Tag Archives: adventure creation

Questions Continue: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 5

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whatThis is part 5 of our series on how to develop a full adventure from an adventure seed.

Last time, we began answering the questions our adventure seed suggested. We answered the “who” questions; today we’re going to continue with the “what” questions. As before, none of these answers are set in stone–we can come back and change them at anytime.

Now, onto the “what” questions:

What are the exact goals of the mission?

Players need concrete goals that allow them to know when they’ve succeeded or failed in their mission. Let’s say the princess is in the secured compound because she’s been betrothed to the court wizard, who’s also her father’s best friend and 30 years her senior. We’ll call him “Roman” and add him to our growing list of NPCs to create. And let’s give the kingdom a tradition where a bride-to-be spends time in seclusion with only her closest female friends and (in the case of nobility) maids.

Our PCs are going to be tasked with the mission of smuggling the princess out of her seclusion so she can marry her “true love”: Feodor (that’s what Prince Alexei will tell the PCs). We’ll go into more detail about this when we get to the “why” questions.

What is the performance the players are going to do?

They’re going to perform a play that’s been popular in the surrounding kingdoms, a romantic piece about true love, high adventure, and daring-do. Given the fact that most PCs have little to no performing skills, Kirill’s, our troupe’s leader, plans to use them as stagehands. This will also allow the PCs more room to fulfill their mission, as they don’t have to be on stage at any particular time.

What kind of performers are they?

A troupe of actors, who travel around performing plays at various courts and festivals.

What security measures are in place?

We’ll come back to this question later. Once we’ve answered the other questions, we may have a better idea about what resources the kingdom has to draw on to create the security measures.

What maps do you need to create?

As of this point in time, the only map we really need is one of the secure compound where the princess is serving her “seclusion”–that is, a time before her marriage takes place. But we’ll go into this more in our “when” questions.

What special items might the PCs need to succeed?

So far, we’ve got nothing to tell us that the PCs will need any special equipment, but we may come up with some as we further flesh out or adventure.

What does the compound look like?

Given the fact that this is for the princess, it wouldn’t be odd for the “compound” to be beautiful and comfortable. It would be filled with the princess’ favorite things and probably display the wealth of the king, her father, and of the kingdom itself. So think soft, comfortable furnishings, artistically painted walls, probably with murals, perhaps even an internal courtyard with a garden and a pool.

What group or faction does the national leader belong to, if any? What group or faction does the PCs employer belong to, if any?

Our adventure isn’t shaping up to include factions or groups, so we can safely ignore these two questions. If we change our minds, we can always come back to them.

What obstacles might stand in the way of the PCs succeeding?

Well, first and foremost, there will be the security measures we’re going to detail out later. Other possible obstacles could be Kirill, if he discovers the nature of the PCs’ mission and doesn’t like it. Another obstacle could be the princess herself. What if she doesn’t want to be “rescued”? What if she actually wants to marry the wizard. Of course, the PCs won’t know this at first–they’ll have been told by Prince Alexei that Fedor, Roman’s apprentice, is her true love. And if, despite her love of sappy love stories, the princess is extremely competent, she could pose a formidable obstacle, indeed, particularly since she knows the compound much better than the PCs do.

What will happen if the PCs succeed?

First of all, they’ll have made a enemy of the princess. But Prince Alexei will be willing to pay a rich reward for foiling the official wedding plans. This is where having knowledge of your PCs comes in handy. What reward would they wish? Perhaps Alexei, not being the most astute of princes, will allow each of the PCs to name any reward within his power to grant.

What will happen if the PCs fail?

The princess’ wedding will go on as planned and the PCs will have gained the wrath of the crown prince and possibly the wizard’s assistant, as well. If we postulate that the wizard himself doesn’t want the marriage to go forward (perhaps he sees the princess more as the daughter he never had), they could possibly be granted a reward by him. We’ll hammer out the consequences of success and failure as we go along.

Next time, we’ll cover “when” and possibly “where” questions, as well.

