You’ve created a masterpiece. Your PCs are loving it. In fact they keep telling you how wonderful this adventure is that they don’t want it to stop – but you’ve only got one scene left and then it’s over. Do you end it? Or try to make it last longer? What do you do? How to you capitalize on this awesome?! This is how.
As you know, we love our sponsors and only show you stuff we ourselves use in our games. So! Hello and welcome to this weeks episode of How to be a Great GM. We’re talking about adding MOAR to your existing adventure, but there are some good ways to do it, and some bad ways to do it. So this is the scenario: Our heroine has been tasked to find the missin prince – rumoured to have been abducted by an evil Senator. Our PC hero goes on the journey fighting off Rock Ogres, and Wyverns. Finally she arrives at the Senators lair to find the prince is actually in league with the senator, and they needed the heroine to be away from the city so they could kill her and her companions. They defeat the prince, but the evil senator escapes. They persue, killing a hydra on their journey to his secret secret lair. The players are besides themselves with joy. They are loving this adventure. But all that’s left is for them to kill the senator. That’s what you’ve planned. And why not – this is a solid adventure.
So you want to pad it. How?
We have a few options available to us – but before we hit them, options you should not do: Increase the power, damage, or health of the encounters you’ve already planned. That isn’t padding an adventure, that is making combat last longer. It’s horrid, your pace – which has been excellent suddenly hit a mud pool. AVOID like the plague. Put face-masks on it and keep six feet apart.
So what do we have in our arsenal?
Side Quests, Unexpected Enemy, and Complications. Although they seem like they are in order here, they are not, and they are not mutually exclusive either. As a matter of fact, they often work together.
Side Quests are red-herrings. They quite literally have nothing to do with the main quest, but seem to be urgent enough that they must be done now. It is critical to realize these should be single session, once-off, short additions to your game, not multisession events. Why? Because if it lasts longer than a single session it becomes an adventure on it’s own. That is not our goal. We want to padd our existing adventure. A side quest might be: The senator has set his pet Rock Golem to attack a nearby village and kill everyone. The PCs must stop the rock golem or sacrifice the village. Side Quests only work if you make sure the PCs are aware that time is not a factor. A lot of the time a side quest will be ignored by the players because they’re worried the main quest must be done NOW. So if the senator flees, leaving his rock golem to kill the village, provided the PCs find a note that tells them: I’ll be waiting in my villa beyatches. Then they’ll be happy to kill the Rock Golem. If however, they are torn between losing track of the senator or sacrificing the village, some may just say tough luck village, we’re after the senator. I didn’t say padding was easy.
Unexpected Enemes are additional enemies for the PCs to encounter, but not additional enemies added to an existing encounter. I’ll go through that again – if you planned on the hydra fight as having a single hydra, if you want to pad the adventure addting in three hyrdra’s won’t padd anything. It’ll just make the battle last longer – which is not out goal. However, if they defeat the hydra, and as they are chasing the senator, he releases another wave of monsters to hinder the party – it gives the PCs an opportunity to avoid those monsters, to hide from them, to negotiate with them, or to fight them. But it gives them choices on how to handle the situation. Another trick which I’ve used, but not often enough, is to have another group of heroes show up: We’re here to save the prince. We want the reward. It could end up being a fight, it could end up being a social engagement, it could end up with them joining the party and as a group them going after the senator. The point is – it’s padded your adventure.
Complications add to the plot by requiring the PCs to do something BEFORE they can face the big bad. The PCs get told by an old druid – In order to slay the Senator you must first make sure the goddess of death is not on his side, otherwise you will never succeed. Go to the caverns of the screaming death and give her an offering of a drakes egg. You thought you just needed to do X, when in actual fact you now need to do X,Y, and Z to win. Complications can be multisession, unlike Side-quests. Why? Because they have become technically part of the quest – you haven’t shifted away from the end goal. I would advise never having more than one complication per adventure. The reason is simple: Your awesome adventure has now become a series of blocks that your PCs are hitting up against. Too many and they’ll likely loose interest.
Now that we have three types of padding options open to us – and please folks – feel free to write how you pad adventures in the comments down below. Also hit that like button if you’ve found this useful thus far, and the subscribe button to support the channel. Right, now we have our padding technique, but how do we put this into practise? We’re usually in mid-session when we need to pad an adventure, or in between sessions and we have a week to figure out what to do. I create a list of at least three names, three objects, and three locations. It isn’t difficult. We might say: Niklas, Hurin, and Tomer – for names, a drakes egg, a demon-forged blade, and an imp, and for locations lets say the Bridge of Tochus, the Abandoned Crypt, and the crows road. It is easy for us to then decided how to use that. If we want a Side Quest we could say: Niklas has a demon-forged blade and is going to slaughter the princess as she crosses the Crows road. Then for complication, as the PCs get to the Crows road, bandits lead by an Imp named Hurin attack them confusing them for merchants. Finally we could say that in order to slay the senator, the drakes egg must be given to Tomer the wise who will consume it on the Bridge of Tochus at dawn to protect the PCs from the Senators ‘charm’ magic.
How do you know which one to use? That’s up to you to choose what is most appropriate for the situation, but you must read your players very carefully before you choose any method. Your players might be having a blast because the pace of the adventure is moving quickly and they’re loving it – in which case a Complication is more likely to be of use and fit the mood. If they are enjoying interacting with the world, and the NPCs, then a side-quest might be better. If your players however, seem bored and disinterested with the story, but you are totally into your adventure, do not pad. Suck it up and get them to the end of the adventure so you can work out what you need to change or adjust for your next adventure to get them back to enjoying your game.
That’s it from me for this week, how do you pad? Do you pad? Leave your thoughts down below. We’ll play out with our sponsors details and info, I cannot stress enough how much I love their stuff. It wouldn’t be here otherwise!