November 28, 2010

Hook, Line and Sinker Part 3: Adventure Design

So we've developed an overarching goal for our players, with an antagonist who's going to continue on his path regardless of the players actions. But that's just ideas, something you'll definitely need to revise before the end, and your game is starting in less than a week, you need something more concrete!

First step is of course picking a hook.  If this is a first adventure, you're going to need to pull something out of your initial questioning, something concrete and short term that you can fit into your ideas for a long term campaign. If this is anything BUT the first session, you should have ended the last session with some idea of where the player characters were going.

Once you have a hook you have a 'victory condition'.  The players get what they want, they win, if they are stopped, they lose. This is an important concept for RPGs as every single fight including 'Survive' as the primary victory condition gets boring after a while.

Going back to last week, let's take some of our 'outline' and make a quick and dirty adventure plan.  We'll assume the adventurers stopped the thief, so now know their trinket isn't a mere trinket. Hopefully, you find out last week they want to know more about their gem.

Our players want to know about their gem, so we obviously need to give them an opprotunity to learn.  A wise sage character, a fairly well stocked library, or even a local legend can all be useful in this situation.  Let your players guide you through this very roleplaying centric portion of your adventure, they'll let you know what kind of story they are expecting.

Now that your players know that the necklace is from the old Empire, and, if there research didn't turn up the fact, now's the time to let them know there are ruins nearby.  Hopefully, off they go.

Depending on your system, your next step is combats or traps, or something with a bit of an edge, it's time to make them to question their bravery. If they survive the trials, and they should, they should meet up with our bumbling archivist trying to find clues as to the whereabouts of the keys to the end game tower.  This is more roleplaying, and again, let your players lead you through this.  You know the character's motivation, let that guide your responses.

Once they know a little more, or have determined the archivist is unhelpful, you need to set up the keynote encounter.  This almost certainly should be a combat, something explosive, and you should find a way to bring the archivist back into the game, trying to steal the amulet.  Of course, beating him, and the rest of the encounter, means another piece of the amulet, and a hint that the item is for something very powerful.  What will our heroes do? Find out, because that's your hook for your next game!

Tying encounters together (Even as simply as this) helps fortify them in memory, as they can be grouped easily.  You want your players remembering this game, right?  So do what you can to help them do so.

To recap: Have a goal, tie the encounters together, and make sure to capstone with a great encounter.  Next time, I'll discuss making those excellent encounters.

What do you think, readers, are plot based victory conditions effective?  Try them out, see what your players think.

Read part 4!


  1. This isn't anything new, but it is unusual. While most DMs want their people with the blinders on, you just want the characters to get to the end result. The end result of the adventure is to keep the players playing and in control of the story. This makes the adventure dynamic and ambiguous. I like it. It's a universal everyone has fun method.

    Hopefully, there are beginners reading your hook, line, and sinker posts because they could learn from you. Veterans should read it too, just because they need a reminder that pen and paper doesn't equal to tunnel vision story lines.

  2. Thank you for the compliments. My goal with Hook, Line, and Sinker, and future GM based articles, is that players and GMs everywhere end up having more fun in their games.

    Really, all games should be a combination of improv and idea compromises. The GM is going to need to have SOME idea of where things are going, since they're the ones who typically lay the hooks out for the players to catch, but to discount the fact that the players are also creative human beings who will interpret things in unique and interesting ways is a fool's errand.