Non-urgent Adventures and Campaigns?

hbarsquared

Quantum Chronomancer
This thread got me thinking. I've been reading too many published adventures lately that all have a timer of some sort. Some big bad Thing is going down, and the adventurers need to stop it. What kind of adventure/campaign can be constructed where taking a week-long rest doesn't result in towns destroyed, kidnapped princesses sacrifced, or the BBEG inching closer to his plan?

What are some plot hooks that allow for downtime?

  • Artifact search. Nothing bad happens if they don't find it, it's just a cool thing to discover. Perhaps a rival treasure-seeker to racket up the tension when needed.
  • Survive. There might be a clock, but the goal is to run it out. Fight off monsters on the island until rescued. Find your way to the portal out of the Feywild.

What are some other ones?
 

mAcular

Visitor
Here are a few.

* Any sort of "hex crawl" scenario where the main thrust of the game is exploration and treasure hunting. You start in a city as your HQ, and then expand out into the wilderness to see what you can find. When you're done, you return to town. Rinse and repeat.

* Any sort of "quest of the week" style of game. You get a mission with a definite end. You go do it. You return to town until your guild or your faction has another job lined up. Or the DM can just make it so every so often something of interest happens.

* Any sort of threat that builds slowly and whose end game isn't apparent. There might be a cult out there that's eventually going to do something that ends the world, but for now all you know is they show up in temples and do creepy things every so often.

* Anything where the weather forces you to stay home, like the old times in real life. If the winter season is fierce and long, there might be an "adventuring season" and a "hibernation season."
 
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Krachek

Adventurer
If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
otherwise time strain is needed to feel the thrill of the hunt.

Game were nothing happens can be dull.
You are at the beach on your desert island, the goal of the day is to get water.
Tomorrow the goal will gather be some fresh fruits.
And next day some fishes.
And then water again.....

I think time strain is an essential part of a good challenge.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
It is always a bit of resource Management, time critical adventures just push that aspect a bit harder. When playing RPGs on the Computer i always hated when things went on timer, or you got Groups who want to rush it all, so i can understand you.

For those who DM - Think about the downside of a quest under pressure, the following might happen and does happen, which can be very frustrating:

- Players Bypass or shortcut Areas which you did put much effort in

- They miss out clues or good Equipment available in those bypassed Areas and you have to rebalance Encounters because you thought they will be equipped with these items

- They waste to much time at soem early or mid Point in the adventure and now the big bad is going to happen no matter what. There goes your homebrew world with the apocalypse you had the Players planned to prevent.

If you are hardcore and have planned for all these unplanned Events, are you sure the second half of your campaign should take place in a Dark Sun like world, everything destroyed all in ruins etc.?

If you are true to Canon somehow and Play in FR, when is the Point when Drizztminster jumps into the fray to save it all and frustrate upright PCs :p
 

Eltab

Adventurer
My son and I got an LotR video game as soon as he turned 13.

He played through Moria as if it was a race to the end. When he met the Balrog, it took him about two dozen attempts, because his characters were under-levelled and under-equipped. He in effect had to wait for the AI to be dumb for several rounds in a row.

I watched him for the first evening's worth of attempts, then created my own character and went through Moria very thoroughly. Looked in every corner, found all the equipment, and incidentally faced so many random encounters that I had extra levels over the game's expectations. I defeated the Balrog on my second try (because its AI decided to concentrate on Gandalf - who was the weakest member of my party - instead of unloading AoEs on everybody).
 

Eltab

Adventurer
* Any sort of "hex crawl" scenario where the main thrust of the game is exploration and treasure hunting. You start in a city as your HQ, and then expand out into the wilderness to see what you can find. When you're done, you return to town. Rinse and repeat.
+1 to this.

One of my personal "side quests" for Tomb of Annihilation is to create a Complete Map of Chult, and sell a copy to every interested bidder. (While not telling them that they have a copy and I still have the original.) For an additional fee, I'll copy my Adventurer's Log too - what interesting stuff I ran into and where to find it.
 

Rossbert

Explorer
If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
otherwise time strain is needed to feel the thrill of the hunt.

....(deleted for focus)

I think time strain is an essential part of a good challenge.
I think a decent way to combat that a little is to make dungeon/cave/mysterious ruins prime real estate.

If a party long rests after every encounter, and a you can only take one long rest every 24 hours. It could take a week or more to clear something.

In that time other monsters could move in, other ones could expand their lairs or call for reinforcements, or maybe even decide to go out and hunt down whoever just killed Gary from two caves down.

It makes the long wait feel like it has some consequence even if there is no real time limit.
 
