5x5 for pre-printed adventures?

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Does anyone have any hints, tips, or insight into making a Pre-printed Adventure, SoW specifically at the moment, a 5x5 adventure format?

Is it possible to give your players choices in a railroad adventure?

Viva La "what ever version of D&D you are playing right now!"
So you want to make your own adventures as a printable product? I'm working on B5 sized Page with Double Columns. Maps go on pages with single columns. Do your own artwork cover with Gazetteer as the Title Font. Paragraph Titles 14pt Times as Text 12pt.

Aim for a PDF arount 32 pages at most with Cardstock Covers (front and back). Get it printed and bound at a copyshop using Comb Binding. Any Big Maps on an A3 and fold the sucker up.

Probably best to look at an existing Adventure For its Best Layout.
The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
I am constantly amazed at how many of the people answering questions on this forum manage to talk for a while and throw out lots of technical detail without in any way answering the actual question asked. Uninvited criticism on technical matters that do not pertain to the sought-after information are also prevalent, although not in this case.

Pink Rose: First, awesome sig. Second, not that this is particularly helpful but no, there might not be a way to turn a railroad "pre-printed" adventure into something with real meaningful choice for your players. All the effort it would take to make a franken-Quest, you might as well just try to build one from scratch. I suck at maps, though, so personally I'd prolly cannabilize the maps. I could be wrong, it's always seemed so tough I just never tried. I either build my own adventures from scratch, or buy myself some time with a pre-printed and warn my PCs that this one's got rails.

Yellowdingo: No. Just no. That's not even partially the question Pink asked. I will grant, he (or she) could have phrased the question a little more clearly, but honestly, the intent was still clear. You're trying to show off this one thing that you actually do know and you're bored so you post it on the internet, but really, all you've accomplished is to make me lose just a little bit more faith in humanity. Ironically, you did manage to answer a question I've wondered for a while. I thank you for that.
You will probaly get better responses on the proper forum, i known there are tips there for improvements on the original.
Thanks for the answer, JecksValou. That's what I thought, but I figured I would ask.

Yellowdingo, you misunderstood my question.
I was wondering if there was a way to make a pre-printed, on-the-rails adventure more free-form and sandboxy.

Pruano, I frequent that forum. I wanted more input from the community as a whole, and I also felt that this question pertained to more then just SoW. It could be Night Below, or ToEE, or Chaos Scar.
I was just wondering if there was a way.
Viva La "what ever version of D&D you are playing right now!"
I have next to no experience with pre-printed adventures.  I've read many of them, but never actually ran one.  So, take that as you will.

But, what jumps out at me when you talk about the 5x5 method is that it assumes there is more than one storyline unfolding in the world at a time.  It's a zoomed-out approach.  I think, more importantly than giving up the 'railroad tracks' (if you will), what you need to do is take the premise of the adventure and extrapolate out.  Take the social/political climate as presented by the adventure and figure out everything that isn't actually being said by the author.  Make up as much extra story as you have to to open up the world.

Preserving the 'railroad tracks' is really just a matter of making sure that what ever else the PCs want to do, sooner or later they'll have to address the original adventure, or parts of it, if they want to accomplish the other stuff.  You essentially manipulate the 5x5 structure so that every path the players choose passes through the original adventure sooner or later.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
My tip for drawing maps PinkRose and JecksValour, is to draw one line for hallways and a basic square or rectangle for rooms. Using the lines as a guide draw around them to mark out the walls and remove the guidelines. Finish by adding map markers and a little colour. Easy as pie!

Easy to draw maps.
Just in case I failed to mention; I am playing D&D 3.5e.
I was wondering if there was a way to make a pre-printed, on-the-rails adventure more free-form and sandboxy.

The only way that I can foresee you making a sandbox-style adventure is by simply producing an overland map, populated with an abundance of points of light.  Think Dungeon Delve with an accompanying overland map.

