10 minute game ideas #dnd

We’ve all had those times where your friends will be swinging by in half an hour, the pizza has been ordered, the beer is frosty, and your miniatures are polished, but something isn’t right… you don’t have a game planned.

No need to panic, it’s not a total loss.  Of course pizza and beer with friends is never a loss, but you can still play a game. It’s going to be rough hewn and choppy, but it’ll be a game and it can still be loads of fun.

What are the key elements in an adventure? Hook, dilemma, plot, conflict, climax and conclusion. When you break it down into bite-sized chunks like that it’s really easy to slap together a good hour of gameplay, more if you’re creative enough.

So we start with the hook, the jump point for any adventure.  Usually this happens in a tavern, but the start of an adventure can happen anywhere.  If you’re any kind of good DM you either have notes from the last adventure or at least remember (through a mountain-dew-aritta tinged haze) what happened last time you played and what your players were doing.  Likely at the end of the last adventure they’re either on their way back to town or are already back in town waking up from their loot-fueled revelries. So think about how to drop an adventure in their laps depending on the situation.  If they’re back in town at the local inn, put a note asking for help inside their morning bread, on the road back to town have a carriage go careening off of a nearby cliff chased by black-horse raiders.  Sitting around the campfire?  A shooting star drops out of the sky and crashes nearby. So as you can see it doesn’t always have to be some great, dark terrible evil sweeping across the land.  Adventures can happen anywhere.

Okay, we’ve got a hook, what’s our dilemma?  Something to solve, a problem that needs fixing, so let’s see we have a note, a wrecked carriage, and a meteorite, yeah? The note can be from the barmaid who is a cousin third removed from the local duchess, whom she hasn’t heard from in three fortnights. That carriage? Empty except for a locked chest that holds a signed treaty from the lord of a nearby province who has accepted aid from the dwarven tribes of the mountains to defend against the raiding parties.  That meteorite that crashed gives off a strange energy that mutates the local landscape, but is a very powerful magical reagent that would sell handsomely or be very useful in arcane hands.

Plot is something that can be very rigid or very fluid, especially in a last minute game.  You can railroad your party through and hope it winds up being fun, or you can let them decide how to run it.  They could talk to the barmaid or interrogate the guards at the keep, or bribe and sneak their way in to see what they can find inside.  The party could deliver the message to the dwarves and plan a battle, or attack the raiders head on, or even attempt to sabotage their base.  Will the party retrieve the meteorite themselves or hire vassals to dig it up for them? Everything depends on what you feel most comfortable with in your DM’ing style.

Now we come to conflict. Was the duchess locked away by the duke? Did she run away to fulfill her dream? Was she to be sacrificed for a dark ritual or is she trapped by the Grand Marshall of a neighboring city state for ransom?  How to the players deal with the raiders? Or for that matter the dwarves and the besieged town? The magically warped and twisted land fights against the players, but is it a mental or physical battle? Will their powers work properly inside this arcane field?

The climax for these could be any number of things, from finding and saving the duchess to avenging her death, defeating the raiders or sacking the town yourselves, and that meteorite would sell for a pretty penny, or even be enough material for a few magical weapons in the right artisan’s hands.  The conclusion will wind up being whatever you choose from those scenarios, and distribute the rewards accordingly to your players for their valiant efforts.  It might not be your best game, or then again it might be the best game you’ve ever played, an experience to change your outlook on DM’ing for the better. As always the most important thing is to just have fun with it, roll some dice, kill some orcs, and have a good time.

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~ by darkpatu on September 1, 2011.

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