View Full Version : DM Help Writing an Adventure

Tron Troll
2018-11-17, 02:20 PM
So, how do you do it? How do you write an adventure?

Really, how do you make it all come together? How do you turn just some words on a page in to a fun game experience?

A place adventure is easy enough, like a ruined tower. But how do you make it come alive and seem real?

Anyone have any general advise here?

2018-11-17, 02:35 PM
As I usually say: You start anywhere, and then you keep going.
If all you have is a villain, or a situation, or a PC motivation, well you start with that. And you just start making stuff up and connect it to what you already have. You may have to delete some of it later, but just start and go on for a while.

Most of the time, you have a lot from the beginning. You have all that happened in the campaign, all the NPCs, and all the plots. You introduce a new element, and then you put it into this context, look for the conflict and the drama.

A lot of people talk about pacing and arcs. I don't usually dare think too deeply into that, because sometimes what I thought would be one session ends up being four. You just have to go with the feeling at the table. If they are getting bored, get things going, improvise if you have to. If things were really dark last time, open up for some fun next time.

2018-11-17, 02:50 PM
I think the main thing that any good adventure needs to offer to the players are lots of interesting choices. Most adventures do not do that, and that is why most adventures are not good.

The most simple kind of choice is deciding where you want to go. A good dungeon should have multiple possible paths, and most places in the dungeon should be possible to reach by different routes. What makes the choice of paths interesting is not whether you want to go left or right to reach your destination, but which challenge you want to face to get there. Players need to be able to tell that different possible paths will lead them to different obstacles, and what kind of chalenge they could generally expect before they commit to any choice. Two identical looking paths that lead to an ambush by goblins and an ambush by kobolds is not a meaningful choice. Chosing to try the flooded tunnel or the big door with massive footsteps coming from the other side is a choice.

Another great thing to have is to have NPC groups and dungeon inhabitants who don't attack the party on sight but will talk to them and then decide whether to fight, help, or ignore the players based on what the players are speaking to them. In some situations an encountered creature or patrol will attack immediately, but you will almost never have a situation where really everyone in the dungeon or castle will want to fight them to the death or be a grateful prisoner who will always be 100% compliant with everything the players wish. You can always include monsters and NPCs who are not really that enthusiastic about risking their lives for the big bad, or who are also intruders that see the players as potential risks to their own goals.
You can always fit these in, and you should.

2018-11-17, 03:18 PM
So, how do you do it? How do you write an adventure?

Really, how do you make it all come together? How do you turn just some words on a page in to a fun game experience?

A place adventure is easy enough, like a ruined tower. But how do you make it come alive and seem real?

Anyone have any general advise here?

Are you trying to write something for your own use, or are you trying to write something for sale to others?

The former is a LOT more flexible than the latter.

For the former:
- Over-prepare
- ... with the expectation that you will throw away most of what you prepare
- Look at what you were able to use
- Do more of that stuff
- Recycle your unused prep when possible; post it on the boards when you're not going to use it (again, or ever)

You'll iterate towards doing better prep by examining what previous prep work gave you the most value.

Kaptin Keen
2018-11-17, 04:08 PM
But how do you make it come alive and seem real?

Anyone have any general advise here?

I'd say .... make a believable place, then fill it with some believable people.

It could be anywhere - a village, a castle, a ship, the king's dungeons, literally where ever.

The people can't be just anyone, they actually need to be someone you can believe in. Non-heroic people. A baker, a midwife, the talentless local hack who writes a news sheet everyone buys out of pity, the stage coach driver, a farmer, a blacksmith who cannot forge any weapons or armor, but makes horse shoes and plowshares.

Now make precisely one of your totally ordinary people exceptional. Tell no one. Just keep that one person up your sleeve.

Have the coach drivers daughter run off with a local charlatan. Name that charlatan Raef. Decide what trouble he really is - it's not about the daughter, it's about ... I dunno, something sinister. Maybe some really bad people hired him for a job that'll get him killed, and her in even more trouble.

Now you have a story. Do this over and over, just exchange village for castle, baker for midwife, dauther for favourite sheep, and you have a new story.

The really important key to long term succes is to never make an adventure be about saving the multiverse. Because ... then what? Save it .. again?!

2018-11-18, 09:45 AM
Every "faction" has its own general agenda with one, two, or three main goals or perspectives.
Every individual has the same.

Some or maybe many of these (at the faction level) will conflict. Some of those conflicts are passive, some are active, and some are just waiting for a spark. This lets the players walk into an area and not feel like it's built around them and their agenda. Most people they come in contact with have a use for them, although a few just don't care because they're not relevant.

2018-11-18, 12:29 PM
I really like what Yora and hymer said. Good stuff there. Not that the other comments are bad, just that I resonate with what those two said the most.

There are some other specific articles I would recommend:

If you are still looking for me to read, then I have a bunch of more links here to various blogs that you can puruse here;

2018-11-18, 04:51 PM
Anyone have any general advise here?

Well, the general advice is to get a grip on game, genre and expectations.

A good "Adventure" is a lot of things, but one thing it is not: A story already told.

IŽd say, create a good starting position, work out the NPCs and locations for this and maybe add a timeline and you're good to go. The Gumshoe system formulates this the best so far: Create a "Spine" of the story that will unfold, implement it in a way that the characters will succeed at it, then work the details that are beyond the "Spine" and incentivize going into the details and side quests.