I could see this evolve via a community website where you have an overland map, and people start claiming territory on that map and populating it with encounters.  That would actually be a damn interesting and unique venture.

Undertaking this as a solo project would be a valiant effort, so I wish you luck.

Celebrate our differences.

Asside from the opinions already given, i see only two ways, which may or may not work, depending on the adventure:

- join a couple of adventures, by creating joint points or using existing ones (the referenced geographical one, for example).

 - expand on the adventure to add side-treks with consequences. 
Yellowdingo and langrishe, the problem you're having with your dough is that you aren't letting it rise overnight. Also, make sure to activate your yeast by soaking it in warm (but not hot) water for ten minutes.

Pink, depending on how tight the adventure is, it might not be possible without some major surgery. But, if the campaign involves a lot of traveling, throwing in sidequests to hide the tracks of the railroad should be somewhat trivial. In addition to finding information about the main quest, they discover information regarding a local curse. Or, upon hearing that the characters are going to X, a local merchant tries to hire them to track down his daughter, who went missing while traveling in that direction a week ago.

The other, work-intensive approach is basically to disect three or four adventures so that the plot of one naturally hooks into the others, giving players the choice of which ones to go after in whatever order they want. Then you divorce some of the major plot elements from their set locations, so for example, that battle with the BBEG will occur on the fourth adventure, no matter which one it is. The feasability of this really depends on the adventure.
Thank you all for the thoughts and insights.
And my Bread turned out great.
Viva La "what ever version of D&D you are playing right now!"
Does anyone have any hints, tips, or insight into making a Pre-printed Adventure, SoW specifically at the moment, a 5x5 adventure format?

Is it possible to give your players choices in a railroad adventure?


Hmmmmm....  This gives me a chuckle.  I am sure there is a way to turn any published adventure into a more "5x5" or "sandbox" game.  You can start with this blog post here:

I will personally take a look at the SOW campaign and post ways to make into a 5x5 campaign, and maybe even take the first adventure and see if I can turn it into a 5x5 adventure.  All in the effort to make a railroad campaign/adventure into a more "sandbox" type experience.
There's one for the "no good deed goes unpunished" files:  I thought yellowdingo and lagrische shared some rather nice tips for "making a pre-printed adventure" - beating them up for trying to help out with a misunderstood question isn't going to help anyone

I found it a bit hard to follow the question, but I take it the question is "How do I convert a commercial adventure with limited options into something that offers more player freedom and DM flexibility?"

I had to do a bit of extra research just to understand the question, so maybe this will help:

The factors at play here would seem to be:

  • pre-printed adventures tend to be easier to design and publish when there are not many options - basically, the adventure is a straight plot with limited setting details and options (unless a limited setting is provided in the prologue)

  • campaign settings tend to offer all the freedom that pre-printed adventures usually do not, but are basically all setting details and plenty of options, without much plot to give it purpose (unless a sample adventure is provided)

  • there are DMs who have run into the limitations of adventures and campaign settings, who are seeking a hybrid of the unlimited freedom of a campaign setting with the interesting plots of an adventure, without the pointless open-endedness of one and the "railroading" of the other

  • one way to create such a hybrid is to create multiple simultaneous plotlines in the same campaign setting, and give players the clues they need to choose between the plotlines as desired (and then optionally weave the various plotlines together into an epic whole so that players get the impression that whatever choices they made, the result is a larger-than-life story built around their characters)

  • the 5x5 method is designed to map multiple plot lines so that they are easier to work with, making it a handy tool for creating a hybrid, assuming there are enough plots and an expansive enough setting to work with

  • "Project Slaughterhouse" represents an alternative (and not incompatible) method of creating and mapping simultaneous plotlines to create a world of incterconnected plotlines where PC actions in one plotline have measurable consequences in the other plotlines

My advice in general (without reading the plot of "Scales of War"):

  1. you'll need to take the published aventure apart, break it down into one or more easily-summarized plot line or paths

