Creating an Adventure: Part 2

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This is the last part of the Creating an Adventure Series. You can find the first part through this link: Creating an Adventure – Part 1. This part wraps up the adventure creation process and should give you a framework to use for your own adventure creation in the future.

When this article is complete, we will have two versions of this Adventure Module for you. The first one will be a more basic Outline version of the Adventure and available immediately. Download the Adventure Prison Break on our Downloads Page. The second will be a more detailed Adventure with more flavor and descriptions to be released in as feedback comes in in a few weeks.

Designing the Encounters

Designing an Encounter is a simple task. Approach it like a scene in a movie or book. When you determine what you want to happen in the scene, you apply game mechanics to the situation to help dictate the outcome. Let’s go over the encounters here.

Standard Encounter #1 – Avoid or Confront the Imperial Gray Guards at the Crash Site

Set up the scene of the Encounter for the players, being careful to give them a clear picture of all the options they have before them. I would start with describing the scene and then giving them an actionable phrase, such as the following:

Rubble, small fires, battered prisoners, and patrols of Imperial Gray Guards are everywhere. The giant Imperial Floating Citadel, used as a slow moving command post by the Imperial Navy, has fallen and you don’t know why, but you aren’t going to wait around to find out. The forest is just beyond the crash site. If you can get there, you might be able to get free of the Imperials.

I am going to build two main options. One, they make a break for it and have to fight some Gray Guards that get in their way. Two, they sneak past guards and make way for the forest. The “Make a Break for it” section will give us an opportunity for some Skill Checks. In this case, the Character Skills of Subterfuge and Athletics: Subterfuge is to avoid being seen and Athletics to run away.

The Subterfuge Skill Check will be based on a DF of 17 which for first level is slightly more difficult than normal. The Athletics Check will be an Extended Skill Check with a DF of 70 over 5 rolls that each player must roll and record how long it takes for them to hit 70. If a player reached 70 before the Villains, they break free and hit the forest. If the Villains hit 70 first, they engage the players in battle.

In the battle with the guards, we will re-skin an entry we have for another Villain from the Core Rulebook. This time, we will use the “Soldier, Grunt” entry in the Bestiary section (page 348 Core Rulebook) and upgrade them to Minions. Since we are using Minions, a balanced encounter calls for giving the players a number of Imperial Gray Guards equal to twice their number. In this case we will subtract 1 or 2 guards in the end, just to make things slightly easier.

Standard Encounter #2 – Plot a course to the Clockwork Gryphon Inn

In this Encounter, we are pitting the players against Nature. Since we are only using Character Skills, it is considered a Skill Encounter. The consequences of this Encounter should be different than if they were facing a foe. Here is the description of the scene and the actionable phrase:

The deep forest surrounds you, thick with vegetation and animal life. A few inches of detritus covers the dirt of the forest floor, making footing precarious. The sharp smell of dirt and decaying plant matter hits your nose. Free of pursuit, it is time to head towards the Clockwork Gryphon.

This Encounter is going to start with a simple Natural Lore Skill Check with a DF15 to determine North, then they will need to follow up with ongoing Skill Checks for a number of things: Covering their Trail (Natural Lore DF22), Staying the Course (Natural Lore DF18), and Foraging for food (Natural Lore DF20).

With this Encounter, I would like to build a sense of peril around the struggle to survive in this forest. It should take the players anywhere from 2 to 5 days to get out; 2 if they do everything right, 5 if they miss every check. It will be an ongoing Encounter that will span the entire length of time that they are within the forest. At the end of the encounter, the players will either have made it through relatively unscathed and confident in their skills or feeling a bit rankled and worse for wear.

Standard Encounter #3 – Avoid or Confront the Goblin Ambushers within the Scalar Forest

Another Encounter to throw at the players is dealing with Goblin Ambushers. Like Encounter #1, give the players the option to Avoid, Fight, and Flee from the Goblins if they wish. This Encounter will be occurring while the players are in the Forest at any time during the first few days. You will need to approach how you deliver the details on this Encounter carefully. Just about any time you bring something up, players will expect a scene to be occurring, so you might need to “cry wolf” a few times and give them a false alarm or build a consistent Skill Check into the story that makes it so they won’t suspect an attack. Experienced gamers often use metagame principles, which is the idea of “gaming the game” or “out thinking the gamemaster.” You will want to find a way to discourage metagaming to surprise them.

