Adventure Creation System

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Brass Jester
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Adventure Creation System

Postby Brass Jester » Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:21 pm

This is a revised and updated version of a system I posted about two years ago. Feel free to try it out. Any feedback, comments or suggestions welcomed.

Adventure Design System

Author: Brass Jester

Judson hefted his broadsword and peered into the gloom. Ahead, down the corridor from round a corner, came a pulsating green glow. He turned; “Krait,” he grunted, “up here”. The Zamoran came forward. “Take a look”; Judson indicated the glow. The wiry thief grinned, showing yellow broken teeth, pulled a knife from his belt and crept stealthily down the corridor. He reached the corner and cautiously peered round…

“Sorry guys, got to end it there”
A chorus of moans broke out. “What!. Why?”
“Well”, muttered the shame-faced GM. “I ran out of ideas at this point.”

Writers block. It happens to everyone at some stage; you’re getting ready to write the next chapter of your saga, you make a fresh pot of coffee and pull out a pad of paper and a selection of pens. Four hours later the coffee’s all drunk and you’re still looking at a blank sheet of paper. No matter how hard you try, the ideas just won’t come. It is rumoured that this is what caused the delay in the publishing of the sixth Harry Potter novel.

You can build on what’s gone before of course, however you may find yourself ‘stuck in a mindset’.
“So they go to the ruined castle and…no, they did that last time, how about they meet with the old beggar in the market, like the one in Arenjun… and Belverus…and Khorshemish. Okay, they’re all in a tavern and…

What you need is something to ‘kick start’ your brain into thinking out new plotlines, arcs and encounters And this is what my Adventure Design System does. More on the specifics later, but first some ground rules.

1. The system will not do all the work for you. It is designed to make you think, and to make associations between words and concepts you may not have otherwise considered.

2. The system is designed to be rolled randomly to give an overall matrix. It is intended that all of the elements should be rolled randomly at the same time, rather than selecting some off the tables. There is scope for selection, but it comes later

3. There is no requirement to use everything generated in the matrix; in fact you may find what you finish with is widely different from the original elements rolled. Good. This is what’s supposed to happen; in fact you can get several different adventures out of a single matrix.

4. The tables are designed to be used with a single d10. I don’t mind using multiple dice during a game, but I find it easier just to stick with one die when creating a matrix

A matrix is set up in the following format. This is the heart of the system and should not be changed.

Matrix format

Keyword 1 Keyword 2

Antagonist Keyword 3 Goal

Keyword 4 Keyword 5


Antagonist: The main opposition in the adventure
Goal: The overall aim of the adventure
Challenge: What the adventure is likely to involve
Complication: What is probably going to interfere

Keywords: These provide the flavour
Keywords 1 and 2: What led or contributed to the adventure
Keyword 3: The main theme of the adventure
Keyword 4: This is a situation modifier
Keyword 5: Leads to the possible outcome of the adventure.

All of these words can interact with each other and even with themselves

Once all of these have been rolled, this is where you sit back and look at the possibilities. I usually create half a dozen matrices on a sheet of paper and work from there. Sometimes the ideas don’t come at once, so having several to work on helps.

As an example, this matrix was rolled as I wrote this article, to demonstrate how the system works None of it was pre-rolled ‘to fit’.

Avoid Combat

Code of Honour Slaves

Guardian Lawless Specific Item

Ides (Mid-month) “Magic” item

Rival NPC Group

After about half an hours thinking and scribbling notes, this is what I came up with.

A Border Kingdoms town, in a grim and inhospitable area. Originally settled
using slave labour from the south and still having to exist under strict
laws to ensure survival; every year on the Ides of Verlain (roughly equal to
mid-April)there is a three-day holiday called the Festival of the Free. At
this time normal laws are relaxed and the citizen's make merry. Anything goes at this time
and the normal city laws are relaxed for the citizens. To prevent
looting, non-citizen guards are hired for the duration to guard valuable
items and properties. Most of the guards have been employed at this time by
the same employer for years and are loyal.

The item in question is a "magic" item called the "Singing Bowl of Lissia";
held in a shrine near to the middle of the town. The Bowl is made of a
paper-thin silvery metal with a rainbow hue. In the right hands it can be
made to sing, producing a beautiful accompanying to any song or dance.
The Bowl is in a shrine to Ornas Longhair, a renowned bard who used the
Bowl to soothe a “dragon” and lead it away from the town. Ornas never returned
from this encounter; the Bowl was enshrined in his memory.


