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Questions tagged [adventure-writing]

For questions about designing and writing adventures, for personal use or publication.

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43
votes
16answers
4k views

Dungeons that aren't dungeons

I'd like to make a "dungeon" for my party to explore, but it needs to be something other than an old-school "dungeon". Underground hallways and rooms with creatures in them have been overdone for us. ...
38
votes
15answers
2k views

How do I keep NPCs from just sounding the alarm?

When I design adventures, I often come up with situations where the NPCs could realistically thwart the PCs quickly by sounding an alarm. This is especially common in science fiction settings, where ...
36
votes
14answers
9k views

How do I run a maze scenario without using a map?

Inspired by a question on another site, what's the best way to add a labyrinth to an adventure scenario without making the challenges contingent upon player skill at mapping or navigation? I'd like ...
36
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the Five Layer Model of horror scenario design?

I'm designing a horror part of my campaign. I've heard of the Five Layer Model for horror scenario design but I'm not sure what it is. Has anyone heard of it and if so can you either explain it or ...
33
votes
16answers
2k views

How do I get the PCs to visit scary places at night?

Sometimes when I design scenarios, I realize that my mental image of the adventure is only exciting because it takes place at night. When the players actually play through the adventure, they might ...
32
votes
10answers
9k views

True Resurrection ruins plot hooks

The existence of the spell True Resurrection is playing havoc with my plot hooks. A king's daughter (his heir) was a high level adventurer who got TPKed while fighting an excessively powerful monster. ...
30
votes
8answers
9k views

Building a good comedy adventure?

I was wondering how to build a comedic adventure for D&D (or at least get some tips on it). The DM guide mentioned the multiple ideas for campaigns and one of them was comedy! I tried to start ...
29
votes
6answers
4k views

How can I make puzzles a challenge for the character, rather than the player?

I'm designing an adventure, in which at one point the party meets a giant who will only let them pass if they solve some puzzles. However, the problem is that the riddles are a test for the player, ...
25
votes
8answers
2k views

Overcoming setting complexity paralysis as a GM

The problem What are the best practices to overcome that certain “complexity paralysis” that may strike a GM when trying to learn and immerse himself in a setting that has a lot of intricate ...
25
votes
9answers
4k views

Are there any official guidelines for Shadowrun payouts?

I'm trying to figure out how much to pay Shadowrunners for a job, and how to balance the NPCs. I couldn't find anything in SR4A (though I could've missed something). I've only played in a couple of ...
24
votes
9answers
4k views

How can I avoid railroading in a sci-fi campaign?

I run a fantasy campaign and a sci-fi campaign. I always find it much easier to create interesting content in the fantasy world than the sci-fi world. In fantasy, for instance, a dungeon can be many ...
24
votes
6answers
50k views

How do I build interesting dungeons? [closed]

I'm a new GM and I need to undestand how to build enjoyable locations. I don't get how to build interesting dungeons. For example, I need to explore a castle. But a castle is not as complicated as ...
24
votes
7answers
2k views

Difference between writing a one-off scenario and writing a quest for a campaign?

I want to get some of my friends into roleplaying by running a self-contained single-session game with them rather than an actual campaign opener (for lack of a better term, I'll refer to this sort of ...
23
votes
1answer
3k views

How can PCs defeat a magical Necrotic Cyst-based surveillance state?

In his excellent answer to this question, Brian Ballsun-Stanton posited a horrifying surveillance state using, at its core, a handful of powerful creatures, the feat Mother Cyst (LM 28), and a ...
23
votes
4answers
777 views

How do I construct an individual session as part of a larger campaign?

I've been GMing/DMing on and off for years. I prefer playing. Mainly because when I run a game, I'm more a fly by the seat of your pants kind of dm, and it works sort of.. My problem is that, while I ...
22
votes
9answers
5k views

When designing an adventure, how can I ensure a continuous player experience in a setting that's likely to favor TPKs?

