This post is sort of a companion piece to the show in which we discuss the same subject.
This is not about story element, plot hooks, etc. This is about how you structure your story, your plot elements, your clues, etc. , to create the adventure.
I’ve identified five types of adventure structures. Why only five? Because most of the other ones I thought of ended up being a combination of two or more of the five.
The Linear Structure
This is a structure where one scene leads directly to the next. It could be a series of dungeon rooms connected with doors, a pursuit or a mystery where each scene only has clues that lead to the next scene. This is probably the simplest of adventure structures.
(I’m coining this phrase because I couldn’t find a fitting term). In this sort of structure where the players go through a linear set of scenes twice — once to discover the course of the plot and a second time to complete each task.
The simplest example is the so-called “errand boy” plot: NPC 1 wants the party to get Object A. They find out that NPC 2 has Object A, but wants Object B before he gives it up. So the party finds that NPC 3 possesses Object B, but want Object C first, and so on.
Event Driven Structure
In this sort of structure, a series of events occur progress or complicate the plot. These may be the plans and plots of villains, rivals ,etc; or these may be natural events, etc). These events happen at certain times determined by the GM (or perhaps randomly). They may progress until the party intervenes (if intervention is even possible), or they continue regardless of the party’s actions, and the party must simply react to them.
The most common example of this type of structure is the complicated plot by a super villain, but it could also be a series of cataclysmic earthquakes, a series of storms, or a string of serial murders.
Multi-Branched or “Free Form” Structure
In a multi-branched structure, the party is faced with a scene with information leading in several different directions. Each subsequent location leads to the other locations and/or new locations, all of it culminating in a final scene.
A typical murder mystery may follow this type of structure, with a crime scene and several clues leading in a variety of directions.
Some people refer to this as a sandbox, but I disagree.
In a sandbox adventure, there is no plot — only a detailed (or somewhat so) setting. All plot hooks come from the players’ own initiative. The GM reacts to and attempts to complicate these plots and pans.
This sort of structure (or lack thereof) is suitable for so-called “evil” campaigns, where the players take on the roles of villians.
The most famous example of a sandbox is the “Let’s build a strip club!” adventure.
What I’ve provide here is simply a brief overview of the five structure types I’ve identified. In future posts, I’ll detail each one.