Ask the gamemasters

A short time ago, we received an ATGMs question that made me stop and think for a minute. The question was straightforward; Angeline wrote, “I need some help, I’m a starting DM and I just have so much trouble coming up with Campaigns or good plot lines. Please help!!”

Every now and then in this game you have to ask yourself if you are neglecting the basics that really help newcomers to the hobby. And, since you can never really do enough in that regard, the question generally results in a “not really,” answer. The trick is always finding something with enough substance that more experienced readers will get something worth the effort of reading your post as well as the relative novices who are the core target.

My standard solution to this dilemma is to ensure that I have packaged something new in at least some part of the process – some new thought or insight that can help any GM out there that hasn’t thought of it themselves. Hopefully, I’ve managed that, but a review of the fundamentals can always be helpful.

This article will be in two halves – part 2 (which I’ll post next week) will deal with Campaign Structures. The subjects for today are the adventures that go into a campaign.

Adventure Sources

Adventures can come from anywhere. An adventure is simply a matter of the PCs having an objective – either one they have chosen for themselves or one that in-game circumstances have thrust apon them, usually in the form of a piece of bait attached to a plot hook. Once the PCs nibble at the bait, you have their attention – and all you have to do is collaborate with the players on telling the story of how that objective was achieved, or how they failed to achieve the goal, by lobbing complications and personal interactions at the plotline.

All plots are narratives describing the transition from A to B. Your main job as a GM (aside from rules refereeing and providing the context within which that transition occurs) is to make the process of transition as interesting as possible.

Objectives

Obviously, the place to start is usually by defining the objective the players want their characters to achieve.

External Objectives

Objectives that the GM sets up are the most common, and often the most problematic. Most GMs will be familiar with the concept of a ‘plot train’ in which it doesn’t matter what choices the players make, the PCs still end up going where the GM wanted. There was a time when this was considered the epitome of good GMing; I can remember reading articles in the Dragon about how to get a campaign back on track when the PCs get themselves tied up in something going on over on the side.

That’s no longer the case. Players are not content to be led by the nose, and it’s even easier for a plot train to lead to bad GMing than it is to a great campaign. In general, as long as the players agree with where the GM is taking them, there’s no problem, but as soon as they want to linger and smell the flowers, or go in a different direction, the wheels start coming off.

For that reason, I always define external objectives in terms of what an NPC is doing. I can usually forecast with some accuracy how players will react to those developments, and with somewhat lesser accuracy how they will have their characters react to them. That means that instead of furnishing the characters with a prefabricated objective, I am simply prompting them to come up with their own objective in response to a change in circumstances.

Internal Objectives

The big advantage of that approach is that it removes much of the distinction between external objectives – prompted by outside circumstances – and those that the players choose for themselves. In fact, the only time the distinction comes to matter is when an external objective contradicts or opposes an internal one.

Nor are the distinctions always quite so clear-cut. Internal objectives arise from the interaction of world-view context and player ambitions, as expressed through their characters. The player wants to change his character into a half-dragon demi-lich? This should not be something handed to the player on a silver platter, it will require planning and many smaller steps in order to achieve, because even making it possible will usually entail considerable opposition, and has broad implications for the campaign.

It must be remembered at all times that anything a PC can do, an NPC can also do, and NPCs were active before the PC took his first steps as a small child. While it’s possible that a goal is so audacious that no-one has ever even conceived of it before, it is far more likely that some NPC, somewhere, sometime in the campaign world’s history, would have shared the objective or something analogous.

Logically, it follows that if such an objective is readily achieved, the PCs would have encountered someone who has achieved it, or was trying to achieve it, already – or, at the very least, heard of such. If they have not done so, then the player is asking the GM to enlarge the fundamental concepts of the game world to accommodate their desire – and verisimilitude demands that this be a change that takes place in-game, with causes and effects and consequences. The objective itself becomes a defining part of the campaign as a result.

Of course, not all PC objectives are so grandiose, and are therefore more easily accommodated. If a character wants to become a casino owner, that should be far more readily achievable – involving nothing more than gathering some political favors, a substantial financial outlay, and some fitting into the local business, social, political, and religious community.

The key is always to make the transition interesting and entertaining. If you can achieve that, you will have a successful campaign, no matter what the goals are.

