Tabletop RPGs have been my hobby for a long time, and I’ve also always had a certain appreciation for level design, and exploring the topic of creating dungeons, encounters, and challenges in games like D&D or Shadowrun is one of the ways I try to connect with that. Thing is, for my homebrew games I mostly just “wing it,” pulling out the dungeon, the traps, and the encounters in it off the top of my head. Years of practice makes me pretty good at it, such that I’d trust my instincts for building an encounter over the Challenge Rating system in D&D or Pathfinder, but it can be a frustrating and stressful way to run a game, and there’s a lot of things that well-prepared materials bring to the table that can make things feel a lot more engaging. Frankly the best games I’ve ever run tend to be the ones where I supplement my DMing instincts with pre-made adventures, where all my brain power goes to just making the encounters fun or interesting while the module supplies environments, maps, characters, and guidelines that keep me from having to fumble too much.
It seems like it should be easy enough to sit down, walk one’s self through an adventure, and record it for that purpose. Yet, for all the time I’ve spent attempting to write a pre-made adventure myself, I’ve yet to get one to the point where I feel happy with it. Through these blog entries I hope to de-mystify that process for myself as well as anybody else who might be struggling with that concept.
We’ll be starting this off with a little exploration of the concept of planning a tabletop adventure — when it is and isn’t constructive, and why.