I have a campaign where there is a clock, but it is a year or so in-game. The players can take time if they want, and probably will until they figure out that some bad stuff has been building for some time. This allows me to add in situations where the PC's getting trapped or taking a long time with rests can result in days or weeks of main story forward movement while the PCs have done not much of anything. If you want the PCs to work with week long rests, then just multiply the clock by 10. Instead of 1 year for the kingdom of Havensclock to begin an all out surprise attack on its neighbors, bent on killing all the inhabitants to solidify control with loyal Havensclock-iens, it takes 10. Just be sure to have key moments where things significantly change and be able to progressively describe how things are changing.

I also have a number of side quests, like find out how to stop the blightwood threat making land travel around Neverwinter incredibly dangerous, enter the tomb eternal and stop it from poisoning the local ground water, procure and clear Mirror Manor for use as a forward base for faction agents, and hunt down a pack of Manticores that are devastating the hippogriff herds of Amn (reward: chests of silver trade bars or an equivalent in trained military hippogriff mounts). Right now these side quests are relatively easy to get to, but the quest itself can have many twists and surprises. They are balanced for an 8 hour long rests. I am of the opinion quests balanced for longer rests need to be designed significantly differently, primarily made easier or at the very least smaller maps. No 25 room, 10 corridor, trap filled, multi-level tomb of death. Your players would run out of food and water after the first rest if they could not easily escape.

Additionally, each side quest can effectively expire at some pre-determined time, say 200 days in is where the hippogriff herd disbands due to sheer casualties, the way to Neverwinter is now shut, or Mirror Manor has been burned down for some reason, etc. This makes it feel like the world is still moving around and with the players, not just static quests that will always be available regardless of how long they take to get to the location.
 
If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
otherwise time strain is needed to feel the thrill of the hunt.

Game were nothing happens can be dull.
You are at the beach on your desert island, the goal of the day is to get water.
Tomorrow the goal will gather be some fresh fruits.
And next day some fishes.
And then water again.....

I think time strain is an essential part of a good challenge.
In an exploration based game, there may be encounters or hazards at any time. Going nova and using up most available resources during the first encounter isn't a good strategy even if the adventure goal isn't on a timer. When out in the wilderness and away from the influence of civilization, getting the full benefits of a long rest should never be automatically assumed.
 

aco175

Adventurer
There are also time restraints on seasons and years. A gate that opens on full moons, or the winter solstice slows down play. You do not always need the plot to have the solstice next week. Having it 6 months away allows players time to think and have the PCs study and research.
 

Vymair

Visitor
One of my tactics is to provide the characters with choices on what they want to investigate, then have the items they ignored continue to organically grow into other possible encounters for later date. The example of this my players remember best (a decade later) is when they heard a rumor about a few minor formians but decided to deal with the orc problem in the next town over instead. Two years later, the key trade road was shut down when the formian hive took over the area.

This concept can also be applied on a smaller level to a single adventure. If the characters pull out to rest, the monsters can reorganize to create a different type of challenge than they would have presented before the characters changed the existing state. This is most commonly represented by setting up traps or ambushes or finding greater concentrations of monsters. For example, the orcs might bunker down to three main locations that can easily flow in defense to one another instead of being scattered. After two weeks, they might get complacent and spread out again. Having these kind of changes will make the world feel organic and cause the characters to consider the cost to pulling out of the dungeon. Sometimes, it's the only choice, but it is not one made without consequences.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

This thread got me thinking. I've been reading too many published adventures lately that all have a timer of some sort. Some big bad Thing is going down, and the adventurers need to stop it. What kind of adventure/campaign can be constructed where taking a week-long rest doesn't result in towns destroyed, kidnapped princesses sacrifced, or the BBEG inching closer to his plan?
I kinda shook my head and felt sad when I read this. Tis true that "modern gaming" has taken a turn for the focus on "story" over "setting". Looking at the adventures by WotC for 5e, we have... Adventure Paths. Pretty much all of the "Oh noes! [insert something bad happening] It's up to you to [goal of the adventure] or else the entirety of the [insert campaign world / Forgotten Realms]...and you only have [insert time frame]!" Pretty much all of them other than, what was it, was it that Temple of Elemental Evil remake? Princes of the Apocalypse? I hear that one was a lot less 'time constrained'. I haven't played/bought any of the AP's because, well, they're AP's. Been there, did that, not interested.

I use OSR/1e/2e/BECMI adventures when I DM 5th Edition. I generally don't use 3.x/PF because the monster amounts encountered are 'backwards' from 5e (in 3.x, seeing a single monster in the middle of the room means "Avoid at all costs!", but seeing a dozen monsters is code for "Lets get 'em, boys!" ; In 5e, it's reversed where a dozen goblins will really put the hurt on a quartet of 3rd to even 5th level PC's...ime anyway).

