Use The Feature Method To Make Adventure Design A Whole Lot Easier

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0926

Before you put pen to paper designing your next 5 Room Dungeon, do this one quick thing to greatly improve your design.

When I build 5 Room Dungeons I often find it’s a struggle to make them more than just an assortment of encounters.

Make It Pop

A designer I worked with had a massive pet peeve. She hated it when the bosses reviewed her design and told her to make it “pop.” In their minds they wanted a critical hit rolled on the immediate visual impact.

Making something pop is more than just one small tweak. It starts with the core and works outward.

You could try adding the sparkle filter on what you’ve got, but likely you’ll need to dig deeper into the visual metaphor, element arrangement, colour palette, typography, and the elements themselves.

It’s all got to work together or it doesn’t pop. Get a ratio wrong, put round things into a triangles motif, or miss a small colour alignment and the whole thing fails to impress.

We want our 5 Room Dungeons to pop as well.

We want our players to say breathlessly after, “That was awesome! I never saw that end coming. And I love my character’s new thing, I can’t wait to use it! When is the next game?”

Give Your Five Room Dungeon a Feature

One easy technique to make your 5RD pop is to give it a Feature.

Pick your Feature first.

Before you design any parts of your adventure, choose what that special thing is about your 5 Room Dungeon. That’s your Feature.

Because once you have a strong Feature in mind you design outward from there. You build on it in every room. You hint at it, tease it, and build up everyone’s curiosity.

When each room connects to your Feature then suddenly your adventure feels integrated.

It’s no longer a random assortment of rooms that give players yawns. Instead, it builds up to something. Your players can sense it. Muse on it. Fret over it.

Some Features are not a secret. Even when your players know what your adventure’s Feature is, there’s still parts you can cloak, build up to, and twist.

It’s More Than Just a Hook

Your Feature becomes your central design idea. You build off it and feed its elements into each of your five rooms.

Even when my pre-design Adventure Buckets already brim with ideas, I tailor the ones I pull out to the Feature so they feel connected to it.

This creates an even more immersive adventure experience.

I also sometimes struggle coming up with ideas for each of the rooms in my 5 Room Dungeon.

The Feature often solves this because it cures blank page anxiety and gives me a solid idea to build off of.

You don’t trigger your Feature at adventure start and be done with it. You infuse your whole adventure with it.

Your Feature is more than just a hook. It’s a promise. It’s something that sets expectations and promises danger and reward.

In a Musing next week, I’ll give you an example Feature and my map for how to build them.