Thursday, October 8, 2020

Building an Adventure: Side Note on Rationale

"Blacksmith" by Clicker-Free-Vector-images
From Pixabay

When planning an adventure, a GM often has a rationale for making it that will strongly inform their design choices.

For example, a Game Master whose goal to write an adventure to show off how clever he is will create a dungeon full of traps and tactically complex encounters. His design will likely reward rules mastery.

On the other hand, an adversarial Game Master who wants to see players struggle to outlet him, will likely build an adventure with several incredibly tough boss monsters, traps and ambushes that provide little warning, and the odd trick that confuses or humiliates.

The Game Master who is there to tell a story well have huge amounts of world building, lots of lore to discover, and very complex NPCs with a lot of behavioral triggers. They will be likely to try to build balanced encounters.

Personally, I prefer to write an adventure with the guiding objective of the players coming out of the session feeling highly entertained. I want to make sure my dungeons are fun, and believe that fun comes from a mix of challenge and high-risk situations with commensurate reward.

I also believe that fun comes from creativity. I tend to present challenges that are open tl multiple creative solutions, but don't give any obvious ones to the players. If you put a problem in front of a player character and let them think about what assets they have for a moment before you demand action, they will usually come up with something you never would have thought of in the first place 

Love Nest of the Barbarix
Is designed to be open-ended and to
require creative thinking to complete
I also write with an eye to share my work online to the D&D and OSR community. This in turn has certain demands and guides my decision-making in a certain way.

First, I want to keep everything brief. Elaborate and lengthy backstory is a detriment when trying to offer up product other people want to use.

I aim to make my adventure easily reskinned, so that one or all encounters I design can be lifted out of the adventure and plugged into a larger environment.

I tried to offer something a little different and innovative in about half of my creations, that way I can make them stand out. On the other hand, sometimes Game Masters want something they can grab and implement in a few seconds with little to no learning curve. Which is why a chunk of my adventures remain as generic as possible.

Because I am offering them had a very low-cost or free, and I also have to keep in mind the return I will get on my labour. I cannot afford to write a megadungeon. So, I tend to stick with with the five room dungeon and a small dungeon structures with sparse art and ones that are easy to map.

Map from  A Windmill Full of Corpses
As a matter of taste, I try to design my adventures to make combat both easily avoidable, and tactically rich. With the exception of A Windmill Full of Corpses, PCs can complete the objectives of the adventure without combat. 

(In the case of a windmill full of corpses, the Player Characters can discover what they were sent out to discover and rescue the Miller without actually setting foot in the windmill. They may also simply destroy the windmill with fire and kill all the monsters inside without setting foot in there. The treasure can even still be salvaged from the debris but the wanton destruction of the windmill might be hard to justify to the authorities.)

Thus, I'm writing an adventure for this blog or for DrivethruRPG, you can expect me to make certain decisions I might not make in my home game, where more narrative  a freeform structure, far more complexity in background, and more sophisticated NPCs are required.

I will agree with Joseph Goodman in his essay on the topic, "A Publisher's Perspective on Adventure Modules that Don't Suck" . The ultimate customer is the player, not the GM, and showing your players a good time by making an adventure fun first ought to be the priority.

But moreover, I think it is valuable, when you sit down to write an adventure, to ask yourself what you want to accomplish with it, and ask yourself if your design is congruent with your goal.

UPDATE: By the way, the adventure I created as an example for this series: updated, cleaned-up and slightly expanded, is now available on DrivethruRPG.

No comments:

Post a Comment