Adventure April - Contest

Together with WorldAnvil we challenge you to write a One-Shot RPG adventure!

Your world is full of infinite adventures just waiting to be written; characters to save, treasures to discover, injustices to right! Take part in the World Anvil Community Challenge and create a short, one-shot RPG adventure from one of these quests. And of course, we here at DungeonFog challenge you to create at least one - or many! - stunning new battlemaps for this new adventure.


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Published on 2023-04-17 13:39

Part II: Bringing the story into the location

Now that we’ve set up the villain, the mood, and the location, we can finally tackle the structure of the story. Every good narrative uses methods to create tension, excitement, and moments of relief to give our players enough room to experience the story and not become overwhelmed by it.

Michael Hauge posited a six-stage structure when telling a story. Johnn Four suggested visualizing a 5-room dungeon from which our heroes might find a journey. Joseph Campbell created the idea of the Hero’s Journey. All of these are great means of achieving the same thing: a cohesive narrative structure.

We are combining them into a six-area structure to aid the creational process of map design.



Area 1 – Set-up

Setting up the location. This might be a map on its own or just a description depending on how you want the heroes to encounter the location. This sets up the mood of the location and hints at what might happen within the map.

A grim and dark village squats at the edge of a dense but lifeless forest. Lichen and moss shroud each dead tree to look like specters holding their boney fingers to the sky in grief. 

That’s a good description and may be all that is needed. A few surly village inhabitants and the area is set. You may need a map of the village or perhaps of the outlying forest if you want to include combat or have something that needs positional data. 


Area 2 - Challenge

Not everything can be solved with steel. After we've set the mood with the first area, the second one may need to defy the heroes by being difficult to get past. The player may have to figure out how to cross a massive chasm? Can your party get across a fast-flowing river without having to suffer the currents? This is also a great time to familiarize our players at the table with the general mood of the adventure. A quirky, funny adventure might have an odd guardian asking strange questions - a grim dark adventure might comfort the players with the seemingly inevitable doom that awaits them inside.


Area 3 - Explore

You've now fully set the scene. The players know the location, are familiar with the story. All that may still be a mystery is to fully understand what it is, how to cope with it, and how to deal with it. The more the heroes engage with the region, the more they should adapt and learn. It should feel like they are making progress. This is also the "Point of No Return". This might be because of a dramatic change to the location or simply a resource issue where the heroes have run out of supplies. You need to provide the party with clear guidance that going forward is a better option than trying to go back.


Area 4 - Setback

Build tension. Just as your players have learned to deal with the location, we need to step up the situation with new information. The river suddenly turns into rapids, the mountain is suddenly a plateau and new information needs to be revealed or discovered. As game masters, we use the setback to raise the stakes, drain our heroes’ resources and build the tension for the next area.


Area 5 - Climax

The final conflict. Our heroes face their villain or should have accomplished your goal of the adventure. This should be the epitome of the story - and of course the maps. After this the remainder of the location should be easy to guide through. 


Area 6 – Aftermath

Keep the story going. The heroes should know that this isn’t the end and instead are just part of a bigger narrative. Unless there really isn't any epilogue and the heroes are done. Reward the heroes and leave as quickly as possible either setting up the next location or ending the story.


Using the 6 areas

This does not mean that you need six maps. Each area might be a map, or two maps or no map at all. If you can’t find something that can cause dramatic moments, then perhaps the location, the villain, or the goals you’ve chosen simply indicate this location should be a brief mention en route to a different location that does contain drama. Otherwise, this will simply be a boring space where nothing happens. The best way to understand your adventure and the need for maps is to define each scene in a brief summary and compare it to the other scenes. Does the adventure offer a good balance between maps, narrative locations and encounters (combat & social)?

If you cannot identify an idea for each of the areas, skip to the next area, work on it for a while and then come back to any you have missed. If you define them all - relax. Ask your villain what they’d do and then see how your heroes might find out what the villain is doing.

Preview for next week


We continue our Adventure April series next week with Part III -Designing the Maps where we utilize progression types to convey your narrative

Epic Locations: Nature

Quick on the fly reference tables and step-by-step creation tips, tricks and guides for every type of natural location imaginable!


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