Adventures

Overview

In FFZ, "Adventures" are the individual missions within an arc and a campaign that the PC's embark on. Each one is generally fairly specific and self-contained: save the princess, protect the caravan, retrieve the holy book, kill the monster, etc. You can think of these something like quests given out by NPC's, or missions on a notice board. There is something that needs to be done, and heroes (or at least mercenaries) are required to do it.

As befits the "hook and line" philosophy, there should be more potential adventures in the game than your party will ever engage in. This shouldn't be overly difficult to achieve. It's up to the characters (and the players) to decide what they'll undertake. It's up to you to give them something exciting and significant with their choice.

Adventure Goals

Each adventure the party embarks on has one main Goal. This is the reason for undertaking the adventure, and the outcome of it should satisfy any of the hooks you've put in the adventure. You should give the party at least three ways of accomplishing the Goal, and you should be open to other ways they may try as well.

For instance, the main goal of the adventure might be "Slay The Dragon." The party might do this by recruiting a destined dragon slayer NPC, by gaining a magic dragonsbane sword, or by trapping the dragon in a massive cave-in. The goal should be clear to the party: they should know that "driving off the dragon" or "allying with the dragon" won't meet the goals of the adventure (perhaps because the dragon is not to be trusted, and if it was driven off, it would simply return as soon as the party was gone).

Quests

The ways you have to satisfy the goal of the adventure are your main Quests. The party takes up at least one of the Quests, and earns a victory over it, and then can accomplish the goal of the adventure. Adventures may require more than one successful Quest to complete (in which case they should present more than 3). In the example, there's the Recruit The Dragon Slayer Quest, the Find The Dragonsbane Sword Quest, and the Get Dwarven Explosives quest, and each will require their own challenges, and their own storylines. There may be significant overlap: perhaps the Dragon Slayer knows about the legend of the Dragonsbane Sword. Perhaps the dwarves who make the Explosives also made the Dragonsbane Sword. Maybe the Dragon Slayer is a captive of the Dwarves, captured for stealing something from their hold (while he was looking for the Dragonsbane). Any adventuring party that is caught up in the adventure's goal will encounter dwarves and swords and slayers, almost certainly. The more entwined the Quests are, the more effort it saves you as a DM, since you only need to worry about a more limited selection of NPC's and locations, each one having multiple uses.

Each Quest should utilize some combination of challenge types below, though the Quests may differ in their ratio. One Quest may be mostly combat, while another combines mystery and exploration, and another is interaction and exploration. You can develop the nature of the antagonists the party is up against by choosing particular types of challenges. For instance, if the party is in a harsh wilderness, exploration may happen in every Quest, even if it is less in some and more in others.

Side Quests

Side Quests are optional undertakings that won't meet the goal of the adventure, but may meet other goals. They're generally shorter and more specific than the main adventure. They may provide additional rewards, and develop NPCs, locations, and even party members more. For instance, a DM may help a character realize their Hope of Falling In Love on this Side Quest, where a princess is about to be sacrificed to the dragon. They can save the princess, and though this won't slay the dragon, it could satisfy this character's Hope, and it may result in additional Rewards (such as a special Accessory treasure given to the party by a grateful king).

Hooks

You should provide at least three "hooks" for each adventure you plan. This means that there should be at least three reasons for the party to go on any particular adventure, three things that will lead them to want the same goal as the Adventure's goal.