PC's have to acquire the Bowl. The Festival is the ideal occasion.
However, it becomes apparent that a rival NPC group is also after the Bowl.

PC's are ambushed by the NPC group; who are convinced that they have the

PC’s ambush the NPC group, convinced that they have the Bowl.

PC's are set up as fall guys for the NPC group to acquire the Bowl.

The rival NPC's decide to take out the PC's. It starts with a bar brawl;
escalates into using weapons.

As above, but PC's are being set up by someone else.

PC’s set the NPC’s up as fall guys for the theft

Now; all this needs is padding with stats for the NPC’s, but you could add as much detail as you want (town maps; expand the background, more on Ornas and the dragon etc.)

An alternate idea I had was a Spartacus-style slave revolt in a Shemite city-state, with a proud Corinthian noble (ambassador/envoy) trapped there. In this instance the NPC group would be hired mercenaries sent to rescue the ambassador and could end up working with the PC’s. The ‘magic’ item would probably have been something that incited the slaves to revolt; however, the noble might be in possession of Thoth-Amon’s ring and T-A himself might be amongst the slaves!

Second part with the tables to follow.
"Everybody wants to save the world - But no-one wants to die" (MCR)
Brass Jester
Posts: 129
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2005 7:20 pm
Location: Black Country, UK

Postby Brass Jester » Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:34 pm

Hmm, the formatting didn't work properly; but the general structure can be made out. If anyone wants a Word copy then e-mail me by Private Message.

These are the tables. Be warned - long post. Format into columns before printing.
These are the tables to generate the matrix. As I said, I recommend that everything be rolled randomly. However, sometimes a roll on the Generic Location table helps. Entries in bold mean roll on the appropriate subtable

A) Antagonist
1. Major group
2. Minor group
3. Agent of … (roll again)
4. Powerful organisation
5. Powerful individual
6. Unintelligent
7. Guardian
8. Hunter
9. Individual
10. Nation/Ruler

B) Goal
1. Wipeout/Destroy
2. Generic treasure
3. Specific treasure
4. Person
5. Specific item
6. Information
7. Protection
8. Rescue
9. Return (something)
10. (Fulfil) prophecy

C) Challenge
1. Rescue
2. Investigation
3. Puzzles
4. Escape
5. Intrigue
6. Avoid combat
7. Combat
8. Exploration
9. Mass combat
10. Information

D) Complication
1. Unexpected NPC
2. Rival NPC group
3. Enviromental hazard
4. Natural hazard
5. Old adversary
6. Sorcery
7. Unwanted help
8. Ally
9. Curse/ on-going effect
10. NPC needs protection

(D10 = Odd)

1. City
2. Ruined castle
3. Castle
4. Forest
5. Wood
6. Swamp
7. Hill
8. Mountain
9. Cave
10. Tower

1. Pyramid
2. Statue
3. Colossal ruins
4. Galley
5. Coin
6. Slaves
7. Temple
8. Merchant
9. Deity
10. Underground

1. Sacrifice
2. Cult
3. Assassin
4. Soldiers
5. Patrol
6. Army
7. Attack
8. Raid
9. Battle
10. Border

1. River
2. Glacier
3. Island
4. Beach
5. Tavern
6. Tree
7. Class
8. Race
9. Farmer
10. Land 1

1. Artefact
2. Lost
3. Hidden
4. Dancer
5. Pirates
6. Land 2
7. Well
8. Forbidden
9. Hole
10. Cavern

1. Dispute
2. Merchant
3. Caravan
4. Merchant Ship
5. Passengers
6. Intrigue
7. Framed
8. Treasure
9. Message
10. Meeting

1. Land 3
2. Sea
3. Ship
4. Monster
5. Island
6. Quest
7. Entertainment
8. Jewels
9. Lawless
10. Desert

1. Dungeon
2. Noble
3. Market
4. Pit
5. Book
6. Inscription
7. Library
8. Calends
9. Ides
10. Date

1. Sorcerer
2. Revenge
3. Motive
4. Hate
5. Love
6. Obsession
7. Black/White
8. Land 4
9. Other Race
10. Colour

1. Stolen
2. Prison
3. Law
4. NPC
5. Tomb
6. Ruler
7. Illegal
8. Important NPC
9. Slave
10. Citadel
(D10= Even)

1. Year
2. Stars
3. Bandits
4. Box
5. Altar
6. Priest
7. Diplomacy
8. Journey
9. Curse
10. Scroll

1. Lost religion
2. Jungle
3. Pass
4. Creature
5. Capture
6. Equipment
7. Ambush
8. Weapons
9. Mistake
10. Herbs

1. Unknown land
2. Hidden land
3. Hidden valley
4. Valley
5. Hills
6. Cliff
7. Named Location
8. Cliffhanger
9. Vengeance
10. Back from the dead

