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.
|Babysitting||Someone or something to watch over, someone trying to capture what’s being baby sat, a map of the “sitee’s” location|
|Escort||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.|
|Raid||Place to raid, item(s) to obtain in raid, guards, map of location, defensive measures/traps.|
|Kidnapping||Someone to kidnap, guards, traps, and other defensive measures to prevent kidnapping, reason for kidnapping the victim, Location to bring victim to once kidnapped.|
|Exploration||Unknown area to explore, random encounter tables, perhaps reason for exploring|
|Rescue||Someone to rescue, a place to rescue them from, defensive measures to prevent rescue, reason why rescuee was taken|
|Robbery||Place to rob, item to obtain (can be specific item or general type of item, such as “valuable”), defensive measures to prevent theft.|
|Bounty Hunt||Person(s) to hunt, bounty reward, person or organization that wants huntee found|
|Breakout/Escape||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.|
|Assassination||Person to assassinate, location of victim, person who wants assassination done, reason for assassination|
|Hijacking||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.|
|Bug Hunt||Critter to hunt, reward for successful hunt, location of critter, any defenses critter may have built|
|Smuggling||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.|
|Salvage||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.|
|Scam||Marks (people to scam), a plan, possibly assistants|
|Spying||Information to gain, plan to get same, people/location to get it from, people who want the information|
|Tournament||Events to compete, other competitors, location of tournament, reward(s) for winners|
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:
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”.
This 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:
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.
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.
A troupe of actors, who travel around performing plays at various courts and festivals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.