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?

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

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