Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creating 1st Level 0e-1e Adventures - Tips?

Creating an adventure/module for 1st level 0e - 1e characters is challenging - perhaps the most challenging situation I've found since returning to writing rpg material again. Not only are you potentially dealing with complete newcomers to the game, with no sense of the dangers that await them, but you also must create a scenario that is both somewhat realistic and not so dangerous that the player will be put off by the quick fatality of their character. How to balance introducing traps to the game, monsters (in numbers and hit dice that are appropriate), and yet still engage the individual players?

An easy way to navigate this territory is to insist upon a large party of 1st levels - strength in numbers! This way, although PCs will die, there will always be others who will step up to the plate and be able to quickly carry on. Still, this seems a bit of a cop out of responsibility of the DM to fairly match the players with the scenario, and definitely removes any incentive for the players to create backgrounds for their characters or become at all attached to them. I'm sure many would say that this is a good thing, but the fact is that given the amount of time it takes to create a 1st level character, and the disproportionate amount of time it takes to kill them, a very fatiguing process for the new player can take place of having to roll up yet another 1st level character who is also not likely to live long.

For my part, I've opted to always give the players' 1st level characters either their full hit point potential or else just one point shy of it, based on a die roll, and then add or subtract any Constitution bonus. At least in this way they have a slightly greater chance at progressing. This motivational inspired RPG themed picture always springs to mind when I think of how it could be otherwise...

Does anyone have any tips that they'd care to share re: the creation of suitably challenging yet realistic/entertaining 1st level scenarios?

5 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

One word: Tiamat

Of course, it might be hard to fit 1000 gamers in your dining room...

Don Snabulus said...

Seriously though, I always that module B1 from the original D&D had some great ideas and a mix of monsters and hazards that was doable, but not easy.

trollsmyth said...

Actually, Tiamat's not too far off.

I've found that using insanely powerful monsters is the way to go, but make sure they have a reason to not want to kill the PCs. Your model shouldn't be WoW, but rather Odysseus vs. the cyclops or Luke Skywalker vs. the rancor. Let the players know, either through subtle clues or out-and-out telling them, that trying to fight the monster toe-to-toe will lead to certain defeat. Then practice "say yes or roll the dice" when they launch their clever plan.

Sprinkle in a few "easy" fights (but keep in mind even a lone, sickly kobold can get in a few lucky hits and kill a 1st level PC), some puzzles ("Get across the pool of green slime." "Answer the sphynx's riddle." "Turn the keys in the right order."), maybe a few non-combat encounters, and some treasure, and voila! You have a low-level adventure.

You can also go the "Cult of the Reptile God" route and make the first adventure be heavily investigation based. That works really well if you either give EXP for figuring out the clues or if the clues lead to treasure (and you give EXP for treasure).

bulette said...

Snab - I'm not so familiar with B1, although I am with B2 (it generally gets reviewed as being awful), another module included with the Basic set. What I remember the most about both of those is the way that they're written for new DM's to make it easier and gets them used to some of the ways they can guide the game and narrative.

Trollsmyth - Excellent points, I think the idea of good puzzles particularly appeals to me and might to some of my future players (particularly my wife) that might not be so inclined towards the traditional hack & slash. I definitely want to start encouraging more caution - listening at doors, using poles, not just rushing in...common sense for veterans, but not necessarily for those who aren't yet familiar with the near infinite freedom of choice in actions vs. the extremely limited options in computer/console game rpgs.

Oz RPG said...

I agree with Trollsmyth. The fact that first level sucks is part of what inspired those old-school gamers to roleplay, not just try to "wargame" their way through it.

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