The Quintessential Adventure Types

The basic adventure type often determines a general tone, suggests a goal to be achieved, and determines a framework in which the story unfolds. Each different type of adventure should directly affect the hero's perceptions, emotions, and actions.

This is the most common and straightforward adventure type. In an Action adventure, heroes are presented with a task and confronted with obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish that task successfully. Heroes characteristically encounter monsters, natural disasters, human enemies, and various opportunities for the characters to exercise their abilities or skills.

This adventure type is humor for amusement's sake. Its purpose is to provide entertainment with a minimum of genuine danger or tragedy. Comedy adventures are designed for laughs. Early in the adventure, heroes should encounter amusing situations which demonstrate that circumstances are genuinely not being taken seriously. Plans tend go horribly awry for both heroes and villains. Strange encounters, peculiar characters, generally non-lethal monsters, witty dialogue, and odd situations abound. Characters, including the villains, are amusing, bumbling, witty, or strange, rather than menacing. Even a very frightening villain should have some crack in his armor, a silly mannerism, a pretentious habit, a mental aberration, or a sensitivity about his physical appearance.

This type of adventure scenario involves covert operations, surveillance, stealthy infiltration missions, intelligence gathering, and other clandestine deeds, such as assassination or rescue. Characters are presented with tasks and must devise intricate or clever plans to accomplish those tasks. Other characteristics include grim, efficient enemies, betrayal, and various cloak-and-dagger encounters. The task often calls for a minimum of bloodshed. For example, the greater the number of characters who die, the less successful the mission.

This type of adventure is designed to scare both the characters and the players. Just having a monster attack is not enough. The monster must first frighten the characters. A Horror adventure should start off menacing and incrementally increase a sense of terror to the end. Heroes are presented with dark, musty, old settings, things creeping around in the dark, terrified characters, violent weather, inexplicable monsters. Use psychology to frighten the heroes. Creeping things constantly gnaw at the very edges of the their perception. They sense some lurking thing watching them. Monsters possess strange abilities and behave in unexpected ways the heroes can't predict.

This type of adventure scenario presents heroes with an enigma, riddle, or mystery, often involving murder. The heroes must discover what’s going on, who did what to whom, and why. Heroes are presented with an intriguing question, crime, or macguffin leading the characters to investigate and frequently interact with other characters, such as witnesses, suspects, and authorities.

In this adventure, some villain offends the heroes or targets them for interfering with his machinations. Alternately, an offended character could enlist the heroes to avenge his honor. The villain must be located and confronted, resulting in a final duel or showdown. The insult must be perceived as an intolerable offense. The villain could steal his property, injure or kill his friend, lie to or about the character, etcetera. This grim adventure is characterized by strong emotions and violent encounters.

The central plot of this adventure type is a romance between two characters. Heroes are presented with a relationship complicated by obstacles. Someone kidnaps one of the lovers. A deceitful character convinces one lover of something awful about the other. One lover finds he has to settle an old debt by marrying another. One lover belongs to a profession the other cannot stand. The lovers are from different social backgrounds and are opposed by their families, customs, or society.

This adventure type is actually a hybrid. It primarily combines aspects and elements of action, horror, and mystery adventures. The thriller may or may not include aspects and elements of espionage, revenge, and romance adventures. However, it avoids aspects and elements of comedy adventures.

Simple Versus Complex
Short and simple plots often use only one type of adventure. Longer, complex, and more interesting plots often combine aspects and elements of multiple adventure types. When designing an entire campaign or series of related adventures, one could design multiple simple adventures, each using a different adventure type. Alternately, one could design multiple complex adventures, each using aspects and elements of multiple types in each adventure.

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