A System for Creating Fantasy Adventures

The following system of tables allows you to generate fun GURPS Fantasy / GURPS Dungeon Fantasy adventures on the fly.  Feel free to use it for solo play, collaborative play, or just for inspiration when designing adventures for your traditional GM-and-Players group.

You’ll need:

The Search for Adventure (Optional)

If your PCs don’t yet have a lead on an adventure, you might want to play out a scene in which they look for work, listen to rumors, check with the local Guilds etc, in search of promising sites for exploration, dragons in need of slaying, or whatnot.  If so, you might want to check out my rules for Searching For Adventure.

Once you have a lead on an adventure, it’s time to work out exactly what that adventure is:

What’s The Adventure?

1 – How Perilous Is It?

First, nominate a desired Peril Rating.  

(Some quick advice: if your PCs are 100-125pts, try for Peril 1.  If your PCs are 250pts, try for Peril 4 or so.  Or click through here for a slightly longer explanation of Peril Ratings)

Then roll 3d6. (Need a die roller?)

Subtract 2 if you critically succeeded on your skill roll to search for leads, if applicable.

3-5 The employer thinks it’s more dangerous than it is. Use the nominated Peril rating, but calculate the Reward as if the peril were one point higher.
6-10 Use the nominated Peril rating.
11-12 +1 Peril
13-14 -1 Peril (min 1)
15 +2 Peril
16 -2 Peril (min 1)
17 +3 Peril
18 -3 Peril (min 1)
2 – How Much Does It Pay?

Roll 3d6. (Need a die roller?)

Subtract 2 if you critically succeeded on your skill roll to search for leads, if applicable.

3-4 Excellent rates, plus Fame and Glory!
5-6 Excellent rates
7-8 Standard rates, plus Fame and Glory!
9-11 Standard rates
12 Low rates – but with Gratitude!
13 Low rates
14+ No employer, hence no payment. This just looks like a promising site to explore for fun and profit.  When the time comes to determine the Adventure type (under Step 5, What Do We Have to Do?”), just declare this an independent Explore! Adventure.

But Give Me Hard Numbers!  

Sure… but these won’t apply to all types of adventures – just to most of them.

  • Excellent Rates: NxPerilX$200
  • Standard Rates: NxPerilx$150
  • Low Rates: NxPerilx$100
  • Fame and Glory: each PC gains Peril social points. Gratitude: each PC gains Peril/2 social points.
  • Gratitude: each PC gains Peril/2 social points.

“N” just means the number of PCs involved.  The term originated in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Adventures 1: The Mirror of the Fire Demon.

Social Points are character points that can only be spent on social advantages such as Ally, Claim to Hospitality, Contact, Favor, Patron, or Reputation, as appropriate to the adventure. They can also be used to buy off the negative versions of these: Enemy, etc.

3 – How Far Do We Have To Go?

Roll 3d6. No modifiers. (Need a die roller?)

3-9 It’s here! A morning’s travel, at most.  Expected travel time 1d6-2 hours. (die roller)
10-11 It’s nearby! A few day’s travel, at most.  Expected travel time 1d3 days. (die roller)
12-14 It’s far away! A week or so.  Expected travel time 1d6+Peril days. (die roller)
15-18 It’s very far away! More than a fortnight.  Expected travel time 2d6xPeril days. (die roller)
4 – What’s The Rush?

Roll 3d6. No Modifiers. (Need a die roller?)

The “expected time” is the travel time tripled, measured in Units of Time.  If you need to, click through here for a quick explanation of “Units of Time.”

3-10 No particular rush – but wandering monsters might get us if we dawdle somewhere dangerous!
11-12 The reward is dwindling! The reward, if any, loses 10% of its starting value for every unit of time that passes beyond the expected time.
13 We’re on a countdown to disaster! 1d6-2 units of time after the expected time elapses, the adventure ends and the whole reward is forfeited.
14 Our foes are multiplying! For every unit of time that passes beyond the expected time, add one extra foe to every encounter.
15 Our enemy’s power is growing! For every unit of time that passes beyond the expected time, add +1 effective Peril to the Villain encounter.
16-18 We’ve got to beat the competition! Someone is trying to complete the adventure before you! When you reach the Goal, roll 3d6. Add a bonus for every unit of time by which you beat the expected time, and a penalty for every unit of time by which you exceeded it. On an 11 or less, you’ve beaten them to it. On a 12-13, they’re there right now! On a 14+, they’ve beaten you and destroyed the artifact, made off with the loot, or similar. If (when?) a fight breaks out, build them as a deadly encounter.
5 – What Do We Have To Do?

This is the big one!  First determine the Adventure Type, and then click through to determine further details.

Roll 3d6.  (Need a die roller?)  We have to…

Examples
3-5 Compete! Audition, joust in a tournament, get challenged to a duel, debate, or dare, enter a contest at a festival, undergo a trial, win a game or race
6-7 Sabotage! Destroy, disrupt, break, disable, desecrate, exorcise
8 Convince! Persuade, blackmail, entreat, bargain, manipulate, intimidate, seduce
9 Chase! Pursue, hunt down, catch up with
10 Slay! Kill, assassinate, collect bounty
11 Fetch! Rescue, retrieve, steal, find, take, get
12 Protect! Defend, guard, escort, deliver, bring
13-14 Investigate! Learn, discover, find out
15-18 Explore! Blaze a trail, find a route, map

Once you’ve determined the Adventure Type, click through to appropriate Adventure Type page and roll for further details.

