Opinions: What makes a good adventure?


What is it that makes a good adventure? What makes it fun and interesting? What keeps you coming back to the game table again and again? I'd also like for people to preface their comments by suggesting whether they believe they speak primarily from a Player or DM point of view (or both equally), as that can certainly make a big difference...

Thanks in advance for any comments! :)

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The Sunderer

First Post
Blimey this is a difficult one...


(thinks some more)

I think that a good DM can make even the worst scenario a good experience... Of course Players are important too and I have a player response to a scenario raise it above the bar as well...


First Post
An interesting plot/story line, a dilemma, and "winning" in the end make an adventure worth while! I'll also add creativity, as it is possibly one of the hardest things to do as a DM/GM, create an original plot line that keeps the players interested and saying "what happens next?"


First Post

More treasure!

A lot of sneaking around, and hiding is good too!

And some combat to heighten the drama. But only when it is something that has junk to kick. Undead, constructs and creatures with no discernable anatomy have no junk to kick and so do not make for good combat encounters.

And, of course, after the combat is done, there must be wallets to steal, with more treasure!!!


First Post
Interactivity, I think. You can have the bestest dungeons and the most eeevil villains all you want, if the adventure is just one thing strung onto the end of the previous thing, people will leave to go play BG2.

Oh, and comprehensiveness. If something is plausible for the players to do, at least the attempt should be allowed. If a DM sins against this I usually go kick against a wall and ask if the facade falls over :)

I guess this is from a player's perspective, although I don't think there is much difference. (I usually DM, but I enjoy DMing what the players enjoy playing)

Oh, wait, and lots of XP :D


Interesting encounters, either unique locations or making rare (as in little used) monsters the focus. Also an adventure should have a few different ways to reach the end goals. Players usually chafe when they feel railroaded.

Templates and advanced monsters can make for very interesting encounter opponents that we never really saw in previous versions of the game. They can make for tough and unpredictable foes.

Just my 2 copper.


First Post
Wulf Ratbane said:
Piles of dead bad guys. (TM)

I second that... and with some treasure too!!!

on a diffent note...

these boards are so quiet... only 130 or so people posting... wow... its kind of cool... like im part of some special fellowship or something... like a CULT!!!

The Sunderer

First Post
on a diffent note...

these boards are so quiet... only 130 or so people posting... wow... its kind of cool... like im part of some special fellowship or something... like a CULT!!!

I wouldn't worry, the hordes will descend on us soon :)

Old One

First Post
I will answer as a DM and as a Player...

DM's Perspective

First off, I very rarely use modules/adventures "off the rack". I have found, over the years, that it takes me just as much time to modify a module - because I like to tinker with everyting - as it does to make my own. That said, here are the things I would look for:
  • Detachable maps and handouts - I hate having to flip back and forth or photocopy a map for use in an adventure:mad:!
  • Stats in the body of the adventure
  • Timeline - I prefer a matrix-type adventure flow, as opposed to a linear approach. A timeline and a couple of "if-then" contingencies are always nice
  • Twists - a couple of good twists are always fun

Player's Perspective

When I play, which is all too infrequently, I look for the following:
  • Consistency
  • Variety of challenges - straight-up combat is fun, but I like adventures that combine intrigue, combat, puzzules and twists in equal doses
  • Matrix Structure - I really dislike one-dimensional, linear adventures. It should be about choices and consequences.

My two coppers!

Old One


First Post
1. Intrigue
2. Intrigue
3. Intrigue

Nothing beats unravelling a complicated and diabolical plot where each answer leads to three more questions.

Other things that are important are proper atmosphere and setting (dark, corrupt, and tragic are my personal favorites), interesting and well-developed characters (both PC and NPC) that are firmly connected to the game world, and every once in a while having, some feeling of usefulness/accomplishment/power and soforth.

All from a players perspective.


Within the adventure- Intrigue, Twists, Combat and Non-Linear Plots. That's what I'm hearing the most... (Oh, yes. Lots of XP and Treasure, too!)

New stuff isn't being mentioned much but I think a lot of you might feel that is implied. Maybe not. Maybe the feeling is that old dogs can do new tricks so new material isn't that important. I'd like to hear more clarification of that on both sides of the issue.

I think that making sure there is some feeling of accomplishment is huge, as Nish and Cloudgatherer say.

On the more practical note, separating maps but integrating stat blocks is what Old One says. Is this just his opinion or more universal?