  • Reward Hooks: These are hooks in the pattern of, "If you do this, you will gain X." X may be gil, powerful items, fame, renown, power, or any other thing that becomes the possession of the characters. If a dragon is guarding great treasure, it has a Reward hook: The characters get the treasure if they slay the dragon! Of course, an ascetic Monk or pious White Mage might not care that much about personal gain…
  • Heroic Hooks: These are hooks in the pattern of, "If you do this, it will help people." It may just save them a little bit of effort (such as by running an errand), or it may save their lives. If the dragon is attacking the town, it has a Heroic hook: the characters help save the lives of the townsfolk by killing it! Of course, a self-intersted Soldier or a mercenary Ninja won't be very interested in just helping people…
  • Story Hooks: These are hooks in the pattern of, "If you do this, you will discover more about the world, the people in it, and possibly yourselves." It gives the characters knowledge, and advances the story of the campaign. If the Dragon has information about the villain, or perhaps works directly for her, it is a Story hook: the characters will get closer to the ultimate evil threatening the world by confronting it! Of course, people sometimes have their own personal things to work through before they worry about the problems of the world…
  • Event Hooks: These are hooks in the pattern of, "This happens. React to it!" It may be some monster attack, or some natural event, or some piece of the villain's plan falling into place, or any other event you can think of. If the Dragon attacks the town while the party is there, it has an Event Hook: The characters are pressed into action to save their own lives, even if they have no other goals. Of course, events aren't always pro-active, and the party also likes deciding their own course of action…
  • Hope Hooks: These are hooks in the pattern of, "If you do this, you will accomplish some part of your Hopes." These depend on each character's specific Hopes, and may be specific to only one or two characters, but that character may help recruit the rest of the party. You likely don't want to have a character meet all of their goals early on in the game, so save these for defining moments: when you're awarding levels, or when you reach a climax. Of course, some Hopes are more personal or more difficult than others, and sometimes characters have conflicting goals…
  • Fear Hooks" These are hooks in the pattern of, "If you don't do this, you may have to face your Fears." These depend on each character's specific Fears, and may be specific to only one or two characters, but those characters may help recruit the rest of the party. Fear hooks can seem mean and cruel if over-used (playing a constantly scared character is not very heroic!), and they usually work better as things to be overcome: a problem an adventure presents that you must get through, rather than something you must avoid. Of course, sometimes these fears are things you've overcome, or that you decide to face rather than flee…

Challenges

Each Quest (or Side Quest) the party engages in is made up of discrete challenges. There are usually about 3 major challenges per quest (often less for a sidequest), and there can be quick challenges alongside these.

Major Challenges

Major challenges are big events that involve all party members. These are essential to the success of the Quest, and require all party members working together — they're way too difficult to handle alone. These challenges are climactic and important, and there is a close focus on the actions of the party in a party challenge. Usually, the party will have to spend some resource to overcome even a normal party challenge, and there is often an escalating difficulty of party challenges, where the final challenge is some sort of Boss.

Complex Challenges

In a major challenge, one way to ramp up the difficulty is to include secondary minor challenges that are required to solve the major challenge. For instance, in a climactic combat with the Fiend of Water, there might be a Secondary Challenge involving repairing the ship that the Fiend is trying to sink. Without the ship repaired, the fiend can't be fought, so in order to do one, you must accomplish the other.

Minor Challenges

Minor challenges are relatively minor events that one or two party members can handle alone. They are still often essential (or important, even if not essential), they just don't require the detail or focus of a party challenge. They may consume resources (especially on a failure), but will rarely be as climactic as a party challenge

Challenge Types

Challenge types generally fit into four major categories. Usually each challenge type will be important in a quest, though individual quests may have more of one than another. Major challenges may be complex, involving several challenge types at once, while minor challenges are usually a simple series of die rolls.

  • Combat: Combats occur when the party must fight against some force. A quick combat challenge can be against minor monsters, wandering creatures, or hostile wildlife. Quick combat challenges rarely risk the party's life, but the party may get wounded, and may spend time, magic, or healing to get success. Major combat challenges may be against bosses or elites, and they do risk death if not handled carefully.
  • Interaction: Interaction occurs when the party must deal with other NPC's, through dialogue and roleplaying. Quick interaction challenges might be for convenience: they might cost time or money if they are failed, and you may spend some resources trying for success, but they are rarely your only option. Major interaction challenges might be essential to success, and might pull on all a party knows and can wield at once. Failure of a major interaction challenge may fail the entire adventure.
  • Exploration: Exploration occurs when the party is en route from one place to another. A quick exploration challenge is dealing with the typical hazards of journeying: random brigands, raging rivers, inclement weather, and hostile townsfolk. Minor exploration challenges may take some resources, and failing them can cost time and money better spent elsewhere, but they are rarely fatal. Major exploration challenges are exceptionally difficult, rigorous, and dangerous, and may cost lives if they are mis-managed.
  • Discovery: Discovery occurs when the party is searching for some hidden information. For instance, when solving a riddle, working out a mystery, or finding a hidden thief in the darkness. Minor discovery challenges may involve traps or mysteries that the party might spend some resources on, but that are only pieces of the puzzle. Major discovery challenges involve big mysteries, deadly assassins in the shadows, and other big, risky secrets that stand between success and failure of an entire quest.

