First time playing D&D, first time DMing and first time creating a quest.

The plot is simple: the players arrive at a town, they hear about a treasure and off they go to collect their riches... (starting with simple motivations to attract a complicated party)

Now, the treasure is in an old abandoned tower, so I imagine there will be very limited encounters, but a great amount of skill challenges. I want to know if you have any references of other quests or skill-challenges that related to my story or the theme. Is the concept of creating a WHOLE quest on skill-challenges possible or impossible?

The obstacles in the old tower will include but are not limited to: a maze, a cursed treasure, a mirror room where they have to find a door (and the right one), illusions, enchanted statues that give advice (mostly bad advice)....

Extra information you may or may not want to read:

The whole quest should take at MAXIMUM 4 hours (in real life).... Preferable, less than 2 hours.

Level for the players: aprox, lvl. 8. I am the third DM in turn. It is a 3 DM campaing and we have divided

(Story I have so far.... Started doing it today so bear with it)

  1. The PCs enter a town. Night is falling and they need to sleep, so they decide to stay there. Now there is a number of things to do, but they can only choose 2, before going to sleep: a) go to the local pub b) go to the black market c)go to a magic shop d) go to a blacksmith e) go to a brothel f) go to a fight club... (I have 7 PCs, so I tried to come up with a some variety, so that they can split up and do whatever they want to)

  2. After getting the information, they want to look for the treasure in the tower. They will have learned things (like the PCs who go to the pub, learned a drinking song in which the name of every girl started with L or R, for left or right in the maze) that may or may not be useful.

  3. Each floor of the tower would be a skill challenge... There should be aprox. ten floors on the tower. The challenges failed can confuse them, poison them, curse them... Something of the sort?

  4. When they reach the treasure, they will find a Ghost or Specter

This is, more or less, it. I have a little bit of the content, but I want to know how to create the experience. Do you know of a template or design that will fit with this quest? Any existing methods to deal with an only skill challenge adventure? Are adventures using only skill challenges possible and how to pull it off?

  • \$\begingroup\$ It is entirely possible, I've done something similar in 3.5. I'd just like to point out that a old tower WILL (may) host a lot of encounters. Vermin, former guardians, anything that decides to live there, summons (calls) of the long dead wizard...only your fantasy is the limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – kravaros
    Jul 1, 2013 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I may be wrong but if it's your first time playing, GMing, and even moreso if your players are also first-timers, I have high doubts that you can fit that much content (multiple town events, about 10 skill challenges and some combat) in 4 hours. If it's truly imperative that it be short, you may want to at least reduce the number of skill challenges. Disclaimer: I'm not too familiar with 4e but familiar with 3.5 and Pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – leokhorn
    Jul 1, 2013 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @leokhorn yes, all first timers, but a multiple DM campaign. I have a lot of time to prepare and wanted to experience new things + create non-specific quests. After whatever they go through, I wanted the PCs to return and find new/exciting opportunities (we are only in the heroic tier, so this will be their first quest when the motive is treasure). Also it is a 'one-day' campaing, just so that it can fit wherever I want. Chronologically, it doesn't HAVE to go before or after anything... You passed a town and have this opportunity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 1, 2013 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember that choices may be your friends. They are swift, don't require rolls, and yet still add the excitement and suspense. If I grab this ornately placed gem, will I be okay? Will this button open the way forward, or kill us all? Which door to choose? This can be fun, however, make sure you don't repeat the same stuff. If you do, then make it a twist. The model decision-skillroll-trap-encounter-twist works nicely, in any order. And don't be afraid to add more decisions. If you have time, google D&D puzzles&traps for ideas, some are great. Follow the answer bellow, and it will be fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – kravaros
    Jul 1, 2013 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're really asking two questions here: 1) "Are adventures using only skill challenges feasible and how?", 2) "Please help fill out my adventure idea." Our Q&A format really needs you to ask only one or the other, so which is it? (I'd advise "the first one" as an answer though, since helping brainstorm adventure material will probably be deemed off topic.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2013 at 20:56

2 Answers 2


Well, if your time constraint is 4 hours, what you propose could take 2-3 sessions to play our nicely. I would not recommend trying to condense all of that into a single 4 hour session.

If you can extend this over multiple sessions:

Expect the town portion of the quest to take between a quarter to half of the session. This is not to say it will take that long, but this will allow you to have enough content prepared for what ever your players wish to do. This will also give you time to leave hints about the upcoming tower to the players. Don't make it something that can be seen but still not understood. While the idea of R and L names for directions in the maze sounds good, it will be hard to actually convey to the players without just giving them the answer. Who's to say they will talk to the girls in the correct order or remember their names?

The rest of the session will then be dedicated on getting to the tower(if not part of the town), then starting to climb it. Don't rush the players, and be prepared to end a session early if you are unsure if you can fit the next encounter/floor in the remaining time.

