|Lorenz is a character made With Hero Forge
& used in Accordance with their EULA
Over the last 6 articles, I have built an adventure in something close to real time. I wanted while I was doing it to explore the decisions you make and the mental processes, as well as the tools I can make the job of adventure planning easier.
I wanted to finish with a few thoughts about making your adventure memorable and making it part of a living campaign.
If you liked this adventure, an updated, cleaned-up and slightly expanded version of it is now available on DrivethruRPG.
Making an Adventure MemorableMaking an adventure memorable is by far the more important to those two ideas. At the end of the day, you have limited time to enjoy this hobby. If you are a Game Master or a creative involved in preparing materials for a tabletop role-playing game, it pays to make sure that time is spent very well. And unremarkable adventure is a lost opportunity.
This isn't to say that every encounter has to be full in technical complications, tactical considerations, or be weird and wonderful. Sometimes a baseline game of kick in the door, fight the monster, steal it's treasure, repeat is very fun and memorable. A lot of it has to do with delivery and play at the table. However, a well designed set of encounters definitely makes it much easier.
Borrow from the Best
Success is often a matter of learning to steal from the best. If I were to create my own osr reading list, I would definitely include the following because they have helped me create a far easier to use design
- Gnome Stew's article about the various structures of five room dungeons
- How to Write Adventure Modules that Don't Suck by the Goodman Games crew for pointers on some of the most important things to consider when your rationale involves sharing your adventure on mass media.
- The Dark of Hot Springs Island by the Swordfish Islands crew for an example of excellent design in presenting NPC, factions, and locations.
- A Red and Pleasant Land by Zak S. for inspiration in designing things that work well with random tables.
- The Trilemma Adventures Compendium vol. 1 by Michael Prescott is a master class in designing one page and short dungeons that embrace the creators unique ideas and a shoe vanilla dungeons and dragons conventions.
- Tomb of the Serpent Kings by Skerples for an example of identifying for game cycles and conventions, and teaching player characters about them as part of in adventure experience.
- The Glatisant by Ben Milton, a newsletter that constantly features the newest ideas and innovations in the OSR and indie gaming scenes. His Questing Beast YouTube channel goes into detail on many new and innovative products in the OSR.
- Knave also by Ben Milton, a hypercompact role-playing game that can display minimalistic design
- How to Make Cool Role-Playing Game Pamphlets by Guilherme Gontijo is a simple resource for designing and presenting modules where space requires the aurhor to offer the bare minimum information. Gontijo also keeps an amazing curated list of free or affordable resources for RPG creation on his itch.io page.
- Index Card RPG by Hankerin Ferinale, for an example of how far rules hacking can go to make a radically new game. His RUNEHAMMER YouTube Channel is a goldmine of ideas.
Trying Too Hard
Embrace Your Voice
If you're not familiar with the concept, your Voice is your particular set of unique ideas, details, topics, and themes that you do well. When you are writing the things that make you excited and that you have a lot of thoughts on, it tends to show in your work.
For example, I love strange mushrooms, drug trips, confusion and disorientation, stories about traveling inside the mind or using the minds to explore the universe, devices from alternate timelines, complex courtly intrigue, foolish romantic gestures, and themes of freedom versus tyranny and the liberation of prisoners or slaves. if you look through my modules, you will see at least two of those in every one of them. And they are usually the best encounters. I believe that The Mind Mills is probably my best work despite his relative simplicity, because every encounter is one that is themed to my particular interests.
Beginner MindMost new GM's often have the best ideas for adventures as long as they don't feel like they have to be slaves to a challenge rating system or prefabricated creatures and obstacles. If you allow someone who is not spent years steeped in the culture of Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games to feel free to change his own monsters, obstacles, spells, etc as part of their adventure design, you will find that they usually embrace their voice as a matter of course.
The big problem with modern additions, is that they're so easy to break that creating new content and having success with it requires experience and system knowledge. Older more modular games, like OSR material and extremely rules like games like Cypher System or Tiny Dungeon tend to invite more experimentation because of their simplicity and bounded accuracy.
When you feel like you must work within a system with a lot of moving parts, it can be a lot harder to create your own content and express your own voice. Older GM's who have been playing for years can't get into a rut where they are constantly trying to produce material that has extremely broad or generic appeal, or that will please the audience without reference to the touchstones of their own Voice.
GM's who face burnouts after spending years as forever DMs often try to stimulate their interest in the game by trying totally new things completely alien to what they had done before. This can be refreshing at times, but it can also drive them away from their voice and make them less passionate about the material they are created. Experimentation is good, as long as the experiment is still exciting.
NPCs Make Memories
I wrote earlier in this series about how to design an effective NPCs. Ultimately, you have to understand their motivations. A list of three things they want, three things they do not want, and three facts or quirks about the character is a good framework to start with. The Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition bond, personality, flaw, and ideal is not a bad framework either, but doesn't capture their motivations quite as well.
This is not necessary for single encounter or short-lived villains. However, if you plan on making any character recurring or making them part of a complex social encounter you need to have a pretty solid idea of what they want.