Monday, July 7, 2014

A Lesson in Adventure Writing

I've been blathering on about my micro-adventures for the past couple of weeks, about my Patreon page and getting people involved or at least grabbing a copy of my latest creation.  I like folks playing my adventures.  It's a cool kick.  When I read about game sessions where the players have run through my adventure and how the GM has tweaked the adventure to fit their world/party/system, that's what it's all about for me.

But I'm not here to write about that.

Writing these one-page micro-adventures has been a fun challenge.  I love drawing the maps.  It allows me to do grown up coloring.  But trying to fit a fun, interesting adventure with possibly larger implications on half of a page, forces me to be concise.

Here's some examples from my most recent mico-adventure, The Crypt of Volkov.  It originally was going to be a page and a half, but I went through and slashed the shit out of it.  Waaa!

Here's the initial entry for the room #2 Tomb of Victor Volkov.  The stat box has been removed.


The door to this room is locked.  Opening the door will trigger the pit trap.  Inside the room is stone coffin.  It is carved from the natural stone.  There is a copper plate (long turned green) with an inscription scrawled into the metal.  Also in the room are two gargoyle statues.  They are made of a different, darker stone.  They are perched on pedestols.  The inscription is an archaic form of common.  Any player with a intelligence over 14 can read it, Risen from the ground.  Returned to the ground.  May the ground accept and protect you.  If the statues are attacked or if the party attempts to remove the coffin lid they will attack.  The statues are small, stone golems.  When attacked they get an roll at the same time.  If the golem scores a ’hit’ they grab the weapon.  If it’s a normal weapon it will be broken.  If magical the golem will take any damage the weapon normally does, but they player will need to win a contest of strength to use the weapon again.  The golem’s have an effective strength of 19.
Once activated they will remain so for one day.  They will chase the players to the entance of the crypt.  If destroyed, both have Golem Hearts (valued at 1000sp each) inside.  The coffin lid can beremoved with a combine strength or 30.  Inside is Victor Volkov.  He is dressed in rusted platemail and helm.  Grasped in skeletal hands is a two-handed sword covered in a calcium crust.  If grasped, the sword will transfer some of Victor’s experiences to the first one who touches the sword.  The sword’s name is scawled on the blade, Inviktum Viktorium.  Under the corpse is a secret compartment that contains four gold bars (valued at 100gp each).
Here is the final version.
The door is locked. Opening the door will trigger the pit trap. Inside the room is a stone coffin and two gargoyle statues. The statues are made of a different, darker stone. The statues are small stone golems that will attack if attacked, or if someone tampers with the coffin.  Once activated, they will remain so for one day. They will continue their attack even if it takes them outside of the crypt. A combine strength of 30 is required to move the coffin lid. Inside is Victor Volkov. He is dressed in rusted platemail. Grasped in his skeletal hands is a two-handed sword. The first to touch the sword will gain some of Victor’s experiences (gain 3d6 x 100xp). The sword’s name is scrawled on the blade, Inviktum Viktorium (see below).
Here's what my thinking was.
  1. This is too long for a micro-dungeon.  The whole theory behind it is being concise, be interesting without being generic.  I mention the natural stone...doesn't make a damn bit of difference.  A GM can make the call on that if it comes up.  It has no bearing on the room.  It's out.
  2. The copper plate with the inscription, while I like the nuance of it, it takes up a lot of space.  Three and a half lines.  While I did like that detail it needed to go.  Why?  Because it had nothing to do with what's going on in the room.  That darling needed to be killed.
  3. For some reason I thought it would be cool if the stone golems caught and broke the weapons swung at them, but it isn't a know skill of a golem (probably too slow for that anyway) and it took up a lot of space to explain how they would use it in game.  Four freaking lines.  This one needed to go again.  The golems are going to be difficult enough.
  4. Golem hearts.  I like the sound of them and thought they'd be an interesting find, but there was already a cool magic item to be found in here and I would need to go into a long explanation for a new magic item.  This got slashed due to it being redundant in this room, but stored in the memory locker to be used at another time.
  5. And I got rid of the secret treasure beneath Victor.  Again, another redundancy that took up too many lines.
With those five edits  I went from 20 lines to 9.  This room alone would have put me over my allotted space.  This is one room out of the six.  All of them had cuts.  In the end I think the adventure is better for it.

A micro-adventure should be something the GM can read through in a couple of minutes then be prepared to get the game going.  I appreciate a long adventure, but I'm lousy at digesting that much material unless I run it over and over again.  These adventures you can pop into your head with no prep time.  And the reason why I need to keep them short....unlike this post.

That's a glimpse into my brain while I write these adventures.  I've got some good ones on the assembly line.  I hope you stick around to see what's next.