My Secret For Effectively Building Epic Adventures
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1119
My Secret For Effectively Building Epic Adventures
After crashing on expensive published adventures, I tried to go 100% improv and pure sandbox.
That just burned me out even more.
I realized I need to build my own adventures again, like I used to before life got so busy.
But building adventures is hard if you don’t have a game plan.
That’s what I spent two years and three thousand dollars researching.
I studied my dice bag off, writing over 150,000 words exploring my research and discoveries.
Through that exhaustive process, I made a huge discovery.
The Adventure Building Waterfall
Here’s what I learned.
When we build adventures following three specific steps in order…
…adventure building becomes much easier, and a lot faster.
I call it the Adventure Building Waterfall.
The waterfall takes the uncertainty and inefficiency out of building adventures from scratch.
Prep has become fun again!
Goodbye burnout. Hello epic sessions.
Without further ado, here are the three steps of the Adventure Building Waterfall:
Step I: Create Your Plot Line
Here’s a big mistake we game masters make.
Do not take your adventure idea straight to encounter building.
You’ll be hacking your plot together whilee you’re building encounters and maps.
A huge time waster! And your plot will suffer for it.
Instead build your Adventure Story Path first.
Make a Simple List & Validate
Write your Adventure Story Path as a simple bullet list.
Go from adventure start to epic grand finale, and all the RPG Story Milestones in between as a list to start.
Why do this instead of jumping straight into encounters?
Do this Plot Line step first and you’ll discover why:
- Get total clarity on your plot at start for total confidence in the next steps
- Fix plot holes that I call Logic Bombs (before the bomb explodes at the game table)
- Tweak plot moments so they’re bigger, wilder, and more dangerous
- Tighten connections between NPCs, locations, and items for deeper storytelling
- Customize the story for your players and characters
Laying down your Adventure Story Path first ensures your adventure connects deeply to your players, world, and campaign.
Now we’ve got a really exciting adventure plan ready for the next step, with an epic plot baked in!
Step II: Build Your Encounters
Now we dig into your adventure’s gameplay:
We build our encounters.
First, we use my 5 Room Dungeons and Map, Monster, Chest techniques to quickly outline our adventure’s 25+ encounters.
For each exciting encounter we quickly decide key elements like:
- Cool Interactable Location
- Compelling Goal & Conflict
- The Feature Creature
- Exciting Rewards & Discoveries
- Dramatic Stakes
We do this for each encounter.
We use our Adventure Story Path to guide us. It’s literally like painting by numbers.
Most GMs would try to hammer out their encounters while trying to plot their adventure at the same time.
This is big stress. It causes confusion and wasted time rewriting to fix plot holes and missed connections.
Imagine painting a car while driving it down the highway at 100 miles an hour. (It’s a trap. Don’t try this at home.)
That’s what plotting while building encounters at the same time feels like.
Instead, plot first. Then build.
Which brings us to our final step….
Step III: Polish Until it Gleams
We’ve got an epic Adventure Story Path laid out.
And we’ve got all our encounters outlined with key details.
We could run our adventure right this minute with total confidence and no stress.
We’re Agile GMs now. 🙂
However, it’s this last stage of adventure building that’s pure gold pieces.
It’s the secret sauce for my claim of making epic and wondrous adventures.
In Step III, we tweak our encounters and polish them until they gleam.
Because we’ve followed our special order of building, we can focus 100% now on leveling up our encounters:
- Add challenge using 3 Round Combat Plans
- Create cunning Hazards
- Apply our Story Layer
- Deepen player engagement with Origin Stories, Hooks & Spotlights
- Add NPC Leverage for awesome roleplay
- Use the 4 Party Actions Checklist to never get caught by surprise again
Most game masters miss or skip this step.
It’s what the lazy and improv GMs miss out on.
These final, special tweaks raise your adventure to beautiful, wondrous heights.
And your players will notice.
Step III is my favourite part of adventure building now.
You feel like an artist.
You’re not painting a car barrelling down the highway.
Instead, you are an artist adding a brilliant touch here, a genius touch there, truly creating a gameplay masterpiece.
This is what really put the fun back into homebrewing adventures for me.
Master Your AdventureCraft
The more adventures you build, the better and faster you get at it.
You’ll have more fun prepping sessions than you’ve ever had before.
And your players will admire the new storytelling skills you’re slinging from behind the screen.
I believe adventure building is one of the most rewarding parts of our awesome hobby.
If you follow these 3 Steps — and follow them in order — you’ll find homebrewing adventures is much quicker, easier, and more fun:
- Step I: Create Your Plot line
- Step II: Build Your Encounters
- Step III: Polish Until it Gleams
You’ll master your adventurecraft because each step focuses on one crucial aspect of design.
This focus lets you learn faster and go deeper than any other approach I’ve tried.
On Monday, I have a special offer for you about how we can go into much greater detail on each step and all the techniques I’ve mentioned above, plus others I use to polish, build, and outline.
It’s one of my special and rare lifetime deals where I build something, get your feedback, and then finalize and launch to the public at the full price.
More details soon.