Antagonists

Antagonists can take many forms, depending on the challenge you face. It may be monsters you fight, people you must persuade, ruins you must explore, or mysteries you must uncover.

Minor Challenges usually have a single antagonist. Major Challenges usually have one antagonist (or the equivalent) per character. Complex challenges may mix antagonists: dangerous trapped vaults with horrible monsters, for instance; or a mystery that must be uncovered by talking with some rivals.

Antagonists generally should require about two "successful" rolls to overcome apiece. The Antagonists should also be "fighting back," forcing the party to spend resources, and possibly fail. Each character can take a grand total of about 10 "successes" against them before needing to recharge, so each character can handle about 5 antagonists each before they must rest. Each Quest should be about 9 Antagonists long, giving the characters plenty of opportunity to use defensive and healing abilities if they want to make it.

Antagonists may drain HP directly (risking PC unconsciousness), but they may also rack up Failures. Failures are applied against the party's Threshold, which is small: each character has a Threshold of 5. When that Threshold is met, the character is out of the adventure until they rest.

Resources

During an adventure, you may spend various things in pursuit of your goals. There are ways to recover these things as well, that you may employ, but every recovery has a cost.

  • Gil: Gil is the money of the world, the coin of the realm, the GP that you spend. It is a very flexible thing to have, as it is useful to gain items, or to bribe officials, or to repair equipment, sleep at an inn, or to pay for exceptional training, or any one of a hundred other uses.
  • Items: Items help you meet a "baseline" of ability: even a party without a healer can get by functionally (if not greatly) with tonics and potions. Ethers help restore power, and grenades help deal damage, and various medicines and toxins cause status effects. Items invariably cost gil.
  • MP: A party has an MP pool, and abilities that cost MP to use. These abilities are flashy and potent, but they're limited in that they won't always be available.
  • HP: A party also has an HP pool, and that goes down as the party takes damage. HP is whittled away gradually, and is limited in that once it reaches 0 for any one character, that character is out of the adventure.
  • Threshold: The Threshold is the number of times the party can fail Challenges before the Adventure is failed entirely. While FFZ generally does not kill player characters, horrible things can still happen to the world and to to the people that they care about, and each campaign's villain clearly has its own goals.

Recovery

Gil and items don't recover: once you've spent them, they're gone forever. However, gil often rolls in as a result of quests and sidequests, while items may be awards as well (or at least may be bought with gil). HP and MP, meanwhile, are recovered with down time. During down time, a character can rest and recover all of their HP and MP in time for the next challenge. Down time usually happens between adventures.

Taking Extra Down Time

If you need to take extra down time in the middle of an adventure, you can. However, this counts as a failure for your current quest, and advances the timeline of the adventure.

Rewards

In any adventure, there will be the opportunity to earn some fabulous rewards, as well as some rewards that come standard for finishing the adventure and gaining experience and power.

  • Information: An information reward comes standard with any adventure: it will tell you something about the world, the people in it, and yourself. Certain bits of information are of practical use: knowing the white dragon is weak against fire will help you slay it. Other bits of information are more about the world or the people in it: learning that no one has returned from the Cave of the Abyss might not help you, but it will let you know to prepare if you decide to go there.
  • Gil: The standard reward is a gil payment. Gil will help you supply yourself for future adventures, and can be spent on training, items, and gear.
  • Items: You may also gain items as a consumable reward. Item rewards are meant to be used, though you may save up many of them, stockpiling them for when you really need them.
  • Levels: Levels come at the rate of roughly 1 per Adventure. When the party meets the goal of the adventure, they gain a level, which comes with more power and capability, and new unlocked abilities.
  • Treasure: A weapon, armor, or accessory is considered a "treasure" reward: it's something your party can put to immediate use, and that will last for at least a few levels. Treasure rewards are special, but do happen with some regularity.
  • Artifact: Artifact rewards are rare and special: items that the DM may put in an adventure that may affect the game in surprising and unusual ways. Artifacts are not guaranteed to be useful, but they may also be EXTREMELY useful. What is always true about an artifact is that it is something the DM gives out (and then takes away, if they decide to), not something you are entitled to (unlike most of the other treasure).

