The Color of Adventure I: So You Want to Run an Adventure

According to a recent study,* most roleplayers prefer to write their own adventure material, rather than use purchased adventures. Why is that? Is it that roleplayers are by nature imaginative people, so we want to explore our own worlds and people? Is it our individuality; do commercial adventures frustrate us because they can never be exactly what we want?

For whatever reason we love to create worlds, plot, and legions of NPCs in our spare time. Roleplayers put up entire web sites describing their game worlds. When we do use a commercial adventure, we pick and choose our scenes and plot, changing those things we don’t like. For beginning GMs, however, this can be a daunting task. It may seem like an incredible amount of work, just to listen to your players complain about the result if they don’t like it. I suspect many more players would also be GMs if they had a little guidance, something that laid out the issues and offered a few suggestions.

That’s what this column is going to be about. I’ll give you articles on different ways to prepare for adventures. On how you might personalize game companies’ commercial adventures. On various roleplaying issues you’ve dealt with and read about before–but approached from a different point of view. Instead of talking about how to deal with problems as they arise during a game, I’m going to address how you can prepare for them ahead of time.

Here’s a preview of, and a few words about, some of the issues I hope to address in future columns:

Commercial material comes in a number of forms. It may take the form of official “adventures,” of organized suggestions for adventures you might design yourself, or of loose background material that you may use as you will. What’s more useful? How can you put all of these various resources to work for you? If you want one type of material and your gaming company has provided another, what can you do to convert it? How can you muck with a commercial adventure to suit it to your own gaming group?

When you write campaigns for yourself, there is an incredible amount of material you might prepare. You could write up NPCs, plot, scenes, rough notes, intricate puzzles, etc. Which types of material are more useful? Where do different types of material come in handy? How much material should you prepare in advance (and how much shouldn’t you prepare?).

How can you integrate your players’ characters into the game so that they’re more than just visitors? How can you give each of them reason to get involved in the plot? What can you do to make sure that your players will enjoy the types of plot you throw at them? How can you encourage a cohesive party?

When you write adventures that you expect other people to use, what should you do differently? What kind of material will you need? Are there significant differences between the way you should write adventure materials for yourself and for other people? How should you organize your adventure so that it’s easy to use?

Game length may range from the short one-night game to the eternal run in which people play the same characters for years. What are the differences in material preparation for different types of games? What are the different issues that need to be addressed in the various types of games?

Many roleplaying issues are considered to be strictly issues of game-play. However, I believe that to a certain extent, many of them may also be addressed during the planning stages of your game. Some examples of such issues: making sure all characters get their time in the spotlight; keeping the mood; free will; game balance; trust; communication; etc. Ultimately it boils down to making sure everyone has fun.

*The study was conducted by Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast.

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