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Wulf Ratbane

Mark said:
On the more practical note, separating maps but integrating stat blocks is what Old One says. Is this just his opinion or more universal?

Yep. In both cases, it's about not having to flip back and forth to find the information you need.

I like to have my map clipped to the inside of my screen, and all the stats on the page that's open in front of me.

Of course from time to time I throw battles at my players where I can't fit all the stats on one page... sometimes the pile of dead bad guys is very tall indeed.



Liquid Awesome
This is a tough question and the answer is probably unique to each GM and his group of players. I will mention one thing that I think makes a good adventure that I haven't seen above: A plot that is meaningful to the characters on a personal level.

I have run plenty of good adventures where the party goes off to slay some dragon for the treasure or chop up some goblins for the "good of the kingdom". But I find that the best adventures are the ones where the characters have a very personal stake in the outcome of the adventure. Perhaps they are going to rescue a neice or nephew. Maybe they are taking revenge on the goblins who killed one of their brothers. They could be recovering a family heirloom that was stolen by bugbear bandits. Whatever the reason, I try to make the motivation for the adventure more than a quest for more gold, experience points or even for "the greater good".

In my present campaign, the party (a druid, a fighter/ranger and a sorcerer/rogue) is waging war against a group of gnolls that have inhabited the abandoned ruins of a nearby town. The druid wants them gone because they have shown that they have little respect for nature and because he has been promised a large tract of land to put into a "preserve" if the gnolls can be driven away. The gnolls are the favored enemy of the fighter/ranger but he is also hoping to recover some treasure from them that was part of "trust fund" for the families of fallen soldiers, one of whom was his grandfather. The sorcerer/rogue's girlfriend's parents were killed by the gnolls and he is partially pursuing them for revenge. The ruins the gnolls presently inhabit guard the way to some silver mines from which the party has been promised a portion of the profits as reward for earlier heroism. To top it off, the party was earlier nearly killed by the gnolls while traveling on a previous adventure (the one that earned them an interest in the silver mines).

Needless to say, they don't require any prodding to go after the adventure with great tenacity.

So I would say that the party sharing a common goal that they all wish to pursue for important character reasons is one ingredient for making good adventures.


Sniper o' the Shrouds
I think Rel nailed it, except that he didn't include the Pile of Dead Bad Guys (TM). That's the quality that should push Deep Horizon up over the other Adventure Path series for my group. When one of the players asks why they're going through all of this one of the other players answers instead of me. :D


Wulf Ratbane said:
Yep. In both cases, it's about not having to flip back and forth to find the information you need.

No joke! Monte preaches that you shouldn't waste space with that, but I find it so annoying to run games where I keep having to flip through the monster books, especially at high levels where the creatures tend to have lots of special abilties.

Anyways, from a DM standpoint, I also think that resilience to players going off the beaten path is essential. A great many adventures go off on the assumption that the players are going to make a specific choice, and give no thought at all to what other things the players might try and what happens if they do so.


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First Post
As with all other questions related to quality there is no single answer to this. It depends quite a lot on the DM and the players, the theme of the campaign/setting a.s.o.

It is easier to point out the elements that makes for a bad adventure, IMHO these include:

  • Inconsistency: This is the biggest killer. Quite often I see adventures with no internal consistency. A good adventure should make sense, and monsters/NPC should just not be placed around at random. My biggest gripe is probably traps. All too often I see dungeons with traps scattered all over. How the inhabitants manage to get in and out without triggering all the traps is left unexplained, not to mention why they put them there in the first place. This annoys me both as a DM and a player.
  • (Too much) randomness: This is mostly a player gripe. A little randomness can be quite thrilling, but if I get the feeling that my actions/plans have no actual impact on the word, I get both bored and frustrated. Actions should have consequences, and encounters should not appear out of the blue. Thus random encounters are (in general) a bad thing unless there is a specific reason for them.
  • Singular focus: The adventure should allow for several roleplaying modi. An adventure with just combat (or just NPC interaction) gets boring after a short while. The adventure should also allow for change of pace, with situations with high and low "tenseness".
  • Linear plot: This is both a DM and a player issue. I tend to get bored if the adventure has a simple structure. The real world is never simple, and I like the adventures to have the complexity found in real world situations. Thus simple "lets kill the evil wizard" is not rated high in by book, while "let find out who the mastermind behind the evil in the village" might be a good scenario if it includes multiple threads. Note that it can be too complicated, and the players should have a reasonable change of untangling the threads, if not you are falling into the "randomness" trap (at least from the player perspective).


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