Friday, April 12, 2019


How much information do you really need to run an adventure?

I love using published adventures but one of the things that frustrates me about them is the amount of prep that I need to do when I'm getting ready to run a game.

Most of the time, it's about the same amount of prep as if I were writing my own adventure from scratch. When I'm prepping a pre written adventure, I have to read through the entire adventure at least once and take notes. I usually use three by five note cards or print out the adventure and write notes out on it or highlight certain parts that I want to make sure I touch on and make stuff a lot more readable and easy to find. Well, I'm at the table.

Of course, reading the adventure, there's probably a certain amount of information that is gleaned and therefore, saved in my subconscious so that when I get to the table, I probably remember a whole lot more. But when I'm writing my own adventures, to save time and prep, I just write down the notes and highlights, you know, short tags or descriptions, really just the information that's needed. For each encounter. I don't write out the monsters hit dice, I write down their hit points. And more recently, I've adopted the convention of just noting the attack damage. I just use the average I don't write that a monster does. One D six points of damage with a sword, I use the average hit points of damage and say one attack does three hit points of damage. And basically that's what it does every time it hits. Why aren't published adventures written more like this? You could Front Load the adventure with all of the needed background information and introduction information, the player start information. But when it comes to the actual adventure, why don't we just have the necessary information. If you need more, you can always go to a monster manual or even put a beast Yari in the back of the adventure that could be used for reference, but for the most part, there's a limited amount of information that you need for running the game at the table.

A number of years ago, I picked up the servants of the sender Queen, a dungeon World Adventure by Jason Lutes. It was written to be more like a traditional d&d adventure, as opposed to the more usual dungeon world adventures where they're more of a free form, type of adventure that you make up as you go. I will say there are a lot of transferable skills from dungeon world that totally make games run better. And it's definitely on my list of the must read GM books. Even if you never play dungeon world, it's worth a read.

Available on DriveThruRPG
When I published the Heart of Darkness, adventure, my sci fi gothic horror and space, I wanted to try and use the same format that was used in servants of the cinder clean. Even though I wasn't writing a dungeon World Adventure, I wanted to write an adventure using pretty much the same format. I call it an adventure framework. each location is a general area, a zone or a scene. And it can contain one room, many rooms, a whole neighborhood or 20 square mile hex. Depending on what granularity was needed at the time, or for that location. It's definitely not what I would call a traditional format. And I leave a lot of room for GM improv. I wrote it in much the same way, I would prep my regular game adventures. Each encounter area includes a list of tags or short descriptions that are sorted into five different categories, connections, elements, details, discoveries, and GM inspiration, connections or simply what the areas are connected to, and how an area might be connected to another area. So rather than drawing out a large map or needing a large map for people who prefer theater of the mind, so the next thing was elements, you know, elements or environmental aspects of an area, how does location look? How does it feel, what is it, what are the smells and what kind of sounds and I just kind of hit on all the senses, the GM can just look down at a handful of words and then make up their own story or their own description of what the area looks like and paint their own picture. Details are more specific adventure related aspects of the area things like traps, puzzles, unique environmental factors and any NPC that might be involved discoveries or potentially useful things within the area that may or may not be obvious. Stuff like treasure and clues. And my favorite GM inspirations these are the suggested monster encounters the plot twists and complications that I might throw at players just to make the whole area a bit more interesting. I think the concept of creating adventures using just simple outlines and tags is definitely one that should be more explored in published games. It's great for low prep or no prep, and you can easily read a few words to spur your imagination at the table while you're running on the fly. As opposed to having to read a few sentences or even paragraphs. And I think it gives the GM the opportunity to customize the location to their needs without feeling like they may have missed something the author intended.

Tomb of Xenophon Micro-Dungeon Adventure in 3 Flavors
Most of this comes from my recent zine project, really don't want to call it a zine project. I don't know if it's going to be often enough to be a zine or, you know, there's going to be any frequency or regularity. I really would rather just call them micro dungeon adventures. They're essentially a two page adventure. But in order to cram a 1-3 hour adventure onto a single page, I really had to cut some corners and make some hard choices on what information was necessary for the GM To truly run a good game. So what do you think? How much information is too much information? How much do we really need? Do we have inflated word counts because people get paid by the word? Is that really something that we absolutely have to have in every adventure or could an adventure really just be a series of notes?

Transcribed by

Click here to find my Micro-Dungeon Adventure, The Tomb of Xenophon on DriveThruRPG.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Mad Map March Challenge

The Mad Map March challenge.

I don't normally participate in these internet challenges, mostly because I'm not good at it. I usually fizzle out within a day or two, or I skip a bunch of days and then come back to it [or] eventually just forget about it. I've accepted the Mad Map March challenge, which is creating a different map each day in March, working from a list of prompts. I think this is going to be a very difficult challenge for me.

The first major obstacle in this challenge is going to be the time involved. Because normally I do my map work at lunchtime and generally speaking, it takes about a week of lunches for me to design just one map, and some of that is due to just the process of coming up with the idea or playing with techniques, but in general it takes about five hours or more, sometimes more, to develop a map and because I don't just I'm not just creating a map for use as a key to an adventure, in most cases it's a battle map of some kind and I really enjoy putting a lot of detail—almost telling a story with the map itself. I feel like the map is as much an illustration for the adventure as drawings would be or or painting for a cover and I try to put as much energy into each map as I would an illustration so that that's going to be an obstacle, that's going to be a big obstacle. Working in one fourth or one fifth, the amount of time and trying to come up with a new map every day and completing that map in about an hour is it's going to be a significant challenge.

