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Want to write your own adventures?
You can learn to write good adventures and The Adventure Creation Handbook will show you how. Maybe you’re searching for an original idea. Or maybe you’ve just looking for a way to take that exciting climatic battle you see in your head and put it into a form your players will enjoy. Wherever you are in the adventure creation process, this book will guide you step-by-step through the process of creating an adventure for any genre, any game system.
Overcome creativity blocks and dry spells. The Adventure Creation Handbook describes several methods of coming up with adventure ideas your players and you will enjoy.
Customize plots for your group and your game. By using your players and their wants as a starting point, this method allows you make adventures your players will want to play.
Integrate adventures into your campaign. This method integrates the adventures into your game system and campaign world from the very beginning. No trying to shoe-horn or retrofit ideas that don’t really fit.
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We’re finally down to the last post of our series on creating full-fledged adventures from adventure seeds. Up to this point, we’ve chosen our idea, asked and answered questions about it to flesh out the necessary details, and determined what events we need to create. Now it’s time to create our adventure outline.
Now that we have our list of events, we need to pull them together into a step-by-step plan. We need to take each of the events we created part 8 and put them together into a single adventure plot line.
For this step, you need to be able to move your events around. Index cards are extremely helpful for this. Write each event on a separate index card. Then lay the cards out on the table or floor (somewhere you have plenty of room to maneuver). What events logically belong together? Which events need to come first? What events are caused by other events? Shuffle events about until you come up with an order of events you like and that makes sense.
Write this order in an outline or flow chart format. To write a flow-chart, place your first event in a box at the top of the page. Draw arrows pointing away from this box, one for each possible action the PCs could take. At the end of each arrow, draw a box and write the event that will result from that action. Repeat for each event you have until you reach your final event.
Sometimes there are multiple actions the PCs could take to arrive at a particular event, or an event farther down the chart could lead back to an event listed earlier. Connect these events with arrows, labeling each arrow with actions the PCs could take.
With a flow chart, if your players miss an event, or skip to one further down the chart, you can jump to that point and see instantly if they’ve missed any crucial events or information You can then improvise a way to lead the PCs back to the events they missed Creating a flow chart can also help you see if there are any “holes” in your adventure. These usually come in two types:
You may find you don’t know how to get from one event to another. For now, just put an empty box in the flow chart to represent these missing steps. You’ve got a couple of ways you can fill this box:
Which method you use depends on how creative your players are and how comfortable you are with improvising. It often helps to wait until you’ve outlined the rest of the adventure, then come back and fill in these blank spots. Solutions may come to you as you work.
Some GMs can run with just the flow chart, others will need to write out their adventure in detail. No one way is better than the other. If you need to write out the adventure before you run it, by all means, do so. This step comes after you create your flow chart. Even a GM who runs well “off the cuff” will need notes on locations, monsters, and NPCs.
Use this flowchart as a guide. Be aware that your PCs will probably change the order of events. Still, it’s good to have an idea of at least one way through the adventure. This way, you can drop hints and add or subtract events to get players back on track, should they run off on a tangent that takes them completely away from the adventure.
We’re down to the last couple of posts in our series of turning adventure seeds into full-fledged adventures. We’ve asked and finally answered all of our questions and now we’re down to the last three steps:
In this step, briefly review the questions we’ve answered over the last several posts. We’re looking for answers and ideas we can turn into actual events that our PCs can participate in.
When you’re planning events, you want a variety of them. Certainly, you’ll need to include some combat events, but you should also include events that can be solved by roleplaying and using skills. Often, PCs will find (or create!) these on their own, but it’s a good idea to include some planned events of this type, just to make sure.
Go back over the information you wrote on your worksheet and the information you determined the PCs absolutely must know to accomplish the objective. Think about ways you can impart this information actively—that is, what can the PCs do to find out that information?
By this point, you should have identified the central conflict of your adventure. It should have one over-all conflict—a sort of meta-conflict that all the other conflicts are pieces of. Star or highlight this conflict, because this will be your climax, the decisive event of the whole game. Everything else that happens in this adventure should lead the characters to this final, penultimate event.