Difficulty

FFZ largely leaves it up to individual GMs how difficult their game is. Players roll dice to beat challenges, which end up beating quests, which end up beating adventures — if luck and skill combine correctly, of course. Failing part of this is not the end of the world, but if you fail too many adventures, you may wind up with a very dismal outcome for the world — in that case, it may be the end of the world, literally.

Failure and Victory

Each Adventure has a goal, and this goal is met with your Quests. If you fail on 2 of the Quests, you fail the adventure (sidequests don't usually count against this total, and can add extra failures to your "threshold"). If you fail on none of the Quests, or accomplish many sidequests, you may gain additional rewards.

Each Quest is made up of challenges — generally 3 major challenges per Quest. If you fail on 2 of the major challenges, you fail the Quest (minor challenges can count as half a failure). If you perform particularly well on a challenge, or accomplish many of them, you you may gain additional rewards.

Each challenge is made up of a series of die rolls. The game assumes that, for the die roll to be successful, it must hit a minimum number (see below). Depending on how many rolls are made, and how many high or low rolls there happen to be, you may win the challenge or loose the challenge. If you perform particularly well on those die rolls, you may gain additional rewards.

The Meaning of Failure and Victory

If you roll low on a dice for a challenge, it usually means a weak contribution: your attack wasn't strong, or your argument wasn't very persuasive. If you fail a challenge, that means part of the quest is in jeopardy. If you fail a quest, this means your entire adventure may fail. If you fail an adventure, you don't achieve your goal, and if you fail it particularly badly, you may be worse off than when you started.

Escalating Difficulty

To give your games a sense of rising danger and tension, you may want to escalate the difficulty of the adventures over the course of the campaign. You could start out level 1 characters facing challenges set at level -5, and then increase the challenge level by 2 for every 1 level the party gains (so that at level 2 the difficulty is -3, LV3: DL -1, LV4: DL 1, LV5: DL3, LV6:DL5, LV7:DL7, LV8:DL9, LV9:DL11, LV10:DL12). You may mirror this in the individual Adventures by having the quests vary in difficulty (from the target DL-1 to the target DL+1), and even having individual challenges vary in difficulty within a quest.

What Difficulty Measures

Generally speaking, a party of a given level should be able to successfully complete a given adventure of equal level 66% (about 2/3rds) of the time. The idea is that the party will fail some adventures, but overall will be successful — a happy ending is more likely than a sad one. Ultimately, happy endings are what we shoot for, even if there are some sacrifices and losses along the way. This means that each quest and challenge should have approximately the same baseline success rate at the same level.

On the level of any die roll, this means that a character should have to roll a 3 or higher on a d8 to succeed. It also means that it should take at least 2/3 successful die rolls to accomplish a minor challenge (for one character), and at least 2/3 successful die rolls per character to accomplish a major challenge (for the whole party). Given the differences in the nature of some challenges, some these die rolls won't be evenly distributed: some characters may rack up more failures than others. In a party of 3 for a combat that lasts 6 rounds (6 turns per character), that party would need to gain 4 successes, even if those 4 are 3 from one character, 1 from another, and 0 from the third.

This is the "basic difficulty level" that monster and challenge statistics are governed by. The size of your dice helps affect your chances at victory: a d6 die has only a 50% chance of hitting that requisite 3, while a d4 has a 25% chance. Meanwhile, a d10 will hit it 70% of the time, and a d12 will hit it 75% of the time (and has a 50% chance of getting 2 victories!).

