Monday, May 6, 2013

Adventure Design

I've been working on adventures.  A handful of them.  And I notice I don't have a unified approach to any of them.  Not that needs to be, but sometimes its helpful.  When you do the introduction its pretty much says the same thing, this is for x number of characters at x level.  Please change anything you like.  There is some standard stuff in every adventure.

Here's what I propose.  Propose?  Here's what I plan on doing.  I want to develop a stat block for the adventure itself.  For easy reference for perspective GMs and so the writer can save precious space.  I probably should put this out there until I've thought about this more, but I rarely like to think too much.  Causes cramps. 

This is a sample, but it would be a in a block on the cover of the adventure.

Level: 3rd to 5th
# Characters: 6 to 8
Setting: Village & Underground Dungeon Crawl
Difficulty Level: Medium
Size: Small
Rating: Teen

The last three have qualifying answers, but I would keep it to a three or four tier answer system.  Difficulty: easy, medium and hard.
Size: small, medium, large.
Rating: family, teen, mature.

In general, the basic information is delivered at a glance.  There are probably a few categories that could be added.  If you have a suggestion please do or maybe something could be changed in what I proposed. 


  1. That looks pretty good to me, we should implement it across the board. Then it could become a sort of standard. :)

  2. A nice idea Tim. I can really see it being a lot of use, as the current system pretty much requires that you read the whole adventure through before you either say yay or nah.

    GMing is enough like hard work as it is, so anything that can ease the workload is always going to be welcomed.

  3. Perhaps a few more categories?

    Magic: none, low, average, high (for a feel of how much magic is in the adventure - low magic settings shouldn't use high-magic adventures)

    Psionics: none, low, high (same as above - worlds with no psionics shouldn't use high-psionic adventures)

    Brain or Brawn: Brain, balanced, brawn (brain = more puzzles/traps than fights, brawn = more fights than puzzles, balanced is self explanatory)

    Just a few suggestions. Other than that, it sounds awesome. Good idea!

  4. Perhaps instead of the Level and Number of characters line, it might look like:

    Number of Characters/Level
    1-2: 8th Level; need a spellcaster!
    3-4: 6th-7th Level
    5-8: 4th-5th Level
    9+: Don't bother. You can't all fit in Room 31.

    Alternately, 1-2 might be "don't bother. This adventure is not suitable for solo play."

    I'm making up numbers, but both from a scaling point of view, but also from a sales one. I think that sort of info would basically allow a GM to say "my group is [blah] players, so I can/can't use it with them at this point." Instead of "this is only for 6-8 adventurers, so I won't buy it."

  5. Interesting. What do you view as the dividing line between "teen" and "mature"?

  6. Matt Oh boy, the standard! That almost sounds like it needs to be capitalized.

    Tom You comment made me think of a different category where I would list the ruleset.

    suspended chord Hmm, I can see those being useful.

    For me that would inflate the stat block too much. I think putting the 'optimal' level and number listed and then have the GM figure out the scale from there. Sorta like THACO.

    Trey Interesting question. Most of it is all relative. I guess I would consider my Mini Manor for mature audiences, pretty much anything from LotFP, Carcosia and so on. Anything with torture, rape or graphic situations that mirror real life. Teen could include some of those elements, but watered down and more fantastical. Sorta like how sci-fi writers got away with writing about social issues, but changing the setting to Mars or throwing in a alien and it was okay.

  7. I would love to have an almanac of these covering all electronically available (free & paid) OSR adventures out there.

    It could get over complicated, so I'd want to restrict it to recommended level, length (approximate number of encounter areas), and two to five descriptive tags.

  8. I like this idea. I suppose to help specify the teen vs. family vs. mature stuff you could just use the existing system they use for movies: G, PG, PG-13, etc.

  9. Good idea. You are such a codifier.

  10. "Difficulty" is sort of ambiguous. Maybe split it up into:

    a) how deadly an adventure it is
    b) how difficult problem solving/puzzles are

  11. The German RPG Das schwarze Auge uses a similar scheme on the back cover of its modules.

    Here:, in the green side bar, under "Abenteuerinformationen".

    They list these categories:

    Setting date: year to year (this is important because DSA has a heavy metaplot with world-shattering events happening pretty regularly)
    Location: city, region (also, setting specific)
    Complexity GM: beginner, low, medium, high, expert
    Complexity players: beginner, low, medium, high, expert
    Experience characters: beginner, experienced, expert
    Requirements characters: interaction, background knowledge, general skills, combat skills, magic skills