How to Rewrite An Adventure Using The Mythic Game Master Emulator

I wrote an article back in October addressing one of the biggest problems faced by every solo player: the lack of a dungeon master to run published adventures for you and keep spoiler information secret until the time is right to reveal it.

A solo player attempting to play a published adventure by him or herself will have every single spoiler and secret in a published adventure at their fingertips.

It will increase one’s chance of success of course, but the downside is that it hardly makes for a particularly exciting adventure.

So in the same article, I offered a solution that involves drawing up a list of ‘Default Behaviours’ ahead of time before you sit down and play the adventure, the idea being that as you go through the adventure, the Default Behaviours will determine whether or not your character is likely to take a certain action (e.g. look for traps or secret doors if your character is a rogue, stand and fight instead of running away if your character is a barbarian, etc.).

It’s a decent solution for when the adventure isn’t complex or long, and for when you want to play through the adventure quickly.

If you are anything like me, however, you are probably the kind of solo player who is completely averse to spoilers of any kind.

A solution like this would therefore be inadequate because you simply cannot be prepared for everything, so some spoilers will inevitably slip through the net.

Fortunately, there is a better way…

Rewrite the adventure using the Mythic Game Master Emulator.

I’ve touched upon the idea of using the Mythic Game Master Emulator with published adventures previously, but I never really gave you a structured process to follow other than roll against the chaos factor and let Mythic take the adventure where it may.

So in this article, I am going to do exactly that and offer you a suggestion on how you can use Mythic to adapt an adventure or even rewrite it completely.

Obviously, this will require you to have a copy of the Mythic Game Master Emulator, which is not expensive. But before you go ahead and buy it, you might want to see what I think about the ebook before you decide whether or not it is worth your money.

For those of you already have the book and are unsure how exactly to use Mythic with your favourite published adventure, this article is for you.

The Process

Just when you thought reading the spoilers would be useful…
Artwork © By Satoru Wada

Essentially, this involves rebooting the adventure, but keeping many of the existing adventure elements for when you need/want to use any of them.

It is also about randomising those elements so that you no longer know what to expect.

Before you begin your adventure, you need to do a little prep work before you can play and this involves stripping the adventure down to its bare bones.

You will need to set aside some time for this and there is unfortunately no other way around it.

It is also pretty essential if the adventure is a sandbox style adventure, which many of the recent adventures appear to be. In fact, this approach works best for adventures that are non-linear in structure.

But while it does take a fair amount of work, it can result in a far more rewarding and exciting game compared to simply playing the adventure as written.

What follows is a step by step process on how to break everything down for use with Mythic.

1. Read and Extract

Read the adventure and extract information from it.

Quite self explanatory, but it is probably the step that takes the longest, depending on the length of your adventure.

If it is an extremely long adventure that is divided into chapters like Hoard of the Dragon Queen by Wizards of the Coast, you can break your reading down and focus on one chapter at a time.

Some of the information you extract will already be known by your character, or can be learned simply by asking around. Information may also come to the PCs, such as when a messenger is sent to relay news about an imminent attack on the PC’s hometown.

Some of this information will be spoiler information that your character should not have access to at the beginning of the adventure.

The information you extract from the adventure ought to be what you consider to be key elements of the story. In other words, try not to fuss over every single little detail and just write down whatever you feel is significant to the adventure.

Minor points such as a local and well-known blacksmith charging extortionate rates for a perfectly ordinary weapon while passing it off as masterwork, is not as important as the possibility that the blacksmith is a member of a secret cult that you are currently investigating.

So what kind of information do you need to extract from the adventure?

Some of these will probably be self-explanatory, but what follows is a summary of the kind of information you need to extract:

Locations

This category includes all significant locations mentioned in the adventure, such as towns, ruins, dungeons or natural settings (caves, forests, underground caverns, etc.) where the adventure takes place.

On a larger scale, it could also include countries, islands, continents, planes and even planets.

NPCs

This list includes all individual important NPCs: monsters, important town members and villains.

All other minor NPCs can simply be taken from the adventure as you need them while playing, or lumped together alongside generic NPC groups: villagers, guards, goblins, worgs, etc.

Objects

A list of objects and items that are significant to the adventure.

