How to Rewrite An Adventure, Part 2 – Rearranging Locations, Encounters and Objects

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This is a follow up article to How to Rewrite An Adventure Using The Mythic Game Master Emulator.

In that article, I showed you how to break an adventure down into its component parts and enter all the information into a table, separating all the information into categories such as NPCs, goals, locations, and so forth.

As well as laying the groundwork by building this table, the previous article also showed you how the NPCs and Goals categories were used with Mythic and gave you suggestions on how to randomise the important plot points in the adventure.

This article focuses on the Locations and Objects categories, showing you how they can be used with The Location Crafter.

The article therefore assumes you have a copy of The Location Crafter and knowledge of how it works.

If not, you can read my review of The Location Crafter here and decide for yourself whether or not it is worth your money.

If you already have the book and are familiar with the terms used, read on.

The Process

Simply transfer all the Locations and Objects under the Non-Spoiler column on your Adventure Breakdown Table to your Location Crafter ‘Category Lists’ (The Location Crafter, page 3).

Some Locations will not logically fit into certain Regions in the adventure.

For example, the list of Locations in your Adventure Breakdown Table might include a village, forest, cave and dryad grove.

Encountering the cave or dryad grove while exploring the village makes no sense, but they might be locations that you can run into while exploring the forest:

Region: Forest

Locations

Encounters

Objects

Expected

Expected

Random

Cave

Village

Special

Dryad Grove

Complete

None

None

None

Random

Random

Special

None

Random

None

None

Expected

Expected

Random

Special

None

Random

Remember that the individual Locations in the forest region (village, cave and dryad grove), can be actual Regions in their own right and therefore they can be further explored and expanded upon.

The same principle works for Objects and Encounters – only include them as elements in the Objects / Encounters Category List if you expect to encounter them within a certain region.

The Mad Manor of Astabar – An Example

Back again…
Artwork © by James Christopher Hill (www.JamesHillGallery.com)

Okay, let’s illustrate what I’ve written a little better by using the same example I used at the end of the previous article: The Mad Manor of Astabar.

As a reminder, here is our Adventure Breakdown Table for that adventure:

Spoilers

Non-spoilers

Locations

Locations

  1.  Ethereal Plane

  1. Manor
  2. Havehollow
  3. Crooked Crow

NPCs

NPCs

  1. Imp
  2. Poltergeist
  3. Doppelganger
  4. Astabar
  1. Rivana Greywyre

Objects

Objects

  1. Wand of Wonder
  1. N/A

Plot Elements

Plot Elements

  1. Astabar was trapped in the Ethereal Plane
  2. Rivana is a ghost
  3. Taking the wand will deactivate the magic zone surrounding the manor
  1.  The manor is rumoured to be haunted.

Goals

Goals

  1.  Dispel the zone of magic
  1. Investigate the strange occurrences around Astabar’s manor.

You can see that there are no objects under the non-spoiler column, but there are three Locations: Manor, Havehollow and Crooked Crow.

These locations are individual Regions in their own right, and the Crooked Crow inn is considered a Location in the town, Havehollow.

Let’s illustrate this using a couple of Location Crafter category lists, starting with Havehollow as a Region:

Region: Havehollow

Locations

Encounters

Objects

Expected

Expected

Random

Crooked Crow

Ferell’s Arms

Temple of Ilmater

Special

Townhall

Ronsen’s Supplies

Complete

None

Expected

Expected

None

Random

Expected

Rivana Greywyre

Special

None

Random

None

None

None

None

Expected

Random

Random

Special

None

Random

As you can see, the Crooked Crow is listed as an element in the Locations List, and I’ve also included Rivana Greywyre as an Encounter.

If you want to make the journey to the manor interesting, you could create a generic region like this which includes the manor as a Location:

Region: Road to the Manor

Locations

Encounters

Objects

Expected

Expected

Random

Havehollow

Random

Special

Manor

Complete

None

None

None

Random

Random

Special

None

Random

None

None

Expected

Expected

Random

Special

None

Random

If you roll ‘Complete’ without ever rolling ‘Manor‘, you can either take it to mean you’ve reached the Manor, or perhaps it simply doesn’t exist: maybe you were misled and Rivana Greywyre is actually an assassin who will now carry out an attempt on your life (consult Mythic to see if this is the case)!

