How do you create adventures?


First Post
The above are all good replies. I've used many of those in my years of GMing.

Once in a while, I also use a random adventure generator (like this) and try and see what I can come up with from what it gives me. I find it an interesting challenge and it helps me think outside of my normal comfort zone sometimes. (Which is also why I run modules sometimes, because my players can't predict the module the same way they predict me.)

The random generator is also useful when you need to fill in some time at a session, like when the Shadowrun adventure goes entirely too smoothly because the players were thinking and so I need something to fill in a few hours of time and don't have anything prepared.

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Cute but dangerous
Half the time the story unfolds when we go along, and the basic ideas I had form to something unexpected even for me. Those make the best stories.

But I just happen to get a lot of ideas. More than I could ever use. Give me a map, or a few pictures, and I'll give you a story.

Generally, I have a vague idea of what I want. Exploration, Sealed-Evil-In-A-Can, or just a cool battle or concept. Then I'll work around how to get there from wherever I'm at.

For the most part though I don't plan much a lot of the adventure up front. I tend to plan only a few sessions in advance depending on PC actions. That means a lot of ideas are either wither on the vine or are cut entirely or get shoe-horned in and I regret not doing them better after the fact. :(

1. Create NPCs, organisations, locations, events or other 'bits' that I think are cool.
2. Select a small subset of the coolest.
3. Form connections between these to create an adventure, and give the PCs a reason to go on it.

Step 3 is the hardest.

Kind of this, with a few differences. An idea for an adventure can come from an NPC or monster, a neat item or other maguffin, a specific event that takes place,or a center on a special location. Sometimes all four come together for the perfect storm of adventure fodder but any one of them will serve as a springboard.

I agree with Doug that #3 is where the majority of the work comes in. It helps a great deal to know the players and what kinds of opportunities they are most drawn to.

I like the binder idea but also a small notebook for jotting down spur of the moment ideas can be helpful too. I think of cool ideas all the time on my long commute and then desperately try to remember the good stuff and jot it down when I get to work or home.


1. Create NPCs, organisations, locations, events or other 'bits' that I think are cool.
2. Select a small subset of the coolest.
3. Form connections between these to create an adventure, and give the PCs a reason to go on it.

Step 3 is the hardest.
You don't say!

I tend to start with modules for step 1 - something with a nice map, interesting NPCs, a nice thematic hook, or whatever.

At step 3, I reoly on the information that I can get from the players and their PC builds and backgrounds - who are their allies, who are their enemies, what do they want? I use that stuff to tweak the material I identified at step 1, creating scenes or situations that I can be fairly confident will be interesting, even compelling, to my players.

I find the bridges between situations are fairly straightforward - each situation can seed one or more others, and the players choose where they proceed to. (This does tend to produce an exploration-light, encounter-heavy game.)

Water Bob

I put a lot of "hooks" into my sandbox. Some of the "hooks" in my current game, to give you an example--

I. -- My game is set in Conan's Hyborian Age, and my sandbox is focussed on a clan of Cimmerians--these are barbarians, just like Conan. Cimmerians shun sorcerey, are slightly spiritual but not religious, and are highly superstitious.

In the PC's village, there live an Oracle. People shun her yet go to speak with her when they want to know the future. Some believe she has powers, and some believe that she's a 100 year old crone who has learned to live off of others in this manner, telling people what they want to hear.

She does, indeed, look like she's 100 years old. She came one day to the village, before the PCs were born, telling the clan elder that she had come to guide the Fates of the clansmen. Superstition got the better of the chief, and he let her stay. She's been among the Cimmerians for over 20 years now.

Her hut lies exactly 100 feet outside the village proper, and it is covered with strange looking fetishes works from coal and bone and twigs and less savory things pulled from animals.

Every bed in the village faces any direction but towards the old hag's hut. No Cimmieran will sleep with their bed facing towards her.

That's a "hook". I could do more with this, if the players get interested. Right now, that's basically all I've done with her.

II. -- Sometimes hooks come from something I read in a sourcebook (as the above). Somtimes, it comes from me daydreaming about the gamae during my morning shower or while I drive to work. And, sometimes, the hooks just appear in the game all by themselves.

The basic plot of the first story arc, I decided, would tell the story of how the PCs became warriors for the clan. I started the game with the PCs as children, and we played several sessions watching these characters grow up, usually skipping a year or so, game time, between scenarios.

Other NPCs I had made up (as another hook) involved a house of orphans among the Clan, outside of the main village. Living in Cimmeria is tough. People die frequently. Children are left behind. So, the norm is for victim children like this to be taken in by a Cimmerian family from among the clan. But, the ones in the orphanage, nobody wants. Why? Maybe their family was wiped out by plague. Maybe the child's family was dishonored somehow, and no other family will risk bringing that dishonor among themselves. Or, maybe, the child is actually the offspring of a hated enemy, and, again, no family will shoulder such a burden.

Well, at a festival, the players fell into a quite enjoyable impromtu roleplaying encounter where I just made up this little five year old orphan girl on the spot. I played the heck out of her, if I do say so myself, and the players just fell for the little rug rat.

And, as soon as I saw how the players were, in real life, starting to care about this little girl, I knew I had a fantastic hook.

So, when the festival was over, and the litte girl was returning with the other orphans back to their homestead, I had it attacked by an enemy clan. The PCs were out gathering wood, not too far away, heard the screams, and came running. This led to a multi-session chase through some interesting terriroty I made up (an area populated by proto-humans, not quite ape, and not quite human; and a witched wood where time is not constant) until the PCs found the bad guy's hideout, in a cavern, several days from the village.

