Adventure Design (Part 2)
And we pick up from last week. :)
There are a few more things we do to our adventures, and they're important to note here too, even if they're more logistical than the planning of the adventure when it is written.
1) The adventure should, as much as possible, be self-contained.
That is meant in a logistical sense, as we've all tried sitting with 5 or 6 books open just to try and track down a monster, template, or magic item. That's a big no-no for us.
Monsters must be replicated, with full stat blocks, in a separate appendix. Any NPC or monster that the heroes are likely to fight should be in there. (Some might be in there even if they're unlikely to be fought). The same goes for any new magic items or spells (existing items or spells should be hyperlinked in the pdf so that it's easy for the GM to quickly find what he needs).
2) Common formatting. There are some formatting things that need to be done as well, though these are pretty common. Things like magic items and spells are in italics so that they're easy to recognize in the books. This helps when they're hyperlinked since they stand out more, but even for physical books they need to be in italics.
3) Skill checks and saving throws should be bolded.
This helps them stand out in the text and makes it easier on the Game Master. The same goes in some products for NPC names.
This really depends on the adventure. For some adventures (especially with beginning players) some rail-roading is OK. But for the most part, an open (or even sandbox-y) approach is better. That said, things like a dungeon have a natural progression to them, as they escalate towards the final encounter. This is not something we class as rail-roading, but simply the flow of that story.
5) SEE AND FEEL BUT DO NOT DICTATE. (This one is really important)
This specifically applies to descriptions and read-aloud boxes. In recent months and certainly the last year, there's been a great deal of discussion about read-aloud boxes. Some like them, and some hate them. We have decided to keep them since we believe they add to the understanding of each encounter or area that the heroes might find themselves in.
But we have some rules for it for the writers:
A) No dictating emotions. Some authors like to write things like "You feel queasy from the sight of the pile of corpses in front of you", and that might be correct in most cases, but it doesn't account for the fact that triggers are different for various people. A necromancer would be absolutely unfazed (as would most adventurers) while the local schoolteacher might run away screaming. Instead, we describe what the heroes can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. So the example from above might be "The pile of corpses in front of you reeks of rotting flesh and decomposition and you can almost taste the putrid flesh on your tongue. Flies are buzzing about it and as one of them lands, the pile shifts ever so slightly with a squelching sound."
B) Senses. When describing something, it's easy for us all to describe what you can see. But humans have 5 senses, each of which processes information. Try to apply at least sight and sound (minimum) and one more sense if possible. Though I'll admit, there are extra points for those who grab either taste or touch. After all, how often do heroes lick the environment?
C) NO dictating actions. Apart from obvious things (like opening a door to look into a room) we do not make assumptions about the actions of the heroes in the read-aloud boxes (though we may have to do so in the rest of the text to help the Game Master run the game). We merely present a situation as is, in the moment.
D) Monsters. This is somewhat more difficult, but for the most part, the presence and effect of monsters are best left to the Game Masters, depending on how the heroes have acted. Adding a monster to a read-aloud text rarely makes sense, if they've already reacted (say to noise or an alarm), so they're exempted from descriptions. The exception here is static monsters or those that rely on disguise. Things like mimics would be described in the disguise they'd normally use in the room, stone golems might be disguised as statues and of course, invisible creatures wouldn't be described at all.
These are our guiding principles for our main games (Currently Pathfinder 2, 5e, and Starfinder) and we expect that these will serve us well as we progress into other games. And if not, then we will adjust. :)
Regardless, we hope you enjoyed this little view of our systems. See you back next week. :)