LFR Waterdeep Adventure Writers’ Guidelines v2.0
The focus of this document is on writing Waterdeep adventures for Living Forgotten Realms. We presume all would-be authors have obtained and read a copy of the LFR Writers’ Guidelines, the LFR Adventure Template, and, if submitting an adventure proposal, the Adventure Summary Proposal. Some Waterdeep adventures will be part of a Major Quest, while others will be a stand alone adventure (or perhaps plant a seed or revisit a dangling thread).
Considerations for Authors
We would like to know if an individual has authored a LFR adventure previously. However, it is not essential to have previous publishing credit or specifically authored LFR adventures; new authors will be considered.
We do ask each prospective author for a sample 4E encounter (of your original work), either combat or non-combat, in the LFR encounter format (which we will supply upon request), to demonstrate you understand the 4E rules, how well you follow the template, and how you present an encounter as well as what you consider to be an interesting encounter. We will review and provide some feedback (comments and/or questions). That dialogue will be a useful indicator to us and to you of the editing process. Please anticipate that any proposals or draft adventures we receive will receive similar scrutiny and that any changes we request are neither personal slights on your skills as an author nor personal attacks. You may refer to a completed LFR encounter if you have one available.
We will accept some plot proposals; ask what levels as our needs will change. Please also check for the blurbs of published Waterdeep adventures and request a summary of what themes we are interested in, or what themes/monsters to avoid.
We also look for authors, usually experienced, to be assigned authorship for part of a Major Quest story line which we have designed.
LFR adventures are written to a fairly tight schedule; each quarter we turn in an adventure for final edit by our Global Admin. Therefore, if an author misses a deadline, we will likely pull the assignment and give it to someone else to do. Each year the region can earn the right to having a 5th adventure by meeting all our deadlines throughout the year so this dependability is very important to us and the region. We may reassign the author to a new schedule or not depending upon the circumstances.
As a result, authors must be willing to write an assigned adventure to an assigned schedule. When you agree to write a specific adventure (whether your proposal or ours) for the Waterdeep region, we will expect you to place that writing at a very high priority in your life. If the thought of missing playing in your home game or at a con in order to meet your deadline seems abhorrent to you “just to make a schedule,” then you should reconsider if you want to write for LFR. This may seem harsh, but we believe you should know what we expect up front. We will expect all authors to meet these standards. We will not grant exceptions.
An author may draft a Waterdeep adventure “on speculation,” meaning not yet assigned to our release schedule. This option does give an author more time, but also means the author is incurring the risk that his or her work might not be approved whether in part or in total and publication and payment would be delayed, if at all. We generally discourage writers from submitting actual adventures until we have agreed upon an adventure proposal that we feel we can use, and discuss a possible schedule. Otherwise, your work might be wasted.
While dependability and keeping on schedule are important, creativity and good writing are also important. We have limits (words and pages) on encounters, so literally each word is of value. The DMG on page 186 suggests using seven sentences to describe an NPC. We love that systematic approach, but for most "mundane" NPCs (not major, reappearing NPCs), we will want you to try to do that in two sentences (not counting the useful knowledge). Can you convey a mood or feel of a scene and/or set up role playing without writing long paragraphs? This point about word limits is not to say the shorter the better, but rather say a lot without being verbose.
Usage of interesting terrain is encouraged in LFR (and 4E) adventures and maps are normally created with official dungeon tiles. We can send you information on free dungeon tile map applications.
Adventure proposals must be submitted in the 1000-word adventure proposal template. Actual LFR adventures must be written in the adventure template, sticking to the embedded styles (no changes) and following the instructions in the LFR Writers' Guidelines. A consistent headache stems from authors making simple font or format changes without using established styles in the template. Authors are strongly encouraged to look at the styles available in the adventure template before they start writing. For instance, the Read-aloud style is used for box text and specific styles for stat blocks exist.
