Friday, December 12, 2014

Quick Thought on Adventure Description

I've been writing adventures for as long as I can remember.  A good mix of fun ones and shitty ones.  I can't remember who said it, but it went something like "You need to write through the crap to get to the good stuff".  If you ask some of my long time friends (yes, I have a couple of those) and they can vouch for my compulsive adventure writing.  I've got 100s of them.  All in various states of finish.  There is a lot of crap in there also, but a lot of it can be salvaged, but would need a huge rewrite.

One of the major considerations when writing an adventure is simply how much detail to include.  An age old question.  I tend to default to, when writing a room-to-room adventures, is to detail two things within the encounter area.  Any more than two tends to clutter the page.  If you have an orc standing sitting in the room and he's throwing a hand axe into a halfling corpse hung upside on the wall, you're probably good.  First detail is the orc.  The second is the corpse of the halfling.  There might be more in the room, but the initial viewing and reaction is going to based off the orc and what it's doing.  You could go into more detail, like some furniture or a chest, but I add those as a secondary description.

So the party comes in, nails the orc to the wall next the halfling, then the secondary description can come in.  Describing furniture is always thrilling (NOT!).  Give a few details.  There's a bedroll, sack and dagger on the floor.  Dagger is a dagger.  Bedroll is infested with tiny critters.  The sack has few silver pieces hidden under two dead rats.  Very simple.  And even that could be pared down to the sack.

If you keep your prose terse, GM can pick up the details quickly.  And the OSR has a herd of folks that are outstanding GMs.  Give them a small seed and they can grow a tree.  With these quick details they can create a scene that is memorable and unique.

Some adventures I am good at following this rule and other times I blow it out of the water.  I tend to write in a wide range from in-dept levels of description.


  1. I like your adventures but could never work them as you. Too disciplined, everytime I've tried to put a little order in my creative process a bunch of playboy bunny bikini models on horseback drop out of the clouds like wingless Valkyrie and tell me "structure, we don't need no stinken structure" and the adventure has a life of its own.

    1. I am going to have to try my hand at publishing. I didn't realize that there were non-monetary rewards that arrive on horseback.

  2. Your idea of "two details" seems about right. Basically (and I've been relearning this lately) when there's too much detail, my brain (as GM) can't retain it all and I forget to give half (or more) of it to the players, or get stuff out of order, or forget how things link up with each other, etc. So if I have the right details, I can remember the important stuff (and how those things connect to each other) and embroider a lot of the inconsequential "window-dressing" around them on the fly.