CHAPTER 3: CREATING ADVENTURES
~ REATI G ADVENTURES IS ONE O F THE GREATEST
rewards of being a Dungeon Master. It 's a
way to express yourself, designing fantastic
locations and encounters with monsters,
traps, puzzles, and conflicts. When you
design an adventure, you call the shots. You
o things exactly the way you want to.
F undamentally, adventures are stories. An adventure
shares many of the features of a novel, a movie, an
:ssue of a comic, or an episode of a TV show. Comic
se r ies and serialized TV dramas are particularly good
comparisons, because of the way individual adventures
are limited in scope but blend together to create a larger
n a rrative. If an adventure is a single issue or episode, a
campaign is the series as a whole.
Whether you're creating your own adventures or using
;JUblished adventures, you'll find advice in this chapter
~o help you create a fun and memorable experience for
:.·ou r players.
Creating an adventure involves blending scenes of
exploration, social interaction, and combat into a unified
whole that meets the needs of your players and your
campaign. But it 's more than that. The basic elements
of good storytelling should guide you throughout this
;Jrocess, so your players experience the adventure as a
- ory and not a disjointed series of encounters.
Elements of a Great Adventure
-=-he best adventures have several things in common.
-_ CREDIBLE THREAT
-\n adventure needs a threat worthy of the heroes'
c. rention. The threat might be a single villain or
;:nonster, a villain with lackeys, an assortment of
::::wnsters, or an evil organization. Whatever their
a rure, the antagonists should have goals that the
:-:eroes can uncover and thwart.
?.-\MILlAR TROPES WITH CLEVER TWISTS
:-might seem stereotypical to build an adventure
;;sound dragons, orcs, and insane wizards in towers,
"Jut these are staples of fantasy storytelling. It might
also seem trite to begin an adventure in a tavern, but
~hat's an idea that remains true to D&D. Familiar
srory elements are fine, as long as you and the players
occasionally put a spin on them. For example, the
:-nysterious figure who presents adventurers with
a quest on behalf of the king might be the king in
d.isguise. The crazy wizard in the tower might be a
;Jroj ected illusion created by a band of greedy gnome
dlieves to guard their loot.
_\ CLEAR Focus oN THE PRESEN T
.-ill adventure is about the here and now. A little bit
of h istory might be needed to set the story in motion,
a nd the adventurers might discover interesting lore of
:.1e past in the course of the adventure. In ge ne ral, let
rhe world's history be evident in the present situation.
Instead of dealing with what happened in the past,
a n adventure should focus on describing the present
si tuation, what the bad guys are up to, and how the
adventurers become involved in the story.
HEROES WHO MATTER
An adventure should allow the adventurers' actions and
decisions to matter. Though it might resemble a novel
or a TV episode, an adventure needs to allow for more
than one outcome. Otherwise, players can feel as if
they've been railroaded-set onto a course that has only
one destination, no matter how hard they try to change
it. For example, if a major villain shows up before the
end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the
possibility that the heroes might defeat that villain.
SoMETHING FOR ALL PLAYER TYPES
As outlined in the book's introduction, players come
to the gaming table with different expectations. An
adventure needs to account for the different players and
characters in your group, drawing them into the story as
effectively as possible.
As a starting point, think about your adventure in
terms of the three basic types of activity in the game:
exploration, social interaction, and combat. If your
adventure includes a balance of all three, it's likely to
appeal to all types of players.
An adventure you create for your home campaign
doesn't have to appeal to every abstract player type-
only to the players sitting down at your own table. If you
don't have any players who like fighting above all else,
then don't feel you have to provide a maximum amount
of combat to keep the adventure moving.
Look for opportunities to surprise and delight your
players. For example, the exploration of a ruined castle
on a hill might lead to the discovery of a dragon's tomb
hidden underneath. A trek through the wilderness
might lead to the discovery of a tower that appears only
on nights of the full moon. Players remember such
Too many surprises can be off-putting to players, but
adding the occasional twist gets players to adjust their
tactics and think creatively. For example, you could
spruce up a goblin lair by including goblin sappers
with kegs of oil strapped to their backs. An attack on a
villain's estate might be complicated by the unexpected
arrival of a special guest.
When preparing for possible combat encounters,
think about odd pairings of monsters, such as a
hobgoblin warlord and his pet manticore, or will-
o'-wisps in league with a young black dragon. Have
surprise reinforcements show up, or give the monsters
unusual tactics. Throw in the occasional red herring,
deception, and plot twist to keep players on their toes,
but try not to go overboard. Sometimes a simple,
straightforward encounter with an ore guard is just as
fun for your players.
CHAPTER 3 I CREATING ADVENTURES