Player Created Adventures

I spent a little time playing Horizon: Zero Dawn last week. If you aren’t familiar it’s an open world CRPG on the PS4. It combines the older style of CRPGs in that there is a series of quests that lead you through a story and unconnected side quests and errands. The setting is post apocalyptic in the far future. Human beings are tribal people who survive by hunting robots and using the parts they salvage from the machines to make tools, weapons and armor. The story embedded in the game is learning where the robots came from and why human civilization collapsed and that the little bit of humanity that survives is in danger.  Your avatar, Aloy, travels from place to place performing various missions for NPC’s, hunting robots and animals for the resources they provide and killing bandits and the members of a cult that you meet at the end of the in game tutorial. The missions have the standard mission objectives for that type of game. Kill this, fetch that, find out about this thing, defend these people, investigate the disappearance of this person.

One category of mission built into the game’s structure is a player created mission. Its not a quest assigned to you by an NPC but a quest you go on for any number of reasons. Usually, I am trying to acquire plants for healing or protection and acquire machine parts. I can enjoyably spend hours just going to a part of the map where a  particular type of machine exists and kill it merely for the challenge of doing so. Each machine has different weakness and strengths as well as dropping specific parts as well as parts that are available from most other machines. There is an XP award for killing machines in addition to the “treasure” value of them.

How can we set up our D&D games so that players are motivated to ignore quest givers and go run an errand for themselves? First, they need to have information. They need to be aware that there are monsters or bad guys or some other resource and that has value beyond XP and treasure. This could apply to any sort of resource or item found in a dangerous environment. The value has to be worth the danger. Players will seek out a dragon lair because they know the dragon has a pile of treasure. They’ll seek out a plant or an item because it has a specific value to them.

There various ways you can give out that information. Have a sage or merchant ask them if they see this thing, bring it back for a cash reward. Have the mcguffin be a key ingredient for a potion the party needs to complete another mission. The party can acquire a map that has locations of various resources or potentially valuable hunting grounds for certain monsters. They can acquire a wizard’s journal with notations of valuable resources and their locations. I’ve not tried a lot of these but I am going to start adding them into my campaigns to see if I can create more of these player initiated adventures.

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