Sunday, January 6, 2013

Playing with Adventure Construction

I am going to go against the minimalistic sensibility the OSR values, that I value.  Being concise is a wonderful thing.  Providing just detail enough to allow the GM to fill in the spaces.  There are several popular adventures whose entries are no more than than a sentence or a series of fragment sentences.  The following examples are from Michael Curtis's Stonehell Dungeon
2. Wrecked Seraglio: Ruined bedding; erotic frescoes; smashed water pipe.  Empty.
1. Ancient Gallery: Remains of old furniture & smashed sculptures.  Gnolls (6) bundling harvested plants to bring back to their lair.  Each has 1d10+1ep & 1d8gp.
You can't get much more concise than that.  There are a list of details the GM can rift off.  Ten different GMs are going to come up with ten different ways to influence and accentuate the room.  Everything is right there at a glance.

I've been playing with doing the opposite.  Lots of detail.  With details about the details.  Each room would have its own accompanying map.  Depending on the details provided there would be the text on the left hand side and the map on the right.

My reasoning?  Hmm, I guess there are times when I am playing that I like each room to be its own puzzle, own contained adventure within.  Especially when running short sessions or competitive sessions (tournament style) it makes sense in my brain.  A lot of adventures are written to the second magnification.  Meaning the first would be the obvious.  Using the examples provided, old furniture and smashed sculptures. And of course the gnolls.  Second magnification would be the money they carried.  Something that needed to be investigated.  If there was a chest or sack in the room, second would be what is inside.  Hidden or less obvious.

What I am writing is something that takes it to the third magnification.  These are details that knowledge or skill is needed to discover.  Let's continue using the examples above.  The old furniture might be the last remaining pieces that belonged to the baron before his castle was sacked and burned.  The baron valued craftsmanship and hired Misrol of Glendale.  While a normal table and chairs would sell for 50sp, but if sold to a knowledgeable buyer they might fetch ten times that amount.  The gnolls gold pieces might be from a rival kingdom as are the weapons they wield.

While most gold pieces are generic hunks of metal, sometimes adding a small detail to them can enhance the depth of an adventure.  Like anything it can be over done.  Minimalist style can be overdone.  And what I'm messing with is probably overboard, but I'm curious to see how it works out.

The layout I am working with a room description.  Some details will be bolded to indicate there are further details.  It makes for easy reference.  And another reason I don't want to make any descriptions longer than a page.  Although stats might prove a space problem.  Again, I'm playing with idea and seeing how it works.  I like the idea of it and of course it all comes down to execution on whether it will be playable to me and possibly others.


  1. Random tables would be a very OSR way to deal with this. Get more information with random tables if the players get involved with some otherwise minor details, and for the 90% of the time they ignore the little things, you've saved yourself a bunch of work.

    In practice I do neither, whenever I'm on the spot, I toss out something from a 70's sitcom and hope it distracts my players.

  2. I always wanted a solo adventure with illustrations for each room, sort of like a point and click adventure. I suppose that's the extreme end of the detail continuum, show them a picture. You could even have close up pictures for certain features.

    Of course, I'm incapable of making such a thing, it would have to e commercial with a hired artist.

  3. Pat Random tables are always good. And for my group I would say they are very detailed oriented. They may not indulge in everything, but they do like getting the Sherlock magnified glass and snoop around. Hmm, 70s eh. Which impressions do you do?

    Telecanter I was actually thinking this kind of adventure could be developed for solo play. I suck at drawing. The maps I would have to con Rob (Conley) into doing for me unless I found some easy art to drop in.

  4. I think it would be possible to do a best-of-both-worlds version. Have a section of each room description with all the basics laid out in concise form, i.e. monsters, traps, treasure, major features, etc. In a section below, elaborate to whatever degree of extreme detail you like. I love detail in a dungeon, but I tend to miss important stuff when I have to sift it from several paragraphs of descriptive prose in the thick of an adventure.

  5. Pat's ideas of random tables are good. I like the sort of bolding to suggest something with more detail. You could always combine both approaches.

  6. I have to say that I find having more descriptive details useful. I'm not one of those DMs who can create them on the spur of the moment. That's why I've been building out generators over at Alesmiter. Same thing as random tables, but I get to code too.

  7. I'm like Rod: I find having more description to be more helpful than less description. I can always leave some out, but putting more in --on the fly-- is difficult at best. If I know that I'm going into an area where the description may be lacking, I spend some time in my "Generator" bookmarks online and get a nice list of random descriptions for rooms, potions, etc.

  8. I think a mix of tables and detailed descriptions, depending on the room. The groovy thing about providing a description is you will probably come up with something for my players that I would not come up with.

  9. Re #2. Ah those Ted Kennedy parties back in the 1970s. Always ended up leaving something like this behind.