I’m a sucker for evocative names, be it people, places, or even (especially!) adventures. An adventure name gets the blood flowing into the brain, conceptualizing what may come to pass, and helps keep me engaged. Read on for tips on why you may want to consider using — and sharing — adventure names at your gaming table.
The Name Game
Many of us cut our RPG teeth on any number of systems but typically with an introductory adventure or two. An adventure that had a name, like most modules, that was evocative and lured us in. Classics like “Keep on the Borderlands,” “Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle,” (seriously!) or “Pieces of You.” Naming pre-defined adventure modules is so ingrained in the hobby that we don’t think twice about it, but how many of us name our own adventure creations?
Having a name from the GM standpoint does a number of key things:
- Provides a hook to hang our creative hat on
- Can help tie otherwise unrelated plot elements together as part of cohesive whole
- Can be used as a foreshadowing element
- Are another creative outlet for GMs to explore
- Solidifies an adventure — and its contents — as “ours”
Naming adventures also draws strong parallels with television episodic content. Naming an adventure can harken back to tying what would normally be an unrelated series of events into part of the larger whole. If nothing else it provides an equal point of reference. “Remember that time when…” versus “It was in ‘Past Tense’ that we discovered…”
The foreshadowing element is another great tool, in this case we’re foreshadowing the events to transpire within the next several hours. In “The Broken Tower” our players minds are engaged in looking for the symbolism in the title. Maybe the adventure takes place in a tower? Perhaps it instead references the “broken tower” of the political infrastructure that is corrupted and revealed during the course of events? In either case, you’ve got your players thinking about it before you’ve even picked up your dice.
Speaking in my more recent games (specifically, Star Trek), I know that having an adventure title not only feels true to the source material, but also puts the players in the frame of mind of actors in a television show. It’s a subtle difference but when that title and stardate are put on the board, you know this shit just got real! I know if I ever see an adventure titled “The Final Endurance” I’ll likely crap my pants!
For myself, naming adventures is a creative outlet that I enjoy. Finding the play on words or riding that line between revealing what’s going to happen to the characters and foreshadowing events within.
When naming an adventure, try not to be overt in the title. Leave some mystery to the imagination. “The Lost City” was not one of TSR’s finest naming efforts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say a passible introductory adventure saddled with a bad name.
Naming your adventures poorly can also be a distraction. So be warned!
Look in many places for inspiration. I’ve a fondness for song titles or even lyrics as adventure titles. They’re descriptive and vivid by nature but open to interpretation.
Finally, I have to confess that I have blocked out an entire season of adventures by title alone, without any concept as to what the adventures were about. The adventures were named first and the content was derived from the title. Sometimes a good title is all you need to get the GM juices flowing.
Plus, naming your adventures lets you do cool thinks like this:
Name your adventures or not? Share any tips you may have below!