Standard Encounter #4 – Avoid or Confront the Hounds of Petra

Now we want an encounter that will occur towards the end of the adventure to build suspense for the final confrontation. This encounter can be handled in a number of ways, but no matter how we build it, we will want to build suspense and incorporate a sense of danger. If the players haven’t felt the heat from any of the encounters so far, this one should make them feel it. The Hounds of Petra will be on the players trail. Alone, they are just 3 Minions, but they will not be alone, they will have been joined by the prison hounds. The prison hounds will be the fodder for this encounter and directly confront the players; the Hounds of Petra will stay in the background and enhance the strength of the prison hounds.

This encounter can be avoided with successful Natural Lore Checks to mask their scent with a DF20 for all the players and with ingenuity. You won’t need to plan everything out; sometimes you need to wing it. If the players are going to confront the Hounds, the battle should occur with the prison hounds, the hounds of Petra, and the Players. Resolve the combat and let the Hounds get away as soon as things turn against them.

The Final Confrontation

After you have built the four Standard Encounters, you will need to build your Major Encounter. The process is a lot like any other. Most of the time, a Major Encounter will be a Combat Encounter. Major Encounters are going to be using Elites and Boss Grade Villains against your players. The battle should be memorable. Define the scene, set up the action, monologue a little bit and then get into the meat of the encounter, the battle.

In this case we will have Petra swoop in on the players when the Clockwork Gryphon is within site a few miles down the road. She will make it almost impossible to avoid her, because she is going for the dramatic flair, trying to kill the players hope. At this point in the Adventure, freedom is just outside their reach and she needs to be stopped for the players to attain it.

When making a Major Encounter I suggest a few things:

  • Make a Villain Monologue
  • Create some Villain Battle Phrases
  • Make the Combat Mechanics Memorable

The Villain Monologue

Your main Villain of the Adventure doesn’t always need to “monologue”, but every good encounter has it in some degree, even if it is a few words thrown in here and there. The Witch King of Angmar tells Eowyn, “Do not come between the Nazgul and his prey” and “No man can kill me” in the Lord of the Rings. They are short and sweet, but set the mood, without it, it would simply be a battle. Ra’s Al Ghul tells Bruce Wayne his master plan in the Wayne Mansion as it burns down. Ronin the Accuser gives multiple speeches during the titanic battles in Guardians of the Galaxy. These are the opportunities where we get to see the Heroes’ resolve and the Villain’s villainy.

For Petra, we will have her bring up the reason she hates them so–their foiling of her fun in prison. Foiling the players escape is her ideal means of revenge, especially with them so close to their goal.

Villain Battle Phrases

Battle phrases serve two purposes: they add flavor and they give you the opportunity to telegraph game mechanics. The first purpose of adding flavor is usually meant to throw salt in the wounds of the players; to get them worked up and even more angry with the Villain. The second purpose is to telegraph game mechanics. It gives you an opportunity to tell the players what is going to be in store for them. For example, Petra is going to have a special attack where her hounds put a number of status effects on a particular player. When this happens, she will call it out with a special command and the hounds will act accordingly. When she says, “Sic ‘Em Boys” Her hounds will attack and apply Bleed, Hold, and Crippled to the target of their combined attack. Being prepared to remove all those status conditions will be important for the healers and telegraphing this will tell the players that if they have the chance to avoid the attack altogether, to use it.

Make the Combat Mechanics Memorable

An Adventure is only as good as the story that is told and the same goes for a Combat Encounter. Abilities are meant to inherently add flavor with their descriptions and mechanics, but it shouldn’t end at the rulebook description. Describe how the action occurs, spell out the juicy details in relation to each player, and make sure the mechanics of the actions fit the levity of the fight. One step for making the mechanics of the fight memorable is to give the Villains access to powerful abilities. The Hound’s Combined Attack will be one such memorable mechanic since it causes 3 Conditions and triple the normal damage, all in one action. Avoiding it and preparing for it will be vital to the player’s survival.

How Petra fights the players is also going to be important. Does she use melee or ranged tactics? Is she a caster or a fighter? I want to make the players feel like they have obstacles in their way to getting her, so her hounds will be the ones in close and she will get to sit back and act from afar. To make things more interesting, I will make her an Alchemist to give her great support actions and the tools to fight at range. With her dancing around the battlefield and buffing her hounds with incredible speed, the players will get a run for their money.

