter
- Adventure outcome — what are the most likely outcomes (I find this useful, even though my players will inevitably find something that never even crossed my mind), where is the final scene likely to take place, and the NPCs key to the outcome of this adventure
- Midpoints — a list of the crucial points of the adventure. This is a list of events that need to take place during the adventure, along with their locations and key NPCs
- Rewards and the conditions for gaining them
- Game summary questions:
- Who are the characters involved?
- What do they need to do?
- When do they need to do it and how long do they have to do it in?
- Where do they need to do it?
- Why do they need to do it?
- How are they likely to accomplish it?
- Plot outline
- Summary — a brief summary of what really did happen in the adventure.
Next time: Adventure / Chronicle Worksheet
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