Conundra

“Conundrums” is technically correct English but it didn’t have quite the same ring. In this case, the big conundrum is that your campaign structure will alter the structure of your adventures, which makes it hard to talk about adventure structure without also talking about campaign structures – a subject that has been reserved for part 2 of this article.

Adventures in a campaign don’t have to resolve everything with a nice, neat, bow-ribbon. You can have unresolved side issues that lead to other adventures, the end of an adventure itself might have consequences that will unravel in one or more future adventures, and so on. This is generally known as “continuity” within a campaign, which is a fancy word for connecting one adventure with another. If there isn’t much of a connection, the campaign is described as more “episodic” in nature.

It’s quite common to talk about the additional work that comes with maintaining a continuity-rich campaign, and there can be a fair amount of it; that additional work is usually justified in discussions about continuity by the additional rewards that come with it, such as verisimilitude (I’ve done so, myself).

But I just wanted to point out that an often-neglected attribute of continuity-rich campaigns is that they can be less work than more episodic campaigns, simply because one adventure can create another which creates another which creates still another, and so on. You can even think of such a campaign as branching from a central trunk like the branches of a tree.

And, to maintain balance, episodic-rich campaigns also have a benefit that’s often neglected in discussion of the subject: it’s easier to throw away anything that doesn’t work. If you have a bad adventure that doesn’t quite work for whatever reason, it doesn’t leave poisonous tendrils for future plots to become entangled in. Adventures in high-continuity campaigns contain the totality of the legacy of all past adventures – both good and bad.

The subject hasn’t changed; these are all considerations to be incorporated into an adventure structure.

Mood and tone

Once the objective, the A – to – B journey, has been identified, the next consideration to be taken into account is the desired mood and tone of the adventure. The distinction between the two is quite subtle, so much so that the terms are often interchangeable – and sometimes interchanged when they shouldn’t be.

The mood of an adventure is the overall flavor of the adventure. It might be playful, lighthearted, silly, grim, dark, dramatic, serious, farcical, earnest, calming, even therapeutic – all sorts of adjectives can and have been used. Mood comes from the demeanor of the GM, and the phrasing and tone of voice used in conveying descriptions and describing events. It can be enhanced by props and decorations and soundtracks and all sorts of other gimmicks, and it’s all about how you want the players – and their characters – to feel.

The tone of an adventure is more concerned with how you interpret character actions, the types of actions that they contemplate, and the actual subject matter and content of the action within the plot. Tone is the difference between a splatter movie and a more ‘comic-book’ horror plot, for example. One tries to genuinely terrify or shock, the other simply employs the trappings of horror to tell a different type of story – action-adventure or dramatic or whatever.

Dynamic Mood and Tone

You don’t have to listen to many DVD commentaries or watch many “making of” documentaries before you pick up on the term “beats”. A “beat” is a moment or section of the plot in which a particular emotional overtone becomes dominant – none of which makes sense unless you have first assimilated the concept that mood and tone are not and should not be static, they should be dynamic. The music that swells when a heroic character is about to do something heroic is a cheap and effective way of establishing a beat. The term actually comes from (in my opinion) the combination of “upbeat” and “downbeat”, which are the obvious generic contrasts in types of beat.

Within the overall mood and tone, there should be highs and lows, bright spots and dark spots, there should be a period of rising tension and then a release – to be followed by another. Each moment of maximum tension should be more intense than the last, and should generally build up more quickly, until the climax of the adventure. This is the generic recipe for a blockbuster, and that’s exactly the sort of roller-coater ride that we usually want for our adventures; there is a reason why movies of this format are the biggest-grossing in the history of cinema.

With more experience, and a little care, more sophisticated transitions are possible. A comedy can turn serious, a grim-and-gritty piece of noir can become deep, melancholy, and introspective – and then switch to high-octane action for the climax.

With a lot more experience, and a lot more planning, you can extend these sophisticated transitions over the course of an entire campaign. I’ve been working on my next superhero campaign a lot lately, stealing as much time as I can from other projects. Part of the design has involved a very deliberate trend in the mood and tone over the course of the campaign, from lighthearted generic superheroic romp at the start (with moments of high emotional contact for the different characters) to very dark and grim toward the end. My previous campaign was almost the exact opposite: the characters started with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and everything was life-and-death serious; as they got on top of the problems they had encountered, one after another, the mood began to lift, overall. The big finish to the campaign was cosmic in scope and blockbuster in style and tone, but nevertheless had a fairly ‘romp-ish’ mood to it. The players were on top, and the central villain was desperate, and took desperate chances. Had they failed, it would have radically changed the structure, content, mood, and tone of the next campaign; they didn’t.