[Photo courtesy of Vikki-Lea via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]

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Answering the Questions: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 4

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Globe Theatre at SUULast time we set up the questions to our adventure seed-inspired adventure. This time, we’re going to begin answering them, starting with the “who” questions. This is where we start adding meat to the bare skeleton of the adventure seed. We’re still at the idea stage, so we can come back and change our answers at any time.

Who Questions

Who hired the PCs?

We’ve got someone who’s trying to infiltrate a high-security location. Normally, this would be a good point to back through PC backgrounds or past experiences in the campaign and choose an NPC from there. Do the PCs owe anyone a big favor? But in our sample adventure, we’re starting from a blank slate, knowing nothing about our PCs. We can think of this as the opening adventure to a campaign. In this case, I’ll come back to this question after I answer the next one:

Who is the national leader?

In a high-fantasy setting, such as we’ve stipulated, the most logical leader would be the nation’s king (Khan, emperor, whatever), but that seems too obvious for my taste. Instead, lets make this the kingdom’s eldest princess. Perhaps she is the oldest sibling, but the crown would fall to her younger brother, as the only male heir, much to her dismay. Let’s make her the most capable of her siblings–far more capable a ruler than her brother, the crown prince would be. Most of the court dismisses her because she’s female, but one king’s primary adviser–the court wizard–recognizes her ability and wants to completely discredit her so she has no influence over her brother.

Since I’m fond of Russian names, I’ll go back to my Beyond Fred: Russian Names list and choose one. We’ll call her “Darya”.

Who hired the PCs, take two?

Okay, given the little background we’ve cooked up above, the most obvious person to approach the PCs and offer them employment would be our court wizard, but that seems to obvious. I’d like to give the PCs to have to think beyond the immediately obvious. This would be another good place to call an NPC back from the PC’s past. But since we’re starting from the very beginning, we’ll have to come up with something “off the cuff”. How about the wizard’s apprentice, who we can give a crush on the princess to? It’s still obvious, but it’s one step removed. Or how about her brother, the crown prince? Perhaps the two of them, working together. Lets run with that idea.

First thing I usually do when creating NPCs is to give them names. I may change them later, but at least I’ll have some names to start with. Let’s call the apprentice “Fedor” and the crown prince “Alexei”. We still haven’t worked out why, but we can do that as we go along.

Who are the entertainers?

This we can bring back to the princess. What kind of entertainment does she enjoy? So far, all we figured out about her is that she’s politically very savvy. I want her to be an extremely competent character, all the way around, but it could be extremely useful to have the PCs underestimate her abilities. Perhaps she has a weakness for troubadour ballads. Lets make the entertainers the leading group of actors in the surrounding kingdoms.

Perhaps the current king doesn’t care for their repertoire and so has banned them from performing in the kingdom. That could make them all the more enticing for our young princess and explain why she would want them to perform in a high-security area. Let’s take it a step further and make the leading man of the entertainers a skilled bard (who could be a PC, if the party has one) and the play she wants them to produce a sappy story about forbidden love. Give the play a political undercurrent and you have a reason for it to have been banned.

Who wants the mission to succeed? and Who wants the mission to fail?

The logical choice for this would be the crown prince, Alexei, and the wizard’s apprentice, Fedor. But let’s throw another twist in there. Let’s say that Fedor actually wants the PCs to fail, which will throw an interesting hiccup into the prince’s plans. But then we come down to one of the most important questions: why? Let’s shelve this one for now and tackle it again with the “why” questions.

Who leads the entertainers?

We’ve already touched on this one a little. Lets make the lead of the entertainers a bard–a retired adventurer. We can even take it a step further and say that he was a companion of the current kings when both were adventuring in their youth. Perhaps the king actually won his kingdom during his adventuring years (we’ll figure out why and how if it becomes important to the adventure) and the two had falling out during that time, which explains why the bard and his troupe have been banned from the kingdom. Let’s call the bard “Kirill”.

Do the entertainers know about the PCs mission?

Not overtly, but Kirill is no dummy and has his suspicions. He’s been commanded by the crown prince to add this motley group of obviously adventurers to his troupe for the princess’ performance. It doesn’t take a great leap of thought to guess that they’re plants of some kind. He hasn’t come right out an asked the adventurers what they’re mission is. He’s enjoying the challenge of trying to figure it out on his own.

