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Adventures: Plot-Braiding Published Adventures

S. John Ross

Husband • Cook • Writer
Validated User
One of my personal GMing "things" for the last four or five years in my own campaigns is keeping multiple related goals running through the plot simultaneously. In particular, I like to have at least one "physical" goal (deliver the Alien Ambassador safely to his homeworld) and one non-physical goal (the Alien Ambassador wasn't just lost; he was involved in a romance that must remain secret and is rendering him nearly suicidal and useless for his job), with each goal getting its own set of obstacles and complications (no fair just relying on them to complicate one another, since that'll happen automatically without help) :)

For plots that don't tie immediately to the current campaign goal, I prefer to focus on personal character subplots drawn from the PCs' own backgrounds, to keep things driven.

On several occasions, I've enjoyed mining published adventures for one or more of the major goals, having fun "braiding" two modules together that weren't written to go together, or one module and my own campaign notes, or (in one case) three modules and my own campaign notes.

So, my notion tossed into the chaos of RPGnet discussion is: (1) What are your favorite published modules that are easily adaptable in this fashion? (2) What are your favorites that ALREADY include multiple related plotlines? (3) And (because idle speculation is good sport) what two apparently-incompatible published adventures would make a great braid with a little coaxing and fiddling?

Looking for favorites, observations, anecdotes, and notions (and recipes, if you can find a way to make it apply).

Hunter Green

Just doing this in Kulthea (Shadow World)

Coincidentally I just, in the last few days, started putting together a large, sweeping adventure set in ICE's Shadow World, by braiding together (nice term for it) about a dozen different bits pulled out of various published sourcebooks for that world.

The intent is simple: I want a big adventure set in that world but I don't have time to write a big one right now, and none of the prepublished things really lends itself to the type and scale of adventure I want. However, the books are replete with interesting locales with their own challenges, that simply presume you have some existing reason to be going into or through those areas; or, that presume that your reason to go there is to get something that's there.

The time-worn quesst plot of "collect the pieces of an item" seemed like the obvious way to braid together a bunch of these scenarios and locations into a larger adventure, but I wanted something a little different. The idea I came up with is made of one part Kulthea background, one part stolen from an old sci-fi story "A Subway Called Mobius", and one part lifted from an old campaign of mine called "Crossword" (long story).

Kulthea has a secretive Navigator's Guild (actually several) who provide long-distance transportation using proprietary magic and a set of obelisks. Premise: some expansions to the network of obelisk connections has caused the total network to grow too large and too complex, and this is starting to infringe on a neighboring universe, causing Navigator travel to be unreliable and unsafe -- a big problem because their exorbitant prices are only justified by their reliability and safety. Worse yet, the denizens of this neighboring universe feel a bit miffed by the "invasion" and are preparing a counterstrike. (They're slow to act, so there's time to prevent it, but they're also technologically advanced, so it'll be bad.)

Solution: place some obelisk-like devices at various places in between established obelisks to act as "repeaters" (as it were) and simplify the network and reduce its energy level, correcting the intrusion without eliminating the new obelisk connections. Since obelisks are all in civilized, safe places, the in-between devices will need to go into uncivilized, unsafe places, scattered all over the world.

Its a MacGuffin and not terribly original but it provides all the reason I need for going to a lot of interesting places, and then having to deal with any of the things going on in those places. It could make a small campaign, but I think I'll stick with using it for a long adventure. I expect some of the locales they'll have to get to will have barriers that will require them to go to other places to find the way in, or get something they'll need to get in, so there's lots of room to make the most of it.

I've only been working on this for a few days so I haven't yet run into the problems with the idea that are no doubt lurking below the surface (except for one obvious one, why do the Navigators need help from the PCs? -- easily handled given this campaign's premise, but I still have to decide exactly how).


Registered User
Validated User
Wow... both of your campaigns sound really cool.

I tend to do my own stuff, I might pull an idea here or there, but I tend to have metacampaign stuff happening in the background (like the redemption and reacceptance of the Drow culture by the other elven societies) while I'm doing the more da;y to day adventure stuff.

I do very much like the idea of the Creeping Desert in the Forgotten Realms setting and I'm just starting to hint at hits ramifications (like goblin tribes being driven south into civilized lands, just because the goblins cannot sustain their numbers in the Creeping Desert).

Sjohn, I love the idea of one "physical" plot, one "emotional" plot intertwined. I'm going to note that one and file it away. Great way to think about creating adventure seeds.


Cooler than Carrottop
edit: I totally suck. I didn't read the part where you were asking about published stuff. I spammed my own site in reply. I really, really suck.

By way of apology I'll give this a try...

