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Sunday, December 22, 2013

How Detailed Do You Like Your Adventures?

When I purchase a prewritten adventure, I understand that it will be written in a manner that will cover most contingencies that could come up. Cover as many bases as possible type of thing. I expect details even if most of them will never come into play.

When I flesh out an adventure for my own use, I just need "memory signposts". Just enough written down to jog my memory when the times comes. Heck, I find that if it's a common enough creature in the encounter, I just write the name and move on - in theory, i should be able to recall the AC, HD and damage of the average orc or even troll - and if I am off in one way or another, it just helps in keeping the players on their toes.

I am partial to using +James Raggi 's Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra for the BBEG and / or it's minions on occasions. Again, a great tool to keep the players off balance, but I would use it lightly. If your otherwise "meeting typical D&D expectations" styled fantasy world has a bizarre creature behind every door, the bizarre will become normal and lose it's effect.

In any case, how detailed are the adventure that you write for your own use?

Part 2 - Do you design unique creatures / encounters to keep your players guessing, or do you stick to the book?


  1. Reskinning blurs the line. You can have your standard monsters become exotic, and your exotic monsters not be jarring.

    I like to have some contingencies sketched out, but if your main points are buried in verbosity, the whole structure suffers. I like summaries with modular troubleshooting.

  2. I like them as detailed as the author wants to make them. What makes old-school games the only games in town, in my authoritative opinion :), is the flexibility given the dm. However, the more I know what the author had in mind the more I feel I can enjoy the adventure beyond simple session use. I really like to read adventures as much as play them so that is a big part of why.

  3. Stonehell Dungeon's descriptions are my new bar for the level of detail that I like. More than a straight one-page dungeon format, but not so much more that I get lost in the content. Instead it gives me a feel for the section of the dungeon and some specifics for each room. Combining the two I can fill things in on the fly.

    I like to use a mixture of the standard and unique. I like it when my players get to recognize a wraith riding a wyvern or a gelatinous cube. The classics are classics for a reason. I sparingly use the exotic and unique monsters to shake things up.

    Sometimes I'll use a monster that is a variation on a known monster, so the players get to wonder how much they really know about what they're facing. For example, I recently used a Crowbear. The party recognized that it was like an Owlbear, but not sure how alike they were. Especially since there was a murder of crows in the trees watching them.

  4. I produce a one page dungeon map and encounter description for each level or quarter level of the dungeon. Monsters I expect to be in that section then get a writeup which I will base off the book and modify at my whim.

  5. In a perfect world each DM would have their own menagerie of monsters. Player races too - 35 years of elf-dwarf-halfling isenough.

  6. Part 1: I run a keyed map, a random encounter chart, and notes on the architecture style, as well as keys for abnormal conditions or areas. There will usually be a critical phrase across the top that helps me remember the mood and flair I'm going for.
    I'll also often pre-generate several of the random encounters into a deck of cards that I can immediately pull - saves time in the long run. If I don't do the "basic" encounters, I'll still usually have some unique, one-time things keyed to 2 or 12 in a mini-deck.

    Part 2: Both. By-the-book is fine for a bandit camp, and entirely appropriate. I also have.. a lot of books. The farther you get from roads and walls, the weirder shit gets - until you start running into things like the Singing Seeming http://wp.me/p2mOz7-5P and the Gaunt Things http://wp.me/p2mOz7-5J or stuff I jack from my folklore studies.

    Also, I love the RECG for just throwing a spanner into the works. Whatever it is will come out of left field, and I like my PCs scared and desperate. It always gets the best and most desperate ideas out of them.

  7. When creating my own adventures I like to try to strike a balance between "completeness" and "economy". So more detail than what Stonehell or the one page dungeon has to offer but considerably less than that displayed on many modern adventures on offer. The trick is to find a way of presenting the information in the most accessible manner that takes up the least amount of space.