spent the last few months writing a D20 fantasy adventure entitled Unhallowed
Halls for Atlas Games, which will be published in April or May of 2002, so this
topic quickly sprang to mind for a Vision article. Part I, presented below, is
an overall look at the genres’ elements, and some things to consider if you
are writing for this market. Part II, in the next issue, will look at the actual
or module, writing fuses fictional elements like setting, plot, and characters
with a logical, nonfiction style. Not only must your plot weave an interesting
evening or two of gaming for the Game Masters’ players, but you must also
provide the Game Master with the technical information (like character/monster
game statistics and tactics or new magical item information) necessary to run
the adventure in the game for which it is written. To do this, you must become
very familiar with the game's core rulebooks; if you can’t convince the game
line’s editor that you know how to write for the game in question, you won’t
sell her your storyline.
also have to think logically when writing adventures, as you second-guess the
players’ actions and provide conditional responses to them. For example: “If
the characters succeed in killing or bypassing the orc bandits, allowing none to
escape, then the minotaur in Area 10 will not have been awakened. If any orcs
escape, however, they warn the minotaur, and he rallies twenty more orcs and ten
goblins to ambush the characters in the tunnels leading to his lair.”
beginning your adventure, consider your plot type, adventure length, and the
generic quality of your project, as these features affect your submission
plot styles typify adventure writing: the event-driven and the site-driven plot.
Event-driven adventures usually involve thwarting a villain’s plans or solving
mysteries; in fact, many event-driven adventures spark the player characters’
involvement by presenting them with a kidnapping, murder, or a missing item of
some importance. Timelines, conditional elements, and characters drive this plot
type. My Unhallowed Halls adventure and most of Atlas Games’ Penumbra D20 line
fall into this category.
adventures are those in which a locale, like a ruined castle or an evil temple,
takes prominence, and the plot is minimal and mostly concerns exploration. These
adventure types may also be about thwarting villains, but most involve treasure
hunting--a favorite character pastime. And, of course, castles and temples can
and do exist in event-driven adventures, but the plot is the focus.
you are naturally drawn to mysteries, then event-driven adventures may be your
forte. Take care in reading the company’s guidelines before you submit,
however, as some companies and magazines prefer not to publish them. Dungeon
magazine and Necromancer Games, for instance, prefer site-driven adventures.
under 2,000 words, called "Side Treks" or "Treks," are
equivalent to fiction’s short shorts, being drop-in plots to fill time between
longer adventures or travels.You can find examples of these in Dungeon magazine
and in Atlas’ most recent release, En Route. Writing a Trek could be an easy
means to get your name out into the gaming community, and they are generally the
only submissions you can send in without a formal proposal. Unfortunately, there
are few markets for Treks.
you are writing an adventure up to 12,000 words, then the magazine market is
appropriate, though anything over that is pushing it. For manuscriptslonger than
about 15,000 words, you may want to consider submitting to an actual game
company for consideration. Game companies print these adventures as stand-alone
adventures of 36 or more pages, and you can find numerous examples of them in
your local Waldenbooks or on Amazon.com. Of course, you’ll need to submit an
adventure proposal for consideration in either venue. Be sure to look over the
writer’s guidelines to know what things you should include in the proposal.
writers love to build their own worlds, you as an adventure writer must fight
the urge to detail your adventure with world-specific information—unless the
game line you are writing for requires it. On the whole, editors prefer generic
adventures that can be easily transplanted into another Game Master’s
campaign. This isn’t to say that you can’t create new towns and cities, but
you must be careful if your plotline revolves around the politics of these
places, for another Game Master may be unable to equate these goings-on to
societies in her campaign world.
your adventures allows you to get more world-specific, though it may limit your
market—turning off those who are looking for new adventures in an already
established campaign world. The gaming market is very much a niche field, so
anything that broadens your readership is for the best.
you’ve thought about these things, and you know where you stand with each.
Now, you want to get cracking on the actual adventure. Well, join me next issue
for Part II, and we’ll talk about the nuts and bolts of adventure building.
Start that brainstorming!