OK. Start with B2: Keep on the Boarderlands now toss in some A1-4 slaver goodness. The slavers are fronting the cleric that is supposed to operate out of the caves of chaos. The cleric instead of just being a random guy, is the players link to the slavers. The idea is that the cleric gets backing for his attempt to take over the keep and the humanoid raids provide the slavers with slaves.

Now the players can't just randomly kill everything because that would destroy the evidence of the slaver link which they need to follow up on.

... better?
Last edited:

B. Miller

Genghis Khan's Love Child
Validated User
You could do like my first ever DM, when we were figuring out the rules. He had more allowance than alertness, so he bought Tomb of Horrors along with the old blue book basic set with module B1 in it. (I remember that because I bought it from him later on when mine got destroyed in a freak Mountain Dew accident.) So my first night of D&D was taking some of the pre-gen NPC's from the back (or from something else he bought that had a list of them) for PC's into the tomb of horrors. I don't recall that module too well because I never owned it, but as I remember it there were three hallways to choose at the entry, and I think each was trapped with something suitable for a much higher level.

After all the pre-gen NPC's died, I rolled up my first ever original PC. He died instantly as well. Then I rolled up another. And another. And another. Anyhow, that was the evening. Come to think of it, don't do that, because it almost put me off the game altogether :) He's just lucky I was as stubborn then as I am now, because I decided that come hell or high water I'd make second level someday...


Social Justice Ninja
Validated User
Insert dingus A in slot B

In the past, I have played little games of relocating or (similar to Frank) creating new dinguses to string characters through previously unrelated adventures. Site based adventures are pretty easy to relate in this way.

Back when I was running AD&D 2e, I interleaved the boxed adventures Rod of Seven Parts and Night Below.

Rod of Seven Parts is a pretty neat adventure. [aside]My players just loved the giant part... the PCs must enter a giant's keep to find their dingus. It just so happens that their is an aranged marraige going on at the keep, and there are some interesting RP opportunities that you wouldn't expect.[/aside]

Night Below wasn't the greatest adventure. The first part is a fairly interesting investigation scenario, but the second part was a continual hack-fest from what I could tell. (Or as my players called it, "death by perpetual encounter.") But I really wanted to use the end of the second book and the third book, which had an interesting tactical scenario and a chance for some strange roleplaying as the player's best bet for survival is allying with traditionally repugnant creatures.

Of course the solution was simple. I replaced a fairly lame dungeon crawl in Ro7P with the scenario from Night Below, and placed the dingus they needed in the final encounter.

I tend to play up coincidences and make connections when integrating published adventures in my game. This may not be quite the type of thing you are looking for as I run about 10-20% published and 80-90% my own stuff, but here goes: In my current D&D 3e game, one of the central antagonists is a goddess who wants to bring about a sort of "undead revolution." Of course, published adventures frequently have undead as a theme, so finding places to fit this sort of thing in isn't hard.

FDP's The Ghost Machine (part of To Stand on Hallowed Ground features a machine that cause undead to continually reanimate. The machine in the adventure is a prototype for one that existed long ago (and was destroyed) in the adventure background. In my campaign, I simply made the machine a prototype for a machine yet to come... as part of the sinister plan(TM).

Similarly, I am planning on running a mini adventure called The Fifth Sepulchure. In it, a lich who struck a pact with a goddess that he would sleep for a thousand years as part of the process to create an artifact. Of course, I simply remade the goddess into the one I use in my campaign, and made lich and artifact part of the sinister plan(TM).

That might answer questions one and two, though the link is not direct, but I find it awfully convenient to make the elements of an adventure have a relationship to the larger campaign vice just throwing it in in a vacuum. Like just recently, I ran a published adventures with a wizard's tower, but in the campaign there is a society of politically minded wizards the party was struggling against, so I simply made the wizard in question a deceased member of this faction and as a result was able to provide much better hook to get the party in the tower than the provided ones.

Anyways onto querry three. As can be seen above, I would probably pick out adventures with probably leap off points and coincidences that can be played up. For example, in a recent dungeon there was an interesting adventure called "Wedding Bells" that details the exploits of the players on their way to a wedding; there is a wedding in FDP's "The Silver Summoning" that the characters are invited to and central to the adventure, so viola!

Any common element will generally do as a tie point, though the more common elements, the better.

B. Miller

Genghis Khan's Love Child
Validated User
The more I think about this, the more I think I will actually twist some of my high level canned adventures around and tone them down for this party. And maybe not as much as I ought to...give the new players a little fear of God for their players and start them to think that they actually can die (and that I'm not a pushover, which I can be).

One cool idea this braiding thread started for me was to mix up the old OA and Dark Sun settings, which could be cool if I find an obvious story in it that I won't have to ease them in to. As for canned adventures, I still don't really have anything to say, since I tried to avoid them as a GM and the few times I actually ran them were in very different sorts of games.
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