Adventure outlines and design!
We all have lots of great and creative ideas and one of the hardest things is organizing them, try using this outline to help craft an encounter, adventure or even a campaign story.
It isn’t the solution to making every tale under Paylor, but it should help you, create a proactive narrative and a set up for a satisfying conclusion. Even if your group wanders away from the track, you’ll have a head start in crafting a compelling story!
What’s the issue?
It can be any thing, from crazy cults to mundane invaders! If you’re having problems being inspired that day, just choose a real problem in your life or something from history. The only caveat is that if you choose something trivial, you are setting yourself up to have to work hard to make it meaningful to the players, and if you choose something daunting, you could bog the players down as they struggle to find a solution. Look for a significant problem that can be solved by at least one of the players specialties, in one scene. But you can make anything work.
- The purple dragons egg is missing.
- Orc are rampaging across the land.
- The fields have been cursed.
Create the Non-Player Characters Who Have The Problem
Keep it simple. This is an adventure; there isn’t going be time to describe their middle name or family line anyway – unless those things are relevant to the problem you created. Just give yourself a few basic aspects to get into the mindset. The rest can develop as you go, or better yet as the players throw out comments!
- A young street rat
- A grandmother in the woods
- A gender-ambiguous child in danger
Be sure and Describe Why the Problem Matters to the Player Characters
The more important the problem is to the player characters, the more important it becomes to the story an the role playing! Come up with a solid reason why these people care; this has to go double if your problem is trivial. Raise the stakes until it has emotional impact with the players.
- The man the group slayed earlier bought a purple dragon egg, but he never sold it dying before finding a buyer for it. Now the egg begins to hatch in the heroes home town.
- Long ago, the grandmother of the player tells a story of how as a young child her younger brother disappeared after similar orcs raided. Tonight, her young grandchildren are visiting.
- The child has a secret urban garden that supplies a rare medicine. Unless the plants are pollinated soon, half a dozen people living in squalor – and close personal friends to the group – will die.
Separate the wheat from the chaff
When you’re finished brain storming, look over your choices and descriptions to decide if your problem is still the same as it began. In my missing dragon egg example, the added meaning has revealed the actual problem of the story: the group slayed an evil doer, releasing a complication (a classic story tool used in sequels!). I’ll need to describe why the killings will tie in with the dead villain. The other problems could also be redefined at this stage.
Bring Light to an Obstacle That Holds Them Back
Think ahead to how your PC’s could and should solve the problem. Then decide what is in their way and preventing them from getting to the finish line. What will they struggle against during the Adventure? You definitely want a character-focused story, as they are the stars of your show! This is where you introduce your players to their character arc; just make their first obstacle a personality flaw.
Be Sure to Offer One to Three Attempts to Solve the Problem
I say “attempts” because your PC’s must and will fail here and their and then face the consequences for that failure. Its ok as this builds the fun and excitement and should ramp up the suspense. Perhaps the hero runs down the clock on fruitless measures or causes more damage or consequence. After every attempt, they should be worse off than when they started.
But there’s hope! Give each failed attempt a small step toward the solution. Make sure, as the popular term goes, that the set back lets the Adventure “Fail Forward” It might be a clue, a tool, or a piece of advice that will help your character. That doesn’t mean they’ll recognize it right away. In fact, it’s better if they don’t and one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given is when things slow down: “Someone Kicks in the door and roll initiative!”
Create a Critical Turning Point “What a Twist!”
Now the helpful hints finally click together for the Adventure’s. They have a stunning realization, a clever idea, a fruitful roll of a skill or finally understand a piece of wisdom. This gives them their first opportunity to solve the problem.
If you’re planning an unhappy ending, the Adventure’s realization may be false, out of date or incomplete. Perhaps the hero latches on to the wrong solution to their problem. Regardless, at this point your Players must feel that success is possible.
Show What Happens Next
You’ve brought your Adventure and PC’s to a critical turning point. Now they’ll make a choice that determines their success, and together you’ll narrate the results. Whatever happens, their situation must change.
Go far enough with your narration that your Player’s know what’s coming next. The details might be different, but the direction is clear. This is the big wrap up point, success or failure the Adventure should be forever changed and effects will ripple along the game world. Yes, please make sure your Players feel those ripples wither its free drinks at the Tavern, NPC’s calling them out as heroes or failures and reminders a few adventures down the line.
I hope this helps even if just a little in your Adventure designing and all you plot lines get played with glee or an evil glint in your eye!