- Pick a theme for the area. A specific mythology you find inspiring, something from history, etc.
- Name (should reflect or theme). There are some great names here.
- Come up with a solid adventure premise (typically an amazing location with a treasure to hunt).
- Decide on a ruling faction, with traits & motive.
- Add some kind of counter balance (another faction, some kind of nefarious enemy, etc).
- Keep these concepts in mind at all times: Dangers, Stakes, Motives, Urgency. The more you can weave in, the better.
Spark Tables are very handy tools for quickly creating a setting. They are typically made of 40 words divided into two columns.
For an example Spark Table see here. With some light editing, they result in phrases like:
- Digesting Claws
- White Eyes
- Distorted Tongues
- Predatory Awakening
- Grimalkin Fungi
- Nourishing Deep
- Paranoia Underbrush
- Mouth-less Cemetery
- Withering Hue
- Subterranean Ripple
- Transmutation Sparrows
- Moonlight Trees
- Mildew Gloom
- Smoldering Shade
To create a Spark Table, you’ll want to find a find a book or website close to your adventure’s overall theme (e.g. a PDF with related content). You can pull words from it by simply picking a random page and writing down whatever meets your eye, or you can import it into a web-based tool. You can also import public domain books on relevant subjects. WordCounter.net can create lists of non-common keywords from a website. You can then copy and paste those words into a spreadsheet.
Alternatively, you can create Word Clouds. You can copy and paste whole paragraphs or (depending on the book’s copyright, of course) the entire PDF.
When you’ve finished:
- Clean up the words. Sort by d20 in two columns.
- You’ll want to generate at least 10 interesting phrases for inspiration.
- You can of course simply write down 40 words that sound good together.
- Images can also serve as sparks.
- If you can draw, great! Otherwise, find a map-making tool that works for you. Examples are draw.io, Hex Kit, Owlbear Rodeo, Wonderdraft, etc.
- Draw at least four lines of any shape, each from a different color. Each line should cross another at least once. These lines represent roads or paths.
- Generate at least 3 Points of Interest: take in consideration the theme(s) and factions. Put these wherever the lines cross.
- Generate regional/hex features for each POI using tables and placing results in those POIs where it makes most sense.
- Place additional (especially hidden) dangers, encounters or NPC’s in some of the POI.
- Add some travel/route complications, taking in consideration any POIs along the way.
- Encounter table (either 1d6 or 2d6), with at least one result tied to the party or its members.
- Details on any treasure or relics (Who wants it? Where is it now? Why wasn’t it ransacked before?). Include maps.
- Describe rooms for a dungeon (one sentence describing obstacles, hazards, creatures or minor treasure).
You do not need to do this for ever single POI, only those that interest you.
- Look on the map and think of who would want treasure, and what kind.
- Look on the map and think of where that treasure could be now.
- Add 2-3 steps leading up to the location of the treasure, but don’t be too obvious.
- Add some sort of “dungeon” in the place where the treasure resides.
- Stock “rooms” of a dungeon (additional treasure goes here)
- Maze Rats has incredible treasure and “loot the body” tables. You can find an automated version in the Adventuresmith app.