Friday, July 11, 2008

DMG - Adventures

This was a large chapter, full of pretty decent information for the starting Dungeon Master, but of somewhat limited use for those who have been doing this for over 20 years.

The section on using published adventures talks about how to introduce the players to the adventure, which is usually covered in the module itself, and also gives some hints on modifying them to adapt to your own campaign setting, or modifying the level to better fit the party.

The Fixing Problems section is a sampling of the articles found in the old and new Save My Game articles from Wizards, which have always been some of the better articles that they've put out (from a DM's point of view, anyway).

The next few sections cover the meat and bones of making an adventure, and can definitely be helpful to newer DMs. Because running an adventure is similar to telling a story, DMs need to have some storytelling knowledge, such as having a start and end, keeping the pace going (even when the players might drift from the intent), and of course the player characters are the star protagonists of the story, and thus must figure predominantly throughout the story. Different from normal storytelling, however, is that the players are expected to guide the story by their own decisions, yet in the end things are meant to go as the DM planned. Giving the players the freedom to choose, yet still end up where the DM intended requires a fine balance of hints, hooks, and subtle nudging that this chapter can help the DM refine.

More technical than storytelling is the short section on the encounter mix, ensuring that the story feels dynamic and non-formulaic. Because the adventure is a story, the encounters need to feel like events that would happen day-to-day -- that is, day-to-day for heroes of the land, anyway. As discussed in the Noncombat Encounters chapter, the story isn't just a series of fights, but can include encounters of skill, encounters of dialog and encounters of wits. These encounters could be with blatant enemies, obvious friends and neutral bystanders; but also involving villains with which the party might have common goals, or misguided heroes that must be stopped. This idea is continued later in the chapter in the Cast of Characters section.

The setting are an important part of any adventure, and this is given a good amount of attention here. Early Dungeons & Dragons was all about dungeons, its namesake, but now adventures can range far and wide through any number of environments. The dungeon is definitely the easiest setting for a Dungeon Master to help ensure the flow of the adventure -- there are only so many passages that the characters can follow, and they will eventually get to where you need them -- but these can lack the sense of freedom that the story should provide. Wilderness can provide the sense of the unknown from all directions and the feeling of being lost; urban settings can lead to paranoia and distrust, as there are so many NPCs around, and any of them could be friend or foe. Planar settings provide that extra bit of the fantastic to any adventure, when dungeons, wilderness and cities are starting to feel mundane, even when crawling with dragonborn, mind flayers and dragons. This, to me, is the most useful part of the chapter.

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