Building The Conclusion

After the final confrontation of an Adventure, you will want to build a nice wrap-up that ties everything together in the adventure. It should be a summary of the events that transpired and a launching board for future adventures. It is not as simple as telling your players, “The End.” It is about giving a proper exit to the Villain, an acceptable amount of dialogue, and a sense of satisfaction at a mission accomplished.

The Villain Exit

We will approach the “proper exit for a Villain” first. In this case, depending on what you wanted to do for the overall campaign arc, Petra could be a one-time foe or an ongoing Villain. One-timers are simple, kill them off, imprison them, or otherwise take their ability to do harm to others away from them and you are done. If you wanted her to be an ongoing Villain, then you will need to find a way for Petra to tuck tail and flee without the pursuit of the players. This can be accomplished in many ways: she could use an adhesive grenade, sacrifice her hounds to break free of you (unlikely), use a magical item on her possession, and other things. Whatever it may be, it will sting the players to let her go. You need to take some of the edge off, but not too much. It should hurt that she got away, so the players will want to even the score.

Wrap-Up Dialogue

The “wrap-up dialogue” is another important part to concluding an Adventure. While an Adventure is about the Journey, you need a satisfying end to it for closure. You can do this with a simple summary section, telling your players that they made it to their destination, defeated their enemy, and are calmly recounting their tale at the common room of the local inn. In this case that would be the Clockwork Gryphon. This method usually sacrifices some of the impact of the adventure for the sake of brevity however.

Another method to conclude an Adventure is to bring in another character called a Non-player Character (NPC) for the players to meet, discuss the events that occurred, and give them the mental release they need. The NPC should lead them through summarizing the events by asking pointed questions and giving them additional details that they might not have known. This method has a more cinematic feel and helps with the players immersion into the story.

The Finishing Touches

The final thing that you will need to do to create an Adventure is build your Villain Stat Blocks. If you are using Villains that are right out of the Core Rulebook, you can just jump to that page and use the information as needed. If you are reskinning or building monsters from scratch, then you will need to use some the Villain Creation Rules (Unchained Heroes: Fantasy Core Rulebook page 307).

Villains

In this case we are going to use what we have and just reskin the Hellhounds (Unchained Heroes: Fantasy Core Rulebook page 325) and Soldiers (Unchained Heroes: Fantasy Core Rulebook page 348) for the main monsters while using the Goblin entry “as-is”. Petra will be built from the ground up. That process we will cover in another post, but you will be able to see her statistics and abilities in the finished adventure.

Treasure

You are also going to have to find opportunities to give your players Treasure. At level 1, your players are going to have ILV 0 gear. The goal is to get them in ILV 1 gear by the end of the Adventure or over the course of two Adventures. This is not supposed to be a difficult task and doesn’t require a lot of planning. You can mark at what points in the story–most likely after or during an encounter–where the players will get their gear. It can be completely specific to the players as well by giving them the new robes, plate mail, sword, bow, or talisman they might need.

This adventure will put them in 1/2 to 3/4 new ILV 1 gear. You could replace all their gear as you go along, but I don’t want them completely decked out in new ILV 1’s for this adventure. To do this, we are simply going to give each player three ILV 1 pieces of gear that are relevant to their class in the Adventure. You can hand them out in any encounter you wish or have them find them along the way in some secret cache within the forest.

Level Up Time

You must decide if your Adventure is going to give your players a Level Up. At level 1, players should be getting a Level Up every 1-2 Adventures. This Adventure is going to reward the players with a Level Up, so put that into the notes and be sure to let your players know they get their Level Up at the end of the Adventure!

Adventure Complete

This is the rough process for creating an Adventure. Some of it is specific to Unchained Heroes, but the overall concepts and thought process can be used in anything. If you are playing any other game system, just insert the relevant Skill Checks and Monsters as needed; there will be comparable versions of each villain, item, and most importantly Skill Checks in every system. This method is relatively short and sweet. You can make it even shorter if you wish by only building an outline, but that requires a lot more ad-lib skills than some people might have. In the end, do what works for you and have a great time!

I hope you enjoyed this Adventure Guide. Until next time.

 

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