1. Marsh
2. Lava
3. Volcano
4. Tower
5. Keep
6. Fortress
7. Plateau
8. Undead
9. Sea monster
10. Zombies

1. Obsession
2. Driven
3. Captured
4. Greater threat
5. Threat unleashed
6. Threat imprisoned
7. Surrender
8. Betrayed
9. Clue
10. Hazard

1. Vampire
2. Armour
3. Exotic weapon
4. Armoury
5. Horror
6. Insanity
7. Civil war
8. City
9. Monument
10. Road

1. Personal stake
2. Clue
3. Revelation
4. Turncoat
5. Traitor
6. Crisis
7. Murder
8. Fist Fight
9. Sea Battle
10. Duel

1. Trail
2. Stygia
3. Legendary item
4. Weather
5. “Magic” item
6. Love
7. Lovers
8. Doomed love
9. Inheritance
10. Gems

1. Confrontation
2. Contest
3. Warning
4. Kidnapped
5. Daring escape
6. Raiders
7. Unexplained death
8. Assassination
9. Lake
10. Pool

1. Wealth
2. Huge wealth
3. Power
4. Shrine
5. Reputation
6. Code of Honour
7. Secret code
8. Child
9. Illegitimate
10. Supernatural

1. Bandit
2. Barbarian
3. Borderer
4. Noble
5. Nomad
6. Pirate
7. Scholar
8. Soldier
9. Temptress
10. Thief

1. Hyborian (sub)
2. Cimmerian
3. Himelian
4. Wazuli
5. Turanian/Hyrkanian
6. Khitian
7. Black Kingdoms
8. Shemite
9. Stygian
10. South Islander

Other Race
1. Darfarian
2. Vendhyan
3. Zamorian
4. Zingaran
5. Pict
6. Nordheimer
7. Chaga
8. Ghanarta
9. Spawn of Dagoth Hill
10. Witchman of Hyperborea

1. Nemedian
2. Ophirian
3. Aquilonian
4. Hyperborean
5. Argossean
6. Corinthian
7. Border Kingdoms
8. Koth
9. Khaurani
10. Khorajan

Lands 1
1. Aquilonia
2. Argos
3. Border Kingdoms
4. Brythunia
5. Cimmeria
6. Corinthia
7. Ghulistan
8. Hyperborea
9. Hyrkania
10. Iranistan

Lands 2
1. Khauran
2. Khitai
3. Khoraja
4. Koth
5. Kush
6. The Black Coast
7. The Black Kingdoms
8. Nemedia
9. Asgard
10. Vanaheim

Lands 3
1. Ophir
2. Pictish Wilderness
3. Shem
4. Stygia
5. Turan
6. Vendhya
7. Zamora
8. Zingara
9. Darfar
10. Keshan

Lands 4
1. Southern Isles
2. Kusan
3. Mu
4. Gunderland
5. Kambuja
6. Lemuria
7. Barachan Islands
8. Punt
9. Eastern Desert
10. Pathenia

Named Location
1. Dagoth Hill
2. Python
3. The Maul
4. Xuthal
5. Haunted Pyramids
6. Nameless Isle
7. Isles of Pearl
8. Mount Yimsha
9. Temple of Set
10. Temple of Mitra

1. Tarantia
2. Khorshemish
3. Messantia
4. Kordava
5. Belverus
6. Zamboula
7. Agraphur
8. Shadizar
9. Arenjun
10. Asgalun

Generic Location
1. Temple
2. Museum
3. House
4. Shrine
5. Courtyard
6. Castle
7. Tower
8. Catacomb
9. Vault
10. Street
Roll for each of the outer keywords, then for the inner keywords roll d10; check if odd or even then roll on appropriate subset. Roll on any sub tables.

Although this system was designed for the Conan RPG, with some changes to the tables it can be used for any RPG (Glorantha, Babylon-5 etc.).

I roll and list matrices on index cards and file them. It is amazing how ideas come to you sometime later when browsing.

