D&D (2024) DMG adventure design advice - a bit contradictory?

pemerton

Legend
I was looking at the preview page from the DMG on adventure design, on this website - The new D&D core books feature nearly 400 spells and over 500 monsters, but disappointingly few new ideas - and to me it seemed a bit contradictory.

Here's what I mean:

Follow these steps to create an adventure: . . .

Step 3. Plan Encounters. How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.

Step 4. Bring It to an End. How do you expect the adventure will end? Think about possible endings as well as rewards for the characters. . . . .

[W]hile it's worthwhile to compare an adventure to these other forms of storytelling [novels, movies, comics, TV], remember that an adventure isn't a complete story until you play. . . . the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined: the actions of the players' characters have to matter. For example, if a major villain shows up before the end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the possibility that the heroes defeat that villain. Otherwise, players can feel as if they've been railroaded - set onto a course that has only one destination, no matter how hard they try to change it.

You might find it helpful to think about an adventure not as a narrative that arcs from beginning to end with little chance for deviation, but more in terms of situations that you are presenting to the characters. The adventure unfolds organically from the players' responses to the situations you present.​

The stuff about not railroading, and about presenting situations (to the players, really, even though they say "characters"), seems at odds with the advice to plan how the adventure will play out and end, and what the encounters/events will be that take the characters from the beginning to the end.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I think it is premature to really say, without seeing the section that expands on the "Plan encounters" section.
After all a published adventure is a set of planned encounters and locations.
If you tell me that your character and buddies plan to kick in the door to the Thieves Guild, it might be worthwhile to have some encounters and an idea as to the layout.
It could be at odds but I think we should weight until we see the complete chapter before condemning the advice.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I was looking at the preview page from the DMG on adventure design, on this website - The new D&D core books feature nearly 400 spells and over 500 monsters, but disappointingly few new ideas - and to me it seemed a bit contradictory.

Here's what I mean:

Follow these steps to create an adventure: . . .​
Step 3. Plan Encounters. How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.​
Step 4. Bring It to an End. How do you expect the adventure will end? Think about possible endings as well as rewards for the characters. . . . .​
[W]hile it's worthwhile to compare an adventure to these other forms of storytelling [novels, movies, comics, TV], remember that an adventure isn't a complete story until you play. . . . the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined: the actions of the players' characters have to matter. For example, if a major villain shows up before the end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the possibility that the heroes defeat that villain. Otherwise, players can feel as if they've been railroaded - set onto a course that has only one destination, no matter how hard they try to change it.​
You might find it helpful to think about an adventure not as a narrative that arcs from beginning to end with little chance for deviation, but more in terms of situations that you are presenting to the characters. The adventure unfolds organically from the players' responses to the situations you present.​

The stuff about not railroading, and about presenting situations (to the players, really, even though they say "characters"), seems at odds with the advice to plan how the adventure will play out and end, and what the encounters/events will be that take the characters from the beginning to the end.
There’s no contradiction at all there. You should both have a plan and remember that the game isn’t a novel and things will go where they go.

I don’t even really see where there could be a perception of an issue there.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
It is probavly worth waiting to see the full template amd the examples they set up to see what is up with that.

"There’s plenty more ready-to-use content in the new DMG, including several example adventures. These are presented in a streamlined notation format compared to published DnD adventures, to give new DMs an example that’s easier for them to use when creating their own homebrew content."

 


Clint_L

Legend
"Thinking about possible endings" seems to me very consistent with letting the players determine their own course. As for planning encounters and whatnot...well, yeah. Even when I set up a game as free form as Dread I start with a basic story structure in place. I know the key locales, who the antagonists are, what their goals are, etc. What the players do with that is up to their planning and their luck (or skill).

Even Fiasco starts with some key elements determined in advance to help give the story structure. I don't see anything contradictory in the advice above.
 