In many ways, then, the initial tone of the new campaign will represent the fruits of victory. The darkness has been beaten back, and while there are problems – some of them even reaching the point of being a crisis – there will be an overall lightness to the situation, even a slight air of frivolity. The time will come when they will look back on this period as ‘the good old days’ (if I do my job right).

Enriching the plotline

The Mood and Tone of an adventure are tools to enrich the plotline by giving it emotion – passion, anger, fear, humor. This is achieved by correctly matching these emotional overtones to the subject matter of the plotline, which will in turn shape the ideas and reactions of the characters and players.

Have you ever noticed how, once you’re in the mood to laugh, almost anything can seem funny – if delivered the right way? Comedians refer to this as the buildup and the punch line. Even just repeating the punch line from an earlier joke can bring an audience to hysterics.
The same thing happens with rock concerts – the warm-up act is there to get the punters in a mood to party, the main act to take them over the top. When this works properly, the mood and tone enrich the plotline by creating the right atmosphere, a context in which events make sense.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work properly – the mood or tone, or both, are a mismatch to the subject matter. A rapper – no matter how good they might be – is unlikely to get the audience ready for a death-metal act; a hard-rock act is not going to be a satisfactory warm-up for a piano recital. When I saw Alice Cooper in the early 90s, the choice of opening act was fine – but they were louder than Alice, and that undermined the whole show. The mood was fine, but the tone mismatched.

The more unique or quirky the main act or plotline or plot structure, the more difficult it is to get the surrounding mood or tone right, but the bigger the payoff in doing so; instead of the game being a purely intellectual exercise, the players can suspend disbelief and buy into the plotline despite its exotic nature.

Contrast creates impact

There are two ways to release accumulated plot tension: maintaining the tone and mood, or deliberately using a contrasting tone and mood to give the main emotional context more impact. A moment of levity in a horror scenario can elevate the horror content when continuing in the same thematic vein simply leads to exhaustion.

By way of example, contemplate the following: The PCs have just come face to face with the enemy, the architect of all their woes. Since it is far too soon for the final confrontation between the two, the GM needs to separate the two – the purpose of this initial contact is simply to lay metaphoric cards on the table and build up a sense of anticipation. So the bad guy, weapon at the ready, crackling with energy, steps out of the shadows and utters an ominous threat or two, then points his weapon at the characters – a weapon against which they as yet have no defense, and they know it. And then the battery falls out, or the weapon misfires, or an NPC backing away trips over a bucket and mop (startling the villain and giving the PCs the chance to run away – for now). The sort of freak occurrence that gives the PCs a skin-of-their-teeth reprieve, breaks the mood, and releases the tension. The bad guy spouts another weedy threat and makes himself scarce – with or without his dignity and pride.

In my TORG campaign, the climax of the first adventure saw the PCs in action against a gigantic Dragon. They were badly outmatched, and they knew it. One of the PCs started climbing the Dragon’s back, distracting him momentarily, and managed to hold on as the Dragon tried to shake him off, at least until he reached the head. The dragon, with a violent snap of his neck, tossed the hapless character into the air with the intent of taking a bite out of his problems – if not swallowing them whole. The PC made an acrobatics roll and managed to land, feet-first, on the Dragon’s lower lip, arms swinging wildly as he tried to maintain his precarious balance. The Dragon exhaled, ready for the massive intake of breath required to unlimber its breath weapon… things looked grim! Until the character on the dragon’s lip shoved his arms as far up into the Dragon’s nostrils as he could and hung on there for grim death.

I could have ruled that the dragon exhaled, coating the character in napalm-like dragon spittle and igniting it. I could have ruled that the dragon sneezed, blowing the character off the lip and sending him crashing toward the floor 50 feet below. Instead, I decided to reward the audacity and humor of the situation and had the dragon collapse into a fit of coughing until the character was dislodged – which gave the other PCs the chance to inflict some serious damage. From a tone of desperation, through a wave of cathartic laughter as the tension broke, a wave of optimism and sudden hope swept the party. The Dragon got to use its breath weapon, but it was on the ropes already by that point.

