No matter how well you think you've prepared for an adventure as a DM there will always be times when the players head off in a direction you hadn't expected. There are also times you think you have prepared well and find a gaping hole in your adventure notes. Tonight was one of the latter.
I've been planning parts of this adventure for at least 18 months but I keep tweaking it here and there just to make sure its as good as it can be. This means my notes are a bit patched and in places a bit patchy too.
In tonight's session I had one of those moments when the party open a door and you realise you don't have anything prepared for that room. Nothing at all, just a big empty space on the map. I knew which item the party had to find in there but there was no encounter, trap, hazard or puzzle to add any adventure into it.
So there I was, five faces turned towards me wanting to know what they could see through the door. I smiled, looked down at my box of tiles and saw a corridor tile and suddenly inspiration hit. The adventure has a time theme so there are lots of cogs and mechanisms around and I had brainstormed various snippets that I could use. The corridor tile along with my brainstorming notes were all the inspiration I needed to come up with ... a pendulum gauntlet run.
I scrabbled for tiles to make a nice long causeway over with a drop to an uncertain fate either side, placed D8s at intervals and explained that the party could see the item they needed at the far side of the room, only they were going to have to dodge the swinging pendulums to get there, and voila and instant challenge for them.
Okay so 0/10 for originality but it fitted with the adventure theme and moved the story and the action along pretty seamlessly. I checked with my wife (one of my players) after the session and was happy to find out that she hadn't spotted the join from the prepared adventure into the ad-lib. It was quite fun too as the dice almost betrayed her injecting a bit of tension into proceedings.
So whilst I wouldn't recommend leaving gaping holes in your adventure preparation it can be a lot of fun at times just to wing it and see where you end up when all you have is adrenaline and a box of tiles.