  2. if the adventure is so simple, it only offers a single plot path, you will be forced to add additional plot paths by:

    1. creating your own plot lines, or

    2. introducing one or more additional published adventures, or

    3. adding complexities to interesting plot elements of the simple published adventure to expand them into larger plot paths relating to the central plot

  3. modify elements of the plot paths to make them as plug-and-play as possible; the plots have no fixed home, and can be moved wherever appropriate
    For example, a published plot path specifically involving retrieving an Ivory Key from the Crypt of Gloom can be generalized for our purposes into retrieving a "Key of Plot Unlocking" from a "Generic Evil Crypt" - the players may be presented a choice of seeking an Ivory Key from the Crypt of Gloom, or retrieving a Map of the BBEG's Lair from an Abandoned Dwarven Mine, or they might surprise you by ignoring your choice and taking an unexpected trip into the Catacombs Under the City or into the Haunted Woods just for laughs, but any of these four plots may use the same general map ("dressing" converted to tombs, forest ruins, caves, or whatever as needed), essentially the same role-playing encounters and skill challenges, and basically the same undead monsters and treasures leveled up to an appropriate challenge level for the party, with only a little quick re-skinning of descriptive details for appropriate flavor.  The players get the illusion of having more choices than they really do, while you have less than a 1/4 of the work that you would have had if you'd created different maps for every possible location....

  4. after you have 4-6 plot paths to work with, find ways to weave the plots together, using the 5x5 and/or "Project Slaughterhouse" tools for to map them and keep track of how they interact... maintain a pool of "plot coupons" drop into any adventure as needed:  "map to secret entrance of plot 3", "solution to puzzle in plot 2", "identity to boss monster in plot 5", etc. - then simply be sure provide the coupons along with treasure before they are needed, whatever plot the PCs stumble into first

  5. think of hints and prompts that can be used to point PCs in the right direction if they seem to need a push at any point, and think of obvious ways to provide these hooks (gossiping bar maids, travelers on the side of the road, diary pages on a dead adventurer's corpse, and so on)

  6. if needed, flesh out the campaign setting just enough that you have something to work with when PCs wander around and peek into whatever areas interest them; at most, you need only a sketch of a map, a few stock NPCs, and a number of interesting entrances suitable for dropping your plots into; if fleshing out the campaign setting suggests additional generic plot paths, feel free to weave those into your existing plot map

  7. start the game, let the PCs wander where they wish, or give them two or three of the prompts from step 5 if they seem uncertain of what to do first, drop an appropriate plot beyond whatever entrance they choose to go in or invent on their own, and refer to your plot maps as necessary

I think most of this should take care of itself as a natural part of DMing.

The part that really interests me is creating a toolkit of generic adventure plots that can be plugged into a 5x5 map or Project Slaughterhouse clone.  I think the plug-and-play toolkit should include at least the following:

  • a general and flexible theme (Undead, Monstrous Humanoid/Bandit, Aberration, Stealth, Research, Mystery/Puzzle, Organization/Leadership/Planning, etc.) for the plot path

  • a selection of monsters/obstacles/encounters and treasure fitting the theme, and starting at a minimum level that can be quickly "leveled up" to match the current party level

  • a packet of "plot coupons" for the plot that can be plugged into this or any other plot path as needed (keys, maps, McGuffins, whatever)

  • number of additional hooks that can easily be attached to other plot paths where needed (doorways, tunnels, teleporters, etc.)
    These can be arranged as "teleporter out of first part of Plot 1" and "teleporter into rest of Plot 1", with the teleporter-out linking to another plot, and the teleporter-in linking to a third plot, and a doorway that can be linked on-the-fly from Plot 4 or plot 5 further down the hallway...

  • two or three "railroad rumor" plot hooks to provide to PCs who are slow to adapt to a world-without-obvious-plotlines and need a push to get started

When I get some spare time, I'll try to convert one or two of the simple, basic Starter Set adventures into this format and see how it works...
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