Running Adventures

Facilitator of Fun and Adventure

The referee should bring to life exciting adventures for the enjoyment of the group.

Preparation: Before the game begins, the adventure should be planned out and required maps drawn. Advice on adventure design is found later in this section.

Improvisation: In spite of the referee’s preparation, it is impossible to predict every possible player action. Players will come up with ideas that the referee has not even considered. It is thus important for the referee to remain flexible and to roll with any unexpected turns the adventure might take!

Procedures: The game’s rules provide procedures for many common adventuring situations. These exist in order to aid the referee in running the game. However, the referee should feel free to adapt and add to these procedures during play, in order to keep the game moving.

Balance: The referee must maintain a fun balance of risk and reward.

Neutral Judge

The referee must remain neutral in all things—neither on the side of the players nor against them.

Non-competitive: The game is not a competition, with the players attempting to defeat the referee, or vice versa.

Fairness: The rules of the game should be applied equally to player characters, monsters, and NPCs.

Arbiter of Rules

The referee must decide when and how to apply the rules of the game.

Rulings: The rules of the game—including descriptions of magic items, spells, or monsters’ special abilities—do not cover all possible scenarios, so the referee must be ready to apply judgment to resolve any unexpected situations which arise. Resolving actions: When a player wishes to do something not covered by a standard rule, the referee must consider how to determine the outcome. Sometimes, the situation can be dealt with simply by deciding what would happen. Sometimes, the referee may require the player to make an ability check or a saving throw to determine what happens. Other times, the referee may judge the likelihood of the action succeeding (e.g. expressed as a percentage or X-in-6 chance), tell the player the chances, and let them decide whether to take the risk or not.

Disagreements: The players may not always agree with the referee’s application of the rules of the game. When this happens, the group should (briefly!) discuss the point of disagreement and come to a decision. The referee is always the final arbiter in such cases and should ensure that the game does not get bogged down in long discussions about the rules.

Randomness: The referee should make judicious use of die rolls, random tables, etc. While these can add an element of fun and unpredictability to the game, overuse of randomness can also spoil an adventure by derailing it too much.

Handling PCs

Rate of Advancement

Each group will have its own preferences as to how quickly player characters gain experience points and increase in level.

Standard: After three to four sessions, it is normal for at least one PC to have reached 2nd level. If this has not happened, the referee may wish to increase the amount of treasure. If, on the other hand, most PCs have reached 3rd level in this time-frame, the referee might place less treasure or make monsters tougher.

Fast: For groups who prefer a game where characters advance quickly, the referee should place large treasure hoards. These should, however, be guarded by appropriately challenging monsters.

Slow: For groups who prefer the game to focus on character development rather than high risk, the rate of advancement and the danger presented by monsters may be reduced.

Character Knowledge

Attention must be paid to the distinction between what a player knows and what their PC knows. Players may at times act on information that their PC could not know. The referee may occasionally need to remind players of this and may even need to forbid certain actions.


Player characters may, through the course of play, naturally develop grudges or rivalries. This is especially a possibility when characters of opposite alignments adventure together. This is a natural and fun part of good role-playing. However, the referee should ensure that such grudges do not dominate play and spoil the adventure for others.

Maintaining Challenge

It is important that the referee keep the game challenging, even when player characters have reached high levels and amassed great wealth and power.

Magical research: Spell-casting characters may attempt to create new spells and magic items. When this happens, the referee should pay very careful attention to game balance. Magic that is permanent, may be used without limit, does not allow a saving throw, or that increases in power with level can easily become imbalanced. If in doubt, one option is to allow a new spell or item to be tested for a period, under the proviso that it may need to be altered if it proves to imbalance play.

Special abilities: Players may sometimes try to find ways to gain special abilities and powers beyond their characters’ normal class abilities. The referee should be very careful when allowing this, as it can lead to imbalance. The guidelines for magical research, above, should be used.

Excess wealth: If the level of PC wealth has gotten out of hand, the referee may wish to find ways to take excess money away from characters. This should always be done in such a way as to present the player with a choice, for example: pay a local tax or become an outlaw?

Running the Game

Describing the Unknown

When describing what player characters experience during an adventure, the referee should be careful to keep an air of mystery. The best way of achieving this is to only describe what characters see, hear, smell, and so on, without providing the players any additional information.

Monsters: Should be described, rather than referred to by name. Players will come to recognize different types of monsters by their descriptions and behaviors.

