When writing an adventure module

The things I think about when writing an adventure module can be summed into three categories. Those are Story, Survivability, and Reward. Each one has different considerations to balance and address and each one can be a little overwhelming if taken too seriously. Inside I take each of these topics separately and the areas I address when working on the WFRP campaign.

Story: Does there have to be an overarching story? Yes, but more than that I think there should be up to three story lines going at any given moment. This way you can address the three elements most people seem to be interested in: Combat, Diplomacy, and Roleplaying. The overarching story ties the entire season or whatever you want to call it together and the other two side stories to keep people interested in playing. Ideally, I think that the overarching story has a mix of the three elements in each adventure as a way of making sure all players have a stake in what is happening. In your two off stories you can concentrate on one of the elements more to your liking. In attempting that mix you have to realize that Combat and Diplomacy are closely related. If you are not careful in using them much of what gets decided is decided by the dice and not your players. So this gets extra attention in how much it affects the story’s outcome. Also attempting to keep as many players involved in the game itself, you have allow for the different character archetypes to each get a chance to shine. While WRFP does not formalize them as much as, say, L5R has, carving out some time for the Burghers, Politicians, and Courtiers to practice their silver-tongued deviltry is something I try to keep in mind as the plotting moves along.

Survivability: The survival of the characters is a major concern that I come back to when writing WFRP modules. The reasons it comes up is twofold. WRFP is a system which can be very lethal to PCs. One good Ulric’s Fury and you’re staring at a dead table. This can be a serious detriment for players. Part of having a living campaign is to give your players a chance to step deeply into their character’s world. Having the character investment be shallow means you get the same shallow buy-in to your campaign. That is not something I want. Secondly, Fate Points are there to help counter this but they are an extremely limited player currency. I don’t want to force my PCs to use them unless it is completely necessary and I don’t want to hand them out continually. Unless the drama of that module calls for it, the use of FP is something I actively look to write around. This tension between the system’s lethality and the needs of a long term campaign can be a difficult balance to achieve. If this was a system that was still being actively published, a better understanding of creatures and how to craft combat encounters is something that I would take to the developers. As it stands, having to refine it takes a backseat to the many other tasks as the series keeps going forward.

Rewards: Rewarding players and character in an ongoing campaign effectively is the final tough point. In the campaign, I am terming the rewards as “Opportunities”. These include the ability to create new characters in races not set forth in the campaign guide, careers created for the campaign, experience, items, and of course Dwarven Magic, er, gold. In this WFRP campaign, one of the first decisions I made was to make all starting characters human by default and to take away a few of the careers. Not to get into all of the reasons for doing such, but the big was that this is the human Empire. I want this version of it to be populated and saved mostly by them. In doing this, it made setting up a dwarf or elf character as a reward. And in the first module, The Faire, (soon to be out, just give me another day or two) part of the rewards are careers which are specifically created for the campaign. Experience is something I’m working on standardizing. On the whole my thoughts are that a single session should have the potential for one advancement. In doing so, it should be become predictable in how far characters are able to advance at any given point in the campaign. The same goes for items and gold. It may seem cheep to want to control these things but this goes right back to player enjoyment and trying to have a certain sense of fairness.