Writing for the Waterdeep region is a collaborative effort between you, the writer, and us (Claire and Keith), the Co-Writing Directors. Normally Keith takes lead on recruiting authors and design of adventure proposals while Claire takes lead on editing draft adventures. Once (if) an adventure is assigned to you, we will send you a schedule for the adventure. Deadlines are tight and if you have any issues arise, let us know IMMEDIATELY. We realize life happens but we expect you to keep us informed. Silence followed by missed deadlines is very bad form. We may still need to change adventures depending upon the issue, but we are willing to work again with a cooperative author.
We will review your draft adventure and likely send you 3-4 pages of comments ranging from big picture substantial content questions or concerns to recommendations, to what might seem very nitpicky concerns. Please address all concerns. You may offer a defense of your idea or offer a counter proposal to allay our concern. The author does not retain total creative control; each adventure must meet the standards and be approved by the Writing Director and the Global Admin.
After you revise the initial draft of the adventure, we will arrange for playtesting, usually two or more playtests. We encourage the author to observe, but not DM, a playtest. Following the playtests, we will send more comments and requests for changes to you. When we get your post-playtest draft, we will review and edit as needed before we ship the draft to our Global Admin. Our Global Admin will likely send us his comments in a couple weeks, requiring a fairly quick turn. If drastic changes occur, we may conduct additional playtests. We may ask for your input or we may just make changes ourselves at this point. After we send him our final draft, our Global Admin will do his final edit, possibly making changes, and then forwarding the final version to be posted in the D&D Organized Play/WPN adventure library. Our awareness of our Global Admin’s and WotC’s standards, guidance and concerns are factored into our guidance and comments to you, the author.
In summary, do not send in an adventure idea or agree to write an adventure for us unless you agree to the following: 1. Agree to strictly adhere to the deadlines. 2. Agree to follow the LFR Writers’ Guideline, this document, and the adventure template. 3. Be prepared to collaborate closely with us and accept criticism of your ideas. 4. Will submit a complete adventure (text, stat blocks, maps, handouts, etc.). 5. Be ready to have to make changes without all the information or because of constraints you may not be aware of. Knowing those intangibles is our job. 6. Accept that you do not have total creative control. (Neither do we.) 7. Strive for excellence. 8. Authorship is not an opportunity to complain about or rewrite 4E D&D.
Waterdeep Themes & Adventure Locations
Waterdeep adventures should contain a unique flavor of the city—intrigue, mystery, investigation, politics, wealth, and sinister forces. Those who are long time FR fans know this, but because Ed Greenwood designed the world so, "all cross roads lead to Waterdeep," meaning you can find someone from anywhere in Waterdeep. Waterdeep should be exciting and busy, yet friendly to the casual visitor. Waterdeep although battered by impact of the Spellplague on its wealth (and the portals), is still an economic center, meaning like a NYC or a Hong Kong (or a historical London, Chicago or Paris), trade from many points will be arranged, even if the actual shipments do not come to Waterdeep. In politics, Waterdeep (without a standing Army or Navy or Air Force) tends to be publicly neutral, but under the rose in the fight against Netheril. The Lords of Waterdeep (or certain noble houses) will hire adventurers to engage in many far flung secret missions, some even to protect and defend Waterdeep, although not until Paragon or Epic Tiers. In politics, we envision Waterdeep somewhat like Berlin in the Cold War where spies from almost every nation roamed the streets and bars, peddling, and stealing and selling information. In Waterdeep, information is for sale and knowledge is power. Of course, at the end of the day, the culture of Waterdeep is about making money, LOTS OF MONEY. Waterdeep does have a strong legal infrastructure, at least in the nicer parts of the City, (not Mistshore, not Downshadow, and certainly not Undermountain), so much that might occur in say Westgate or Baldurs' Gate, won't occur on the public streets of Waterdeep. Moonshaes and Baldurs' Gate are obviously strong local trading partners. Probably still true of Luruar and Amn. There used to be a strong trade with Luskan and Neverwinter, but those cities are rather trashed at the moment.
