5E How To D&D pt 2: The Adventure
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  1. #1

    How To D&D pt 2: The Adventure

    Part 1 is here.


    In part one I threw around some basic ideas on how to world build or put together a basic campaign. In part 2 I will share some tips on how to construct an adventure. In general a DMs best friend for any edition of D&D is a word processor and a printer. In the good old days I used to use note paper, A4 blank paper and grid paper that you would use at high school mathematics. Either approach works. IN D&D there are generally 3 pillars of play- combat, exploration and social (roleplaying). The 5E classes have been designed around these 3 pillars obviously some classes are going to be better at some of the pillars than others. If you have classes like Druids, Barbarians and Rangers things lean towards the exploration pillar, charisma based class and things like Rogues they can lean towards the social pillar while fighters and invokers lean towards the combat side of things. All the D&D classes to some extent are good at combat in various ways (spells, beat down, support etc) some classes are just better than others.

    In part 1 I used Wycliff as an example, it as just really a name it could be Hommlet, Threshold, Phandelver, Shadowdale it doesn't matter what your name is (The Rock). The village is more or less a D&D cliche. Wycliff IIRC comes from the old Sword of Vermillion RPG from the early 90's I reuse obscure things that my players will not recognise. This is another example of KISS. Cliches can be good you can always met in an Inn especially if you are new as it would not have been done to death. D&D villages often have a forest nearby along with a dungeon. Village (social), dungeon (combat), forest/wilderness (exploration). Note you can also mix the 3 pillars, explore the village (exploration), interact with its inhabitants (social), head to the dungeon (combat), map the dungeon *exploration), and interact with its denziens or any NPCs you rescue (social). There is no right and wrong mix of the 3 pillars its more or less what your players like. D&D is kind of the most important one I suppose as a lot of players expect it and often when you are new to D&D you focus on that and that is fine as well. Personally I like the exploration part more followed by combat and social in last ( 40/30/30 mix something like that).

    At its most basic detail a small forest or wilderness area and have 6-12 encounters/locations. Not all of these need to be combat and one or 2 of the locations can be a dungeon. Finding the dungeon is an old D&D trope (Caves of Chaos, The moat house, under the Temple of Elemental Evil). For low level PCs (1-3 or so) keep the dungeons small especially at level 1 you only need 6-12 rooms (note the 6-12 encounter thing KISS). Roughly divide a dungeon into 1/3rds. One in 3 rooms has the potential for combat, 1 in 3 rooms is empty, 1 in 3 rooms has something to do in it (hidden treasure, door, trap, puzzle etc). Empty rooms can have clues in them like tracks, pained arrows, chalk marks, murals, statues, etc. Try not to over do statue type monsters (Gargoyles, stone golems etc). If you over do that PCs won't trust any statues, a similar logic applies to traps on statues if any of them have gem eyes etc. IN a small dungeon perhaps as many as 50% of the rooms can have combat in them (a 6 room mini dungeon).

    In the wilderness you can use a wandering monster table, don;'t worry to much if some of the monsters can overwhelm the PCs. Not every encounter has to be deadly or combat. Sentient beings can be negotiated with, animals can run of they get wounded once, and things like Dragons can just shake the PCs down for treasure. Level 3 PCs encountering a random adult Dragon, give them an option of paying half their loot, the Dragon can become a recurring BBEG. Friendly Druids, Dryads, mischievous fey are other non combat encounters you can include along with landmarks. Landmarks can be an ancient stone inscribed with runes/writing (these exist IRL), an enchanted fountain, ruins, a hill or mountains, a spur of stone etc. Look out your window for ideas.