The ultimate victory over the dragon would have had a LOT less impact if the mood had been maintained throughout; but that moment of levity transformed the outcome from a grim counting-of-the-cost to a jubilant celebration. I paid careful attention to that…

Opposition Definition

Okay, so you have some idea of what the objective of the adventure is going to be, and you have a general idea of the tone and mood of the overall adventure. The next step is to decide what complicating circumstances are going to stand between the PCs and achieving that goal. There are a whole raft of possibilities, from unexpected implications or plot twists that undermine the reasons for pursuing the objective in the first place (complicating the resolution), all the way through to ignorance of key facts or other circumstances that make the objective unclear or more difficult to achieve (complicating the initial circumstances). But, most commonly, the difficulty will take the form of some opposition that have to be overcome, and that’s the type of difficulty that I’m going to focus on.

Assigning Motive

When defining the opposition, the key question that always needs to be answered (at least in the GM’s mind) is always “Why are they opposing this?”

Assigning a motive tells the GM how far the opposition will go, and how hard they will fight to prevent success by the PCs, and how they will react to PC actions, especially unexpected ones.

On one occasion, in an early AD&D game, the opposition were good guys being used as dupes by the real villain, who had been convinced that even listening to the ‘artfully honeyed’ words of the PCs would shrivel their souls and condemn their families to an eternity of painful torture. While the confrontations between the two were physical in nature, that was fine; but the PCs slowly came to realize that their opposition were not evildoers and resolved to attempt to negotiate at their next encounter. They knew they were in a fight to the finish when the PCs lopped off each other’s ears rather than permitting themselves to hear what the PCs had to say, and comments to one another in the process made it clear why they were performing these acts of mutilation. It’s really hard to negotiate when the enemy would prefer to cut out his tongue than speak with you, or cut off his ears rather than hear what you had to say. The PCs had to wipe out groups of innocents that they would rather protect and ally with, resulting in alignment problems and all sorts of secondary difficulties. They were extremely angry when they finally confronted the architect of their problems…

By assigning a motive to the opposition, the GM permits the characters to explore non-combat solutions to the problem if they so desire, greatly adding to the mood and tone of the adventure.

Which brings me to another key point: the opposition’s motives must match the desired mood and tone. If the mood is to be grim and serious, you can’t give the enemy a silly reason for getting in the way. Who, and why, must both fit the emotional context of the adventure.

Alignment is not enough

One point that I want to specifically emphasize is that conflicting alignments is not enough reason for a group to oppose the PCs. “You’re chaotic good and I’m lawful evil” just won’t cut it. Alignments are expressions of personality and motive and objective and a whole bunch of other things, no matter how you define them, or – more practically – are a guideline for ensuring that these things are consistent from an individual or an organization. They need to be given concrete manifestations, and those are the reasons for opposition. “He doesn’t care about anyone but himself” might make someone evil, but that isn’t enough for a committed opposition to the PCs. “He’s greedy and ruthless, with a history of underhanded behavior” is a different story.

Balancing Opposition with Objective

In the real world, the strength and determination of the opposition have no relation to the objective that is being opposed. In a game world, a mismatch in this area is not as acceptable, because it makes for a poor story. Consider the possible mismatches and this becomes obvious:

  • Opposition too strong for the objective: makes the GM seem hardnosed and authoritarian, denying the PCs the chance to achieve what they want;
  • Opposition too weak for the objective: makes the objective seem unimportant to the GM, as though he couldn’t be bothered.

Neither of these is all that desirable. The only solution is to get the opposition’s power level about right for the task.

That’s more easily said than done. The best approach is to consider the achievement of the goal to be a reward for success in overcoming the opposition, then beef it up to get an appropriate reward for the power level of the characters, assuming approximate parity of opposition, then adjust.

Let’s say that the objective is that Casino that was mentioned earlier. The GM should look at the end product – which is not the Casino itself, but the ongoing income that it generates. If that amount of wealth is the reward, what is the appropriate opposition, given the character’s current power levels? Will that level of opposition pose sufficient challenge to the characters? If not, you will have to increase the level of opposition and supplement the rewards.

It’s important to remember, in considering this example, that the casino is the objective of just one player and his character; if the party works together, it will be relatively simple to achieve, because the opposition should also be geared to oppose a single character and not a team. If the GM wants to challenge the entire team, he will need to provide rewards for the other characters as well.

Make the opposition interesting

Above all else, make the opposition interesting. Give them some point of uniqueness that goes beyond mere abilities and make sure that it will expressed in the course of the encounter.