I am planning to design a Adventure which has a strong political flavor and is taking place in the Nine Hells. Its gonna be an evil campaign. I plan to let the heroes start at level 15 and require the ...
21
votes
4answers
2k views

Guidelines for Writing a Convention Scenario

I am in the process of playtesting my RPG system, and I want to put together a scenario for convention play. But almost all my experience as a GM is with long, customized campaigns that are highly ...
21
votes
3answers
925 views

How can I turn a B*-tree into a puzzle?

My players, being quite terrified of the consequences of injury (less research time), have asked me for a series of magical puzzles for their next adventure. I have decided that, roughly, it will ...
20
votes
6answers
5k views

How do I cover a vast area of land with dense vegetation?

I need help to introduce a plot device for the next scenario I intend to GM. I need a way to cover a large area of grassland (a few miles in radius) with high, thick and near impenetrable vegetation. ...
18
votes
6answers
4k views

Convincing characters to take up epic quests in a (mostly) realistic world

Background I'm the DM of a role playing group. Improvised rule set. I've created a world for my players where I have tried to be as close to 16th century reality as possible, with the additions of ...
18
votes
4answers
7k views

What do you do when avoiding railroading just gives you stuck players?

I'm seeking some newbie GM advice. I'm an experienced rpg player, but am much less experienced as a GM I was recently running an D&D 5e adventure, where the players would be investigating in a ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Why do my players want to be superman in Dresden Files?

I'm on my third campaign using Dresden Files, and I'm noticing a pattern. There's an incredibly wide range of powers and abilities that a character can have, and an even larger number of ways to fluff ...
16
votes
8answers
25k views

Designing my own D&D Adventure

Currently, I am part of my first campaign of D&D 4E as a player and, I have been having fun. Sometime in the near future I would like to host my own game of D&D with my own adventure. So far ...
16
votes
5answers
3k views

How do I turn a scenario idea into an adventure?

I'm still struggling with, as a GM, turning a scenario idea or a goal of the PCs' into a proper adventure. A proper adventure has challenging, multiple steps — I'm failing to get the “multiple steps” ...
16
votes
7answers
638 views

How do I write a one-off scenario that could lead into a larger campaign?

Here's the situation: I've got a group of people interested in getting together for a fantasy roleplaying game, with me as their GM. This particular group hasn't all gamed together before, we're ...
16
votes
5answers
827 views

Adding comic relief

As a GM, I would like to add comic relief to my sessions. Comic relief is the inclusion of a humorous character, scene or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension. ...
16
votes
3answers
6k views

Does anyone have any templates for Scrivener?

I want to start using Scrivener to plan a game and am looking for some templates for characters, locations, encounters, etc.
15
votes
5answers
1k views

What could replace the fear of dying in a spirit world?

I'm planning an adventure where after death, the PCs go to a kind of shadow world, as spirits. What would replace the fear of dying when you're already dead? What should I do to avoid a horror ...
15
votes
4answers
284 views

Where can I post quests I've written online for others to use and benefit from? [closed]

I've written a few quests now and documented them fairly thoroughly. Are there any places online where I can share them so that others would be able to review and use them if they needed to? It would ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the legal/ethical considerations of republishing old adventures for new editions?

I am a lazy GM and I rely a lot on published adventures. Particularly shorter ones: I get a lot of pleasure from tweaking and arranging them into a coherent narrative frame for a campaign. I've been ...
14
votes
14answers
3k views

Where do I get inspiration for good scenarios? [closed]

What are the best [not only RPG related] sources of ideas for a good scenario? I'm not asking about ready scenarios, but inspiration to create your own. For starters: Shutter Island movie - good ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Are there any other ways to travel between the layers of the Nine Hells besides the River Styx?

I'm planning on creating an adventure where the party become trapped in Nessus, the 9th layer of the Nine Hells, and must make their way through the layers of the Nine Hells up to Avernus, the 1st ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

Why were AD&D modules designed for so many player characters?

Recently I've been looking through AD&D modules for session ideas. Something I've noticed is that many of the modules were designed for more player characters than I've generally seen in one ...
13
votes
2answers
760 views

How has the relative combat prowess of Bugbears as opposed to Goblins changed over time?