The "older school" adventures of yore frequently had "plots/stories" that could be easily be completely ignored, modified, hacked or used as-is. But more often than not an "adventure module" was a setting piece where something odd or dangerous was going on in some location and it was the players PC's finding something interesting and exploring for fame, glory and treasure! Like, The Secret of Bone Hill. An old 1e module where the whole "story/plot" was basically "Just outside town, on the top of Bone Hill, and old ruin stands. Lately strange lights and sounds have been seen at night coming from it. What's going on? Is the long dead wizard returned to continue his experiments?" That's it. No end of the world, or even end of the area. Just a mysterious ruins with some new activity going on. It's whatever the players actions and DM's decisions turn it into. It is YOUR story...not the person who wrote it.

So, TL;DR - Go grab some OSR style modules and give 'em a shot.

If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
otherwise time strain is needed to feel the thrill of the hunt.

Game were nothing happens can be dull.
You are at the beach on your desert island, the goal of the day is to get water.
Tomorrow the goal will gather be some fresh fruits.
And next day some fishes.
And then water again.....

I think time strain is an essential part of a good challenge.
Time constraints are great, when used in moderation. If every game has a time constraint, eventually the Players will become apathetic if you are lucky...outright hostile if you aren't. "Oh, great. Let me guess...some evil group is going to summon an evil deity/dragon/demon or other D-word creature who will feast on the souls of men and cause an age of darkness, pain and suffering if we don't put a stop to it by end of next Tuesday? Right?".

The key to defining if a game is "dull/boring" is almost always because of predictability. Beach, water, beach, food, beach, water, beach, food... that's predictable. Save the world, save the world again, save the world again, save the world one more time, save the world yet again... that's predictable. Both are bad for a DM who's trying to keep his campaign entertaining.

As for the whole "nova" thing. You know, almost the ONLY time I've ever seen this is when playing Adventure Paths? Seriously. I think it's because...predictability. It's almost always blatantly obvious that a "big fight" is coming up or is at hand. The players can then feel free to "go nova" because they know that the AP will account for the PC's having spent all their abilities/spells/etc, and will provide a nice, warm safe-space where they can rest and feel good about themselves in comfort. You know what happens when a party "goes nova" in 5e when I'm running an old 1e module, say, The Secret of Bone Hill? TPK's happen...or at least NTPK's (near TPK...all but one PC dies). Why? Because in OSR modules, the adventure isn't written with PC survival being "assumed". Going all nova in the middle of a dungeon if you didn't have to is almost signing your own death warrant. Wandering monsters don't care if your wizard has no spells and your cleric is out of healing, and all your warriors are far below half-HP's.

Anyway, I guess my overall point of suggestion is... go pick up an OSR module or old 1e/BECMI adventure and use it. I am partial to the "DCC Modules" made by Goodman Games back for the 3.x version of D&D. Nice "old school feel". Or my old 1e modules. I can still DM a module for the Nth time and the story and PC's choices STILL surprise me in a very pleasing way! :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Satyrn

Visitor
I kinda shook my head and felt sad when I read this. Tis true that "modern gaming" has taken a turn for the focus on "story" over "setting". Looking at the adventures by WotC for 5e, we have... Adventure Paths. Pretty much all of the "Oh noes! [insert something bad happening] It's up to you to [goal of the adventure] or else the entirety of the [insert campaign world / Forgotten Realms]...and you only have [insert time frame]!" Pretty much all of them other than, what was it, was it that Temple of Elemental Evil remake? Princes of the Apocalypse? I hear that one was a lot less 'time constrained'. I haven't played/bought any of the AP's because, well, they're AP's. Been there, did that, not interested
I'm retty sure that Out of the Abyss's world shaking apocalypse isn't really on a timer until after the players leave the Underdark. Until that point, it's readily run as a sort of sandbox hexcrawl structured around "finding the way home" the way Star Trek: Voyager was about getting home (with the occasional demon encounter to hint at the series finale).
 

Satyrn

Visitor
Anyway, I guess my overall point of suggestion is... go pick up an OSR module or old 1e/BECMI adventure and use it. I am partial to the "DCC Modules" made by Goodman Games back for the 3.x version of D&D. Nice "old school feel". Or my old 1e modules. I can still DM a module for the Nth time and the story and PC's choices STILL surprise me in a very pleasing way! :)
That said, I totally second this recommendation.
 
This thread got me thinking. I've been reading too many published adventures lately that all have a timer of some sort. Some big bad Thing is going down, and the adventurers need to stop it.
Yep. It's necessitated by the game's class designs, balance is only theoretically achievable on a sufficiently 'long' day, so time pressure is necessary or it just becomes a game of systematic spellcasting...
...even so APs catch flack for not forcing the 6-8 encounter day more blatantly.

What kind of adventure/campaign can be constructed where taking a week-long rest doesn't result in towns destroyed, kidnapped princesses sacrifced, or the BBEG inching closer to his plan?
Almost any, really, the time-pressure scenario is pretty narrow.

