5RDs Go Fractal

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0753

5RDs Go Fractal

You’re going to see me writing more about Five Room Dungeons. It’s because they are the best way I know how to master adventure building. Here’s why.

As you might know, I’m creating a new product for you on the topic of 5RDs. In my upcoming 5RD Adventure Building System though, there’s three key concepts that make them so powerful for your skill building and GMing.

The Number Varies

When I first created the concept of 5RDs in 2002ish, I had 5 specific rooms in mine. I took a combination of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth structure (Hero’s Journey), the three act structure, and a desire to build micro-adventures using some kind of simple, repeatable template.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to use 5 rooms. I don’t stick to 5 rooms and neither should you.

The spirit of the tool is to keep things small, to give each room a special purpose in your story, and to make each encounter amazing.

It doesn’t matter if your 5RD ends up being 4, 6, or 7 room dungeons.

If you worry creating 5 rooms is going to become repetitive and send a “this is fake” signal to your players, fret not. Make the dungeons any number of rooms as long as you follow the ideas above: simple, small, purpose, interesting.

5RD Connection

Think of each 5RD as a brick of Lego.

Your 5RD might be a standalone dungeon. Awesome. Go ye forth and GM your dungeon. (And have fun doing it!)

However, I also enjoy creating bigger dungeons. Especially the kind full of factions, repeat visits by the PCs, and multiple plots running amuck within its cold, terrifying walls and halls.

So create several 5RDs and chain them together.

This is really powerful. Build standard dungeons, or even mega-dungeons, one 5RD at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

And crafting one 5RD Lego at a time and connecting them to a larger dungeon or adventure zone lets you build faster and with greater adventure integrity than trying to build something large all at once.

And 5RDs are perfect for thinking your adventures. One 5RD is the orc faction leader’s area. Another is the orc domestic. Another is the vampire’s lair. Another is a secret portal and the traps and guardians protecting it. Another is the dragon faction entrance. And so on.

Think, plan, and build your adventure one bite at a time.

There’s a lot more to say about connecting 5RDs into adventures and even campaigns.

But for now, understand this is a fantastic way to help you plot out and build your games.

Fractal 5RDs

The last concept to run by you today is the idea that your 5RDs can contain other 5RDs.

This could be physical dungeons within dungeons.

But it could be more abstract too.

I think of my plots as 5RDs in terms of 5 milestones, plot events, or story gates. This makes plotting easier, especially when there are multiple plots or long periods between sessions. 5(ish) is a great number to manage and remember.

But most of my plots have sub-plots. I fee character goals and details into them. I give villains and villain lieutenants gamelight. I also try to write just a couple steps ahead of the PCs so I’m not forcing their choices.

Within Plot #1, if PCs choose A they get 5RD #1-A. If PCs choose B they get 5RD #1-B.

Within #1-B might be a short story about a village, or knight in need, or some weird curse. #1-B-1. A 5RD within a 5RD within a 5RD.

Hopefully that’s not as confusing as I think it looks.

When we put these three notions together, we have a powerful way to make wonderful adventures and campaigns with exciting stuff happening each step of the way.

I know how it is when trying to create something big. “Oh man, I just finished outline the castle and I’m tired. Forget travel encounters en route to the wizard tower. I’ll just throw some bandits or a random monster at the PCs.”

Instead, you turn the castle into one or more 5RDs, leaving you lots of energy and time left for a cool roadside 5RD.

If you build your adventures so they consist of 5RDs connected like honeycomb in a beehive, 5RDs within 5RDs, and 5RDs than can have varying numbers of encounters, you will have amazing adventures. No doubt about it.

This is why I’m so excited about 5RD master adventure building thing I’m working on. The potential of this tool is unlimited. Yet it’s so darn powerful and simple.

I encourage you to explore 5RDs in your games in these three ways too!

Campaign Logger Now Exports PDFs of Your Campaigns

Development of the best GM logging and campaign detail wrangling tool on the market imho, but I’m biased 🙂 continues.

You can now export in PDF format in the Web version of the app.

There are two options right now, and the formatting is basic and clean.

If we get enough feedback from Campaign Logger users we’ll add more bells and whistles to the PDF export feature.

Right now though, you have two Save As PDF options:

Option 1: Save Entire Log

If you want a copy of all your notes for offline reading or printing, this is the option for you.

Each log entry is timestamped for easy skimming.

This is a great way to save and review all your campaign notes and session logs to mine them for new ideas, find forgotten loops not yet closed, and bring back old details to surprise and delight your players.

“The old guy at the bar turns to you and raises his mug. The thin red scar shaped like a dragon on his cheek glistens with sweat.”

“Wait. That isn’t Miltar the Mysterious is it? Holy crap, we forgot all about him! I still owe him 50 gold. I duck under the table!”

Option 2: Save NPCs

Speaking of Miltar the Mysterious, the second PDF export option is to save all your NPCs.

This is awesome because you can create a very useful reference for yourself.

You can assign any NPC to an organization or faction (just tag them).

The PDF then groups all your NPCs into factions for an instant roster of guild memberships, plot rosters, casts of characters.

In addition, each NPC entry has a stat block of the following useful information:

  • Other Characters: who is the NPC associated with? The Logger analyzes all your logs and makes a quick list of who else has been mentioned in your log entries along with the NPC. This is useful for seeing what PCs have encountered the NPC, who the NPC hangs around with, and who else is tied up in plots involving the NPC .
  • Locations: a listing of all the places the NPCs has been tagged with. This tells you where the NPC has been encountered!
  • Items: an analysis of all items tagged with the NPC in your session and planning logs. Just like Characters and Locations, you use this to cross-reference who has what, who has seen what, and who has wielded what.

This stuff is all about finally getting on top of all your campaign details and then processing your notes so you have the exact details you need while GMing at your finger tips.

Oh wait, I forgot a PDF feature. This one’s harder to explain/visualize, but Campaign Logger customers will know what I mean. And it’s awesome.

There’s a Search/Filter bar on every screen of your logs. Use this to bring up exact notes, details, and tags for quick reference.

For example, type in @Johnn @Jochen to see all notes with both Jochen and I in them. Just those notes. You can use words, partial words, numbers, and tags in this way to get exactly the detail you want.

The PDF export saves to PDF the current screen.

So you can save your entire campaign log from the home/all entries screen.

But when you drill down to just certain log entries through tag listings or the Search/Filter bar, you can export just those notes to PDF.

For example, if you make a 5RD and tag all notes about it with its same, say, #Labyrinth of the Savage Forest, then in a snap you can export a PDF of your complete adventure.

Or make a PDF of just your magic items. Or print out just magic items not yet in play. Or just your cursed items.

Anyway, this feature is live right now in the web version of Campaign Logger.

We’re continually developing new features for this GM tool, and feature suggestions are always welcome. If you have not purchased the app yet, the Charter Member sale is still in effect.