MGibster

Legend
The stuff about not railroading, and about presenting situations (to the players, really, even though they say "characters"), seems at odds with the advice to plan how the adventure will play out and end, and what the encounters/events will be that take the characters from the beginning to the end.
That's just the razor's edge you walk when you're on the path of the DM. I'm running a Call of Cthulhu campaign and all the investigators (PCs in CoC speak) are students at Miskatonic University. For the first scenario, I planned a scene where one of the residents of East Dormitory, the men's dorm, woke up in the middle of the night to find a girl, perhaps 15-16 years old, and I thought of how the player might handle it. Would he confront her immediately? Would he follow her when she left his room?

The investigator lay in bed pretending to sleep, and when the young leady exited he got out of bed, made sure his door was closed, and went back to sleep. While I did not anticipate this action, it isn't my first rodeo and I've seen players ignore the adventure hook before. Even though the investigator unexpectedly sat there like a lump, I was able to adapt and move the scenario forward other ways. The player still had some choice, even if that choice was inexplicably boring, but I was still able to move the scenario foward.

I do plan things out and try to anticipate what the players might do. Sometimes they do something I anticipate and other times they do not. Either way you keep the game moving forward.
 

I was looking at the preview page from the DMG on adventure design, on this website - The new D&D core books feature nearly 400 spells and over 500 monsters, but disappointingly few new ideas - and to me it seemed a bit contradictory.

Here's what I mean:

Follow these steps to create an adventure: . . .​
Step 3. Plan Encounters. How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.​
Step 4. Bring It to an End. How do you expect the adventure will end? Think about possible endings as well as rewards for the characters. . . . .​
[W]hile it's worthwhile to compare an adventure to these other forms of storytelling [novels, movies, comics, TV], remember that an adventure isn't a complete story until you play. . . . the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined: the actions of the players' characters have to matter. For example, if a major villain shows up before the end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the possibility that the heroes defeat that villain. Otherwise, players can feel as if they've been railroaded - set onto a course that has only one destination, no matter how hard they try to change it.​
You might find it helpful to think about an adventure not as a narrative that arcs from beginning to end with little chance for deviation, but more in terms of situations that you are presenting to the characters. The adventure unfolds organically from the players' responses to the situations you present.​

The stuff about not railroading, and about presenting situations (to the players, really, even though they say "characters"), seems at odds with the advice to plan how the adventure will play out and end, and what the encounters/events will be that take the characters from the beginning to the end.

That does seem a bit contractor to me. Checking out the original article, I am not sure as I am still digesting it and sometimes it takes a while to get what the whole of the advice for something really means. But it is an odd way to talk about not thinking of it in terms of planned events, but then have planning events be two of the steps. I am guessing this might be more about D&D's middle way approach tot things to capture the largest audience. Talking in terms of planning situations will appeal to the people who like more open structures, but there is a large contingent of D&D players who like planned encounters, satisfying conclusions etc. So maybe they are hedging here? I don't know. I can say, since I tend to plan situations rather than narrative arc, I wouldn't prepare my sessions like this. I can see 4 being a useful exercise for some GMs, even if they aren't planning an ending, considering how it may end in various ways, can help them be ready when players do things. But I find if you do that, you tend to push things in the direction you were thinking about. And planning situations, to me, is more about being open to what may unfold. But step 2 is, in my opinion at least, at odds with the advice about planning situations and not story arcs. If you are planning encounters as a sequence of events that take the characters through the adventure, that sounds like a pretty linear plot, and not a situation. Also I will say, the WOTC 3E era tendency to have everything structured around planned encounters that take players through the adventure were the very thing that sent me on a path away from linear structures (I just got sick of playing in a way that felt like I could hand my players my campaign notes at the start of play and it would really not make much of a difference and save us all hours of time)
 

pemerton

Legend
There’s no contradiction at all there. You should both have a plan and remember that the game isn’t a novel and things will go where they go.

I don’t even really see where there could be a perception of an issue there.
Here the perception of an issue:

(1) How does the adventure play out? Determine the encounters or events that take the characters from the beginning of the adventure to the end.

(2) the events of the story shouldn't be pre-determined​

(1) and (2) - which are both direct quotes - seem like conflicting instructions to me. How can I determine in advance without pre-determining?
 

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