Every good DM enjoys dreaming up new campaigns, adventures and encounters. With this in mind I descended upon GenCon with the intent of attending the D&D Adventure Builder’s Workshop. I wanted to hear how the pros built encounters, how they designed their traps and what inspired their campaigns. I must say I wasn’t disappointed and while I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for, what I did get was that much better.
I felt that the descriptive text regarding the workshop was slightly misleading:
“Join members of Wizard’s R&D team to learn how to best craft encounters to create rousing adventures for your D&D game. From skill challenges to traps and hazards, monster selection to terrain, and more, we’ll dig into what makes a good encounter and a great adventure in this hand’s on workshop.”
After reading the description I was disappointed to learn that the workshop wasn’t going to cover traps, hazards and encounter creation. The workshop instead focused on creating a great adventure or campaign. While I didn’t get what I expected, what I did receive was still very worthwhile.
The workshop was hosted by Rodney Thompson. Chris Perkins and Bruce Cordell were on the panel with him.
The workshop was collaborative. At the end of each section Rodney opened it up to the audience to toss out idea’s to build an adventure based on the previous section’s points. At the end of the workshop we had created a campaign arc that could easily span 10 levels or more.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to be part of a collaborative adventure building session you are missing out. As DMs, most of our work is done in isolation, only to be revealed when our players run through the session. It’s rare that we sit down with other DMs and brainstorm our adventure plans. I’m jealous of the folks at WotC who get to do this all the time as they dream up new products for us to play. It really is a way of approaching the game that individual DMs don’t have the opportunity to participate in. It also makes me wonder how many idea’s get cut and never see the light of day.
The points of discussion in the workshop were the Villain, Locations, Story/Agenda, Henchman & Antagonists, Allies & NPCs, Reward, and Repercussions. I’m not going to post a full write-up or review of the seminar as I believe it will eventually be released as a podcast on the WotC website and if not I want to use some of these ideas in my own campaign.
One key question that was asked was when do you normally reveal the villain? What is the best point in a campaign to allow the PCs discover the villain’s plan? Of course the answer from the panel was whenever it works best for your campaign. The key take-away that I had from the seminar is don’t just stop with your initial idea. Keep poking at it and adding ideas. It’s amazing how your original concept will morph into something fantastic.
I’ve already taken the adventure we developed that day and added my own twist to it. Now I need to set encounters and I’ll be ready to run my players through it.
The Adventure Builders Workshop isn’t something you need to attend every year, but if it’s been a few years since you attended this type of workshop or if you really think you know all the tricks and tips, next time you’re at GenCon give this seminar a chance. I think you’ll be surprised with what hints and tips you pick up.