Friday, March 16, 2007

Classifying D&D adventures

I'm beginning to suspect that structurally there are only a few different kinds of D&D adventures.

Missions have clearcut goals, and are typically of relatively short duration. I think you see a lot of mission-based modules because the explicit victory condition simplifies the writing process. Classics in the genre include "rescue the princess", "find the macguffin", and "stop the evil overlord's scheme". I used mission-based adventures almost exclusively in my first 3.5 campaign, so I'm planning to go a little lighter on them in my newest venture.

Wander Around And Get Into Trouble is a good option for players who bristle at getting mission assignments from Elminister but lack the foresight to set their own mission goal. But I also think it is a viable adventure type on its own merits, at least if your DM is prepared for the players to go in directions he wasn't expecting. It has been suggested that you either ought to have everything meticulously planned out or be willing to make everything up on the fly. I find both approaches work well together. If you do a good job planning out part of the campaign world, that work will be helpful and informative when the players go off on a tangent.

Beat The Dungeon is a sadly overlooked category these days. You can have dungeon-flavored missions and you can simply wander the dungeons looking for adventure. But Beat the Dungeon is a different beast altogether, demanding that you explore every cranny, defeat every monster, and search for every gold piece. One of the greatest accomplishments of my original game group was when the players beat the Caves of Chaos. Their Expert level PCs returned to the Caves a game-month or two later, just to check for hidden treasures one more time. They were absolutely scandalized that new critters had taken up residence in areas they had cleared. Heh.

Anything I'm missing?


  1. Zachary2:40 PM

    Well, Epic Quests are often a "mission from Elminster", but not always. They're usually much less modular than missions, and a bit more focused than "wander around and get in trouble" (though they can definitely can share some characteristics)! Would that be another classification all its own? Just typing out loud here, folks.

  2. How about "Figure out what's going on" - not really a mission, though Mystery-Adventures can be missions... but more of a "There are some weird occurrences... it is up to you to figure out if there's a connection between them and resolve the situation... if you want."

    I don't know what to call this.


  3. How many ways can you use the Caves of Chaos?

    For small player campaign, I changed the caves to fit the background of the old keep -- old human lands overrun...

    Each monster area in the caves was turned into an abandoned old human village, now occupied/modified by new and different inhabitants. I kept the minotaur lair as a small underground lair, and dropped hints as to the real dominant power amongst the tribes, the temple of evil chaos, but slowly.

  4. I've long been wanting to make the Caves of Chaos/Keep on the Borderlands into a historical adventure taking place in Cappadocia during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Cappadocia actually had all of these giant stone pinnacles with caves carved into them by ascetic monks and hermits. Since the original B2 module already has a "priest of Chaos," I figured it could instead be a heretical cult of monks preying on caravans carrying tribute from the east, forcing the PC inhabitants of the small Byzantine fortress to venture forth and deal with the issue, find out who was responsible, etc.