One of the best places to start looking for events is the “What obstacles might stand in the way of the PCs?” question. Take those obstacles you brainstormed and translate them into real in-game people or items and plan an event around them. You also want to take a special note of the goals of the mission. How would these goals translate into PC and NPC actions
I’ll leave it to you to figure out the majority of the events. Here’s one suggestion:
It’s also likely that just by answering the questions, you’ll have already begun to create encounters in your mind. Run with those ideas and flesh them out into possible events, challenges, and encounters. It’s also likely that you may not need to have many planned events. Map out the location, plan the compound’s defenses, then give that information to your players. It’s most likely they’ll come up with plans of their own that you can play off of.
When creating events, you want to make sure you have something for every player, as well as for every character. If everyone in your group enjoys combat more than anything else, make sure you have plenty of threats arrayed against the party, even if you want to present them with more roleplaying challenges. If your players are a mixed group, as is usually the case, you need to make sure there’s something for everyone. Do your players enjoy roleplaying? How about skill challenges or defeating traps? There are many articles on-line about typing players, so I won’t go into that here. The important thing is to pay attention to what your players enjoy and give each of them something that they enjoy best.
Other posts in this series:
Up to this point, in this series on turning adventure seeds into full-fledged adventures, we’re down to the last of the questions that will give us the background information we need for our adventure. So far, we’ve covered the who questions, describing all the people involved in our adventure, the what questions that tell us what’s going on with the adventure, the where and when questions that tell us about the adventure’s location and time it takes place in. Now we’re down to the very last of the questions: why and how.
In many ways, these are the most important questions of all, for they give us the reasons that the adventure and its events are happening. They’re also the most often over-looked. Have you ever played through an adventure that doesn’t make sense? That’s usually because the adventure’s creator never fully answered the “why” questions.
This is the question that covers our adventure hooks — the reasons why each of our PCs would go on this adventure. For that reason, we need to know the individual PCs involved in the game. Since we haven’t created a party for this adventure, this is a question you’d want to answer for each of the characters in your game.
Collectively, however, we can posit the reason the prince would hire the PCs as a group, rather than using some of his own men. The reason here is that the PCs are outsiders–which gives Alexei and Fedor plausible deniability. They can always claim that the PCs are acting on their own behalf and have other, ulterior motives on the princess.
The princess wished for these entertainers because they’re the ones performing the most popular play around. Also, the wizard, who arranged for the performance in the first place, was an old adventuring buddy of Kirill, the head of the performing group. We can state that perhaps the wizard isn’t fully convinced about this marriage himself and is hoping that perhaps Kirill can turn the princess’ eye away from himself.
Entertainment is a traditional part of a princess’ confinement time. After all, she’s shut away from everyone else for six months. We could make part of the tradition for a princess’ betrothed to supply entertainment for her during her confinement.
While we’ve pretty much covered this in earlier questions, it helps to spell it out clearly. The mission is taking place because the Prince Alexei views his sister’s marriage as a threat to his own inheritance of the crown. It would make the king’s favorite adviser a member of the royal family which could, potentially, threaten his inheritance. It would also give the wizard even more of the king’s ear. If he can somehow get the princess to marry his best friend, Fedor, he can put someone else into power who’s more loyal to him than to his father.
Fedor doesn’t want the marriage to take place because he’s been in love with the princess since he was a boy and he doesn’t want to see her married to anyone else, but particularly not an “old man” such as his master.
The PCs are actually being given a false reason to go on the adventure–they’re being told that the princess is being forced to marry against her will. Alexei and Fedor hope that this will give the PCs even more reason to help them, hoping to engage the PCs’ on an emotional level, thereby making them more committed to the mission.
This goes back to our motive question, but with a slightly different twist. Instead of explaining why Alexei and Fedor would want the PCs, we explain why the PCs themselves would want to take the mission. Again, individual motives would have to be determined by the GM for each individual PC and for each individual group. For the group as a whole, though, one reason would be that Alexei and Fedor will pay very well for a successful completion of the mission. Also, it would place the future king of the country in the PCs debt–never a bad thing, since adventurers have a habit of causing trouble wherever they go.