Surprise attacks: When characters are attacked by surprise, the referee should simply describe the attack itself, rather than giving players the complete description of the attacking monster. For example, a character may just see a clawed hand reaching out of the shadows. Only in subsequent combat rounds should a more detailed description of the monster be provided.

Monster and NPC game stats: The game statistics (e.g. hit points, level) of monsters and NPCs should never be revealed to players. In combat, the referee should describe the effects of damage on a monster, rather than telling the players how many hit points it has remaining.

Magic items: Should be described, rather than referred to by name. Only by experimentation can players find out what powers a magic item has (and indeed whether an item is magical at all!).

Describing Explored Areas

The usual procedure is for the players to draw maps of areas being explored, based on the referee’s descriptions.

Squares: One way to speed up mapping is to specify dimensions (e.g. the width and length of rooms in a dungeon) in terms of map squares, rather than in feet. Of course, the referee and the players must agree on the size of one map square.

Known areas: Sometimes, characters may already know the shape of an area being explored. In this case, the referee may draw the parts of the map which are already known.

Complex areas: In the case of extremely complicated areas, the referee may draw directly on the players’ map. This is not generally to be encouraged, however, as this does not help the players to improve their own mapping skills.

Using Miniatures

Some groups like to use miniatures along with a gridded tabletop surface to track exploration and combat.

Play surface: The most convenient type of surface is something on which maps can be drawn with erasable pens. The surface should be gridded for ease of tracking the movements of characters.

Scale: The typical scale used is 1” on the play surface = 5’ in the game world (or 5 yards for outdoor encounters).

Miniatures: Miniature figures are available to purchase from many different companies. Alternatively, simple tokens like dice or beads can be used.

Monsters and NPCs

The referee is responsible for deciding how monsters and NPCs react when encountered, but also what schemes and tactics they follow when the PCs are elsewhere.

Intelligence and Tactics

When deciding how a monster or NPC acts, the referee should bear its level of intelligence in mind. Intelligent monsters might use any of the following tactics.

Traps and stealth: Monsters which are cunning but not physically powerful might lay traps or ambushes and may favor attacking PCs from a distance with missile weapons.

Guards: Monsters may make use of guards or pets to weaken PCs or to protect important escape routes.

Magic items: Monsters will use any magic items in their lair to thwart the PCs.

Learning and preparation: If PCs encounter but do not defeat monsters, the monsters will learn from the experience and prepare for a repeat attack. They may build defensive structures, call for reinforcements, relocate their base of operations, and so on. Adaptation: Monsters may copy or adapt tactics successfully used by PCs and may plan specific counter-maneuvers.


When designing encounters, the referee should bear in mind that—like player characters—monsters and NPCs will join forces in order to increase their chance of survival.

Combined forces: Monsters skilled in melee, missile attacks, and magic may join forces.

Leaders: May have special abilities, maximum hit points, or additional Hit Dice.


The same as player characters, intelligent monsters and NPCs have their own interests and motivations.

Role-playing: The referee should consider the monster’s reaction to negotiations with PCs, bearing in mind its alignment and personality. Monsters should not always cooperate with PCs’ wishes!

Allies: Monsters and NPCs may be encountered with friends, minions, or retainers. These will come to the aid of the monster, or may avenge it, if it is defeated.

Adventure Scenarios

The first step in designing an adventure of any kind is to decide on the type of scenario. This is the hook that draws the player characters to the adventure site, and provides a background theme that the referee can use to tie the location together. The scenario drives the referee’s choices of specific traps, treasures, and monsters to be placed in the location. The following examples may be used for inspiration.

1. Banishing Ancient Evil

An evil presence (e.g. a monster or NPC) must be banished or destroyed. It may have been dormant for many years, and have only recently been awakened (perhaps as a result of another party’s meddling).

2. Clearing Ruins

Settlers plan to move into an abandoned settlement or stronghold. Before they arrive, the PCs need to scout the area and clear out any monsters or other dangers that are present. The ruins need not be in a remote area—they could even be within (or beneath) a major settlement.

3. Contacting a Lost Civilization

The PCs discover a long-lost race in a fantastic location. They may have once been human, but are now adapted to their strange environment. For example, they may have reverted to bestial behavior or may be adapted to subterranean life, with pale skin and infravision.