What does that leave us with right now?

We have several NPCs that need to be created:

  • Darya: the extremely capable eldest child of the king
  • Alexei: the king’s oldest son and crown prince who resents his older sister’s ability
  • Fedor: the court wizard’s apprentice who has a crush on Darya
  • Kirill: the bardic leader of the entertainers who had a falling out with the king when they were both adventurers together.

We also know that the king didn’t inherit his kingdom, but won it during his adventuring days; there’s bad blood between him and Kirill (we’ll figure out exactly what later); Darya would be the more capable heir to the throne, but being female, she excluded from the line of succession, and her younger brother resents her ability, putting them at odds; Kirill’s making it a point to discover the PCs mission.

Next time, we’ll cover the “what” questions.

[Photo courtesy of twbuckner at Flickr Creative Commons]

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Setting an Example: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 3

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In the last couple of posts we’ve discussed what adventure seeds are and outlined the basic steps to fleshing them out into full-fledged adventures. Today, I’m taking an adventure seed I found on a gaming forum and fleshing it out into a rough adventure.

The Seed

Your group is tasked to infiltrate a high-security national leader’s compound by traveling with some entertainers he has hired for a private performance.

This comes from the RPG Life Member Forums.

Write Down Questions

Here’s where we really get into turning this short idea into an adventure. When reading over our adventure seed, what questions come to mind?

  • Which national leader?
  • What compound?
  • What nation?
  • Where is the compound?
  • Who are the entertainers?
  • What is the performance they’re going to do?
  • Why is the leader having the performance (what’s the occasion?)
  • Who hired the PCs?
  • Why does (s)he need the PCs? Why not hire someone else?
  • What security measures are in place?
  • Why these entertainers?
  • Why does the PCs employer want them to infiltrate?
  • Do the PCs know why?
  • Why should the PCs go?
  • What happens if they succeed?
  • What happens if they fail?

Back to the 6 W’s

We can group these questions into our 6 W’s of Adventure Creation and add in some more standard questions that should be asked about every adventure:


  • Who hired the PCs?
  • Who is the national leader?
  • Who are the entertainers?
  • Who wants the mission to succeed?
  • Who wants it to fail?
  • Who leads the entertainers?
  • Do the entertainers know about the PCs mission?


  • What are the exact goals of the mission?
  • What is the performance the entertainers are going to do?
  • What kind of entertainers are they?
  • What security measures does the location have?
  • What maps do you need to create?
  • What special items might the PCs need to succeed?
  • What does the compound look like?
  • What group or faction does the national leader belong to, if any?
  • What group or faction does the PCs employer belong to, if any?
  • What obstacles might stand in the way of the PCs succeeding?
  • What will happen if the PCs succeed?
  • What will happen if they fail?


  • When is this performance to take place?
  • What is the current date?
  • How much time do the PCs have to prepare?
  • How much time do the PCs have to complete the mission?
  • How long is the performance supposed to last?


  • What nation is national leader a leader of?
  • Are the PCs from the same nation or a different one?
  • Is the PCs employer from the same nation or a different one?
  • If different, what nation?
  • Is it the same nation as the PCs?
  • Where is the compound located?
  • Where is the performance supposed to take place?
  • What is the adventure’s starting location?
  • What is it’s ending location?
  • What other important locations might be important?
  • What are the languages, customs, and practices of the entertainers? Are they different from the PCs?


  • Why do the PCs need to be the ones to go on this mission (there should be a reason beyond ‘they’re the PCs’)?
  • Why did the national leader hire these entertainers?
  • Why is (s)he holding this performance (what’s the occasion)?
  • Why is this mission taking place? (Why does the employer want the compound infiltrated?)
  • Do the PCs know why?
  • Why should the PCs go?
  • Why are the entertainers taking this job?


  • How are the PCs going to fit in with the entertainers?
  • How might they prepare for this mission?
  • How might they succeed?
  • How might they fail?
  • How are the entertainers going to perform?