NB: Someone told me of the potential number of scenarios this system could generate. It was of the order of ten billion!

Have fun

"Everybody wants to save the world - But no-one wants to die" (MCR)
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Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 5:17 pm

Postby librarycharlie » Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:25 am

Fantastic! If I might attempt to simplify the creation rules a bit, as I understand it:

1. Roll d10 (List C, Challenge)
2. odd or even, then d10 to determine Keyword table
3. Roll d10 (odd/even Keyword 1)
4. odd or even, then d10 to determine Keyword table
5. Roll d10 (odd/even Keyword 2)

You now have the challenge and two words describing the run-up to the adventure.

6. Roll d10 (List A, Antagonist)
7. odd or even, then d10 to determine Keyword table
8. Roll d10 (odd/even Keyword 3)
9. Roll d10 (List B, Goal)

You now have the bad guy, and the theme and goal of your adventure.

10. odd or even, then d10 to determine Keyword table
11. Roll d10 (odd/even Keyword 4)
12. odd or even, then d10 to determine Keyword table
13. Roll d10 (odd/even Keyword 5)

You now have the situation's modifier and a possible outcome of the adventure.

14. Roll d10 (List D, Complication)

This is the obstacle that prevents an easy solution to your adventure.

Some rolls may indicate a roll on a subtable, to determine which part of Hyboria, for example, your adventure is in.

Looks great and should provide tons of adventure ideas. Let me know if there's another (or easier) way to break down how to use this to roll stuff up.

My experiment:
Ruler, important NPC
Guardian Armory
Hazard Road

The party is hired by King Yezdigerd of Aghrapur to investate the Royal Army Quartermaster (Guardian of the Armory). They were referred to the king by a powerful sorcerer named Khaliban, a friend for whom they have run several errands.

Several huge caches of weapons have gone missing and Khaliban has recommended the adventurers to Yezdigerd as investigators seeking information on the thefts, based on their successes on his behalf.

After discovering that the caches were distributed to local bands of rebels dedicated to defeating King Yezdigerd, the party is ambushed on the way to the castle (Hazard on the Road).

The huge difficulty appears when the party, outnumbered and nearly killed by the many rebels, is commanded in a powerful voice to stand down. The rebel attack has been called off by their master... the sorcerer Khaliban.

Awesome! It's like a real Conan story!
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Postby Bjorn the Barbarian » Wed Oct 17, 2007 1:29 pm

Brass Jester,

This looks pretty good so far. BTW, I have used the matrix you posted a couple of years ago not only in my Conan campaign, but also in some other games as well (with just a little tweeking) and it has worked out great.

Thanks. :)
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Postby flatscan » Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:04 pm

Wow, neat idea. Will definitely implement this into my game. Thanks!
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Postby thelevitator » Wed Oct 17, 2007 4:24 pm

I'm so glad you posted this! I've been using a simplified version of this that I found a while back. I always wanted to thank the person who came up with it, but what I found was a repost and it didn't credit the list with a name. So thank you! This version is even more detailed and I am sure I will use it a lot! :D
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Postby FailedSpotCheck » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:12 pm

Kewlness. 8)
Got this in word or excel format?
If it's in excel the 'rolling' can be done automatically. I did a similar thing once for AD&D a few years back. I think it randomly created hp and other stats for some monsters.
Roll! Reflex Save vs. Flying 55mm Countdown Die of Death!
Brass Jester
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Location: Black Country, UK

Postby Brass Jester » Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:21 pm

librarycharlie wrote:Fantastic! If I might attempt to simplify the creation rules a bit, as I understand it:
That's an interesting use of the system which I hadn't considered. The matrix format doesn't post correctly; send me a PM with your e-mail address and you can have a copy of the Word doc.

All of the keywords can interact with each other and even with themselves! The idea is that they are rolled all together; then just sit back and look at them, using word associations to bring up ideas. Keywords 1 and 2, for example, don't have to just be the run-up to the adventure or associated soley with the Challenge; these 'labels' are just to get you thinking. You don't have to use everything and often what you end up with is far removed from what you started with.

For a minor campaign; just link three Matrices together (i.e. replace 'Goal' with another Matrix.

For a Monster campaign, replace every element in a Matrix with another Matrix! And good luck!!

I liked your plot outline and will probably pinch it for use.
"Everybody wants to save the world - But no-one wants to die" (MCR)

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