4. Escaping from Captivity

The PCs have been taken prisoner by an enemy and begin the adventure in captivity, possibly with a grisly fate awaiting them in the near future. They must regain their freedom.

5. Exploring Unknown Territory

An NPC hires the party to explore and map an unknown region. This may be a previously uncharted area or may be a recent alteration to a familiar region (e.g. a magic castle appears in an empty plain).

6. Performing a Quest

A deity or powerful NPC (e.g. a king) sends the PCs on a quest. This may involve recovering holy or magical items.

7. Rescuing Captives

Important NPCs have been kidnapped by bandits, wicked monsters, or an evil wizard. The PCs attempt to rescue the prisoners, either seeking a reward or due to a personal connection with the unfortunate captives. It is also possible that the PCs may be hired as bodyguards to NPCs who are negotiating with the kidnappers.

8. Scouting an Enemy Outpost

An invasion is looming (or in progress)! The PCs must infiltrate an outpost of the enemy, gather intelligence as to their plans, strengths, and weaknesses, and (if possible) destroy them.

9. Seeking a Magical Doorway

A gateway exists that allows magical travel (either one-way or bidirectional) between distant locations or even other worlds. The PCs may be tasked with locating a lost portal or closing a portal used by enemies. The portal may also be the only means of travel to a fantastic destination that the PCs must visit.

10. Visiting a Sacred Site

In order to consult with an oracle, remove a curse, or find a holy relic, the PCs must journey to a sacred site (e.g. a shrine or temple). The exact location of the site is usually a matter of conjecture.

Designing a Dungeon

1. Choose the Setting

Decide on the basic form and structure of the dungeon (the table below may be used) and begin to consider ideas for the main rooms or areas.

Dungeon Setting

d6 Setting
1Crypt or tomb complex
2 Natural caverns
3 Settlement (e.g. stronghold, city)
4 Subterranean delving (e.g. mine)
5 Temple
6 Tower or fortification

2. Choose Monsters

Based on the selected adventure scenario and dungeon setting, decide what types of monsters inhabit the dungeon, choosing from any monster books that are available, creating new monsters specially for the dungeon, or tailoring standard monsters to the location.

3. Map the Dungeon

Overall shape: The structure of the rooms and connecting passages will be determined by the dungeon setting (e.g. rough cavern walls, carefully laid-out defensive structures, etc.).

Mapping scale: Typically, dungeon maps are drawn on graph paper with a scale of 10’ per square. (Larger or smaller scales may be used as appropriate.)

Numbering: Give each area (e.g. room or cave) of the dungeon a number, so that the area on the map can easily be cross-referenced with the description of its contents (see step 4).

4. Stock the Dungeon

Make notes describing each area on the map that was given a number. Monsters or areas that play an important role in the adventure should be noted first. Areas of less importance may then be stocked (using the guidelines to the right if desired).

Important details: Monsters (including the possibility of patrols in the area), traps, tricks, treasures, or special magical effects that are present should be noted.

Secondary details: Additional descriptive details for each area may also be noted: furnishings, everyday items, smells, sounds, lights, etc.

Dungeon Levels

Dungeons often consist of a series of deeper and deeper floors—known as levels—accessible by stairways, trap doors, chutes, pits, etc. PCs enter the 1st level of a dungeon initially and may discover entrances to deeper levels.

Danger and Reward

Generally, the level of danger and the amount of treasure in a dungeon should be suitable to the level of the PCs.

It is usual for lower levels of the dungeon to have greater risks and rewards. Normally, 1 HD monsters live in the 1st level of a dungeon, 2 HD monsters in the 2nd level, and so on.

Unguarded Treasure

Treasure is usually guarded by monsters or traps, but sometimes an unguarded cache of loot may be found.

Experienced players: When designing dungeons for experienced players, the referee should consider placing only very few completely unguarded treasures.

Deep dungeon levels: The referee may wish to not place any unguarded treasures in the 9th or deeper dungeon levels.

Random Room Stocking

Random Dungeon Room Contents

d6 Contents Chance of Treasure
1–2 Empty 1-in-6
3–4 Monster 3-in-6
5 Special None
6 Trap 2-in-6

Monsters: May be selected by hand or rolled on an encounter table.

Specials: Weird or magical features of an area, including tricks or puzzles.

Traps: If treasure is present, the trap may be set so that it is triggered when the treasure is tampered with (a treasure trap). Otherwise, the trap may be triggered by simply entering the room or a certain area of it (a room trap).