Most of the time, you’ll be creating an adventure for an established campaign or you’ll at least have an idea of the kind of setting you’re going to use this in. Since we’re creating an adventure from scratch, we need to decide some additional details, such as what genre we’re going to create this adventure for. The seed itself seems imply a science fiction, superhero, modern day, or cyberpunk-style setting. Since I want to show you that you can adapt adventure seeds that may not seem to be a perfect fit at first, let’s not use any of those. I’m going to set this in a “standard” high-fantasy genre.

Next time we’ll begin answering the questions.

[Photo courtesy of Horia Varlan via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0].

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Step By Step: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, part 2

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There are basic steps to creating an adventure from the adventure seed:

  • Read the seed
  • Write down questions
  • Answer your questions
  • Pull out events from the questions
  • Put the events into a possible order
  • Determine the outcome of success or failure

We’ll go over these steps in detail in the next post(s), where I’ll provide some examples to make things much clearer.

One note here: The adventure seed is just a tool to jump start your creativity. If, in the course of developing your adventure, you find that your plot bears no resemblance whatsoever to the seed you started with, that’s okay. As long as you’re happy with what you’ve created and you think your players will be too, go with what you’ve written. There are no adventure police to keep you on the straight and narrow. (At least when you’re running for your own group, this is true. Published adventures can be another story).

[Photo courtesy of pj_vanf via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]

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Class Is in Session: Running a Convention Teaching Game

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Game conventions are a great place to introduce new players to your favorite system. But running a game designed to teach a new system is a bit differently than running a game for experienced players. For one thing, you can’t assume that the new player knows anything about the system you’re running–even what type of die to use, if any. Also, you’ve somehow got to do a quick over-view of the rules without boring your players to tears and yet also manage to complete your scheduled adventure.

It’s a lot to juggle. Below are some steps to help you successfully pull off a teaching game. These steps don’t have to be limited to convention games; they’re also useful if you’re running a demo at a game shop or even trying to convince your regular group to try that new game you bought and are dying to run.

  1. Always use pre-generated characters. I’ve yet to see a successful teaching game which started with the players creating their characters. I’m sure someone’s done it, but it does make teaching the game much, much harder. With pre-gen characters, not only do you save valuable play time, but you can also plan your adventure around those specific characters.
  2. Create “iconic” characters. Teaching games aren’t the place for off-beat or unusual character ideas. If you use archetypal  (or even cliché) characters, players can spend less time figuring out their motives and more time learning the game itself.
  3. Don’t make your players add. The other good thing about using pre-generated characters is that you can do as much of  the math ahead of time as possible. You want to be able to tell a player to “roll a d20, then add your BAB [marked in large numbers on the character sheet] to it.” As much as possible, try to keep your players from having to add more than two or three numbers together at a time.
  4. Prepare “cheat sheets” or “quickstart” versions of the rules, if the game company doesn’t provide them. I always make a one to two page summary of a game’s basic rules so the players have something they can refer to while playing.
  5. Consider creating character packets. I create an information packet for each character that contains the character sheet, any relevant character background, written descriptions of the character’s powers, and a brief summary of the game’s setting and background. It seems like a lot, but if you limit the background information to its most crucial elements, your players will thank you for putting what they need to know right at their fingertips.
  6. Simplify the mechanics. Strip away anything not absolutely critical. You want new players to get a feel for the system, not bog them down with modifiers and exceptional cases.
  7. Plan to spend the first quarter of the session explaining the game and its basic concepts. Here you want to focus on the essence of the game, not the mechanics. Sure, do a real-quick mechanics run-down (I usually go through the cheat-sheet), but spend most of this time going over the character sheet and game background and answering player questions.
  8. Tell players to hold their questions until after your explanation. If you’ve done a good game introduction, you may find you’ve already answered the players’ questions. This also helps prevent you from getting bogged down in player questions and having time to finish your introduction.
  9. Begin with a bang. Start your adventure with the PCs in the middle of something: they’re in the car on the way to the haunted house; they’re trapped in a burning building; they’ve just been locked in a room with a group of people, one of whom is murderer. Unless you’re running Tales from the Floating Vagabond, try to avoid the “You’re sitting in a bar…” opening.
  10. Do the  math for them. Try to handle as much of the mechanics yourself as possible. You want to give players a feel for the game, not bog them down with situational modifiers. Let the players roll dice, but add the modifiers yourself and describe the results to the player in words, not numbers. Sometimes you need to give the player numbers, but try to serve them with some descriptions as well: “You’re knocked back against the wall as your opponent’s blade rips through your shirt, drawing blood and pinning your sleeve to the wall. Take 8 points of damage.”
  11. Be flexible. Keep an eye on the clock. If your game is running over time, try to bring it to a conclusion, even if it’s not the one you’d originally planned. You may need to improvise scenes or cut some out. Allow the players to ask questions about the game, but try to keep them focused to the adventure at hand.
  12. Get feedback. If you’ve got time after you finish the adventure, ask for player feedback. What did they need the most help with? What game concepts need to be made clearer? Is there anything that should’ve been covered in the introduction that wasn’t. That type of thing. Really listen to what the players say and, if need be, modify your introduction and information packets accordingly.

