• Justin Handlin

Guide to Building Adventures in Dungeons and Dragons


Dungeons and Dragons adventure map and dice on table

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Guide to Building an Adventures in Dungeons & Dragons

How do I write an adventure for Dungeons and Dragons?

There is no right way when it comes to adventure design in Dungeons and Dragons. Whatever tool or format you use is basically a frame to hang your encounters on. For me building the structure of this framework is as simple as asking a few questions. I tend to refer to this as modular adventure design.


Now, it’s important to note that you don’t actually have to answer all or any of these questions. You can create your own that best suits your needs. These are just the few that I believe make it easiest for me to create fun and interesting adventure stories. When following these guidelines, the order isn’t really that important. It’s very easy to work backward from the options given and still come out with a strong result. In fact, having answers to certain questions can make fleshing out the rest of the components of the adventure much simpler. For example, knowing that you want your quest to focus on a weapon the player character desires, such as a flame tongue weapon means the theme is already decided, fire. So magic items, settings, and events make for perfect springboards when answering the questions.

 

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When it comes to further answering these questions, remember the motives and background that the characters and their players bring to the table. If you have a player that really loves learning lore about monsters or settings, then you’re certainly going to want to take that into consideration when designing the adventure. Likewise, a character who has a criminal background with the criminal contacts feature took that for a reason. Considering this background feature while answering these questions can further include the player’s character choices and let those features shine. The best part, since you’re including them as you build your adventure they are baked into it. Meaning you don’t have to go out of your way to include them.


Adventure Structure

  • How does the adventure start and end?

  • What happens in between?

Adventure Quests

  • What is the situation?

  • What led up to this situation?

  • Does solving the situation require going somewhere?

  • Does solving the situation require responding to events?

  • Why do the characters care?

  • What are the character’s goals?

Adventure Setting

  • Where is the situation taking place?

  • What is this setting’s original purpose?

  • What is the setting used for now?

  • What kind of terrain and locations can you find there?

  • What’s interesting and dangerous there besides monsters?

  • How do you build an event-based adventure?

Adventure Cast

  • Who and what inhabits the setting?

  • Does the adventure have a villain?

  • Who else cares about the situation?

  • Which characters are helpful, neutral, or hostile?

Related Article: How do I build a Dungeons & Dragons Campaign?

Regardless of whether you use these questions or your own, this simple adventure framework will help you build stories and campaigns that not only include player choices but also make it modular when needing to make adjustments based on the player agency. That is part of the reason I’ve found this format so fantastic. In most cases, it can give the impression of massive preparation to the players. But in reality, it all fits on a page or two and acts as a guide to the decisions I make when reacting to the players and what they want. When you design an adventure, remember the movies that bring your players to the table. Doing so is a sure way to help everyone have more fun.


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