This could include magic items or artifacts that your characters must find in order to complete a quest, a certain kind of drug circulating in the black market that the local constabulary wants you to find out more about, or the only forge left in the world capable of producing weapons that can harm a certain archfiend who is now roaming the material plane.

It can also include more mundane examples, such as a caravan that your character is escorting, chest containing ransom money, letters of correspondence between villains, and so forth.

Plot Elements

Basically the building blocks that form the story: what is happening in the world or in the small town you are in, why it is happening, who the suspects are, what may happen in the future (unless the PCs stop it), what has happened before, and so on.

They are also the major plot reveals that happen during the adventure, such as who is behind all the bad stuff that is currently troubling the town (or world) you live in.

Goals

What needs to be done to complete the adventure or a quest/side quest in the adventure. Don’t include personal quests (such as seeking a certain magic item you absolutely want to find) as these can be added during the course of play.

For long, multi-chapter adventures such as the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, you could have one ultimate campaign specific goal, as well as a smaller, but no less significant, goal specific to each chapter.

For example, finding out the location of a local old one worshipping cult could be a chapter specific goal, but preventing the same cult from summoning the cosmic horror itself (or fighting it, if necessary) could be a campaign specific goal.

A campaign-long adventure may also have a whole host of even smaller goals. If these minor goals are not important to the adventure, feel free to ignore them.

The goals category under the Known column in the table should also include plot hooks that you have decided to use. If none are available, simply create one that is related to the goal under the Unknown column, e.g. instead of ‘kill the ogre responsible for stealing the livestock during the night’, you could have ‘investigate the disappearances of the townsfolk and livestock’.

Others

Apart from the categories listed above, you may feel it necessary to add other categories such as Factions, Deities, Traps and so on.

Try not to add too many categories, however. The last thing you want to do is slow your game down by including too many unnecessary details.

Tabulate

The information that you extract should be entered into a table like the one shown below:

Unknown

Known

Locations

Locations

 

 

NPCs

NPCs

 

 

Objects

Objects

 

 

Plot Elements

Plot Elements

 

Goals

Goals/plot hooks

 

I call this my Adventure Breakdown Table.

If you prefer, you can replace Known and Unknown with Non-Spoiler and Spoiler, respectively.

You may find that you may need a separate table for each mission, side quest, sub plot and so forth, particularly if it is a large adventure or one that spans an entire campaign.

Need More Detail?

While I’ve talked about keeping the amount of information to a minimum for the sake of speed, you might feel that including more of the minor details will flesh out your campaign world a bit more.

If that’s how you feel and you enjoy the planning stages of a campaign, go ahead.

It also gives Mythic a little more to work with: imagine there is a stable boy who is normally ignored by every other D&D player in existence, because he keeps to himself, does not speak much and does not play any significant role in the original adventure.

So you ignore him.

Then while you are chasing other leads or suspects in your attempts to catch the kingpin of a local thieves guild, Mythic suddenly reveals that the same stable boy is the very person you are looking for…

Using the Mythic Game Master Emulator

How I roll...

How I roll…

The next step after you’ve tabulated your information is to take some of the information and put it on your Adventure Worksheet (page 51, Mythic Game Master Emulator), so that Mythic can use this information whenever it generates random events.

From the Known column of your Adventure Breakdown Table:

  1. Information from the NPCs section goes into the ‘Characters’ list.
  2. The goals category goes into the ‘Threads’ list.

When an NPC-related random event is generated, logic must always be used to determine whether or not the random event should involve a certain NPC from the characters list.

For example, the local innkeeper is unlikely to spend business hours randomly wandering a desert on the other side of the world.

On the other hand, you can take whatever you get and just run with it. After all, there’s no telling if it is really the innkeeper, a mirage… or a doppelganger.

Once you have everything written down in the relevant lists, it’s time to play the adventure using Mythic.

When you begin playing, roll against the chaos factor as normal. The moment you roll lower than the chaos factor, you can actively shape the adventure as you wish – or let Mythic do it for you.

If nothing changes, then simply play the adventure as written until you get an altered or interrupt event. Even if nothing changes on its own, you could nudge the adventure in a different direction by asking Mythic if anything in your scene is different to the original.

How you roleplay your character should also influence the direction of your adventure.

