Krull the Slayer, and Magda the Vicious were quite pleased with themselves. They had arrived at the throne room of the giant underground complex in a short time. They patted themselves on the back for having splurged on those invisibility potions and perfecting their stealth skills. Which allowed them to ever so quietly bypass at least 6 monsters on their way to the throne room. They knew that those creatures were there as guards to protect the treasure in the room. And they laughed quietly as they picked up the sword and crown of the Emperor’s tomb.
Their laughter ended abruptly as the alarm sounded, triggered by the removal of the items from their hiding places. Turning to each other they realized that the invisibility potions had worn off. Then they heard heavy footsteps from the door of the room, the guards that they had easily bypassed were coming at the sounding of the alarm. Only now, instead of dealing with them one at a time, all 6 were coming at once! Our valiant pair of would be heroes was never heard from again.
I’m a practical person. And as a trained analyst and student of history I know that no action takes place on it’s own. And the results of an action can always have unforeseen consequences. And I think this is something that some players don’t realize or take into account. And a lot of people who design adventures are the same way. And that’s a mistake I refuse to make.
When I started designing the adventure the boys are in now I broke it down as best I could. Following the directions laid out in these four articles written by AngryGM. I worked out challenge ratings of encounters, used a random encounter chart to flesh out some encounters. And then I looked at it all and figured out why they were there, and why would they stay. With the exception of Undead, monsters have to eat. And with some exceptions they are not mindless creatures that will just stay in room X waiting for someone to open the door.
And in the big picture, why would a group of people just spend their lives wandering out in search of caves to plunder? What possible motivation is there? And, to make things a little boring and macro, what effect would there be on an economy when you have groups of adventurers that disappear for a month or two, then reappear, dump large amounts of treasure and precious items on the market, and then wander off. Too many groups like that would have a serious effect on the economy of wherever they set up home base.
In the campaign I am running for the boys I have some very clear economic forces at work. And, more importantly, the characters have a role in the community, which gives them reason to go out on adventures. And eventually their actions, what they discover, what they do when they discover it, will have an effect on the world as a whole.
In short, the actions of the characters do not exist in a vacuum. There is a big world out there, and there are forces that will provide the group direction. Today’s monster avoided becomes the party nemesis tomorrow. And the room you cleared on the way into the dungeon could be filled up by a wandering creature to fight on they way out. These are the thoughts a good GM keeps in mind when designing an adventure.