Bugbears are the big bad goblinoids. A single average bugbear has always been more than a match for a single average goblin, in a straight up fight (which sort of fighting neither generally employs). ...
12
votes
12answers
2k views

How do I design a Christmas-themed horror adventure?

'Tis soon the season and I want to treat my players to a Christmas-themed adventure as part of my ongoing horror campaign. I want to keep the horror element, but I don't mind mixing in a bit of humor ...
12
votes
5answers
745 views

How to give directions to megadungeon locations without giving players too much info?

One of my favorite blogs, Beyond the Black Gate, had a good post a while back about structuring megadungeon play for episodic (i.e., irregular) games by creating mini-quests or missions that get the ...
12
votes
4answers
764 views

How could a Lich maintain the appearance of being alive without magic?

I'm designing a character for a campaign whose role is to be a recurring antagonist. When the players first meet him, I want him to seem undeniably human. The idea is that the party will "kill" him ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Adapting literary works into RPG adventures

Beowulf is a classic tale which has been translated many times and has had many film adaptations. Seamus Heaney's new translation and Frederick Rebsame's translation are good starts if you have not ...
12
votes
5answers
883 views

Has anyone released Castle of the Mad Archmage upper levels?

I'd really like to run COTMA, but for some reason the idea of coming up with the ruins and level 1 kind of intimidate me. I'd like to see some examples that I could either use as written or just use ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

How Can I Re-Skin the Hacker in A Medieval Game of Leverage?

I'm designing a Leverage one-shot using Robin Hood's Merry Men, and I've got pretty much everything figured out but the Hacker. I'm trying to define exactly what a Hacker can do in a medieval setting, ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

Designing scenarios for infrequent, short sessions

I have GMed for a group of friends for over 10 years, mostly in the World of Darkness and Dresden Files universes. We really enjoy the character play, the storytelling and the occasional outburst of ...
12
votes
2answers
824 views

What adventures lie in Laketown from The Hobbit in The One Ring

Spoiler As I re-read the classic book, I'm struck by the details that offer adventure opportunities. We learn what happens to Laketown, the Master, Bard and many others east of Mirkwood and in the ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Advice for writing and publishing a setting/extended campaign for an existing system

I have been playing and GMing rpgs for a number of years, and a little while ago I had what I believe to be a really good idea for an original campaign setting for Savage Worlds, my system of choice. ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

How can a Lich look like a human without magic?

This question is for 5e; I've posted a similar question for Pathfinder here. I'm designing a character for a campaign whose role is to be a recurring antagonist. When the characters first meet him, ...
11
votes
3answers
401 views

Isolation and the unknown in modern horror/investigative scenarios

I am currently planning my next long term game and intend to run a Cthulhu based campaign set in the modern era. I have experience of writing scenarios for the 1920's, but am having issues with some ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

How can I justify complete failure of an elven village's magic as a plot point?

I'm preparing to run my first session as a GM (Pathfinder but I don't think it matters for this question). I love the world building side of things, so I'm not too interested in pre-published ...
10
votes
5answers
909 views

Handling dungeons in a non-heroic setting

For non-heroic I mean that players have no quality beyond any other human (in a fantasy world): If players have access to magic, it's scarce and more utility than power Players can easily die (as any ...
10
votes
5answers
719 views

Suggestions for how to simulate the players performing a robbery?

For our next session I'm considering making robbing an artifact from a noble the central event of the quest. However, I'm not quite sure how to go about this as I've never actually played or seen a ...
10
votes
5answers
8k views

How to GM a zombie-apocalypse game? [closed]

I was asked, not a long time ago, to GM a zombie-apocalypse one-shot. Being versed in horror-GMing, I decided to approach the genre as I approach most other genres of horror, but I've encountered a ...
10
votes
4answers
499 views

Adapting Kafka's The Trial to a scenario

Last evening I had the priviledge of seeing quite an ... interesting ... adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. I am wondering if the community has any suggestions on the best ways to adapt it (or other ...