For example, if you see a caravan in the middle of the road that is abandoned and there is no sign of life in the original adventure, you could search the area for any remaining survivors hiding in the bush or at least some clue as to what has happened.

If your character is unscrupulous, maybe there are some interesting items that were missed by whoever attacked the caravan?

Perhaps there’s even a secret compartment?

Find out by consulting Mythic and set the probability of a yes answer as high or as low as you like according to how you would like the adventure to pan out.

On top of that, there is always a possibility of a random event as you play and it is up to you how much you change the adventure from this point – minor revisions to the script or a new adventure in a new setting.

You are the author now – let your imagination run riot.

Making Use of the Plot Elements

So what about the plot elements? How do they fit into Mythic’s system?

They don’t.

At least not until you do a little rearranging of the Event Focus Table (page 49, Mythic Game Master Emulator).

Because the random event, ‘Ambiguous Event’, is not often critical to the story, it can easily be replaced with something else: ‘New Lead’.

Basically, this random event presents a clue, rumour or lead that can potentially reveal one of the plot elements in the Unknown column of your Adventure Breakdown Table.

When this random event is generated, determine the event meaning as normal. Once you’ve done that, randomly determine or select any of the plot elements on your table that has not yet been revealed to your character.

The random event that is generated should tell you something about that plot element, what sort of clues are revealed and how it is revealed to you.

For example, you get the event meaning, ‘attract attention’ and determine that the plot element it relates to is the identity of a murderer.

This could mean that you hear a town crier a appealing for witnesses to a recent murder and anyone with information to come forward on the promise of monetary reward. Then through the corner of your eye, you spot a hooded figure looking around nervously upon hearing the announcement, then leaving as quickly and quietly as he can.

It is important to note that it doesn’t necessarily mean that this sneaky hooded figure is the murderer. He could simply be associated with the murderer in some way – perhaps a caring, but misguided, family member or friend who is hiding the murderer. As always, you should be able to find this out by asking the relevant questions.

Attempting to uncover the plot element should require some effort on your part, and this random event should never directly reveal what the plot element is – just the clues and leads that may (or may not) get you there.

As you investigate the lead, Mythic should play its part in determining whether or not the lead is valid, and whether or not the plot element that is revealed to you is altered – or completely different to what is originally in the adventure.

For instance, perhaps the victim was not murdered at all, but is in fact a villain who had faked his death in order to be free to continue his schemes unopposed.

Remember that you also have some measure of control over this by setting the odds higher or lower, whenever you consult Mythic’s Fate Chart to determine if something plays out as you expect it to.

Another thing to note is that the Plot Elements under the Unknown column may reference other information under the same column (NPCs, Objects, Locations and so forth), so that if a particular Plot Element crops up, you can potentially learn more about an NPC, Object, Goal or Location.

For example, a plot element that points to an Object, Forge of Stars, could be ‘The “Forge of Stars” is the only forge capable of producing weapons that can harm an archfiend’.

Once there are no more plot elements on your table that can be revealed to your character, you can change the ‘New Lead’ event back to ‘Ambiguous Event’.

The Mad Manor of Astabar – An Example

Same adventure, different house…
Artwork © by James Christopher Hill (www.JamesHillGallery.com)

I’m going to illustrate what I’ve written using an example.

The adventure I’ll use is an adventure that I’ve used previously for another article, The Mad Manor of Astabar.

My Adventure Breakdown Table for this adventure looks like this:

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 I’ve established a generic goal that is enough to move the story along.

If you prefer the classic treasure hunting scenario, another goal could be ‘recover valuable artifacts that were rumoured to be left behind in Astabar’s manor when he disappeared’.

Depending on how the adventure develops from here, these goals could change to match the goals under the Unknown column (‘dispel zone of magic’) or they could turn out to be completely different.

It is worth mentioning that whenever you consult the Fate Chart, try not to ask questions that reveal answers your character cannot possibly have access to without going on the adventure.

For example, you can ask the barkeep if he knows anything about the history of the manor and its former inhabitant(s), but you shouldn’t ask if this owner (Astabar) is dead because the barkeep should have no way of knowing this.

Finally, if you want to change the plot of the adventure completely, you can simply work with the Known list and throw away the rest, particularly if you’re not keen on the theme of a haunted mansion.