This goes beyond simply giving the opposition a personality or a history. Nor is it as simple as making the character more complex, though some discussions I have read would make one think so. No, the most important attribute to making a character interesting is to provide conflicting ways for the opposition to interact with the characters. A villain can be as evil as sin itself and still be interesting if he has a gimmick that interacts in unusual ways with a PC. Or so complicated that he isn’t interesting, just confusing.

Some methods of making a character interesting target one or more PCs, while others target the players in back of those PCs. A “neat” gimmick appeals to the players, while a personality connection is aimed at the characters.

You don’t need all the answers

Another idea that sometimes surfaces in this sort of discussion is that the character needs to be fully fleshed out; that the GM needs to know what he can do, and why he might do it, and what he won’t do, and what he can’t do, and who his friends and enemies are, and how he became the way he is, and on and on and on. Make no mistake, all of that can be useful – but there is no need to have all the answers at once; you can make up answers as you need them, provided you are careful to ensure that those answers are logically consistent with what has already been discovered and revealed about the character. Being in a state of ignorance provides room for inspiration to strike.

It’s generally better to be in ignorance regarding something than it is to have a pedestrian answer on tap.

This does place a premium on careful note-taking, though. At one point in the last campaign, I created an NPC named Lionheart, a seemingly helpless, somewhat mousy, ordinary person in fancy costume who had been built up by media hype and expert PR into ‘the greatest hero in England’. As the scenario developed, it transpired that the character had in fact tremendous powers but only in proportion to the belief in those powers of the general populace, and the closer the physical proximity to Lionheart, the better. The character thus had more power if he made sure the TV cameras were on him, and even more if there were supporters present to see him make his rescues. The other factor in his powers was his personal confidence in them, which had to be unshakeable or he could not be convincing to his adoring fans.

When the character appeared in-game, I had the personality – a shy, retiring, arrogantly self-assured hero who looked for all the world like the worst sort of publicity hound – and the name – and that was all. Everything else was worked out on the spur of the moment – but not written down. So, about five months later, the PCs suggest calling on Lionheart for assistance with another problem. While I could remember what I have written in the previous paragraph, I could remember nothing else. What were his actual abilities? What were the mannerisms that I had used to convey his personality to the PCs? What were the weaknesses I had given the character? I had no idea. Still don’t, for that matter.

A definitely-interesting character has been left virtually useless because I didn’t take notes at the time. All I can remember now is that the abilities were as unique as the character concept…

It’s better to have a pedestrian answer on tap than it is to come up with something brilliant – and then forget it.

The best answer is to be in ignorance until you need to be creative – then write it down. Right away, before you get distracted – or you’ll eventually forget it.

Opposition Tactics

Once you have the opposition nailed down, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use them. There are a plethora of choices, as usual, but they boil down in the end to attack or confront or conceal/confuse, and surprise or intimidate.

Attack with surprise means exactly what it says on the label – the opposition attacks the characters without warning. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a physical attack, it could be an attack on their reputations or allies or a number of other vectors.

Attacking to intimidate is just as varied. The objective here is to persuade the characters to back off; blackmail and all sorts of coercion fall into this category. Including the often-overlooked premise, “let’s buy them off.”

Confrontation is also an intimidation attack, but described the opponent showing off his power in hopes of causing the players to hesitate; it’s more of the “back off or else” level of intimidation, and that always works with PCs, right? Didn’t think so.

Finally, there are the “misdirection twins,” conceal and confuse. These are all about delaying the characters or attacking them indirectly with traps. This approach works best when dealing with time-critical situations.

Adventure Structures

With the jigsaw pieces ready to assemble, it’s time to consider the different shapes that can be constructed with those pieces – the Adventure Structure.

Most writing books and websites on creative writing will talk about three- and four- act structures that essentially come down to introduction, setback, and resolution. This information is so pervasive that I’m not going to repeat it here – just search for “three-act structure” and you’ll find more than enough on the subject to satiate you.

Simple Structure

The simplest sort of adventure structure is to pitch the characters straight into the action. They set an objective and then go for it, running head-first into the heart of the scenario. “Character learns of dungeon; character explores dungeon; character beats bad guys in dungeon; character loots dungeon. Repeat as necessary.” Or a non-D&D equivalent: “Superhero witnesses crime being committed; Superhero confronts criminal; Superhero fights villain; Superhero captures villain.”

