Adventure Brainstorming Process
A group of GMs meet in the discord voice chat, and try to improvise a one-shot adventure in 2 hours. Our goal is to brainstorm fun ideas and improvise stories together in a chill, lighthearted, no-pressure environment.
We use a brainstorming template to guide us through the adventure creation process. We copy it into a new google doc editable by everyone in the group, go through it step by step, and fill it with our ideas.
We brainstorm ideas and establish the key elements of our adventure: interesting premise, the goal our players will pursue, setting and locations they’ll visit, characters they’ll meet, challenges they’ll encounter. For every step, we make a list of ideas, briefly discuss them, and pick our favorite ones.
Then we try to combine our ideas into a short outline of an adventure, put it all together into a list of scenes that flow into each other, add up to an interesting story that makes sense. We use the One-Page Adventure Template to create a short summary of everything we have brainstormed, it will give us all the information we need to run the adventure for our players, or playtest it between ourselves.
Our best adventures are published on this website, available to everybody on the internet for free (as long as everyone who has participated in the brainstorm is okay with that).
To get the most out of our brainstorming sessions read our brainstorming guidelines, they contain a list of useful tips that will help you to get better at brainstorming:
Brainstorm what’s hard to improvise
Try to make sure we have prepared everything that would be difficult to improvise on the spot, but no more. We don’t want to over-prepare, it is safe to omit anything that the GM can improvise during the game. But we do want to make sure that we have prepared all the essential parts, and didn’t leave any big unsolved open questions.
If you notice something that’s missing or doesn’t make sense - bring it up so that we can figure it out together.
Avoid discussing mechanics
We focus on creating system-agnostic, low-combat adventures. Stories that can be adapted to any system, that anyone can drop into their campaign as a quest, or run as a one-shot. Please avoid discussing rules and mechanics until the very end, because getting caught up in mechanics takes a lot of time and distracts people from the most challenging and interesting part - creating a story. Once we have a good story, it will be very easy to figure out the stats, rules, and combat encounters.
Keep up the good pace
Our goal is to complete the adventure in 2-3 hours. If you notice that we’re spending too much time on one specific section, encourage everyone to make a decision and move on to the next step of the writing process. It’s better to pick a random idea and roll with it than to get stuck trying to make a decision. If we find it difficult to choose the idea we want to focus on - we vote on it or roll the dice to pick a random one.
Try to keep the discussion focued
If you notice that people are getting distracted, stuck, or too caught up in the details - try to steer the conversation back on track.
Do your best to “Yes And” people’s ideas. Don’t shut down ideas - embrace them, build on top of them, add something new, find a way to make them work, make them better.
See if you can combine multiple ideas suggested by other people into something new and exciting - trying to incorporate other people’s ideas into the story often leads to new and even more awesome ideas.
Try to contribute at least one idea to every step of the writing process. Doesn’t have to be the most brilliant one, even the simple/obvious ideas can be very helpful and lead to something interesting.
If you’re struggling to come up with a creative idea - use one from your favorite Movie, Game, or a TV show.
Mix and match tropes. Combine two different ideas. Try to add an unusual unexpected twist. Change a key element of the idea, switch the genre, setting, goal, important character traits, etc. Take an idea that already exists, and try to make it different from what we’ve seen before.
Use Writing Prompts
If you need help coming up with ideas, use our Writing Prompts Tool.
Useful learning resources
Watch how Brandon Sanderson brainstorms ideas with his students here. Watch his full fantasy writing class here. Listen to this excellent guide on screenwriting - it is very applicable to writing adventures, and it’s the most brilliant summary of storytelling theory I’ve ever heard.