Then you’re done!  (If you like)  Though if you want even more details, you might try some of the optional table below.

6 – Who is the Employer? or Who is the Victim?  (Optional)

Roll 1d, 1d.  (Need a die roller?)

Note that as a general rule the Employer’s or Victim’s Status should not exceed the Peril of the adventure. This doesn’t preclude you being employed by the King, for instance; it just means that, in cases of that kind, your direct Employer is a lackey of the King, rather than the King himself.  Save really epic plots like “Rescue the Dragon Queen” for Peril 7!

Area of Society Examples, in rough order from low Status/Peril to high Status/Peril
1-3 1 Nobility The Baron’s scullery maid; the Palace groomsman; the Duchess’ lady-in-waiting; the Dragon Queen.
1-3 2 Foreign A poor Halfling, far from the Goodhills; two Elves from the Greywood; the Dwarfish ambassador.
1-3 3 Travel/Transit The stableboy; the coachman; the Captain of the good ship Farflung; shipmaster of the White Sea fleet.
1-3 4 Magic A girl with a fairy ribbon; a hedge-enchanter; the warlock of Southwark; the Seventh Sorceress herself.
1-3 5 Religion A devout leper; a coven of believers; an elderly priestess; a Bishop; the High Druid of Ethil Duamath
1-3 6 Military A crippled veteran; a strapping young guardsman; the captain of the third company; the Lord General.
4-6 1 Mercantile The errand-boy for the market stalls; a caravan driver; White Falcon Trade Co; the Merchant’s Guild.
4-6 2 Craft An old woman who weaves; the village blacksmith; the Guild of Taylors; Nelialian the Elven smith.
4-6 3 Agriculture A child born to serfdom; a peasant family; a prosperous farmer; a very wealthy franklin’s only daughter.
4-6 4 Entertainment The Tavern’s serving maid; a down-at-heels minstrel; a famous bard; the Prince’s Master of Revels.
4-6 5 Underworld An escaped serf; a pickpocket; a gang of thugs; a crime lord; the Lost Brotherhood of the Night.
4-6 6 Underclass A slave; a beggar; a family of lepers or outcasts; plague-bearers; slavers; slumlords; the slaver’s Guild.
7 – Who is the Villain? (Optional)

Either make one up, or roll 1d for inspiration.  (Need a die roller?)

1-3 A person – or perhaps an organization. Roll on the “Who is the Employer” table, above.
4-6 A monster – or a monstrous organization. For an appropriate monster, see the post on Monsters (link to come!). If you just want a random answer fast, roll on the “Random Monster Type” table, below.
Random Monster Type

Roll 1d, 1d.  (Need a die roller?)

1-2 3-4 5-6
1 Aberrations Elf-Kin Rat-Kin
2 Beast-Kin (misc) Extra-Planars Serpent-Kin
3 Demon-Kin Faerie-Kin Spider-Kin
4 Dragon-Kin Goblin-Kin Troll-Kin
5 Dwarf-Kin Goo Undead
6 Elementals (appropriate type) Insect-Kin Wolf-Kin
8 – What is the Site? (Optional)

Either choose an appropriate type, or roll 1d.  (Need a die roller?)

1 A settlement such as a Village, Town, or City.  See Town Adventures!  (link to come!)
2 A Wilderness area. See Wilderness Adventures! (link to come!)
3-6 A classic Dungeon. Either choose a dungeon type, or determine it be rolling on the table below.
Random Dungeon Type

Either choose an appropriate type, or roll 1d, 1d.  (Need a die roller?)

1-3 4-6
1 Cavern Ruin
2 Cavern Rift
3 Castle Sewer
4 Labyrinth Tomb
5 Mine Temple
6 Prison Warren

 

Now you really are done, and it’s time to put all the elements together and work out what it all means!

Preparing for the Adventure

Once you’ve found a lead on an adventure, determined what that adventure is, and decided to pursue it, it’s time for the characters to make some preparations for it – if they can!

Each of these things takes a Unit of Time for one PC.  Your options are:

  • Negotiate a Better Deal with your employer to get a better rate, or to cover up-front costs, travel expenses, and so forth.
  • Purchase Supplies to keep you fed, clothed, and sheltered during the adventure. (See my system for Towns, to come in future posts!)
  • Research the Regions you’re planning to travel through, to get a better idea of the kinds of dangers you’re heading into
  • Research the Journey itself, to familiarize yourself with the route, its hazards, etc.
  • Research the Dungeon waiting for you at the end of the Journey

Then it’s time to set off!

Journeying to the Adventure Site

After making your preparations, the next step is to travel to the adventure site.  If your adventure site is “Here,” then this is trivial: you just need to take a short walk.  But if your adventure site is further away, it’s a more dangerous affair: if you want some help running this collaboratively, then you might like to take a look at my guidelines for Journeys.