That led to a typical dungeon crawl type of situation as the PCs infiltrated to save the little girl.

III. -- Besides just throwing what I think are interesting things into the game and waiting to see if the players "bite" on the "hook", as I described in section I, and besides captitalizing on situations that pop up in the game, as I described in section ideas also grow organically out of the game session.

Last game session, the PCs finally rescued the little girl and ran from the bad guy's hide out, with Undead bad guys and a demon on their tail. The PCs led the chase overland into a section of the map I had created (I've drawn up a 2000 square mile map of the surrounding terrain features around the clan village--and I keep detailing it futhre as we game and encounter new things) into a section I called The Cracked Lands.

This is rough territory of low canyons and high rock. Plus, it was storming quite fiercly as the PCs' flew.

They finally made it to the canyon, and then they found a small cave to hide in. I allow this to work, and the demon and Undead (directed by the demon) lost the PCs' trail.

At the end of the last game session, the PCs spent the night in this small cave while a huge thunderstorm ranged.

So, for next game session....I was thinking. They're in a canyon. It's been raining hard. I've already described the dry canyon becomimg wet with a stream, then ankle deep, and finally knee deep water in it...

Growing completely organically out of this set up, at the start of next game session, I'm thinking....yep! FLASH FLOOD!

I've going to give the PCs some saves, and if they miss, they'll be whisked down the canyon, carried with the raging waters.

Later on, in the canyon, especially after a hard rain, I'm seeing bugs in my head. Flying bugs. So, I pulled out the Conan Beastiary and picked a coule of giant flying bugs for the PCs to encounter. I can just see these bugs, flying low over the creek trail in the canyon, just after a flood.

Oh...and then I read a Conan story which gave me a cool thought: What if the PCs were walking down the canyon and, all of a sudden, these thick ropes made dried long roots. Used like lassos, these fall upon the PC's shoulders, tighten, and jerk them up high in the air.

At the other end of the rope are the proto-human ape-like creatures that are basicaly"fishing" in the (normally) dry canyon bed.

All of these ideas just generated because the PCs went into a dry creekbed.


First Post
I don't wanna be "that guy", but I don't really "write" adventures. They sort of just "happen".

What I mean is, I run a game that could be called a "sandbox". PCs pick a direction, and I prepare for it with basic situations where I have no idea how they'll end. And the PCs respond to these situations, often creating more plots. And in between these self-made adventures, I throw random encounters at them that quite often turn into new adventures.

So really, the only prep I do consists of creating random encounter tables, and detailing broad situations in each of the city-states. This has lead to, in my current game, the PCs selling a psionically powerful infant to the sorcerer queen of Raam simply because it's the only choice available that they feel comfortable making (and they'll make a killing off the sale and make a strong ally, to boot). That was not planned at all, but it's turned into a bona fide plot.

A few months back, a random NPC tried to rob the PCs in Nibenay. The PCs focused their efforts on revenge, and this turned into a huge storyline that involved planting information, a daring scheme, a heist, and a dungeon adventure. Not a single one of those things was planned by me (I just had a rough idea of an NPC stealing a few silvers from the PCs), but it turned into a player-made adventure that they all enjoyed immensely.

The moral of the story? I wouldn't overthink adventures too much. You can get by with just a few random encounter tables, a working knowledge of your campaign world, and the willingness to improvise.


Day dreaming really. I start with dreaming about playing the game. This inherently has the understanding of what the scope of it is... meaning I don't dream up games where we all do our taxes.

While I really like coming up with something new and interesting, I also attempt to cover basic adventure types across nearby campaign setting.

A grand forest with pixie glades, leprechauns hiding a pot of gold, nymphs in waterfall pools, unicorns living on virgin ground, gnomes tunneling away around tree roots and in hollow trunks, the elfin rulers of the forest in fey tree towers, the druidic council meeting in different animal forms, trappers and hunters, sleeping treants and coy, festive dryads, feral wildmen living with the wolves, a hidden human village of (mostly) friendly lycanthropes, bones and tree trunks marking all of green dragon territory, Green man and his spring bride, entrances to the faerie realm from which the Lord of the Wild Hunt rides out with his cavalcade.

This is just one example. If I'm missing a haunted house, hidden tomb, dwarf hold, desert of nomads, ancient ruins of a fallen kingdom, or anything else really, I try and dream up a great idea for any one of these missing components.

Personally my favorite thing is connecting it all in a giant web of interrelationships between all the intelligent creatures, flora, fauna, and the terrain itself, then growing the whole up organically as a unique, dynamic, and inspiring play environment. This could be the Grand Forest of Fairy above or Breadtown or the Slime-pits of the Billowing Iridescent Caverns or both dimensions of Castle Dragonbone.

EDIT: I run sandbox adventures too, so I don't plan anything so definite as a scene or chapter. After writing an adventure and converting it into the campaign world, I generate a scenario for each session where the locations (people, items, everything) change along a timeline unless the player characters intervene.


A lot of times, I start with a "what if?" and work around that. Other times, I find myself getting inspiration from flipping through monster manuals. Sometimes, a painting, picture, scene or other image inspires an adventure.

A lot of times, when I begin fleshing an adventure out, a random generator helps get past any sticky points. The one in the back of the 1E DMG is fabulous for this sort of thing. On rare occassions, I use random generators to start the creative process - it's sort of like reading tea leaves; putting a bunch of seemingly unrelated things together and weaving in the reason how it all works together.

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