Adventure (role-playing games)

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This article is about the type of role-playing game. For the game from White Wolf Game Studio, see Adventure!.

An adventure is either a published or otherwise written collection of plot, character, and location details used by a gamemaster to manage the plot or story in a role-playing game. Each adventure is based upon a particular gaming genre and is normally designed for use with a specific game or gaming system. However, skilled gamemasters can often convert an adventure to different game systems, and many adventures are designed with such conversions in mind.

Generally an adventure will have an overall goal to be accomplished by a party of player characters, and guidelines about the prerequisites for success. It then subdivides the plot into a set of scenes that the players could encounter during the course of play, and provide descriptions of the locations, details on creatures and other characters that could be encountered, and information concerning potential obstacles and hazards. The adventure will often contain one or more maps that the gamemaster can use to locate points of interest and manage movement.

"Dungeon crawl"-style adventures for combat-intensive games such as Dungeons & Dragons may allow or require large amounts of combat and little or no interaction with other characters outside of combat; storytelling games such as the World of Darkness games may focus on character interaction and provide little opportunity for combat. So-called linear adventures will restrict the actions of the players to a significant degree, requiring them to resolve each part of the plot in turn. Non-linear adventures are more flexible about the order of player activities, and allow the players a greater opportunity to "write" their own adventure.

A common component of the adventure are the often colorfully written blocks of descriptive text that are read out loud by the gamemaster to the players. These blocks ("flavor text") provide atmosphere for the game, and can provide clues about what the players are about to face. Significant attention is spent describing important locations or plot stages, such as the player's introduction to the setting.

There are several broad categories of role-playing adventures:

  • A campaign is a lengthy adventure, or series of adventures, that is run over many sessions. It is often designed to provide a plot of epic scope, arranged in an episodic manner. The campaign normally has a common theme holding it together, such as a major villainous opponent, a great disaster, or an epic journey.
  • A scenario is shorter than a campaign, and can often be restricted to a limited geographic location such as a town or a forest. It has a brief plot that can be concluded within a few gaming sessions. Several related scenarios can be strung together by a gamemaster to create a campaign. "Campaign" and "Scenario" are derived from wargaming terminology, as early role-playing games were derived from contemporary wargames.
  • The one-shot adventure is designed to be played in a single evening, and usually involves battling a small group of opponents or resolving a difficult or dangerous problem. A one-shot is often intended to demonstrate a new setting or to hold a gaming session when many regular participants are not able to make it that night. It will typically use pre-generated characters for the players in order to limit start-up time.

There are a multitude of commercial adventures published as modules for different published game worlds. However many gamemasters enjoy writing their own adventures, an activity that can require considerable effort and labor.

Different games have different names for their adventures; for example, White Wolf Game Studio calls their adventures "chronicles", while Dungeons & Dragons adventures are often called "modules" or "scenarios" ("module," "scenario" and "campaign" are all loanwords from the miniatures wargames that were the hobby's roots). Games with televisual or cinematic pretensions often call adventures "episodes" with a campaign referred to as a "series."