Wrapping Up – Sort Of…

There you have it.

That’s all you need to do with the elements in your Adventure Breakdown Tables.

However, many adventures will include dozens of useful – and not so useful – objects, encounters and locations, which we have not taken into account when we create our Adventure Breakdown Table.

For the most part, what I’ve written above is probably all you need – remember that the best approach is to avoid complicating your adventure with unnecessary details (the Mythic Game Master Emulator and The Location Crafter talks about this).

If you want to make use of every element that already exists in the adventure in order to stay true to the adventure as much as possible (or because you like the look of that Staff of Fire and had built your character around it), then read on.

The latter part of this article is suitable for when the locations are a little more structured (dungeon complexes, for example).

Reusing Existing Elements in an Adventure

rotating_madness_by_djekspek

Image © by Herwin Wielink.

The basic approach is to extract all the Locations, Objects and Encounters from a Region you are about to explore, tot them all up, and add them to the relevant Category Lists.

If your Objects and / or Encounter category lists are getting a bit long in relation to the size and scope of the Region, you may choose to arrange them into separate element lists that we will call ‘Pools‘.

In essence, you may have an Object Pool, and an Encounter Pool.

Each of these Pools can then be subdivided further into Custom / Unique, Expected and Special Pools.

Locations are an exception and you can simply list them as individual elements in the Location Category List.

While my previous article mentioned that we were working purely from the non-spoilers column, we will be using pretty much everything we can lay our hands on.

The process of extracting information should be done before you begin playing an adventure, or at least before you begin exploring an area.

I’ll explain what each Pool represents, as well as show you how these element Pools should be used with The Location Crafter.

Locations

As mentioned before, you can simply add each Location in the adventure as a Unique element, but for the sake of reference, this is how I would categorise each Location in a published adventure.

Expected Location

Expected locations are areas that you expect to come across in a certain Region and are therefore essentially unchanged from their normal function in The Location Crafter.

As such, you can simply write ‘expected’ when you generate the location category list.

As a guide, unremarkable locations such as a prison cell, servant quarters or guard tower may fall into this category.

Custom / Unique Location

Unique locations that exist within the adventure, such as the chapel in a castle, general’s tent in a military camp, and oasis in a desert are good examples of Unique or Custom Locations.

Unique Locations are not essential to the plot in any way, but they should be locations that draw a little more interest from your PCs.

Special Location

Special Locations are areas of significance.

They are the places that you need to find before you can consider a goal complete.

It is the throne room where the tyrant that you want to overthrow with extreme prejudice sits.

It could also be the altar where an important NPC, with quest critical information, will be offered as a sacrifice in a few hours.

It could even be the lair of the dragon you need to kill in order to ensure the safety of the surrounding region.

Objects and Treasure

Excalibur sword in the rock . King Arthur and fantasy

Expected Object Pool

Expected Objects may include bits of loose, minor treasure that you would expect to find in the adventure in chests, pockets of the rank and file, and other locations.

Aside from valuable treasure and minor magic items, this category can include ordinary items such as tools, weapon or supplies.

There are two ways you can handle minor treasure:

One is to go through the whole Region and tot up the total treasure, breaking it all down into number of common magic items (such as potions of healing, level 1 spell scrolls, etc.) and total monetary wealth.

Rather than keeping track of every single piece of jewelry, lesser gem or other valuable items that will likely be sold off anyway, simply add them all up and record everything under a single gold piece value.

The idea here is to ensure that these loose bits of treasure can be tracked more efficiently – no one keeps track of random chrysoberyl #13, after all.

Keep track of the platinum silver, copper and electrum values separately as well, if you wish.

Another way to handle minor treasure is to simply generate the treasure randomly instead, using Donjon or by rolling on the Dungeon Master’s Guide treasure tables.

This is recommended, since it keeps all planning to a minimum, and therefore the game can move along a little quicker.

If you wish to use the existing treasure in a published adventure, you will need to create a Pool of treasure that can be re-distributed using The Location Crafter.

A sample list of Expected Object elements might look something like this:

  1. 58gp (including minor gems).
  2. 45sp.
  3. 600cp.
  4. Woodcarver’s Tools.
  5. Crate of Weapons.
  6. Silvered Greatsword.
  7. Holy Water.
  8. Potions of Healing.
  9. Scroll of Animal Friendship.
  10. Scroll of Burning Hands.
  11. Re-roll twice, ignoring rolls of 11 and 12.
  12. Re-roll three times, ignoring rolls of 11 and 12.