Treasure: If a monster is in the room, roll the treasure type indicated in its description. Otherwise, the treasure depends on the dungeon level (see right).

Example Room Traps

1. Falling block: Inflicts 1d10 damage (save versus petrification to avoid).

  • Gas: Poisonous gas fills the room (save versus poison or die).
  • Mist: Harmless; looks like poison gas.
  • Pit: Opens up beneath characters’ feet, inflicting falling damage on any who fall in (see Falling).
  • Scything blade: Swings from the ceiling, attacking for 1d8 damage.
  • Slide: Opens up beneath characters’ feet, sending them to a lower level.


Example Treasure Traps

1. Darts: 1d6 spring-loaded darts fire at the character, doing 1d4 damage each.

  • Flash of light: Causes blindness for 1d8 turns (save versus spells).
  • Hidden monster: e.g. a snake. Released when the treasure is disturbed.
  • Illusion: Typically of a monster. The monster has AC 9 [10] and vanishes if hit in combat. Its attacks do not inflict real damage: a PC who appears to die just falls unconscious for 1d4 turns.
  • Spray: A mysterious liquid covers the character. Monsters are attracted to the smell: the chance of wandering monsters is doubled for 1d6 hours.
  • Sprung needle: A needle coated with poison jabs out (save vs poison or die).


Example Specials

1. Alarms: Entry alarm that attracts nearby guardians.

  • Animating objects: Inanimate objects that attack if disturbed.
  • Falling blocks: Stone block falls to prevent passage.
  • Illusions: Illusionary passages, doors, or stairways.
  • Shifting architecture: Doors lock and the room rotates, rises, or falls.
  • Strange waters: Pool or fountain with weird, magical effects.
  • Teleports: Magical portal or teleporter to another area of the dungeon.
  • Trapdoors: Leading to a hidden area.
  • Voices: Walls or architectural features speak or moan (e.g. a talking statue).


Treasure in Empty/Trapped Rooms

Level 1: 1d6 × 100 sp; 50%: 1d6 × 10 gp; 5%: 1d6 gems; 2%: 1d6 pieces of jewelry; 2%: 1 magic item.

Level 2–3: 1d12 × 100 sp; 50%: 1d6 × 100 gp; 10%: 1d6 gems; 5%: 1d6 pieces of jewelry; 8%: 1 magic item.

Level 4–5: 1d6 × 1,000 sp; 1d6 × 200 gp; 20%: 1d6 gems; 10%: 1d6 pieces of jewelry; 10%: 1 magic item.

Level 6–7: 1d6 × 2,000 sp; 1d6 × 500 gp; 30%: 1d6 gems; 15%: 1d6 pieces of jewelry; 15%: 1 magic item.

Level 8–9: 1d6 × 5,000 sp; 1d6 × 1,000 gp; 40%: 1d12 gems; 20%: 1d12 pieces of jewelry; 20%: 1 magic item.

Designing a Wilderness

1. Choose the Setting

Basic geography: Decide on the basic geography and climate of the region to be described: whether it primarily consists of mountains, forest, desert, etc. The size of the region should also be determined.

Milieu: At this stage, the nature of the milieu being detailed should also be considered: the general level of technology, availability of magic, presence of different monsters and intelligent races, and so on.

New campaigns: When starting a new campaign, it is recommended to begin by detailing a small, self-contained area that can be expanded upon over time.

2. Map the Region

Major terrain features: Using graph or hex paper, create a map of the wilderness area, marking on the major terrain features such as mountain ranges, rivers, seas, lakes, islands, forests, swamps, and so on. Real world maps may serve as inspiration as to the natural structure and relationship of terrain features.

Scale: Typically, a large scale map (24 miles per hex) is drawn first, followed by smaller scale maps (6 miles per hex) of certain areas, adding more detail.

3. Locate Human Realms

Mark the areas that are controlled by humans, bearing in mind the needs of human Civilization (rivers, farmland, etc.).

Government: Also note the ruler of each human-controlled area: a petty lord, a mighty king, a league of merchants, etc.

Base town (see step 5): Is typically placed in one of these regions.

4. Locate Non-Human Realms

Mark regions that are controlled by other intelligent species that exist in the setting (e.g. demihumans, monstrous races, and so on), taking their preferred environment and way of life into account.