    For the social thing in pt 1 KISS I mentioned include a small list (6-12 that number yet again) of NPCs. Some D&D adventures have every building in a town with NPCs in it, that is great but it is a lot of work players often ignore around half of them anyway. 12-24 locations with 1-3 NPCs that is a full time job writing. And if the PCs decide to leave town you just did a lot of work for nothing. You can also include a few NPCs that can turn up anyway (and often will), its kind of like railroading but the players have the illusion of doing what they want. I practice it doesn't really matter where they go or what they do they will encounter XYZ NPC if its important to your story. Just don';t over do it or have NPCs turn up in silly places (merman in a desert). Give NPCs a few words to describe them or bullet points, plan out a rough dialogue in your head you do not need to write a short novel like some adventures do. KISS.

    Putting it All together.

    You are the DM and your PCs are level 1-3. Using my previous example you have "The Village" all so know as Ye Olde D&D trope. IN part 1 I mentioned several factions.

    The Old Faith
    Knights of Vanya
    Zeon's church
    Sol and Luna's church

    You need a dungeon and want to do a little bit of the 3 pillars. 6-12 is a nice golden number. Design a small dungeon and place it somewhere probably in or near the woods. Tie the Dungeon to the campaign. Its a ruined keep of the Knights of Vanya that was destroyed a few decades ago. Tie the forest to the factions as well, around half the villages follow the Old Faith so you have a couple of Druids in the forest. Sol and Luna can be a married couple make them a faction the Church of light that is opposed by Zeons church. Each on has an NPC priest and an acolyte (1 noble and a common) these are all NPCs from the back of the MM.

    There is an old Knight who perhaps was a young one when the Keep fell. Of course he has a magic sword or shield (+1) that he is willing to donate to some heroes and he might even have a family. His children/grandchildren can be potential love interests to the PCs so we can give him a granddaughter/son who has had some combat training (NPC guard stats) and with a bit of training could turn into a level 1 Fighter/Paladin or even Ranger. The grandchild is also a prime candidate to get kidnapped.

    We need a villain as well. A wandering Bard can be a servant of Zeon and they have corrupted a villager. The villager may be redeemable (led astray) but the Zeonite is a real bastard.

    Cast so far (name them)

    Priest of Sol
    Priest of Luna
    Old Knight
    Old Knights Grandchild
    Zeons "Bard"
    Corrupted villager.

    Throw in another 4-6 villagers as red herrings or whatever just to expand the cast. Reasons Bard hangs out at the local tavern and often has his acolyte turn up in the evenings to drink. The "Bard" is cahrsnatic (14+) but can be of any class or NPC from the back probably no more than CR 1-3 depending on when the PCs are expected to smack them down.

    So we have a rough plot line of a ruined keep/manor that used to belong to the Knights of Vanya. This is dungeon number 1 for the PCs to go and explore and it is fairly close (a few miles no more can even be in the town on the edge of it).

    The Dungeon can be 6-12 rooms, the "Bard" perhaps has animated the fallen defenders as skeletons throw in some typical fodder (goblins, kobolds). The Knight of Vanya wants the PCs to recover something sentimental form the ruins and is willing to reward them with his magic item. The evil "Bard" can be interacted with peacefully in town but of course will sneak out to the ruins perhaps he is ordering the skeletons to excavate a room/hole which conveniently has what the old Knight is looking for.

    And that is basically it. There is a bit you can do with this very basic outline and we do not need to write a novel detailing the local area. In part 3 if there is any interest I will talk about how to dress up the basic adventure and follow it up. Note this is only IMHO, you may do it differently.

  2. #2
    Sample Z NPC list and rumor table for a social adventure I ran. I found out the hard way I used to many NPCs, players got a bit confused but they solved the problem and killed the Dukes son.