Example Challenges

Minor Challenges

  • Goblin Attack! (Combat): Goblins ambush the party, but once two are killed (each success kills one), the rest run off.
  • Deep Woods (Exploration): The woods are thick, overgrown, and tangled, but there are paths in use that a clever forest person can find easily enough. Exploring is dangerous, though: poisonous plants and thorny bushes serve as traps for the unwary.
  • Mysterious Illusions (Discovery): In a sheltered glade, magical illusions weave a deceptive veil: it looks empty, but conceals a secret doorway. Attuned characters can notice it, but the illusion leads characters down dangerous cliffsides and into the dens of angry bears, rather than being easily pierced.
  • Reclusive Elves (Interaction): In the hidden village of the elves, it's difficult to get basic services, but a persuasive character can convince them. Of course, some may be hostile…

Mission Templates

Though the exact types of adventures your party can undertake are entirely limitless, the actual structure and purpose of the adventures usually fits into one of a few pre-defined formats. These are essentially "adventure archetypes": tried-and-true formula for a good adventure that you can add your own individual, unique, and special world-specific touches to. These templates can be combined and re-mixed in order to create more complex adventures, as well.

Fetch

A "fetch" mission is one where the party heads into dangerous territory to retrieve something. It may be an item, a person, a creature, a plant; medicine, a rare pelt, a missing princess, or a rare crystal. Really, the exact item doesn't matter so much — it's often referred to as the "MacGuffin." The MacGuffin is, essentially, whatever you must go get and bring back. These are some of the most common types of missions, as they provide a reasonable pace from peace to danger and back again, with a climax right at the item in question (or upon trying to leave with it).

Escort

An "escort" mission is one where the party must guide some non-combat units through dangerous territory. This may be a caravan, a scholar, a creature, or almost anything. The escorted object is something that the enemies desire (or desire to destroy), and protecting it serves to complicate matters and make encounters interesting. When planning an escort mission, you should consider what the escorted thing can provide in encounters, and how to keep it "out of the way" except when threatened. The easiest way to do this is to give the escorted thing an "ally ability" that it uses in combat, and to have it threatened whenever a PC is KO'd in combat. It should be possible for the party to fail this mission without being KO'd themselves, so ambushes and greater numbers on the enemy's side are all important strategies, and the escorted thing must be target-able. The PC's must also have a way of preventing that targeting at some cost to themselves (such as spending a turn hiding the escorted thing). It should be noted that "defend the castle"-style missions are technically escort missions: the thing escorted just doesn't go anywhere.

Stealth

A "stealth" mission is one where you must get through a dangerous territory that you have no real hope of overcoming in direct combat. Not being able to fight your way through, you must sneak, getting under and behind defenses rather than tearing through them. Stealth missions are generally more Exploration or Trap based missions (with perhaps some Dialog encounters thrown in when under disguise or when finding allies) rather than combat-based missions. Combat should be basically deadly, something the PC's want to avoid except on a limited and ambush scale. For stealth missions, try to avoid the "one failed encounter kills us all" motif. This is too binary: there should be some room for failure before total failure (and lots of room for successes before total success). Give PC's a way to be noticed and then silence the thing that notices them before the whole thing is lost.

Assassination

An "assassination" mission is a one where the party must kill some specific entity. Either through stealth or through basic combat and straight-up warfare, that entity must be rendered dead. Frequently, PC's will get this mission against monsters, especially leaders of monster armies or rulers of monster kingdoms or especially horrible, violent, or unpredictable monsters. Of course, they might also get this mission against royalty or townsfolk and usually, the final adventure qualifies as this with regards to the villain: kill the bad guy.

Timed

A "timed" mission is generally something you add to another mission to up the tension. A timed mission adds a time limit onto the challenges, meaning that if you take too long (seconds, minutes, days, or weeks, depending on the scale of the adventure) you loose. The goal you need to accomplish before time runs out generally depends on the other kind of mission you're taking on: a timed assassination mission means that you need to kill something within a certain amount of time, for instance.

Numbered

A "numbered" mission is something you can add to another mission to up the complexity. A numbered mission adds a quantity of times the task must be done, meaning it will take longer than doing it once. Killing a certain number of creatures, or collecting a certain number of items, or saving a certain number of NPC's, can all be numbered missions. Having a numbered mission

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