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Adventure Making Process Part Two: Where do Adventures Come From?

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I indicated I use the idea of Plot advance and tangent in making adventures for D&D. The question now is where do the ideas come from? For me I use many resources for creating adventures that are game and non-game genres. I usually end up using all of the forms in the final product but they usually can begin and idea in one of these categories. Here are the break downs:

1. Books and Movies (and recently Video games): the easiest source material is from the media which holds the bulk of fiction. I find books to be the better as it is less likely (and sadly) that plots and characters of books will be recognizable to all of your players. Even then, the stories are all recycled plot wise. It is the nuisance's of setting and mood that help define an idea. You need not take all things verbatim, but you should be able to produce scenarios or characters that mimics the iconic fiction (or even non-fiction) situation or foe. Naturally, the more well read you are the easier it is to pull the sources. For my Dark City Campaign, I based most of my ideas on Looking Glass Studios Thief series and read all of Frizt Lieber's Farhad and Grey Mouser Novels.

2. From the Game Books: One great aspect of 3.5 (mostly missed by 4e) is the rich text it provides on backgrounds and descriptions of spells, races, monster, classes, magic items, gods, etc. that can be taken and used as inspiration. You can pull a single monster out of the book and base an adventure around that creature.(Example: a Vampiric Umberhulk...WTF) Or you could read about a spell and think it would be a great scenario to have it used in a traditional or unconventional way: (Example, a Skeleton Warrior with an improved invisibility spell cast on it). You can also use the history of some creatures and change them or reinvent them (Example:The Gith uprising against the Mindflayers--home brew of course

3. Deconstructed Modules: This idea is based slightly on the 2nd. While you may use game materials in this regard you change the basic plot, setting, challenges, etc. to create a new story. The best modules are usually sites but challenging ones can be made by event-style adventures as well. Classic D&D adventures or Goodman Dungeon Crawl classics are ideal for these kind of makeovers.

4. Just an Idea: This is my usually path to adventure creation. I may have a visual or scene in my head I would like to create. Maybe it is human hands crawling out of the sea, a basket full of eyeballs, a floating brain in a jar, etc. Maybe it's a place, like a prison in the astral plane, a sphere emerged in a lava bed, a beholder in a black pyramid (which actually came to me in a dream many years ago) or a castle on the head of a titan. These visions help me start on the "how do I get there" thought pattern which would eventually utilize all of the above in the final creation.

Currently I am writing an arc for my Brooding City Campaign. My first idea was to take the Dungeon Crawl Classic adventure "The Cage of Delirium" and instead of running it as the ghost story it is, I would run it during the events that lead up to the place becoming curse with the doctors and patients and what not. But I needed a reason the players had to go there so I decided they had to find someone. Naturally when they arrive they get caught up in the events but then I had to decide where to go from there.

After mulling it over I had my first vision of a mob of children without eyes. Looking through Cityscape they had statistics for a mob of children which I found unnerving. I didn't know why that was fascinating but I went ahead and tried to think of a story about it.

I took a chance and I actually googled about children losing their eyes and that's when I came upon E.T.A. Hoffmann's Short Story "The Sandman" which described a man's correspondence of man obsessed with a Barometer salesman (who the author believes was responsible for his father's death), a mysterious doctor and his artificial daughter. In addition, it has references of the sandman as not a benign being but a creature that steals the eyes of children caught awake at night. A short stop action film described as influenced by Hoffman's tale had the sandman as a bird like creature.

It then clicked that I would make the Sandman a Vrock. The man who goes insane is the man the PC's find at the asylum and he gives them information on the other two's plot (Which becomes the Master's plot). I then need to create scenarios for the PC's and statistics for the foes. One may be the home of the doctor and another will be a slave ship where abducted children are being sold. Since my players will be mid level, I used savage species to reduce the Vrock's level to not make him overpowered.

Next: Putting the scenarios together.

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Updated 04-10-2009 at 06:52 PM by wizarddog

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