    Duke Leto Secunda (LG,hm)
    Lord Atuyan Secunda (CN, Dukes oldest son alcoholic, pervert/deviant)
    Lord Justinian Secunda (LG, Dukes 2nd youngest son)
    Lady Imsa Secunda (CG, Dukes daughter, not to bright, very affectionate)
    Corteza Duranall (CG half elf female, bastard born to wandering elf)
    Kailana Blayze (NG serving girl)
    Alundra (LE Red Mantis Assassin sister to Leda)
    Frulam Mondath (LN Duke Letos Seneschal)
    Leda Windris (serving girl)
    Patriarch Sherlane, (LG High Priest of Threshold)
    Aleena Secunda (NG, daughter of the Patriarch married to Dukes Eldest son)
    Lasfelo Shator, (Foreign merchanthalf blood in disguise)
    Eldheri Lewell (Elf Ambassador from house Adara, rumoured father of Corteza)
    Balabar Smenk (NE, minor noble, smirks a lot)
    Onthar Fromm (CN, noble, ladies man, cad)
    Aldor (travelling bard)
    Thungar Pwent (Dwarf Mercenary)
    Siegfried Von Wolffan (ambassador Knights of Vanya)
    Ravendas Sirion (mysterious women from far off land, Ranger, warns PCs about Dragon)
    Radecere Perethun (sneaky Gnome, N, Guardian)
    Maris Serving girl
    Malven (stable boy)
    Sturg (gurard)
    Grom (guard)
    Lys (guard)
    Jerom (guard)

    Rumors (1d12)

    1. The Knights of Vanya are going to invade. They want to dispose of the Duke to clear the way (Knights want to convince Duke to join them, they do not want him dead)
    2. The doom is here again, the Draconic prophecies have foretold it!!! (false)
    3. It is those sneaky elves I tell ya. They are up to something (true).
    4. Is his younger days the Duke was quite the ldies man. He settled down with his wife and it was most sad when she assed away of the fading sickness 3 years ago (mostly true).
    5. Youth these days, they go to all night parties and indulge in unknown perversions. Look for bite marks on the neck, sick I say”. (false)
    6. The next dark night of the moon the shadows from below are due to rise up. (looks suspiciously at any elf). (false)
    7. The Duke has been under incredible pressure lately. Something is bothering him (true)
    8. The other night I saw a giant insect, gods strike me dead if I am lying (true, Alundra in Mantis form)
    9. A month ago I saw a shape like a giant bat fly across the moon, winter is coming!!! (true the bat was a Dragon)
    10. There is gold in them thar hills. Perhaps we can talk about a business deal!! (technically true)
    11. During the fall of the empire the day became night and the walking dead assaulted Threshold. It is said the city lies over their crypts (hogwash).
    12. Ever danced with the shadows in the pale moon light? (WTF?)
    Last edited by Zardnaar; Thursday, 17th May, 2018 at 05:03 AM.

  3. #3
    I gave you xp for both threads. They are very valiable for every new and ven experienced dm. Thank you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Augusta, GA
    I've got actual, real work to do at work right now so I'll keep this comment short.

    It's amazing how much of this is (or should be) bog standard stuff. I don't mean this in a bad way whatsoever. After decades of D&D it's easy to try to add too much from all our decades of experience. Or people new to D&D and DMing trying to add too much.

    The basics the game has told us over and over either through explicit DMing advice or via example are there for a reason.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Massachusetts, USA
    Again, great article with good description.

    I also like to use the 5-Room Dungeon idea I read about long ago where each dungeon or adventure is 5 rooms. It combines traps and puzzles with combat and exploration (the 3 pillars) into a contained dungeon that is playable in one night.
    XP guachi gave XP for this post

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Augusta, GA
    A nice thing about a 5-room dungeon idea is it forces you to think small. Even if the dungeon is 10 or 15 or 20 rooms you think in 5 room chunks to make sure there are interesting and varied things in each little section.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by aco175 View Post
    Again, great article with good description.

    I also like to use the 5-Room Dungeon idea I read about long ago where each dungeon or adventure is 5 rooms. It combines traps and puzzles with combat and exploration (the 3 pillars) into a contained dungeon that is playable in one night.
    WotC used a simialr idea with some of the smaller Dungeons in PotA.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Maple Shade, NJ USA
    Now I’m getting happy Sword of Vermillion flashbacks.

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