In any case, don’t forget to mark off Units of Time as you go!

Exploring the Adventure Site

Once you arrive at the adventure site, you can begin trying to search in earnest.  Unless it’s obvious from the adventure type description that your adventure works differently, the object of your quest will be at the Goal.  This generally means that the knowledge you seek, the object you’re trying to retrieve, or the monster you’re trying to slay, is to be found deep down in the Dungeon!

If you want some help running this collaboratively, see my system for creating Dungeons during play.

Plot Twists

No adventure is complete without at least the possibility of a surprising plot twist! But how to come up with one?

If you’re a GM, well, this is your job.  But if you’re playing without a GM, then the following tables might be handy. (And to be honest, GMs might find them handy for inspiration, too).

Refer to your adventure type on the left, and then roll on the appropriate table(s) when the time comes.

When and How to Check for Plot Twists

Chase! When you’ve caught up with your quarry, roll on the But Are They What They Seem? Table
Compete! When you’ve met the conditions for success, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.
Convince! When you’ve met the conditions for success, roll 1d.  (Need a dice roller?)  On a 1-3, roll on the But Are They What They Seem? Table.  On a 4-6, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.
Explore! When you’ve met the conditions for success, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.
Fetch! When you reach the Goal, roll on the Is It Really Here? Table.
Investigate! When you reach the Goal, roll on the Is It Really Here? Table.
Protect! If your job is solely to guide someone or something through the wilderness, then when you’ve reached the end of the Journey, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table. If your job involves anything else, roll 1d6. (Need a dice roller?)  If 1-3, after completing half the Journey, or when the first attack occurs (whichever comes first), roll on the But Are They What They Seem? Table.  If 4-6, when you complete the mission, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.
Sabotage! When you’ve met the conditions for success, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.
Slay! Roll 1d6.  (Need a dice roller?) On a 1-3, when you reach your target’s location (or the location of your first target, if there’s more than one), but before fighting it, roll on the Is It Really Here? Table. On a 4-6, when you’ve met the conditions for success, roll on the We Did It! What Now? Table.

Concluding the Adventure

Wrapping up the adventure can be a kind of mini-adventure in itself.  The following are my rules for concluding the adventure.

Claiming Your Reward

Once you’ve completed the adventure, you’ll probably be wanting the promised reward. This can get complicated. First, you have to travel back to wherever the Employer is.  This can be a challenge in itself!  Then, you need to determine how willing the Employer is to actually part with that reward…

You may want to start by buttering up the employer by using a skill such as Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, Merchant, or similar, at a penalty equal to the employer’s Status.  Success gives a +2 bonus on the “So, How About That Reward?” Table; critical success gives a +4. There are risks, though: failure gives a -2 penalty, and critical failure gives -8 (!)

Then, whether or not you’ve tried to butter up the employer, roll on the following table:

So, How About That Reward?

Roll 3d6.  (Need a die roller?)

3-4 Extravagant reward: +50% financial and social.
5 Extremely generous reward: +20% financial and social.
6 Reward and additional glory or gratitude: +20% social. If no social, gain 1pt.
7 Reward and a bonus: +20% financial. If no financial, bonus is $50xPerilxN
8-9 Reward and additional work: roll for another adventure, with the option of re-rolling the Reward.
10-11 Full reward, as offered.
12 Stingy reward: -20% financial and social.
13 Really stingy reward: -50% financial and social.
14 When you arrive, you find that the employer is missing! Roll up an Investigate adventure.
15 No reward.
16-18 Betrayal!   A Deadly Encounter, rated at the current Peril!  If you win, gain the promised Reward. If you lose, roll up an Escape adventure.

Earning Experience

At the end of the adventure, a GM would usually award some experience points to the characters on the basis of how well they did during the adventure.  If you’re playing without a GM, how do you know how may XP you’ve earned?

Yes, this system solves this problem using a table.  Surprising, no?

When everyone agrees that an adventure has come to a close, for good or ill, roll 3d6 once on the table below.  The result applies to the whole party.  As you can see, the table is fairly harsh on those who are not willing to Raise the Stakes during the adventure!

(Note: this table is meant to be used in conjunction with the rules for Plots, which are an additional way to earn character points.  If you’re not using those rules, you may want to increase these values.)

“How Many Experience Points Do We Get?” Table

Roll 3d6, and factor in the modifiers listed below.  (Need a die roller?)

2 or less  3 character points each.

3-6          2 character points each.

7-11          1 character point each.

12+          No character points.

Modifiers:

  • Subtract 4 if everyone agrees the adventure was a raging success.
  • Subtract 2 if everyone agrees the adventure was a success.
  • Add 2 if everyone agrees the adventure was a failure.
  • Add 4 if everyone agrees it was a complete disaster.
  • If the adventure was a success, the group can also subtract 1 for every time they “Raised the Stakes” during the adventure.
  • If the adventure was a failure, all those bonuses are worthless.
  • Subtract 1 for every full session of play that was devoted to the adventure.