Custom / Unique Object Pool

Particularly noteworthy items that you can pick up and keep, such as magic items (typically uncommon and rare items), exceptionally valuable pieces of treasure or items you can use as material components, such as diamonds, may fall into the category of Unique.

Minor / side quest items such as a key you need to open a door in a dungeon or an heirloom you are asked by a villager to seek and return to her also qualify as Unique objects.

Here is a sample pool of Custom / Unique Objects.

  1. Freshwater Pearl worth 100gp.
  2. Diamond worth 300gp.
  3. Jarrad’s Holy Symbol.
  4. Iron Key.
  5. Ring of Protection.
  6. +1 Studded Leather Armour.
  7. +2 Dagger.
  8. Wand of Secrets.
  9. Gem of Brightness.
  10. Bag of Tricks.
  11. Re-roll twice, ignoring rolls of 11 or 12.
  12. Re-roll three times, ignoring rolls of 11 or 12.

Special Object Pool

Objects that fall into this category may include quest specific items that must be recovered for a client or is otherwise important to the story in some way.

Very rare to legendary magic items and artifacts will fall under this category as well, as would unique spell components that are used to power incredibly high level and / or unusual spells.

These items should be difficult to obtain – or at least have interesting circumstances accompanying its discovery (more on this later).

As with the other types of elements, you should build a pool of these objects.

Here is an example:

  1. Scroll of Zoretha.
  2. Phoenix’s Feather.
  3. Book of Vile Darkness.
  4. Vorpal Sword.
  5. Rod of Resurrection.
  6. Jade Circlet (1500gp).

Encounters

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Expected Encounters Pool

Expected encounters consist of monsters and creatures that you expect to encounter in a Location.

Rank and file creatures that are designed to be killed in large numbers will find a home here, as would most other nondescript creatures and NPCs – regardless of whether or not they are hostile.

As well as NPCs or creatures, the encounters may also come in the form of mechanical traps, or devices that can be easily detected and bypassed.

Natural hazards may also be included in this pool.

Here’s a sample Pool of Expected Encounters:

  1. 13 Human Scouts.
  2. 30 Orcs.
  3. 3 Trolls.
  4. 6 Ogres.
  5. 12 Prisoners / Slaves.
  6. 4 Grey Oozes.
  7. Pit Trap.
  8. Roll twice, ignoring rolls of 8 and 9.
  9. Roll three times, ignoring rolls of 8 and 9.

Unique / Custom Encounter Pool

Unique Encounters include interesting, unusual or significant creatures that have an actual part to play in the story other than being sword or spell fodder, but are not quite important enough to affect the direction of the story upon its death, capture or due to any interactions you have with the creature encountered.

For example, individual humanoid NPCs with interesting personalities, backstories or information that they could pass on to the characters count as Unique, as would orcs who lead significant numbers of rank-and-file during village raids.

Unique encounters can also include creatures that are hostile to both the PC and the creatures in the dungeon or, at best, neutral to both.

On the other hand, this Pool can include creatures that are willing to aid the PCs in return for a favour.

Exceedingly dangerous creatures and / or traps will also qualify as well.

  1. Jonalet, Maradith’s teenage son and current prisoner.
  2. Ogram, Orc Leader.
  3. Dalael, Drow Priestess of Ghaunadaur.
  4. Zulabar, Troll Shaman.
  5. Zalafein, female elf ghost who was murdered by Ogram. Wants the PCs’ to avenge her (knows an interesting secret about the area if they do that).
  6. Purple Worm.
  7. Fire Breathing Statue Trap.

Special Encounter Pool

Special encounters are encounters that bear some significance to the adventure.

These are the bandit leaders you need to bring to justice, a powerful vampire that must be destroyed to free an isolated valley surrounded by deadly mist, or the archfiend that must be slain to halt its rampage across the material plane.

They can also be important, high-ranking NPCs you need to protect, prisoners with critical information you need to rescue, or hermits who know the location of a specific artifact you need to recover.

The deadliest of all environmental hazards – both natural and man made – will be included here as well.