This steps should help you teach new game systems to players successfully, particularly when you have a short amount of time to do it in, such as at a game convention. Please feel free to leave comments letting me know if I’ve left anything out or need to improve something.

What’s My Motivation?

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motivation-chartYour GM picked out the adventure, did all of the background work, fleshed out the NPCs, balanced treasure and other rewards. Now it’s finally time to run the adventure, it’s up to the GM to find a way to motivate your character. Right?

[Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/philippeboukobza/ / CC BY 2.0]


True, the GM will most likely provide you a motivation for going on the adventure, but you can help by providing your own motivation for your character.

While “My character wouldn’t do that” can be a legitimate concern (I’m a “method actor”-style player, myself), it’s not helpful. If you try hard enough, there’s usually some way you can provide your character with a motivation to undertake the adventure.

Character History

Even if you don’t have a detailed backstory for your character, you can find a way to work something about this adventure into your character’s history. In fact, it’s probably easier to do it without a detailed history. But even if you’ve written down information for every month of your character’s life, you can still usually find a way to work a motivation for the adventure in there.

Perhaps you stumbled across this dungeon when you were growing up and always wondered what was down there that was so dangerous your parents wouldn’t let you explore it. Or your now-deceased mother had been an adventurer but had fled from this dungeon before exploring it thoroughly and you want to find out what could make a generally fearless woman flee in terror.

These are simply suggestions; you’ll do much better to find some reason yourself. The point is, that it doesn’t have to be a driving passion to provide motivation. Simple curiosity can be enough. Maybe the owner owes you some money and if you can’t get the money, you’re going to take payment in goods of equal value. Or perhaps you want to prove yourself a better adventurer than your mother who’s shadow you’ve been in since you started your career.

Character Relationships

That brings us to our next type of motivation: other people and the relationships your character has with them. It could be your favorite uncle asked you to check out the city sewers to find proof of the giant cybernetic rats and cockroaches he’s always said live down there. Maybe your familiar or a favorite pet wandered into the Mayor’s Mansion and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Or maybe, just maybe, your brother dared you to go into the spooky cave.

Again, the reasons don’t have to be deep of life-changing or part of The Big Picture. It can be petty concerns. The important thing is to have a reason that will motivate you to undertake the adventure. It could even be something simply as the party’s cleric said “Please” when he asked you to come along. Of course, if you want to have this adventure affect your character deeply, go for it.

Character Goals

This brings us to our last set of motivations: your character’s goals. Maybe you want to collect one of every type of potion in the world. Or maybe you need some  scrapings from the wall to to mix the exact shade of grey paint to finish your current project. See, even here you don’t need grandiose ideas — simple ones will do as long as it gets your character moving.

Of course,  you’ll want to clear your motivation with your GM. If he hears, for instance, that you think there may be potions for your collection, then he’ll most likely go out of his way to put one in there as a reward.  Maybe you just want to complete your rock collection and the last type of rock you need is said to exist in this lich-controlled forest. placed in there.

Brainstorming or “Mind-Mapping” can help you find a reason. You can get special software for that, but I find good ol’ pen and paper work great for the job. If you’re really stuck, you might try having the GM other person you trust over for a brainstorming party. If something doesn’t come to you immediately, keep trying until you come up with something you can play. You’ll find the game much more enjoyable.

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