Presumably the payment for the performance would be a huge incentive. But we can also say that the leader of the entertainers, Kirill, sees it as a way to thumb his nose at the king, using it as a way of counting coup against him. Also, perhaps Kirill owes the court wizard (let’s call him Roman) a favor from their adventuring days and this would allow Kirill the chance to repay it.
We’ve also brought up a couple more “whys” while answering the earlier questions:
Back in our who questions, we posited the idea that maybe Fedor wants the mission to fail. But why would he? Perhaps he’s having second thoughts about. Maybe he’s realizing the princess wants to marry Roman and that he wants her happiness above his own desires. Or perhaps he and Alexei had some kind of falling out and Fedor sees this as a chance to get revenge. The GM would have to determine the circumstances of the falling out.
Perhaps our princess Darya has a crush on Roman–a May to December romance. Maybe her own father was cold and distant and she sees in Roman someone who cares for her and will take care of her.
Just to add another twist, let’s say that Roman doesn’t want to marry our princess. Very likely, he could see her as the daughter he never had. Let’s also say that he knows Fedor is in love with the princess and let’s say he thinks Fedor would make a very good husband for her. So perhaps Roman’s gotten wind of this plot on the part of the Prince Alexei and his apprentice and is actually hoping it will succeed, particularly if he believes that Darya and Fedor would actually be happy together. Maybe they were close friends growing up, which would give Roman a reason to believe that the marriage would be a happy one.
Usually in an adventure, how to solve a mission is best left up to the players to figure out. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least one idea as to how to solve it. That way, if the PCs get completely stuck, the GM can drop some hints to get them moving again. We also have a few “how” questions that need answers:
Entertainment groups have their own culture and the PCs are likely to stick out like sore thumbs. I’d actually leave it up to the PCs to determine how they’re going to fit in, but they do have a week to prepare, so Kirill can do his best to give them a quick introduction to the life of a traveling player.
Obviously, their week of training would be the major way for them to prepare for the mission. It’s also important for the GM to remain flexible and incorporate the players’ ideas for preparation into the mission.
Well, given all of our plot twists, success could very well be in the eyes of the players. If they do manage to get the princess out to marry Fedor, they’ll have succeeded at the parameters of the mission as originally outlined. There are several ways to go about this. One way would be to disguise the princess as one of the entertainers, another could be to smuggle her out in one of the prop trunks.
The main way the PCs would fail is to be detected and reported to king. That would pretty much ruin every plan they could come up with (now that I’ve said that, some group will come up with that as their actual plan and make it work).
The confinement compound could have a central courtyard that would provide a space for entertainers to come and perform in. Since our group are traveling players, they’re going to travel pretty light, meaning they actually use few props and scenery. So their performance is going to be an acting one, with the play’s emphasis being on character relationships rather than scenery and special effects.
Now we’ve answered our main questions and we’ve got the beginning of an adventure forming. Using these techniques yourself, you’re most likely to move back and forth between questions as answers to one question lead to more questions that need other answers. Keep working back and forth until you’ve answered enough questions– “enough” being defined as “until the adventure takes shape in your mind.”
Next time we’ll go back over our answers and begin pulling this information into an actual adventure.
So far, in this series of posts on creating a full adventure from an adventure seed, we’ve written down the adventure seed and asked ourselves questions about it, then answered the who and what questions of our adventure, now onto our “when” and “where” questions. Once we’re done with the questions, we’ll move into creating the actual events of the adventure.
How much time do we want to give our PCs to prepare for their assignment? We want to let them have some preparation time, but we don’t want to slow down the adventure by giving them too much time so that they run off on tangents. Lets give them a week. So, the performance is going to take place one week from the time the PCs get their assignment.
This is the in-game date. If we’re hooking this adventure into a larger campaign, the current date can be significant. If this is a stand-alone adventure, we don’t really have to set the current date. But it might be useful for us to figure out how much time the princess has spent in seclusion already (two months–so she’s definitely ready to talk to someone from the outside world) and how much more time she has left to go (four months, which seems like an eternity to her at the moment).
