Adventure Design

Most adventures are designed so the players can choose how risky they want to get. The classic dungeon adventure gives the players the choice of whether to “go for it” in a lower, more dangerous level or to be cautious and adventure in areas that aren’t so risky (but have less treasure). I suggest thatany adventure ought to give the players some choice about how fast they’re going to go into the riskier areas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a wilderness adventure or a classic dungeon—giving the players decisions is part of the fun for them. When you design wilderness areas, try to have some areas that are more dangerous and some that are less —and figure out a way to let the players know where these are. It’s obvious in a dungeon that the lower levels are riskier and richer; in a wilderness adventure, you’ve got to work a little harder to communicate the risk levels to the players, but it’s worth it.

How Do Challenge Levels Work?

At each “Level,” whether it’s how deep into a dungeon or how far into a forest they’ve gone, the players ought to know they’re moving into an area where there’s a somewhat predictable level of risk and reward. The first thing to keep in mind is that a monster’s challenge level isn’t the same as the “level” on which it’s found: challenge level is really about calculating experience points. The table below gives you an idea of what might be found in a particular “level” of a dungeon or forest. The table isnot a rule; it’s a guideline. Use your judgment.

Level One has the lowest level of risk, and the lowest level of treasure. Players are never guaranteed that every encounter is “beatable” at a particular level, though. Survival depends on knowing when to run and when to get tricky; assuming that every encounter is designed to “fit” the party’s combat capabilities is a sure way to die.

Level Generation (Levels 1–5)
Die RollLevel 1Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5
13d8 CL A creatures6d8 CL A creatures12d8 CL A creatures2d100 CL A creatures3d100 CL A creatures
23d6 CL B creatures6d6 CL B creatures12d6 CL B creatures1d100 CL B creatures2d100 CL B creatures
32d6 CL 1 creatures4d6 CL 1 creatures8d6 CL 1 creatures16d6 CL 1 creatures32d6 CL 1 creatures
41d6 CL 2 creatures2d6 CL 2 creatures4d6 CL 2 creatures8d6 CL 2 creatures16d6 CL 2 creatures
51 CL 3 creature1d6 CL 3 creatures2d6 CL 3 creatures4d6 CL 3 creatures8d6 CL 3 creatures
61 CL 4 creature1 CL 4 creature1d6 CL 4 creatures2d6 CL 4 creatures4d6 CL 4 creatures
71 CL 5 creature1 CL 5 creature1d6 CL 5 creatures2d6 CL 5 creatures
8Roll again1 CL 6 creature1 CL 6 creature1 CL 6 creature
91 CL 7 creature1 CL 7 creature
10Roll againRoll again

Level Generation (Levels 6–10)
Die RollLevel 6Level 7Level 8Level 9Level 10
116d6 CL 3 creatures16d6 CL 4 creatures16d6 CL 5 creatures16d6 CL 6 creatures16d6 CL 7 creatures
28d6 CL 4 creatures8d6 CL 5 creatures8d6 CL 6 creatures8d6 CL 7 creatures8d6 CL 8 creatures
34d6 CL 5 creatures4d6 CL 6 creatures4d6 CL 7 creatures4d6 CL 8 creatures4d6 CL 9 creatures
42d6 CL 6 creatures2d6 CL 7 creatures2d6 CL 8 creatures2d6 CL 9 creatures2d6 CL 10 creatures
51d6 CL 7 creatures1d6 CL 8 creatures1d6 CL 9 creatures1d6 CL 10 creatures1d6 CL 11 creatures
61 CL 8 creature1 CL 9 creature1 CL 10 creature1 CL 11 creature1 CL 12+ creature