If time is limited (aka only a single session):

Limit the town aspect of this quest. Your main focus will be running the tower. Out of all the prepared challenges, pick 3 or 4 to be the primary ones. One of these challenges should be the first one they encounter, another will be towards the middle of the quest, and one to be the final challenge. This way you can adjust the tower while it is in play. If your players are completing a floor quicker than you planned insert a couple more floors between the next key challenge to extend the quest, or remove floors if they are progressing at a slower pace. This can also be done as part of the narrative by revealing shortcuts and pocket dimensions.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Plan for more, but expect to expect to use less.
  • deliver hints in a clear but cryptic manner
  • chunk up longer challenges(aka the tower) to allow on the fly changes
  • make sure it is fun
  • \$\begingroup\$ The girls name, that is a song I already created, that they access when 1. they drink at the pub or 2. they eat at the inn and make good friends (they will have the song written).... The black market, they will have the option of gambling, buy/sell goods... The magic shop buy potions and the blacksmith buy/sell goods. At both of these places, depending on how they treat the store owner, they will hear about the legend or they will hear incorrect information. At the brothel they will receive bonuses or penalties (Example +2 bluff, -1 speed). At the fight club they can gamble or fight... \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 1, 2013 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ At the local guild they will hear the full legend and full hints (again handed-out written to them, just like the song) about Lord Soth, His hunger for women & treasure and how his deeds left some of his loyal men unhappy (always taking the good things for himself), one of them killed him to take his gold for himself and the others, but a curse immediately fell upon the tower. Maybe his soldiers still haunt the place, maybe Lord Soth, maybe all of them... But Lord Soth was said to have the biggest treasure in the 4 continents and the most variety of women in the regions, \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 1, 2013 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ so his tall tales are still a big part of the town culture... That's why everywhere the PCs go they may hear something different... So yes the town will take up some time...and the tower will have he opportunity of some encounters: giant spiders, hoards of undead, Lord Soth's loyal steed, the traitors preventing you from entering and suffering the same fate and Lord Soth in the treasure room... \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 1, 2013 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ With all the content you already have for the town, I might recommend making it a whole sessions focus, followed by the tower the next session(s). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2013 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! Will consider trimming it down or making it longer... Quick question though, if you were a player, how would you enjoy this quest/story? I could also use help... editing and figuring out what do other people want to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 2, 2013 at 4:01

Regarding where to find published adventures

If you don't have a D&D Insider subscription, get one ASAP! Almost all the published adventures come with the subscription, and once you have it, you can search the archive of hundreds of prepared adventures.

This site has a pretty comprehensive, by-level list and summary of the published adventures. However, you need a DDI subscription to view the content.

I don't know of any references that break adventures down specifically by combat vs skill challenges, but I've had a lot of luck looking for adventures that cover roughly the same ground I want to cover, and then stealing and reflavoring everything (and sometimes combining two or more adventures).

That said, a caveat!

Having DM'd for a little over three years, and played for something like 14 or 15, I can tell you up front that you are almost guaranteed not to get through a full quest in only four hours, especially as a new DM and/or with a group of new players. If you spend any time in the town finding the quest hook, that alone is likely to take up most of your session.

To handle this, first, I strongly recommend that you skip the part where they have to find the quest hook, and drop them in front of your tower with a single line of exposition. For example, "After hearing rumors of a mysterious tower full of valuable treasure, your party decided to check it out." Yes, you miss out on the potential for interesting introductions, but in my experience, party intros almost always consist of a lot of wasted time while everyone eyes each other, hoping someone else will speak up first. (Alternately, the party gets together and immediately starts breaking things, including tables, each other's heads, and your plot.)

Even if, as you mentioned in your comment, the party is already established, you will almost certainly lose a lot of time in town while your players run about looking for the plot hook (or more likely, going off in all different directions to shop, play, rest, or otherwise disrupt your plans). If the only thing that needs to happen in town is that an NPC tells the players about the quest, then there's no point in using up any of your very limited time on it.

Second, as RMDan suggested, have a plan to adjust the amount of content on the fly. It's very easy for players to get bogged down on a puzzle where you didn't expect, and spend more than an hour figuring out the answer. On the other hand, sometimes players will blow right past a puzzle you'd expected them to spend a while solving. If you are prepared with additional puzzles/rooms if they go too fast, and removable areas if they go too slow, you are more likely to keep the session within your expected time limit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for skip the intro (not what I normally do but for new players or limited time I would recommend it). The first session of my campaigns almost always are at least 4-6 hours and that time is usually spent with the players exploring and getting to know everyone. We hardly ever actually get to the questing until the second session at least. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antonio
    Jul 2, 2013 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jonn_Underwood Same here. My current group took a session and a half to even begin to come together. I think there's definite advantages to skipping the intro when time is an issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    Jul 2, 2013 at 3:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thatgirldm The party is already formed... I guess I should´ve said so right? It is a multiple DM campaign and we divided each tier for 3 DMs. I get the last 3 levels of the heroic tier and I wanted to start creating quests for the campaign. A quest that would chronologically not mess up anything. They could be returning home, going to fight a villain or whatever, they stop at a town and consider going for the treasure. Right now they are lvl. 4... I'll get them in another month probably. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 2, 2013 at 3:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eilleen Ah, yeah, it'd help if you made that clearer in your question. ("First time playing" makes it sound like this will be your first session ever.) I'll update the answer to take that into account. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    Jul 2, 2013 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thatgirldm Thanks... I will be prepared to let the PCs take their time on the town if they feel like it and/or take the time with the challenges... And I will have a plan set-up to add or remove puzzles, challenges or consequences fit to the pace the players set... Really appreciate your input! \$\endgroup\$
    – Eilleen
    Jul 2, 2013 at 7:46

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