Structure: Action Teaser

The next type of adventure structure comes from the structure of James Bond movies (though it has also been used elsewhere). The adventure starts in the middle of an action sequence that often has no relevance to the main plot (though it can be related). There is a tremendous upside to this structure: it gives the plot a real adrenalin kick. There is a downside that is potentially commensurate: it can require the GM taking control of the PCs long enough to get them into combat.

The GM should go out of his way to avoid the downside if he can think of a way of doing so. Players will be far more forgiving if the GM forces their characters to carry out a mundane task like going down to the market for fresh fruit and lets them control their characters from the moment the enemy for the action teaser shows up, or from just before it.

Even with the downside minimized, the GM should avoid using this plot structure all the time. It is best reserved for those occasions when the teaser is an important launchpad into the scenario and not merely tacked on.

Structure: ‘Permit Me To Introduce Myself’

A scenario structure that is far more accessible is to start with an introduction between an NPC and the PCs. The NPC acts as a mouthpiece for presenting news of a situation to the PCs. Variations include messages left for the PCs, telegrams, and the like. This structure presents the PCs with the problem and catapults them straight into the plotline, but (unlike the Simple Structure) there is a brief separation between problem and confrontation. Players like this because it gives them time to prepare for whatever’s coming.

In effect, this presages the adventure with a simple subplot that gives the characters at least part of the foundation of the adventure.

Structure: Subplot Paradise

Clearly, if one subplot is good, more can be better. For one thing, they allow still more complex structures, in which hints and rumors reach different characters about what is to come; hints and rumors reach different characters about what the opposition is already doing; subordinate encounters can fill in necessary context and background, and connect everything that’s going on with the forthcoming plotline.

With a little more forward planning, these subplots can even be presented within earlier scenarios, creating a far richer campaign structure – something that will be fundamentally important to the second part of this article.

Complex Structures

These structures are relatively straightforward. Using them as building blocks, more complex plot structures involving multiple encounters can be assembled. As part of the forthcoming superhero campaign, there is a “Time War” which consists of eight major phases and a number of subplots separating them. One phase of that Time War occupies a single adventure or encounter; the rest are more complex, comprising a number of encounters. More significantly, since the PCs are to be caught between the two antagonistic forces that are carrying out these hostilities, and both the antagonistic forces have a high degree of mastery over time travel, the sequence of events the PCs experience will be completely out of step with the overall timeline of the conflict – Part 2 will be followed by part 1 and then part 4, then part 5, then part 3, and so on (NB to my players: The sequence listed is NOT exactly the same as the sequence of events in the game!).

With subplots in between each phase in many if not all cases, plus additional encounters to establish who the combatants are and what they can do, and a non-linear plot structure, this is a clearly complex plot structure.

Structure: Resolution & Mystery

One final point to note in this section concerning adventure structures: there is no need to tie up every loose end in an adventure. Leaving some mystery to be resolved leaves a point of connection that can be exploited in later adventures. Tell the players what their characters would know, and what they can reasonably deduce, and what the villains admit; nothing more. And if that misleads the players, give them some sort of intelligence check to realize the fallacy of their deductions; otherwise let them charge off in the wrong direction to their heart’s content.

Sometimes, you may even like their answer better than your own – in which case, congratulate them on ‘seeing through’ your plot camouflage to the real answer, while quietly expropriating their solution!

A consistent format

As much as possible, it is advisable to adopt a standard and consistent format for the adventures you run. This regularity permits players to plan their own activities in line with the format, and by giving you a set of standard ‘content boxes’ to fill in planning each scenario, ensures that no opportunities for play are passed up. Filling those boxes with plot-critical information when necessary and plot-irrelevant information the rest of the time avoids a situation in which the players can identify what is important to the plot simply by the means of presentation. Ironically, being consistent prevents the campaign from becoming predictable.

…varied to suit the occasion

That is not to say that variations should not be employed whenever they better fit the plot. I start some adventures with subplots, and others with team meetings, and still others with a character hearing a news broadcast or two characters gossiping. Some adventures are designed with a structure that will deliberately mislead the players; some have false endings, and others feature deceptions and betrayals.

Numerous books and websites on writing give information on plot and story structure. Most of these lessons are directly relevant to adventure structure.

Part 2 of this article will discuss the assembly of adventures and single encounters into larger tapestries: Campaign Structures.

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