For example, the Known plot element on this table could be changed to ‘The bandit leader, Astabar, is rumoured to have a base in the manor’, with the goal being ‘rescue Rivana Greywyre from the bandits’.

Wrapping Up

Probably not all that different from the films, to be fair…
Artwork © by Voisb

If the amount of information seems overwhelming, it may help to read and play through the adventure quickly without worrying about spoilers or roleplaying, as the best way to familiarise yourself with something is to engage with it.

At the very least, it can be a good way to determine whether or not an adventure seems interesting or not worth the time of day.

Depending on how much you want to change the adventure, you can remove, change or add items to your Adventure Breakdown Table.

You can even change the setting entirely if you’re not a fan of the one presented in the adventure, but many adventures will suggest how you can re-adapt the adventure.

Many dungeon masters have been doing things like this forever, so don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path.

If you are extremely familiar with a certain adventure, it may not be necessary to go through the process I described here.

Remember that not all adventures are created equal and you may need to re-adapt some of these guidelines to work with your chosen adventure if, for example, it contains its own mechanics for randomising certain elements of the adventure.

And lastly, the adventure you create using Mythic may very well end up being not that much different to the original adventure in terms of overall narrative and conclusion – but that’s okay.

What’s more important is – as cliche as it sounds – is the journey rather than the destination. The main thing is to be able to have fun and enjoy the adventure, which is pretty much the point of any RPG, solo or otherwise.

I’ve written a lot here and yet there are still a few other things I have left to cover, notably how to make use of the Location and Object categories.

Like I mentioned earlier, this guide is probably not for everyone, but for those who don’t mind putting in the effort to turn their favourite published adventure into a rewarding and engaging adventure, full of twists and surprises along the way, I hope it has been of some help.

Your Turn

Give this a go and see what you think.

If it seems overwhelming, just start small and choose a very short adventure for this.

I’ve thrown together a list of free adventures that you can use for this exercise, in case you do not have a published adventure of your own.

If you don’t have the Mythic Game Master Emulator, you can read what I think about the ebook here and use the review to decide whether or not it is worth your money.

If you are already using the Mythic Game Master Emulator in some way with your published adventures, how well does it work with published adventures in your opinion?

If not at all, what other approaches have worked well for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments box below, so we can learn from each other 🙂 .

 

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24 comments

  • Mark

    Clarification: are you still keeping the module and referring to each room in a location or are you keeping it closed until you reach your goal?

    • Ken Wai Lau

      This is what I intend to cover in another article in the future and the idea is pretty much the same – build the place from the ground up using existing elements.

      In the meantime, just refer to Mythic whenever you explore a room and roll against the chaos factor to see if anything is different in the room.

  • Mark

    I think I’ll build the place (cave/dungeon) from the ground up using a dungeon randomized as well as the plot elements, goals, and objects from the module and see what happens. I really don’t like knowing what’s going to happen except trying to reach a goal.

    I really like the ideas in this article thanks!

  • Adventure Girl

    Hi Ken, Thanks for another fantastic solo roleplaying article – your posts help me so much!

    A thought that occurred to me whilst reading this one, using your category lists, you could adapt a movie, a TV series episode, a short story, or even a novel (if you had the patience), to adapt into your own adventure, using Mythic in this way to potentially generate an entirely different story to the original, or play it out pretty close, depending on your dice rolls and how you want it to go.

    For example, the 1999 movie The Haunting, starring Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones, (I’m continuing the haunted house theme here), could be used, with lists for the characters (the people that come to the house – known characters, the ghosts of the children, and the big bad ghost – unknown characters), the main location being the house, and see if the characters get to survive, or still die in the same way with one survivor. I can’t remember if Liam Neeson’s character survives in the movie or not (I’ll have to watch it again!). But I think it could be a fun game to play. Playing in this way gives you lots of options. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Ken Wai Lau

      Hmm… I hadn’t thought of that.

      I don’t see why you couldn’t do it though, and it may be fun for some to write and play a campaign set in Middle Earth, for example – or even try to rewrite a story more to their liking. The issue I have is how you would stat the various characters from the movie, book or whatever.

