The Lair of the Beaver-Druid, and the One-page design philosophy

A level 3 Pathfinder adventure written on a single sheet of A4. Contains mercenary badgers, homeless goblins, strung-out pacifist forest defenders and a DRUID that looks like a BEAVER

Sometimes, when I get bored, I write up scenarios and adventures for roleplaying games. This is something I did on Saturday afternoon after watching a segment on beavers during Life of Mammals on Netflix the previous night.

(Yeah, that’s how I party on my Friday nights. I party HARD. I get drunk on low-to-mid calibre white wine and watch David Attenborough shows with my wife and we spend the ENTIRE THING either saying that a) this animal this cute b) this animal is awesome or c) David Attenborough is fucking DRUID look he just TELEPORTED from Africa to South America using TREE MAGIC)

Here’s a picture of the adventure, because I don’t have a scanner – click on it to make it legible.

The next adventure is "Dr Phineas Q. Arkwright's Dungeon of Fantabulous Wonderment," and features Clyde the World's Last Heterosexual Elf

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

The design philosophy of one page with drawings comes from a campaign so short-lived it never got off the ground. Back in my second year of University, my good friend Chris and I decided to make a campaign as an excuse to use as many different settings of D&D as possible. (It was a terrible idea.) The players would be tasked with constructing a GIANT MECHACYCLE, which is a mech riding a flying motorcycle (obviously) and they would have to skip between alternate realities and steal frankly ridiculous items to power the thing.

So from Dragonmech, say, we had the mecha that drove the bike. That’s a given. We had a Dracolich (an undead dragon wizard) from Ravenloft which would be formed into the body of the giant motorcycle. We had a wizard’s tower from Forgotten Realms that would act as a sort of interdimensional cannon. We had a piloting AI stolen from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, because we both loved Neuromancer. There was something from Eberron, too, although I can’t remember what it was. I hope it was a giant shotgun that fired raptors. Anything else would be an insult.

Maybe it wasn’t such a terrible idea.

1 SHEET OF A4

Anyway; Chris and I are unreliable and depressed and busy and, often, just fairly useless, so we never really got past the planning stages. But we made a deal, there, in a haze of weed-smoke in my bedroom all those years ago – that were we to plan adventures for this, they could take up no more than 1 sheet of A4 paper and they must be written/drawn in colourful felt tip pens. It was a bold gambit. It meant that you only spent time on what was important. It gave you a big visual connection to your adventure at all times. It made you think on your feet. And it pretty much guaranteed that you could get the adventure done in a single night, presuming you weren’t a total idiot.

It’s not perfect, obviously. It leaves no room for complex maps of NPC interactions (although, you know, I reckon you could fit them on if they were important to you) or in-depth dungeon maps or big stat blocks but I genuinely dislike all those things. I like my roleplaying short-term and powerful, not slow-burn and deep. I can’t rely on players to turn up to every session in a twenty-session game, but I can sure as hell keep their attention for three hours while we shout actions at one another.

So – next time you’re planning a game, give it a shot. One sheet of A4, as many colours as you can get (I had none to hand so mine was black and white), all the info you need to run written down. If that means writing down the one important spell your enemy wizard has and making up the rest, go for it. If that means saying that a vampire elder has “10 Physical dice” and no stats past that, fine. See if it’s fun, see if it’s challenging, and see if it doesn’t make you think about your game though a different focus.