A Special Encounter Pool might look like this:

  1. Archmage Zareth.
  2. Ferkus. Assassin NPC and second-in-command.
  3. Ermander, Harper Spy who has uncovered Zareth’s plans for the area.
  4. Ghostly vision of a man burying the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords.
  5. Sphere of Annihilation trap.

Using the Pools With Location Crafter

When you write out your Encounter or Object Category Lists for a Region in your adventure, simply write Expected, Custom or Special instead of inputting individual elements by name.

Whenever you roll on the Category Lists and get Expected, Custom or Special as a result, it means you encounter something from the relevant Pool for that category.

To determine what it is, randomly determine which item from the Pool you encounter and cross the item off from the Pool (or a deduct the appropriate number of creatures, items, gold, etc. from the Pool).

In the case of combat encounters, when you determine how difficult an encounter will be, you can simply roll 1d4, with 1 being ‘easy’ and 4 being ‘deadly’, then adjust the number of creatures to match the difficulty you’ve generated (a great tool that can quickly do this is the Kobold Fight Club encounter builder).

If the encounter is a trap, simply resolve the checks depending on how alert you were (use of Default Behaviours may be appropriate here).

When it comes to monetary wealth, simply award yourself 1/n of the total amount of gold in a region, where n is the total number of locations in a region.

So in a Region that contains a total of 1500gp and 15 Locations means that you take home 100 gold pieces (1500gp ÷ 15 Locations) each time you get monetary wealth as a result, whenever you roll on the Expected Object Pool.

Let’s illustrate using an example:

Region: Temple of Gruumsh

Locations

Encounters

Objects

Expected

Random

Expected

Unique

Expected

Unique

Unique

Special

Unique

Expected

Unique

Complete

None

None

Expected

Expected

Expected

Unique

Expected

Unique

Unique

Special

Random

Random

None

None

Random

Expected

Expected

Random

Unique

Special

Unique

Unique

Expected

Expected

Here is a table which shows the sample Encounter Pools from above:

Encounter Pools

Expected (1d10, ignore 10)

Unique / Custom (1d8, ignore 8)

Special (1d6, ignore 6)

13 Human Scouts

30 Orcs

6 Ogres

3 Trolls

12 Prisoners / Slaves

4 Grey Oozes

Pit Trap

Roll twice, Ignore 8 & 9

Roll thrice, Ignore 8 & 9

 

Jonalet

Orgram

Dalael

Zulabar

Zalafein

Purple Worm

Fire Breathing Statue Trap

 

Archmage Zareth

Ferkus, Assassin NPC

Ermander

Ghost Burying Axe of Dwarvish Lords

Sphere of Annihilation Trap

Notice the die type indicated in the parentheses indicating which die to roll when randomly determining which item you encounter from that particular Pool.

So let’s say you get ‘Expected’ as a result when rolling on your ‘Temple of Gruumsh’ Encounter Category List.

You would then determine from the Expected Encounter Pool which creatures you encounter by rolling 1d10, ignoring rolls of 10.

You roll 4, which means you encounter trolls – and you also roll 3 on a 1d4 to determine that this is a Hard encounter for your level 6 party.

That would mean that you will come face to face with a pair of trolls – using the Kobold Fight Club encounter builder, select your character level from the drop-down menu and type ‘troll’ on the search bar, then click on the ‘+’ icon next to the ‘Troll’ monster entry that comes up until the encounter shown in the bottom becomes ‘Hard’.

Once the trolls are slain, they are subtracted from the Expected Encounter Pool, so that only one troll remains in the dungeon.

It goes without saying, if the presence of a certain monster would not be logical in a certain Location you are currently exploring, re-roll.

For example, the purple worm would probably not be under the command of the orc leader, so it is unlikely you would find it guarding the orc barracks.

On the other hand, perhaps the purple worm suddenly burrows out from nowhere as you are exploring a Location, due to being disturbed by the orcs’ encroachment on its territory.

Don’t Stand There Like a Lemon!

One does not simply wait for a well-armed adventurer to come and take them down.

Unless it absolutely has no soul, most creatures in any setting, campaign or adventure should be getting on with their lives: eating, drinking, sleeping, playing games, cleaning the place, practising with their weapons, and anything else you can think of that any living creature would do in its spare time, or as part of its duties.

