• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


elements of an adventure

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

"I will continue to act as if I know what I’m doing until I succeed in getting a campaign to Epic levels."


-- Charles Dunwoody, RPGnet columnist

"In my experience the majority of campaigns where backstory is important eventually have a crisis point where the players are either confused or wrong and the GM has to choose whether to modify the backstory or show the players the "right" answer. It happens so often that I no longer plan out elaborate campaigns and backstories until partway through the campaign. I always start campaigns off with two or three fairly random missions. I introduce lots of interesting NPCs, factions and conflicts in those three. I watch which ones the players seem most interested in... and THEN I create a story that connects the three together."


-- Justin Dagna


This is the fundamental building block of an RPG session: what happens to the player characters? The goal is to create a series of interesting scenarios that present challenges for the adventuring party to overcome.

Ideas are key: it is important to find inspiration for unusual twists and unexpected happenings. Strive to set the mood and create flavour. Don't plan to run 6 combat encounters in a row - aim for variety.

  • weird
  • strange
  • mysterious
  • impossible
  • surreal
  • creepy
Some encounters should be pitched at specific character abilities or player preferences. Don't let a single player dominate the game - make sure everyone gets a share of the limelight.


Pretty much everyone that the party encounters with an intelligence higher than 2 will have motivations, personality, a name, and a physical description:

  • approximate age
  • race
  • gender
  • clothing
Depending on your players' preference for non-combat interactions, this could be an important part of your game design.

NPCs view the player characters as more than just a food source. An adventuring party can tip the political balance, and an astute NPC (not necessarily a scheming villain) would try to take advantage of that.


To begin with, an open style of game enables the GM and the players to get a feel for the world which they inhabit. Unencumbered by plot, they can feel free to explore and learn about each other and their surroundings.

Introductory encounters provide hints about factions and events, as well as touching on aspects of the characters' backgrounds.

Transitional encounters take the form of plot hooks: potential avenues for deeper investigation that the adventuring party may or may not decide to follow.

Once the players are hooked, the adventure takes the form of a series of interrelated encounters that build upon each other. Ideally, most of these wind up with a climactic battle or shocking revelation, something that permanently changes the status quo. "The big payoff" gives the players a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

campaign background

Expect your players to be curious about their place in the world: the history, geography and socio-political systems that explain how things came to be the way they are. This is another area where ideas, flavour, mood and variety all play a big role.

RPGnet article on collaborative world building

Comments (14)

Azeari said

at 4:11 pm on Aug 27, 2009

Azeari said

at 4:16 pm on Aug 27, 2009

Chris Pound's name generators

Azeari said

at 4:55 pm on Aug 27, 2009

history through the eyes of the Civ IV tech tree

Azeari said

at 10:43 pm on Nov 29, 2009

Azeari said

at 5:55 pm on Nov 30, 2009

"Big List of RPG Plots" by S John Ross

"The 36 Plots" by Loren J. Miller

Azeari said

at 9:51 pm on Dec 15, 2009

What are those wandering monsters up to?
Roll 2d6.

Returning to lair to heal up after a fight. (reduce hit points)
Fighting with another creature. (roll up another creature)
Returning to lair with prisoner/prey.
Returning to lair with treasure.
Just passing by on the way to somewhere else.
Defending territory.
Hunting for food.
Chasing after another creature.
Running away from another creature.
Building new lair. (digging a hole, setting up camp, etc.)
Sleeping or looking for a place to sleep.

'Underground, Overground, Wombling Free, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we.
Making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind...'

Azeari said

at 11:08 am on Dec 22, 2009

Azeari said

at 5:39 pm on Mar 4, 2010

Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering

Azeari said

at 11:49 am on Mar 16, 2010

the idea that:

+The gameworld is defined as the players explore it, and the idea that

+The players need information in order to make meaningful decisions about which way to go

are actually two opposing ideas. There needs to be a mix or compromise. If I only include new places when the PCs explore them then they have no basis to decide to go anywhere, if I have the whole world planned in advance, then I'm possibly doing a lot of work on places that never get used when I could be adding depth to areas (geographical or otherwise) that the PCs are actually interested in. So there needs to be a mix.

Azeari said

at 1:51 pm on Mar 23, 2010

The Session Checklist: Ingredients To A Successful Game Session, Part I
Part II

Azeari said

at 1:30 pm on Jun 16, 2010

DM Tools

NPC stat blocks

Azeari said

at 2:07 pm on Aug 3, 2010

Azeari said

at 3:51 pm on Sep 15, 2010

You don't have permission to comment on this page.