- Gnome Stew - http://www.gnomestew.com -

Gnome Stew’s Giant List of RPG Adventure Types

My planning cycles for my current game are, for me, pretty short — usually one week. That’s actually a good thing, because it forces me to focus on the important stuff and helps me avoid getting bogged down in crap that won’t hit the table, but it does mean that I’ll take all the help I can get.

One thing I find helpful is having a list of adventure types (not plots) to choose from, and that’s the focus of this article. Below is a big list of broad adventure types suitable for a wide range of RPGs, genres, campaign styles, and groups — I hope it’s useful to you!

Using the List

This list is like a menu: browse, find an adventure type you like, do some brainstorming on possible plots, and you’re off. If the first type doesn’t pan out, try a different one.

I got the idea for this list from the Decipher Star Trek RPG, which I’m currently running for my group. It includes a list of Trek episode types, which is a useful tool in trying to make my game feel like the show. It’s handy because it’s the broadest possible starting point — the first step on the road, the big picture.

The other thing I like about it is that seeing an option there makes me consider an episode type I might otherwise dismiss, like Trade in a non-mercantile campaign, and consider whether it might actually be fun for my players. The big list below works the same way.

Gnome Stew’s Giant List of RPG Adventure Types

Not sure what kind of adventure to run next? Start here!

(Many thanks to my fellow gnomes for helping me create this list, and to the Decipher Star Trek Narrator’s Guide — an amazing GMing resource — for giving me the idea.)

The List Is Just a Starting Point

When I’m prepping for my Trek game, the the list is my starting point — I need a lot more than just an adventure type to plan out a fun night of gaming, and you need more than Gnome Stew’s list.

For my game, I also pick a broad type of conflict (like Man Against the Unknown or Against Man, another tool the game provides), consider the episode’s place in context (Will it be too similar to what we did last week? Am I on pace to reveal everything I want to be part of season one?), and then come up with an outline for what it’s actually about and what might happen.

But that starting point, the menu of episode types, is a big help when it comes time to start sketching out the next session. It’s not the same as a list of plots (for that, try Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters or S. John Ross’ free Big List of RPG Plots) — it’s broader than that, which is why I find it so useful. I hope you get as much mileage out of this list as I’ve gotten out of the Trek version in my game!

(Incidentally, I’m not inventing the wheel here: many RPGs include a list like this in some form. But I wasn’t able to find a broad, multi-genre, multi-RPG list that could be used for many different games, which is why I decided to write one. If this list leaves anything out, I’m all ears!)

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. He lives in Utah with his amazing wife Alysia and their awesome daughter Lark in a house full of books and games.



12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Gnome Stew’s Giant List of RPG Adventure Types"

#1 Comment By Ben Scerri On February 8, 2011 @ 12:48 am

A great list, and another great article! Thank you especially for this one, as it gives me a “to-do” list. I plan on going through all of these and designing at least one adventure around each type, so as to give the players a broad range of experiences.

Further, I think someone (more talented with coding than I) could use this as a basis for an adventure generator. Perhaps you roll on these, as well as a few other random lists and it spits out a brief outline of an adventure?

#2 Comment By Noumenon On February 8, 2011 @ 2:28 am

Few comments here, but I copy-n-pasted it to use when designing.

#3 Comment By Roxysteve On February 8, 2011 @ 8:33 am

@Ben Scerri – You might try checking out the scenario generators used in Realms of Cthulhu and Space 1889:Red Sands (Savage Worlds flavorizers, and jolly good ones too) and possibly in other places. A few die-rolls and Bob’s your mother’s brother.

#4 Comment By Roxysteve On February 8, 2011 @ 8:38 am

If you are playing Delta Green you have another option: Pass a few notes that suggest suspicious behavior by the other players and simply sit back and watch the players LARP for three hours.

Yes I’m joking. Mostly. >Bo)

Motto: A Modern-era Call of Cthulhu player’s worst nightmare is a bored GM.

#5 Comment By Bercilac On February 8, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

@Ben
http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/bl-glenn-beck-conspiracy.htm

@Martin
Nice list. I love a good list… Obviously it’s far from exhaustive (my next adventure’s not on it). But it’s a useful exercise to think “What kind of adventure is this?” when prepping because it means you put hints in the game to the pcs as to how they are to act and what their goals are. One of my biggest problems when writing is, in fact, ill-defined goals, so this is probably something I need to do more.

#6 Pingback By Getting the band back together | Apathy Games On February 9, 2011 @ 1:02 am

[…] everyone invigorated in playing. If you need some quick ideas for an adventure I’d suggest Gnome Stew’s Giant List of RPG Adventures (not really that giant, gnomes are pretty short) for some quick session ideas. Pick an idea to run […]

#7 Comment By Martin Ralya On February 9, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

I’m glad you found the list useful, Ben and Noumenon!

@Bercilac – What’s missing?

#8 Pingback By Ravenous Role Playing » Blog Archive » Friday Five: 2011-02-11 On February 14, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

[…] Gnome Stew’s Giant List of RPG Adventure Types The Groundhog Day Effect in 4e D&D 5 Tips To Increase Role-Playing At Your Game Table Johnny’s Five – Five Ways to Facilitate Enemy Escape How To Use Traps To Make Combat More Intense […]

#9 Comment By Bercilac On February 23, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

@Martin Ralya – My last adventure centred around an underground fighting ring. As a category, you might call it “Gladitorial contests” including jousts, wrestling matches, etc. The category is defined by characters fighting each other for some prize or reward, combat is (mostly) non-lethal, and the purpose is to create a spectacle.

I did it as a something-for-everyone approach. The comic relief learned that the rival to his love was in attendance, so he entered to defeat him (never made it past the second round, but got to play the comic relief); tank players get a chance at the gold (our tank stayed home, the light combatant got through the first couple of rounds until the brick I threw at him squished him… I had designed it so the party could only win the match by cheating); rogueish characters could gamble on the results; and because it was a gathering of underworld celebrities, I slipped the assassin character a mission, which he subcontracted out to the party.

Perhaps, given that I used it basically as a container for a series of mini-missions, we could regard it as more of a temporary setting than an adventure, but it was a nice unifying theme that kept the whole party busy and involved. My next adventure is definitely on this list, but I’ll tell you about it after I run it. Not sure who reads this.

#10 Comment By Martin Ralya On February 24, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

@Bercilac – I’d say that probably merits a new category, Contest. Good call, and thanks for the breakdown!

#11 Pingback By Gnome Stew's Giant List of RPG Adventure Types | Gnome Stew … | Helseo On November 25, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

[…] Gnome Stew's Giant List of RPG Adventure Types | Gnome Stew … This entry was posted in Game and tagged currently-running, decipher, from-the-decipher, game, […]

#12 Pingback By Using Rumors, Plot Hooks and Patron Encounters to Fuel RPG Adventures | S. W. Shinn On June 22, 2015 @ 7:15 am

[…] RPG Adventure Types […]