I finally got through the task of writing up my very first adventure for D&D. The overall concept was to write a short one-shot adventure for a single player (with a DM). Since this was my first experience, I thought it might be useful to share how I went about writing it. Maybe it could help others that are interested in trying out being a DM that only have a small group or single player with whom they can run a game.
To start out, I found software that’s typically used for story-writing called Scrivener. Ideally it’s more for writing a book than a D&D adventure. But, I figured that a story is still a story, regardless of how it’s presented to the reader (i.e. player). Scrivener lets you write up notes, add images, link to files, and categorize everything you put into it. Overall, it’s been a very useful tool in keeping things organized, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
From here, I set out to write up an outline of the story I wanted the player to run through. (Here’s a link to my adventure outline. [PDF]) I had come up with major plot items or scenes that I wanted the character to encounter. Those were actually the easy part. Connecting these scenes together smoothly was more challenging. How do I get the character to follow an NPC? What happens if there’s a chase? (In my case, I utilized chase complication tables in the DMG to randomize what would happen, found on page 254.) I had to come up with some ideas of what to do in case the player doesn’t do what I expect them to do. You’ll even notice I didn’t even always know what I wanted to do, as I had notes next to various outline items.
I also looked around online for all sorts of maps. Players love being able to visualize their character’s surroundings, and presenting them with a map will help them achieve that. Quick Google searches will find all sorts of various sites that offer free maps for RPGs. I ended up utilizing a few of these maps to represent taverns, as well as an overall city map. I also created a simple map using CAD to represent the basement of a nobleman’s house. I actually had two versions of this map, one with notes and one without that I could show the player without giving anything away.
To wrap up the planning, I had to come up with various NPCs or monsters that the player may encounter throughout the adventure. For some simple monsters or people, I could simply use a stat block from the Monster Manual. When I ran this adventure, I used a basic stat block for rats, as well as a mage. These were right out of the MM. But, I wanted to keep from looking them up all the time. I ran across another useful tool that can create stat blocks that look very much like what’s in the MM, found here. Unfortunately, it only functions with the Chrome browser, but that’s not a huge deal. It does, however, require some basic HTML editing, which I did using Notepad. I whipped a few stat blocks up for various NPCs and took screenshots of them to save as images for later use. Here’s are examples of the stat blocks I used for a couple NPCs. (Keep in mind this adventure is for Level 1 characters.)
As for difficulty, I tried to follow the rules in the DMG for challenge rating. And essentially, these two characters are mostly modified from basic stat blocks in the MM for a Sorcerer and a Thief/Rogue.
So, that’s pretty much it, as far as conceptualization goes. It’s not a difficult process to understand. But, it is a difficult process to execute. This adventure took quite a few hours to put together, even though it only took maybe 2 hours to run.
Feel free to use any of my notes, the stat blocks, etc. if you want to try running this adventure or something similar to it. Hopefully explaining my thought process proves useful to someone out there. And if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to provide additional notes on various locations and people throughout the adventure. Just let me know down in the comments.