Nomads: Some intelligent species may keep domains with well-defined boundaries while others may move around—hunting or raiding—within a more vaguely defined area.

Monsters: The territories of significant, non-intelligent monsters may also be marked on the map at this stage.

5. Place the Base Town

Locate a base town for player characters on the map, typically close to a river or road near the center of the map. This is where play will begin. The guidelines to the right may be used to help flesh out the base town.

6. Place Dungeons

Place one or more dungeons on the map, somewhere in the vicinity of the base town.

Distance: Dungeons are normally located around a day’s journey from the base town—close enough that travel between the town and the dungeon is convenient, but not so close that the town is plagued by monsters from the dungeon.

7. Create Regional Encounter Tables

Standard tables: The standard encounter tables may be suited to some areas of the campaign map.

Custom tables: For other areas, the referee may prefer to create new tables, with a selection of monsters customized to the area. Special encounter tables should take account of the intelligent and monstrous species marked on the map.

Designing a Base Town

1. Determine Size

Decide how large the base town is and roughly how many inhabitants it has. The size of settlements generally depends on the level of technology available in the setting. For medieval or similar settings, the following may be used as a guide: Town Size Inhabitants Village 50–999Small Town 1,000–4,999Large Town 5,000–14,999City 15,000+

2. Note Services

Make some notes on the presence of the following services that adventurers may require:

    • Black market: For selling treasure and contacting thieves or smugglers.
    • Guard: A town militia or police force to keep the peace and protect the town. It may be useful to note whether the guards are open to bribery and how frequently they patrol various areas of the town.
    • Healing: Some means for characters to cure their wounds (and possibly more advanced services such as curing diseases or even raising the dead). In settings where magical healing exists, such services may be available at a temple, church, or shrine.
    • Lodgings: Rooms to rent, inns, etc.
    • Rumors: Places where notices are posted and gossip spreads.

Detail Ruler

Decide how the town is ruled: whether by a local sheriff or mayor appointed by a lord, an elected council, a confederacy of merchants, etc. It is also possible that a high-level NPC adventurer (with attendant guards and magic) may rule the town.

Detail Other NPCs

Other important NPCs in the town should be noted, especially those associated with one of the services mentioned above or those who might wish to hire the PCs to undertake missions.

Create Rumors

A few local Rumors may be noted, to provide hooks for the player characters to start exploring the local area and possibly find their way to one of the placed dungeons.

Awarding XP

All characters who return from an adventure alive receive experience points (XP). XP is gained from two sources: treasure recovered and monsters defeated.

Recovered Treasure

Treasure that PCs bring back from an adventure is the primary means by which they gain XP—usually accounting for ¾ or more of the total XP earned.

Non-magical treasure: Characters gain 1 XP per 1 gold piece (gp) value of the treasure.

Magical treasure: Does not grant XP.

Defeated Monsters

All monsters defeated by the party (i.e. slain, outsmarted, captured, scared away, etc.) grant XP based on how powerful they are. See the table to the right.

Base XP: The XP value of a monster is determined by its Hit Dice.

Bonus XP/ability: A monster’s XP value is increased for each special ability it has. Special abilities are indicated by asterisks following the monster’s HD rating.

Monsters with bonus hit points: Monsters whose HD are notated as a number of dice plus a fixed hit point bonus (e.g. HD 4+2) are more powerful and are listed separately in the table. For example, a monster with 2 HD is worth 20 XP, but a monster with 2+2 HD is worth 25 XP.

Higher HD monsters: For each HD above 21, add 250 XP to the Base and Bonus amounts.

Extraordinary peril bonus: A monster defeated under especially dangerous circumstances may be treated as one Hit Dice category higher on the table.

XP Awards for Defeated Monsters

Monster HD Base XP Bonus XP/Ability

Less than 15111031+15422052+2510335153+5025475504+1257551751255+22517562752256+3503007–7+4504008–8+6505509–10+90070011–12+1,10080013–16+1,35095017–20+2,0001,15021–21+2,5002,000

Division of Experience

The XP awards for treasures recovered and monsters defeated are totaled and divided evenly between all characters who survived the adventure—this includes retainers.

Awarded XP is always divided evenly, irrespective of how the players decide to divide the treasure.

Bonuses and Penalties

The referee may optionally grant XP bonuses to players who did particularly well. Likewise, players who did not do their share of the work may be penalized.

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