May 3, 2011

How to write an EPIC! adventure

There has been some talk lately about how to make and run Epic adventures. A lot of these points can be used for every edition or game system. Of course, most of these discussions have been on the mechanical side of the issue; how to balance the numbers to make it feel epic, how to make it so the monsters are not pushovers. However, there has not been a lot of talk about what goes into the story part of an Epic adventure, how to build the feeling of EPIC!

All too often DMs simply throw bigger monsters at the characters and call it EPIC! More hit points and damage dealing does not make EPIC! Sometimes the DM will put the characters in exotic locations and call it EPIC! Simply going to another plane is not enough to make it EPIC! Sure these things are part of being EPIC! but it’s a matter of magnitude. There are a few things to remember if you want to build truly EPIC! adventures.

-Make it Big. Players don’t fight a Roc - They fight the biggest bird on the planet, one that blocks out the sun when it flies nearby. One that nests on the highest mountain of the world. Everything is the biggest it can be. The monsters are bigger than anything else the characters have fought before. They go to the highest and deepest places in the world. Go Big!

-Make it Unique. The characters will do things no one has ever done before and no one will ever be able to do again. They will kill the one and only King of Rocs and after they do that, no one else will ever be able to do it again, because it will be dead. No one on the world has ever scaled the highest mountain on the world, but the characters will. Sure, others might be able to do it after the characters do it, but the characters will forever and always be the first to have done it.

-Make the Stakes Big. What the characters can win or, and perhaps more importantly, what they can lose are both big in scope. They don’t get a magic item as a reward; they get Doomsinger, the Apocalyptic Sword, as a reward. The characters do not save villages from kobolds, they save worlds from alien invasions. If the characters fail in their quest worlds die, millions of people are lost.

By keeping these concepts in mind you can easily adapt other adventures into something EPIC! Have an old module sitting around where the party must defend a village from raids by infiltrating an orc cave and killing the hobgoblin chieftain? Take the adventure and EPIC! size it! Instead of saving a village, they are saving the Last Bastion of Magic from the Hordes of Demon-Orcs who are trying to steal the last of the magic in the world. Instead of infiltrating an orc cave, they are assaulting the Iron Citadel of Magma at the core of the planet. Instead of killing a hobgoblin chieftain, they are killing the Spirit of the World itself which has been corrupted by Orcus.

The underlying concept here is to take everything to an extreme. Do this and you will be able to design awesome EPIC! adventures. Also capitalizing everything helps…and exclamation marks!
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