      That said, if a story is popular, then it’s quite possible other content creators have released stat blocks based on famous movie/book/serial characters.

    • Ken Wai Lau

      Yes, there are certain adventures I would love to go back to myself, and a system like this would be ideal for those who want to replay adventures that they have had fond memories of.

  • Adventure Girl

    “The issue I have is how you would stat the various characters from the movie, book or whatever.”

    I think you could pick from similar races in D&D, if making Lord of the Rings into an Adventure, Orcs would be pretty easy to pick Orc stats. Others you’ll have to think about a bit more. For example, if doing X-Men characters, you could use human stats if the character is human, but if it’s Wolverine, you might want to use a strong monster’s stats to him, as he is obviously much stronger than a human. His Hit Points would be high, and he would be able to heal himself periodically. (Wolverine’s healing factor). If doing Harry Potter, then Hermione’s character, he Wisdom would be high, Ron Weasley’s character would have low wisdom! It could be fun putting their stats together! Oh, and they could definitely cast spells. Try to find some spells similar to those from the movie?

    • Ken Wai Lau

      If you look around and do a few google searches, I’m sure someone will have come up with stats for movie, book or game characters, as well as stats for monsters from previous editions that didn’t make it to the current version of the Monster Manual.

      Funny you mention Harry Potter – I read an article about the tendency for players to put the highest stat in intelligence, but it can make character builds a little bland and samey. Harry Potter wouldn’t be half as interesting if all the wizards had high intelligence.

  • Tony Dunkin-Moscato

    Well met fellow gamer!

    Did I seriously just start a conversation with a total stranger by saying “Well met”?!

    Yes because I’m a nerd and fiercely proud of it.

    I love your site, and I’m finding loads of good reading here. You seem like a kindred spirit, so I’m hoping to generate interest in a – *SNIP!*

    Anyways, thanks for reading.

    And good journeys!

    -Tony

    • Ken Wai Lau

      Please don’t attempt to advertise on my blog without my consent.

      It’s not cool – and if you have to stick a line in there somewhere saying you’re not hoping to get rich on this, chances are, that is exactly what you have in mind 🙂 .

      The comments section of my blog is for discussing the article above it. If you wish to advertise your product on my website, please feel free to get in touch using the contact form here.

      • Tony Dunkin-Moscato

        My sincere apologies for the offense. I truly thought my post would be beneficial to fellow Solo-Play gamers and I regret that I didn’t think to ask permission first.

        I think this is an excellent blog topic, and the content was well presented and extremely helpful to me as a gamer. I’d never heard of Mythic before this article. This seems like a great concept and I look forward to trying it out.

        You made two comments that I would like to expand upon: 1) the innkeeper could be an illusion or a doppelganger, and 2) perhaps the victim wasn’t murdered and is a villain.

        I think it is a great idea to think about multiple possibilities in each encounter in a Solo-Play adventure. Our minds are incredibly creative and there are many times when we’ll think up something that isn’t in the module but should be. Those are the only surprises we’ll get since we already know the story plot. But just because it’s the story plot doesn’t mean it’s fact or certain. If you think up a better surprise twist, make that the best part of your adventure!

        Again, my apologies for the unintended insult. Thank you for your blog and good luck with it in the future. I look forward to reading more!

        -Tony

        • Ken Wai Lau

          No harm done.

          I think very few people, solo player or otherwise, play an adventure as written. Given the choice and free time, most people would prefer to play their own game rather than someone else’s, but adventures are great sources of inspiration and can be used to help keep a story somewhat structured. That’s my opinion, anyway.

  • Alejandro

    Very interesting idea. will give it a try soon. Please keep testing it and let us know what you think.

    Alejo

  • Marcel

    Many may be familiar with the dungeon master.com website: dungeonsmaster.com/dd-encounters/

    When it comes to extracting the key bits of a written module like Hoard of the Dragon Queen, their summaries do a nice job at that. I’m about to try this module using the techniques you outlined above.

  • Matthew

    Your approach to deconstructing a published adventure is very interesting and reminiscent of creating Fronts and Dangers in a Dungeon World adventure. I strongly suggest giving it a look; also, DW is a great system that a number of people have used successfully for solo play. There’s also a concise section on converting modules for play with DW.

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