What are some plot hooks that allow for downtime?
Downtime's easy, just put it /between/ the series of time-important quests that force grueling adventuring days.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
otherwise time strain is needed to feel the thrill of the hunt.

Game were nothing happens can be dull.
You are at the beach on your desert island, the goal of the day is to get water.
Tomorrow the goal will gather be some fresh fruits.
And next day some fishes.
And then water again.....

I think time strain is an essential part of a good challenge.
I don't know about essential for a challenge (mysteries always seem to stump people with or without time pressure), but it is essential for any sort of balance in 5e with a paladin on board. We're up to 6th now and I just have to keep putting clocks out, or working up long drawn-out battle scenarios.

If there's no pressure, they just wait a day and the paladin novas anything to death.

On the other hand, some of the other players seem to have gotten bored with that, and soundly mocked his "cowardice" recently as he wanted to go rest before taking on the rest of the baddies.
 

hbarsquared

Quantum Chronomancer
Some great approaches, thanks everyone.

It's a hard balance when it comes to a "living world" scenario and incorporating downtime. If Bad Things Happen every time the party pursues something else, then the party won't want to have downtime.

The key is to have such a "living world" where things are actually good for a while, or the Bad Thing is on such a slow boil that the party cannot do anything about it.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Clean out the undead from X.

Go through the ancient crypt full of traps and constructs.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!
[MENTION=6801204]Satyrn[/MENTION] ...I think my brother said something similar about Out of the Abyss. Kinda like it was a bunch of little things here and there, wandering and learning bit by bit, until the "end" and then the time thing kicks in or something? They didn't finish it (TPK fighting Yee-know-who...).

On a semi-OT'ish tangent...I did have a sort of "adventure path" I created for running about 6 of the Hackmaster 4th Edition modules where the "background plot" of Meleanie (sp?) was going to slowly build suspicion about her and how she ends up with all the 'powerful men' bit by bit. Didn't decide on specifics yet. At any rate, with the Old Skool modules of 1e/DCC-type...because they aren't "save the world" (most of the time), it makes it a really enjoyable experience to string a few of them together with specific stories going on in your own campaign. When the players play through them and slowly start to piece things together (weather or not you actually thought of or planned them sometimes!), it really brings the campaign alive. It really makes the campaign as a whole "The Groups". When I hear one groups play of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and then another groups play of it...they are almost like they were the same group with just some PC's changed. Same "high points" and "low points" because the AP's are designed that way. Some folks love having the story laid out for them to DM...I'm not one of them. :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 
S

Sunseeker

Guest
If you remove time frame pc will nova at each fight who look dangerous.
I can attest to that. Then they'll sit down and rest.

----

There needs to be some time, it just needs to manage "yeah you need to get here by X time, but no the world is not going to implode if you don't".

It's fairly easy to operate on an all-or-nothing system. Either you save the princess and get rich, or you don't and the King puts you to death. Either you stop the bad guy and maybe die, or you don't and everybody dies.

This is not unreasonable, when you compare this to a lot of media, the "action and adventure" happens during Crunch Time. Take LOTR for example: Bilbo had the Ring for some 80 years! 80 years where Saruman wasn't making evil orcs. 80 years where King Theodin wasn't being corrupted (since he wasn't born). 80 years while Sauron was still only just barely marshaling his forces. Coulda dropped the Ring into Mount Doom at any time. Probably could have engaged in a leisurely stroll to get there, stopped and smelled the flowers, smoked some good weed and maybe even walked in the front door! But nope. Stick it on a shelf for 80 years.

This is, typically my experience with a lack of time constraints. Either players will wander (and there's no reason for them not to) and you'll be running "Bob the Fighter goes Longsword Shopping" or players will hit everything with nukes because there's no reason not to.

Now, some players do better with lack of time constraints than others. But that's really something you won't know until you've got the person at the table. I'd argue most players have been trained on a "DO IT NOW!!" mentality so its something of a learning curve that no you don't need to do it now. It just needs to get done.

-----------

All that said: tomb raiding can be a great one. (just don't put a mad lich bent on world domination at the end). Think Indiana Jones. There will be some time constraints here and there, but there won't be overriding time constraints (such as if you don't find the magic object then everyone dies). You might put pressure on the party via NPC parties vying for the same McGuffin. Reward? Lots of gold! Failure? Eh, you're still broke, time to go find another tomb to loot.

Investigative games can be good as an after-the-fact, assuming you don't have (again) the killer planning to strike again and kill everyone! It's up to the party to find who did it, and arrest them.

Time constraints are a natural part of mortal existence (which is something I find difficult dealing with elves or other dramatically longer-lived races), we usually call it "opportunity cost". There should always be some time constraints. But there don't need to be overarching time constraints (such as global annihilation).
 

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