My approach to creating adventures for Shadow of the Demon Lord comes from realizations I had while working on and running other games. I like big, chunky adventures just like everyone else, but I realized I rarely ran them all the way through till the end. Sometimes, the players take unexpected directions, requiring me to develop the story in new ways, leaving behind pages of otherwise great content. Other times, the game just falls apart when real life bullied its way into our fun. Rather than pretend life works differently, I stripped down adventures to their essential elements. Here are some broad strokes to show you how I did it.
I don’t plan to release many, if any, print adventures. The digital medium is cheaper on you and on me. Adventures will have a landscape, three-column format so I can fit more on the page. I don’t anticipate adventures running more than 5 pages in length so you can read them quickly and run right away.
Most adventures have the following structure.
Objective: The adventure presents to you what has to happen for the group needs to do to complete the story.
The Situation: The adventure summarizes what’s going on.
The Scenes: The adventure lays out the scenes, characters, and events tied directly to the adventure in concise chunks for easy digestion.
Most, if not all, adventures can be played in a single session that lasts two to four hours. This makes them excellent options for convention games and one-shots, yes, but it makes them great for home games too. Why? I find when I start an adventure and stop before we complete it, saving the rest for the next session, I wind up missing or gaining people, forcing everyone to bend the story to accommodate the new or lost characters. As well, you lose valuable time recapping what happened last time, forget essential events, or misremember them. Groups can get through a page of adventure material in an hour. Hence, the short page counts map well to single-session play.
You won’t find excess in Shadow of the Demon Lord adventures. The adventures tell you what you need to know and nothing more. Descriptions are similarly sparse. It’s your job, as the GM, to strike the right mood for your group. If you want to paint the walls with blood, go for it. The adventure lays out the basics and leaves the rest for you to present in whatever way you want.
Here’s an example of a “room” description (not edited yet, but it’s a taste):
- Beastmen Encampment
The beastmen encamped here intend to take Thorpe by force and sacrifice of people to their dark god. The beastmen captured Franz, one of the treasure hunters, not long after he escaped the bloody bones and have kept him a prisoner here. They’ve been cutting on him for a day so far and are eating him alive. He has been too brutalized to be of any assistance to the characters.
In addition to the fomor hunting Delia (see “Survivor”), 4 fomor and 2 gnolls make up the band. They are lax about security and may be easily surprised. None knows about the Shrine and nor do they have interest in it.
They have a few weeks of rations, a barrel of sour wine, an old sword, a longbow, quiver of 30 arrows, and a sack filled with 15 ss, 76 cp, and silverware and other valuables worth about 3 ss, all looted from nearby farms.
Ripe for Expansion
Since adventures are barebones in design, you can easily add to them for a longer play experience. Just add more scenes, more challenges, introduce complications, or whatever you want to thicken the story. Similarly, since you create the connective tissue linking one adventure to the next, it’s easy to clip them all together to form a saga (aka campaign).