While there are many ways to come up with the idea for an adventure, some of your best inspiration can come from your players. Players often have a wealth of ideas. The trick is, how do you get them to share those ideas? If you use PC backgrounds or character questionnaires, begin your idea search here. Go through your PCs backgrounds one by one and note important events in each of the PC’s lives.
A good character background will have lots of hooks you can can use as springboards to develop adventures from. What matters have the characters left unresolved? Did one of them flee an unwanted marriage? What might a jilted suitor do to save face and/or find his “lost love”? Did another escape the law? How might the law pursue her? Does a PC have relatives back home? What might happen to them with the character gone?
Basing an adventure on a PC’s backstory usually brings with it a problem: how do you hook the other PCs into story? This doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. With a little thought (and possibly the use of a mind map), you can usually find a way to get the rest of a party invested in the background of the “featured character”. Sometimes, with a few tweaks here and there, you can combine two or more PC backgrounds together, giving those characters a common cause. Other times, you can create an in-game incentive for the other PCs to aid the PC in focus. If you focus on each PC evenly, perhaps taking an idea from each of their character backgrounds in turn, the others will be more willing to help, know that their turn in the spotlight will be coming.
Also, listen to your players as they talk about the game. What intrigues them? What ideas do they have about what’s going on? It’s very likely, they’ll come up with things you’d never have thought of. If one of your PCs suggests something that contradicts what you have planned, consider using their suggestion instead, unless it’s going to ruin something later down the road. It will make your PCs feel smart for having guessed what you were up to.
Along similar lines, you don’t need to have every detail of your adventure nailed down in advance. Let your PCs fill in some of the details. Listen as they brainstorm and speculate. Frequently, they’ll find connections you never even saw. Never be afraid to steal a player’s idea and run with it. If you find yourself stuck without a solution, present the problem to your players, in game. Then choose the solution you like the best and run with that.
[This is an excerpt from The Adventure Creation Handbook, due to be released at the end of February]
- Collaborate with Your Players to Make the Game More Fun (and Your Life Easier) (gnomestew.com)
- Before You Write: What Do Your Players and PCs Want? (rpggm.com)
- You Asked for Player Input for a Reason (gnomestew.com)
- Why Not Just Give It To Them? (gnomestew.com)