Even constructs and minor undead creatures, such as skeletons, may have been given rudimentary orders like ‘patrol the area’, with more bizarre possibilities such as zombies dancing (Thriller style) for the amusement of an insane necromancer.

If you wish to make encounters a little more interesting, feel free to roll on the Actions Complex Question Table (The Location Crafter, Page 15) in order to give yourself an idea of what these creatures are doing when you encounter them.

For example, you roll on your Expected Encounter Pool above and you roll an 8.

Rolling again, you get two results: orcs and prisoners.

The answer you get to the complex question, “what are the creatures before me doing?”, is ‘Expose Fears’, so you could take it to mean that the orcs are threatening the prisoners with physical harm in their efforts to interrogate them.

This could have interesting roleplaying repercussions as well: with the orc’s attention diverted, you could rule that the orc is less alert than he would usually be, which translates to advantage on your Dexterity (Stealth) check (or disadvantage on the orc’s Wisdom (Perception) check – whichever you prefer).

Keep All Valuables Out of Sight!

It’s very rare that you will simply find valuable treasure out in plain sight, ready for you to pick up.

While it can happen, most valuable items are kept in chests, drawers or in the pockets of their owners which means in order to find them, you must actively search for these items – just as you would in any game of D&D.

The most valuable items would be kept in trapped containers or even behind a secret door.

Taking this into account, you could withhold rolling on the Objects category list until you decide to search the room or the corpses of the enemies you’ve slain, at which point you can roll a new element from the Objects category list (rolling Perception checks as required).

Making Special Elements More… Special

Whenever you roll a Special Location, Object or Encounter, you should roll on the Special Elements Table (The Location Crafter, Page 5) once you’ve determined which item from the corresponding Special Element Pool you find in order to make things interesting.

For example, if you roll the Vorpal Sword from the Special Object Pool sample list above, and you roll ‘This is Bad’ on the Location Crafter Special Elements Table, a complex question with the answer ‘Activity Pain’ could mean that the sword animates on its own accord and attacks you!

From the top of your head, you know that there is a Flying Sword (Animated Object) monster in the Monster Manual, so you use that – except that it also has the ability to cut off your head in one swing 😈 !

Now, defeating the sword may not be too difficult for a seasoned adventurer (which would be the assumption if the adventure you’re playing contains a vorpal sword), but the downside is that, unless you find a way to neutralise it without blasting or bashing it, you might end up with a broken piece of treasure – which does you no good.

Another example could be, upon coming face to face with the leader, the archmage Zareth, rolling ‘Supersize’ on the Special Elements Table might mean he is surrounded and well protected by a contingent of bodyguards – or maybe he is not human as you expected and is, in fact, a lich!

Why Randomise?

At this point, it may seem as though we are simply randomising for the sake of it, but it’s worth noting that it’s entirely possible that you will roll ‘Complete’ on the Locations Category List before you ever get the chance to wrap your mitts around that shiny new Holy Avenger 😉 .

More importantly, if a specific plot essential item or location is not discovered, it could mean that it was either moved away from the current region, extremely well hidden, destroyed or simply does not exist.

One thing I’ll add is that some adventures may include their own random encounter / treasure tables, so feel free to use those instead of using The Location Crafter when it comes to random encounters and / or treasure.

When Not to Randomise

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Some regions are built in a specific way that makes randomisation rather illogical – or maybe the location is simply fine as it is.

For example, I think we can pretty much agree there are only so many ways you can rearrange a typical family house before it looks weird.

Some areas may also be too small, which makes it pointless to randomly generate the Location elements for it.

In these cases, simply make do without the Location Category List and roll from the Encounters and Objects Category Lists only.

To determine when a Region like this completes, roll as though you are rolling on the Location Category List, but consider a Region complete whenever you roll the die’s maximum value.

You may roll 1d4, 1d6, 1d8 or 1d10, depending on how big the region is or how much there is to explore.

For instance, if you have 10 elements in the Encounters Category List and 7 in the Objects Category List, you might roll 1d8 and complete exploration of the Region on a roll of 8.

Your Turn

So there you have it.

This basically covers everything in terms of how to reuse all the information that you have extracted from an adventure with The Location Crafter (and with Mythic as well), so that you can rewrite any published adventure and ensure that you will never play the same adventure twice.

Give this a go, either using your favourite adventure or one from my free adventures page, then let me know in the comments box below how well it worked for you.

 

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