We’ve answered this question above, but we’ll restate it here: one week.
They basically have as long as the performance lasts to get everything set up. They should plan on actually getting the princess out as soon as possible after the performance.
If you’re using an already created game world, you’ll want to make her a member of a nation that already exists on that world. But let’s assume that we’re creating this game world from scratch as we go along. So we’ll call the princess’ country “Sunfall”, and place it in the eastern half of our new game world (where the sun seems to set).
The same nation. He’s her younger brother.
For maximum impact, lets make the PCs from a different country and call it “Seavale”, a coastal nation. Seavale borders Sunfall, but relations have been strained between the two countries (yes, I am making this up as I go along ). Prince Alexei deliberately looked for people from Seavale, so that if something went wrong with the plan, he could claim that Seavale agents were trying to kidnap the princess for their own ends.
Near Sunfall’s royal palace, which is located near the middle of the kingdom. The compound is close by, in case relatives want to visit and so that the king and queen can visit and more easily keep an eye on who comes and goes from the princess’ seclusion location. But let’s say it’s between the palace and the Seavale border, which means that the far side of the compound is going to be well-guarded by people the king can trust.
Let’s interpret this to mean “where in the compound the performance will take place”, since we already know that the performance will take place in the seclusion compound. We’ll schedule to performance to take place in the compound’s inner courtyard.
The prince will want to meet the PCs somewhere where they can talk freely and he won’t be recognized. The first thing that leaps to mind is the very much overused seedy tavern, just inside the Seavale border. Trite though it is, this location does have a lot of aspects in its favor. For one, if we posit that the crown prince has kept a very low profile in the kingdom, so much so that few people outside of the royal family would recognize him, he should be able to come and go from from such a place without notice or comment (unless someone does recognize him…). People in these types of places are used to minding their own business. Depending on how competent we want our prince to be, he can either dress down to match his surroundings (the prudent course of action) or he can flaunt his wealth, attracting every major pickpocket and cut-purse in the area, which could create some wonderful complications to the adventure.
That will depend on if the PCs get the princess out or not. If so, the adventure will end at a “safe house” the prince has set up on the border of the kingdom. If not, the adventure is likely to end in the princess’ seclusion compound. Either way, we should have the safe house location prepared.
The castle, the wizard’s tower are all possible locations, but the bulk of the adventure should take place in the princess’ compound, so that’s the location we’ll spend the bulk of our location preparation time on.
We could go hog-wild on this one and set them up with a different language and some really unusual customs, making them originally from a very different culture than the PCs. But I don’t want to spend time on that aspect, so we’ll make all of them–the PCs and the entertainers–from the same basic area, Seavale.
However, theatre people tend to be a superstitious lot, so we can have a little fun with the PCs by giving our troupe of players a few quirks, but not so many that they take over the game session. So, first, we can have the actors begin their day with offerings to whichever god in the campaign world watches over performers and traveling players, followed by a couple of hours of vocal and physical warm-up exercises. So unless you’ve got a party full of bards, that should help push the PCs out of their comfort zone somewhat.
The day would continue with rehearsals of the current performance, as well as some stage combat practice (less deadly, but just as demanding as real combat practice)., finally concluding with some street performances to bring in needed money. The PCs will be expected to take part in these, so that they can learn what they need to know to preserve their cover.
We can also give the troupe a couple of superstitious habits, based on real-world theatre superstitions, the primary one being the practice of never wishing “good luck” to someone going on-stage (hence the real-world practice of saying “Break a leg”). Let’s say that actors in this world say “Crack your head”. Also, having a black cat in the theatre house prior to performance is said to bring good luck and a successful play. Since ours are traveling players, they don’t usually perform in theatres, so let’s say they keep their own pet black cats who travel with them as companions and that it’s a very bad omen if one runs away or gets harmed.
Next time, we’ll finish up the questions with “why” and “how”.