We have overarching story lines which will feature agents of Amn, Netheril, and Shar. The interest of the noble houses in regaining their wealth is a common theme. The guilds are interested in making money and maintaining control of their respective charter. The City Watch as a whole will be portrayed as honest and competent, but rare cases of corrupt officers will be considered. Likewise for the Magisters. In contrast, the Lords of Waterdeep who rule Waterdeep will be more nuanced. We can venture into Undermountain or out to the nearby environs of Waterdeep, as far north as Sword Mountains or Mere of Dead Men, as far east as the Forlorn Hills, or as far south as Daggerford. However, even adventures outside of the city proper should have a reason which connects the plot to the city. In other words, generic attack on a caravan in the neighborhood should not be submitted, but caravan whose cargo or passengers are key to some intrigue within the City would be fine.
In heroic tier adventures, people generally do not know the names of the PCs and the scope of the adventure is very local. In paragon tier adventures, the citizens of Waterdeep are likely to know the names of Waterdhavian PCs, less likely for PCs from other regions unless they have made their name in Waterdeep. The scope of the adventure is more spanning the City and has an impact of interest to the Lords of Waterdeep or similar level of NPC. In epic tier adventures, PCs are known across Faerun and the scope and impact will span regions.
Much material has been published on Waterdeep and most from a historical point of view is still accurate. Such references can be helpful but they are not necessary to author a Waterdeep adventure. While we would like to immerse the players in Waterdeep; we cannot write a travelogue or a historical treatment of how and why something came to pass. Please read what is in the FRCG about Waterdeep.
The Proposed Adventure Idea or Premise
1. What is the premise of the adventure? A premise is the basic concept of the adventure and should be stated in 1-2 sentences. 2. Why is this proposal best suited for Waterdeep instead of some other Forgotten Realms region? 3. How does this proposal work with the setting and culture of Waterdeep? 4. What is unique about this idea? 5. What area of Waterdeep will this adventure showcase? 6. Is this idea linked to a previous adventure? 7. Are existing NPCs, story items, or locations being reused? From Waterdeep? From another region? From a Core? 8. What type of level should this adventure be? 1-4, 4-7, 7-10, 11-14? Why? The Summary of the Adventure Design
Now write down your actual adventure idea in the Adventure Summary Proposal template. You have a limit of a 1000 words, although we would rather pare down the document than ask for more details. Each of the following sections should be usually one paragraph, two only if needed. The goal is to have an outline, not a completed adventure. If you plan to use a “name” NPC, guild, noble house, etc., the identity will have to be supplied for WotC approval.
The title of the adventure should echo the theme or premise.
We need 1-3 sentences to serve as a blurb for the adventure. It should be a genuine, useful hint to players as to what the adventure is about or what type of skills will be helpful, without being extremely blunt or explicit. If they will find out the information when they are initially hired, there should be no reason that can’t be in the blurb. But don’t reveal the master villain before the adventure has even started. Includes a statement of level, and if this is part of a Major Quest.
The background of the adventure should include, in broad terms: • What has happened (to the NPCs, the place, etc.) to set up the adventure? • Why has it happened? • So what? Why should anyone care? (if not obvious) By reading the background, we should know what the bad guys were doing and why the outcome will matter.
Concisely explain the plot hook that gets the PCs into the adventure. Use the 5-Ws, who, when, where, what, why description.
This part is to be repeated a number of times, ideally for each encounter whether combat, role playing (RP), skill challenge, exploration or other, but mandatory for all xp generating challenges. We can fill in, particularly RP encounters later, but the outline needs to make sense. For each encounter, we need what the PCs are to accomplish. Remember in every encounter, the PCs need to be able to *DO* something, whether that is a fight, a challenge or a role-play encounter. Avoid making the PCs spectators (other than a short congratulations scene in the conclusion if appropriate). • If a combat, describe the monsters (such as 4 zombies and 2 ghouls) and the scene (in a warehouse). Is the object to kill the monsters, rescue the princess, or what? • If a skill challenge, what is at stake? What are the PCs trying to do? Possible outcomes for overall success/failure? Will success or failure affect later encounters?
ConclusionWhat possible outcomes and consequences may occur from the adventure? Will the adventurers be recognized by City officials, nobles, guild houses or temples for their heroic deeds? Any intangible rewards (honors or titles)?
Include a simple list of name of locations, such as: Daggers’ Rest/Trade Ward/Waterdeep.