Last time I wrote about D&D
, I had meant to talk about coming up with the session that I had run, but then I wrote a preamble about how most of the adventure's content had come about. That was two weeks ago! (In fact, every time I do any sort of following up about D&D, I am shocked to find out how much time has passed since the last session. I really should send out a scheduling email for the next one.)
To sum up, the players had spent over a year (in real-world calendar time; we play a little less than once a month), in this cavern network whose content had mostly been designed well in advance of each session. I rarely had to write new content; sometimes I did just because my mind would change about what worked well or what I thought would be cool. Last session, they were out of the cavern and back in the hazily-defined town. I had about three hours of time to design it, thanks to Katt taking the guy to the pool.
First, I thought of a way to get the PCs out of a trial. At the end of the last session, they had been jailed and were told theywere going to be tried in the morning. I had an NPC hint that he had information that could be used in the trial, but like all D&D hints, it was not taken. So, this trial could go anywhere, and I no longer wanted to run a trial.
I came up with a good enough deux ex machina but thought I'd feel more comfortable with it if I first worked out some Worg Juice (the product/company that runs the town and is behind all sorts of doings) economics. This, I realized wasn't the most effective use of time, but it would gnaw at me if I didn't do it. I broke out a graph I had made (in March of 2017 ?!) of the flow of resources between various groups and locations and started putting some numbers to it. Now I had a fantasy business plan from which I could extract some more motivations. I also had an idea of what could be outside of the town, if they decided to just take off.
Next, I listed the kind of things these players enjoy. It looked something like:
- Discussion/speculation about any NPC or event
- Handouts, props
- Discussion/speculation about unidentified items
- Magic versions of normal animals
- Item Mart
- Combat on novel terrain (in retrospect, this may be something I like, rather than something they like)
I made some handouts that revealed the doings of upstream actors in the NPC network and came up with an event around them that could get the PCs Doing a Quest. Of course, like all things, these were still highly ignorable.
Then, I drew out a web of encounter names. (In retrospect, it could've been a list. Very few of them had dependencies.) Some were locations. Many were events — encounters that can happen anywhere. (e.g. A magic cat appears and steals your food.) There were 19 of these, with varying levels of likeliness, plausibility, and designability. One of them was Worg Juice HQ, which had already been established as a large place with lots of stuff.
I started filling out encounters. For each encounter name, I wrote out:
- What was happening
- Briefly, what was motivating it
- If it thought I couldn't make them up or look them up on the fly, stats of any monsters or NPCs involved
- Items, treasure
- A map if necessary, or a reference to a map from online
I was able to fill out nine encounters, including the one that was going to happen no matter what.
I also drew out the town by copying over A) the part of the town that I had drawn before, the lake, the HQ, and a couple houses and B) one of the smaller towns generated by Metropologeny
, the bot that generates towns. That bot helped me a lot of road layouts that weren't all grid-like.
The big remaining design hole was Worg Juice HQ. I didn't really know the odds of the players deciding to dive right into that, but I guessed it was less than 50%. The other problem is that if I started defining Worg Juice HQ, I'd probable spend all of my time on that and not think at all about the town. So, all I did was list out the main features of the building, most importantly, the ones the PCs had been to at the very beginning of the campaign. Fortunately, I already had a map for the building, stats for common denizens of it, and stats for some of the leaders. I thought the PCs going into the HQ wouldn't be a disaster, just perhaps a little drab and generic. A final mitigating factor is that some of the events could occur in that building.
Well, I was lucky, and they just left the building as soon as they could.
The "stealthy PCs", Egg the thief, and Whewdo Danger, half-elven ranger, tailed a guy espionage-style. They followed him, failing Move Silently and Hide in Shadows checks the whole time, a few hundred feet to his house. I like to think this was because they were doing unnecessary somersaults, '80s-style. They could not break in, but Egg climbed onto the roof, where a cat knocked her off.
In the meantime, a lot of rope was purchased at the new Item Mart location (the previous one had fallen into a sinkhole), where Raven, the goth druid, tried not to be recognized by the clerk, who she had known from school. Oika, a gnome fighter with more than one minor magical affliction, bought dozens of eggs. Goat-obsessed Makalbly Jane may or may not have seen a herd of flying red goats described by a raving townsperson.
Then, I think at some point, they lowered someone down into the sinkhole with their new rope. It's quite the deep hole, and rope gripping strength is not infinite, so I thought the inconvenient possibility of one PC being hundreds of feet underground while the rest were on the surface was possible. In the end, they just pulled her back up, and I was relieved.
Finally, they followed some rumors to an overgrown graveyard where they did a seance, read some cool grave engravings, thanks to this name generator
that Katt wrote. (Also, I was forced to say what year it was in that world. 972. I have no idea what happened in year 1.) Then, some zombies attacked, and they turned undead for the first time. (They were underwhelmed.) After the battle, they found that many of their eggs were destroyed.
So, with a little luck, you can come up with good-enough stuff for an involved campaign in a kind of short time!