"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"
- Closing Time, Semisonic
The adventures that I create now are all player driven. When I first started DMing, I threw together an adventure idea and then let me players play it (there was very little choice, as it was what I had prepared). I had to "sell" the adventure to them in order to get the game going. Needless to say, the games weren't as fun as they could've been. It wasn't until after a few months of DMing that I tried to make an adventure with one of the players in mind, and let everything feed off of that. When we played that adventure, it was extremely well received, and from there, the rest is history.
I'm now working on another adventure. Some of my readers might wonder why I take so long in creating these adventures and why I write about them so much. Basically, I tend to run marathon games, where the players sit once a month and play for about 8 hours straight, since getting everybody together isn't always the easiest thing to do. However, the group really likes up the marathon sessions, as by the end we feel like we accomplished something and have enough to talk about until the next game.
When you run marathon games, it's important to look at the previous adventure and figure out how to build on things from there. Some important questions to ask are below.
1. What did the players accomplish in the last game?
2. Where did the players end in the last game?
3. Are there any repercussions to the choices they made?
With the first question, it allows you, as the DM to understand what the players actually did in the sense of how the game went. Did they stop the sahuagin? Did they recover the lost relic? Did they reclaim control of their ship? All these questions play into the next adventure. For example, if the players did not reclaim their vessel, allow them ways to further that adventure path in the new adventure.
Knowing how the game ends allows you to figure out where the next one should start, filling in the time as needed. If the players returned to a town, perhaps the adventure starts while they sleep. Maybe they left that town and are on the road. Perhaps they headed someplace else. If they players are actively traveling to a new direction, make sure you speak with them about it before the game (or at the end of the last one) so you can plan accordingly. Sending the players to a place they didn't want to go is sure to lead to some resentment.
The third question looks at the bigger picture of the adventures you're giving the characters. If the characters failed to stop the sahuagin, what does it mean if they leave the village in the next adventure? While these choices may not be seen throughout the entire adventure, it's important to remember them for further marathon adventure planning.
Let's look at what this means for my next adventure.
1. The players defeated a sahuagin group that had been lurking in a mess of shipwrecks. They had no clue as to what that meant or why they were there, but knew the raiders were coming from there.
2. The adventure ended with the players having returned a sahuagin chief back to the town guard.
3. Possibly, depending on what the sahuagin's plans were. However, an NPC in the city, a tiefling pirate named Viigill, spoke about helping them once they caused the sahuagin attacks to stop.
With those points being touched on, I can now move to my next step for adventure design. I've written extensively about how big pirate-themed things are in my campaign world (this is my main campaign, not the playtest spin offs we run just to try new things), so I plan on using Viigill as a plot hook to get the adventure rolling, especially since the PC's have incentive to follow him. This takes us away from the island community and basically allows me to run wherever I want to go.
I'm all about using whatever thing you have in your collection that inspires you. For most of us, this involves whatever new thing we have in our collection. For myself, it's my Dire Tombs Dungeon Tiles. Other people may want to use a new monster miniature or poster map. Whatever it is, find a creative way to throw it in! You'll be happy running it, and your players won't know anything different.
The trick now is finding a way to connect the dots. The best way to do that is to look to your players and the characters they play.
Let's look at two main characters from my campaign:
Niz - Niz is seeking to reclaim his own ship and become his own pirate. I believe that Niz will help Viigill in whatever he needs, simply because he feels that Viigill can help him.
Vivianne - Viviann is trying to find her father. If the new adventure gives leads to Vivianne, so much the better. She will want to follow them in hopes of figuring out what happened to him.
I'm also introducing new players to the game. I don't know if they will come back and play again, but having them there is always a big deal. D&D can be intimidating, so it's important that our new players feel welcome. Talk with the new players about the kind of character they want to be, and then introduce them in interesting ways. One girl that will be playing is going to be a Arya Stark-like character who has spunk and attitude. I think the players will encounter her in one of the cells of the pirate ship, having been captured in a past expedition, but imprisoned due to her defiant nature. Fire Emblem is a great series of games that provides a ton of awesome player introduction opportunities. I would take a look at some of those games if you wonder how to introduce new players.
From there, designing the rest of the adventure is basically the same. Plan something fun with lots of story hooks and options, and you'll be good to go!
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