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Adventures

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 170
Chapter 7

Elements of Adventure

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 172
Past the elaborate details and fantastical beasts, beyond the schemes of villains and works of strange magic, lies the culmination of the Game Master’s craft: the development and harmonizing of numerous characters, plots, creatures, and settings into a single vibrant, dangerous, and enthralling experience: a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure. More than simply the sum of its parts, a great adventure transcends any host of villains, arsenal of cunning traps, legion of monsters, or stack of stat blocks. Brought to life by the interplay of a creative GM with dynamic players, a great adventure is something akin to a living fantasy story, thrilling and captivating in a way that—like an epic work of fiction— draws participants into the tale, makes them integral parts of the excitement, and leaves them yearning to see how the story unfolds. Such an adventure is both the pinnacle and the goal of the Game Master’s art.

Yet building such an adventure proves no mean feat, and it relies on a variety of factors. While the previous chapters of this guide have laid the groundwork to help GMs choose and create many of the elements that go into crafting a great gaming experience, these elements all come together in the adventure and the act of storytelling itself. To help GMs in the sometimes daunting task of pulling together a great fantasy adventure, this chapter presents a storehouse of advice, inspiration, and tools for GMs to plan and create adventures in a wide variety of settings. From advice on managing staple elements of nearly any plot, to helpful new rules elements to enhance campaigns venturing into classic RPG locales, to random encounter tables easily customized for use in nearly any setting, this chapter is designed to be a constant aid to GMs, no matter what types of campaigns they decide to run.

Dungeons

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 174
One of the most beloved and common adventuring sites in the game is the dungeon. In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the word “dungeon” has a much wider definition than merely an underground prison cell—instead, “dungeon” in this chapter refers to a connected series of rooms and hallways within which are scattered numerous encounters with monsters, traps, and other challenges. A dungeon, under this definition, could be the underground levels of a fortress, the fortress itself, a series of caverns, a basement under a house, the house itself, a lonely tower in the woods, a shipwreck, a treasure vault, an abandoned crypt, or any other location that has a series of hard boundaries to limit exploration. Generally, these boundaries are represented by solid walls, but in some cases they can be dense vegetation (such as in a hedge maze), treacherous cliffs (for a series of mountain ledges), or even a fence enclosing a large area (like a graveyard). The key defining feature of a dungeon is simply that the encounter areas are connected and self-contained.

There’s a reason that dungeons are so common in the game—they represent the simplest method of constructing an adventure, since a dungeon map really is nothing more than a flow chart. At their most basic, the chambers of a dungeon represent decision points and the hallways represent paths between those points. The layout of a dungeon removes many variables from the game, allowing the GM to focus on a limited number of areas that he knows the PCs are likely to visit. Since you know what rooms and what routes are available before the game even begins, you can prepare for encounters much more easily than you can for an adventure set in a city or the wilderness, where the flow chart concept is no longer literally represented by the solid stone walls and becomes more of an abstract guide for plotting purposes.

Planar

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 184
Beyond the mundane world of humans, elves, gnomes, and dwarves lie vast realms known as the planes of existence. Almost limitless in size and potential, the various planes embody the fundamental aspects of reality: alignments, elements, energies, and so on. Each plane is a universe unto itself; it follows its own natural laws and has its own unique inhabitants—the outsiders that occasionally visit or are summoned to the mortal world, be they gods, angels, demons, devils, or even stranger creatures. Literally anything is possible on the planes, making them a perfect location for exotic, terrifying, wondrous, and deadly adventures.

Taverns

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
It’s an understatement to say that the tavern is a staple location in the fantasy genre. It’s the perfect place for the PCs to meet up, conduct business, and wind down after an adventure. Shady characters abound in taverns and all manner of activities, legal or otherwise, can take place beneath their smoke-filled ceilings. Unfortunately, the tavern’s ubiquity is such that players may treat it as something of a running joke. Unless you’re willing to inject some variation into your taverns, the PCs will continually run into the same staple of surly bartenders, busty barmaids, and drunken patrons itching to get into a brawl at the drop of a hat.

This chapter looks at ways to add some variety into your campaign’s taverns, inns, and restaurants, making them into memorable experiences that can liven up the phrase “So, you all meet in a tavern...”

Urban

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 202
None would deny that opportunities for great adventure lie within the dank dungeons, winding caves, and sprawling wildlands of the world. However, the place where the PCs come back to sell their treasures, rest, and live their lives can hold excitement as well. Urban settings shouldn’t be overlooked as a place of adventure. Filled with people, businesses, intrigue, and secret locations, cities can provide adventure hooks on literally every street corner.

This section looks at how settlements are put together, how the PCs move around them, what business can be conducted there, and how to craft your own adventures within a city, taking into account both real life elements and the incredible possibilities that magic affords to fantasy settings.

Water

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
Water is both a great enabler and great destroyer of civilization. Life can’t exist without it. Trade and travel are made much easier by its presence. Yet water can also kill, from drowning on a personal level to floods and tsunamis on a mass scale. Terrestrial life is dependent on water but at the same time fears it, as evidenced by tales as old as the sea itself, of monsters and the hideous fates that await travelers who dare to sail out of sight of land. What better place to set an adventure than on a twisting river, upon the high seas, or deep in the briny world below?

Wilderness

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
Game Masters frequently use wilderness travel simply as a means for the PCs to get from point A to point B, with an occasional random encounter thrown in to liven up the proceedings. But the wilderness has more to offer than just a path through the wasteland and a few wandering monsters. The GM’s responsibility is to bring the wilds to life. Once he has a living, breathing wilderness, the GM can start to set a variety of adventures in the wild and across the world.

What sets a wilderness adventure apart? First, the obvious answer: the terrain is more open and traversable. The party may travel through declivities, valleys, and gorges, but in general, they’ll have a wider, broader range for their trek. They will not be constrained by dungeon walls or cavern tunnels, and can choose their own pathways to their destination, but with these benefits come a wide variety of additional hazards and a potential for adventure.