The other challenge is probably going to be the open ended nature of the prompt. I tend to work a whole lot better when I have more constraints. I play a better character when I have more constraints. I prefer to be given a pre generated character so that I could work within the constraints of what was given to me. Even though a prompt itself has some amount of limits, it's still very open ended. There isn't a lot of description to go on. For instance, day five. Today's prompt was Sea or Lake, "Well, what do you what do you mean 'Sea and Lake'? What are the what are the other rules that govern this creation?" There aren't any [specifics], just whatever your imagination comes up with. Well, hopefully what I come up with is something that everybody likes. Because the other part of this is I want to create something that's useful. I don't just want to create a map for the sake of creating a map or art for the sake of creating art. And because these really are designed to be played on as battle maps, or in virtual table tops, I want people to want to use them in their adventures.

Those are some challenges that I'm going to have to deal with, everything from just my own enthusiasm for the challenge to the time involved, and the level of perfection that I'm going to want versus the level of perfection that I'm going to be able to produce. Hopefully I'm going to learn some new shortcuts and really start to develop some interesting techniques throughout this process as well. really exercise my imagination and and get some new ideas that I didn't have before out and started I Also really hope that I am able to produce quality work that all of my supporters at Patreon are happy with. I care about what my supporters want and so that's important to me. Feedback on this is going to be paramount to my success even beyond completing the challenge.

If you see my work and you like my work, let me know, call in [to Anchor] or write me all of the contact information is in the show notes. Check that out and let me know what you think. Today [is] day five, [I'm] a little behind, I've got four days to catch up on and what I don't catch up on in this month I'm going to just continue on into April to make sure that I can complete the challenge. Let me know what you think?

Monday afternoon drive time micro-burst, Tim Shorts style!

Transcribed by

Follow this link to download Mad Map March #5.

All Patreon supporters this month get the hi-res watermark free files of all the Mad Map March maps!

Featured Battle Map!

The printable tiles were designed to be used as print and play or as a complement to the 2.5D tile creation method created by DM Scotty.

Also included are a full set of files for Virtual Tabletops.

Let me know how you use it!

Heart of Darkness is currently available digitally as a White Star compatible adventure and as a Savage Worlds licensed adventure.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

To Recycle or Not Recycle Ideas In Published Works?

So here I am in my car on my Wednesday morning commute, trying something a little bit different. And forgive me if I get a little rambling or off topic, just kind of one of those things, and it seems like this may work out... or it may not work out. But I wanted to talk a little bit about recycling. This idea was prompted by the fact that after my podcast on taking notes, and catching the idea when it is when the Muse strikes, I thought it would be a good idea to go out and buy a standalone voice recorder Well, I found some inexpensive ones, but I'm kind of a cheapskate when it comes to some of that stuff and I couldn't justify spending even $20 for a voice recorder. So for the past week or so I've been just kind of trying to convince myself that I needed to spring for the hardware and then while having a conversation with a friend and hit me, I've got a lot of old technology just sitting around. I've got this recording pen thing and I thought I could use that. I just use the recorder. It wasn't working and I don't know why I didn't think about this at first, but I also have an old iPhone that is just sitting around collecting dust on my nightstand. I occasionally use it to as a soundboard for when I run games. I will use it to control my Bluetooth speaker so that I have other devices free, but for the most part, it just sits dormant. It works perfectly fine without a sim and it can still connect to Wi-Fi.  I just updated the OS so it's pretty functional and new. So why don't I use that? As a result, I am testing out this "new" old piece of tech and doing a Wednesday drive-time Microburst. That also led me to thinking about the idea of recycling things in games.

Now I'm familiar with the quantum ogre and this may kind of seem like that idea, but I'm really more interested in seeing how much can we recycle from a one published product to use in another published product. Is it worth it? Also, I have a lot of stuff that I end up throwing away when I'm working on a project or an adventure or a product that might well fit into another project. So I'm thinking let's go ahead and reuse.

For instance, you have an encounter that wasn't used in one adventure that you could easily move into another adventure if the players never experienced that encounter. They wouldn't be any the wiser. As far as reusing a an idea from one adventure to another, even if it's published, would that be ethical? Would that be smart? Maybe ethical isn't even a question maybe it's just smart? You could reskin something which also leads me to the question of what about reskinning an adventure and republishing the entire adventure? I have [an adventure] actually it's the only real published adventure that I have. It's a space horror, a gothic space horror adventure and a friend of mine has run this and reskinned it not just in space, but he's reskinned it for Rifts. He's reskinned for fantasy I believe. So why, I mean, how would you go about doing that? How could I reskin an adventure? And would it be okay to publish it? or How could I get more mileage out of a single adventure republishing it because sure a lot of good GM would be able to very easily reskin it but what about the people who don't either have the talent or the time or the experience to reskin it? Am I doing them a disservice? Or am I doing them a favor by reskinning the adventure? Call in let me know let's get a conversation going.

Something also occurs to me that the major publishers of adventures have been reusing and recycling material since the very beginning. I think there are three different versions of Keep on the Borderlands all with slightly different material and Wizards has been reusing a lot of the old TSR material, either updating it with some new stuff and new stats, also reissuing old material with new bonus material. Goodman games does that a lot, they will reissue old adventures with bonus material which I think is fantastic idea because it keeps those things fresh and not everybody has seen [some of those older] things. By reissuing it, it gives them an opportunity to re-advertise for those [adventures] and bring [them] to the forefront once again, and maybe give some new life to an old classic. That is extremely valuable.

The more I think about this, the more I think that yeah, this is an okay idea and why not?

Based on a transcription by

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