How to Play
Every game of Adventure follows a three-part structure:
- A problem arises that needs the help of a group of adventurers.
- The group has a series of encounters as they try to solve the problem.
- Once resolved, a conclusion ties off all the loose ends, and the adventurers are given a reward or find a prize for their efforts.
Each game needs a Guide to run the game.
This person is generally not a player themselves. They introduce the problem, guide players through encounters, and introduce challenges in response to player actions.
As the Guide, its your job to keep the pacing, action, and suspense at the right level for the skills and age-level of your players.
Picking a Character
Each player picks a character to represent them on their adventures (this is what makes Adventure an RPG, or role-playing game).
I’ve created about a dozen premade characters to choose from. Players can also create their own using the templates included with the character list.
Players may want to use a toy, figurine, or paper cut-out to represent their character while they play.
Skills & Styles
Each character has a specific combat style and problem-solving style that impact how they solve problems and battle foes.
- Combat: Attack or Defend
- Problem-Solving: Strength, Speed/Dexterity, or Knowledge
If a player creates their own character, they should pick just one style from each category.
For added fun, each character can have a pet that accompanies them on their adventures and helps them along the way. This isn’t required, but can add a fun dimension to the game.
Pets can be small and sensible (a cat, dog, or woodland creature) or large and absurd (a dinosaur, dragon, or elephant).
The First Time You Play
The first time you play, the Guide should introduce the world to the players.
You can create any type of fantasy world you want, but I’ve put together an imaginary land, Farfaria, that you can use with my premade adventures.
Here’s an intro you can use if you need help getting started.
You live in the land of Farfaria, in a tiny little village nestled between a mountain range and a sweeping forest.
Rivers flow down from the mountains, cut through your village, and run through the forest, where they eventually connect with the ocean.
While Farfaria is a small and remote town, you’re hardly alone. The woods and mountains are filled with amazing, magical creatures: elves, fairies, centaurs, and wizards. They’re filled with dangerous creatures—thieves, giants, and ogres—too. The ocean to the south is home to mermaids, krakens, and other monsters of the deep.
Mysterious and exciting adventures always seem to find their way to your little village, where you and your friends are ready to help…
For added flavor, you can download a printable map of Farfaria.
Introducing the Situation
At the start of each game, a problem arises that needs the help of a group of adventurers. The Guide reads the game introduction to the players.
Feel free to use toys, props, sketches/drawings, and fun voices to add to the excitement and mystery. I’ve also put together a few dozen printable creatures you can use for your adventures.
Here’s an example from Lacey the Luck Dragon:
Lacey the Luck Dragon protects the forest from invaders. While out looking for food, her five baby dragons wandered off, and she can’t find them. She’s worried sick, and wants your help in locating them.
Can you help her?
Once your adventurer’s answer “yes,” you can provide more details.
The babies just learned to fly, and aren’t very good at it. For protection, baby luck dragons can turn themselves invisible, making them hard to find. Baby dragons screech, scratch stuff with their claws, accidentally burn things, and smell like wet dog.
Lacey gives you a satchel of gold coins to help you on your journey.
The Starting Encounter
Each adventure has a starting encounter that sends your adventurers on their quest. In Lacey the Luck Dragon, players need to locate the first baby dragon.
Lacey has provided some basic information about her babies and how they behave. You also have various skills and items at your disposal.
How will you locate the first baby dragon?
Actions and Deciding Outcomes
The outcome of every action that a player takes is decided with a roll of the dice.
Each challenge or decision has a difficulty level. The player taking an action rolls a few dice. The highest number rolled determines the outcome.
- Greater than or equal to the difficulty level, they succeed!
- Less than the difficulty level, they fail.
- Two or more lower than the difficulty, they fail, and something bad happens.
- Every action starts with one base die.
- If the player’s action aligns with their combat or problem-solving style, they get one bonus die.
- If they’re using a tool or item, they also get a bonus die.
A player can never roll more than three dice.
An example die roll
Let’s revisit our example with Lacey the Luck Dragon.
The group needs to figure out where to go looking for the first baby dragon. This has a difficulty level of 4.
The players decide to try tracking the baby dragons in the forest by looking for burn marks and scratches on the tree, and listening for screeches. One of the players is a woodland Druid whose problem-solving style is Knowledge.
That player gets to roll 2 dice: one base die + a special skill bonus die.
- If they roll 4, 5, or 6, it works, and they successfully track the first baby dragon.
- If they roll a 3, the trail comes up dry and they have to try something else.
- If they roll a 1 or 2, it doesn’t work and they’re attacked by thieves who steal their gold (the Guide decides what the bad thing is that happens).
Every game or adventure is made up of a series of encounters.
In some adventures, those encounters are linear and need to follow a specific path, with one encounter leading to the next. In others, they’re non-linear, and players can explore more openly as long as they complete all of their tasks.
- Rescuing a baby dragon from a cave with a sleeping ogre
- Rescuing a baby dragon trapped in some tree vines
- Rescuing a baby dragon trapped in a spider’s underground den
- Rescuing a baby dragon from the edge of a mountain side cliff
- Rescuing a baby dragon trapped in a cage in the back room of a supply shop
Each encounter has a difficulty level, but usually does not have a single prescribed solution.
Open-Ended Problem Solving
Players are encouraged to come up with creative solutions and ideas based on the tools you have available and the objects in their environment.
Team work is also encouraged.
The Guide decides if the proposed actions are logical and work within the context of the encounter, and then decide how many dice the player taking the action can roll.
Individual vs. Group Encounters
For many encounters, only one person in the group needs to succeed. For example, if one player successfully unlocks a cage, the dragon trapped inside is free.
For other encounters, each player needs to roll individually and succeed.
For example, if you hear a band of thieves approaching and want to hide, each player should roll. Any player who wins the die roll hides successfully, while any player who doesn’t is caught.
Depending on the age of your players and how complex you’d like the game to be, you can mix optional bonus encounters into the main adventure.
For example, on the way from one location to the next, a group of thieves may attempt to buy or steal one of the baby dragons. You might introduce the encounter like this:
As you make you way through the forest, you hear rustling in the trees to your left. A group of thieves emerge from the shadows.
In the back stands a short woman with dark hair covered in a hood. She has a dagger on her side. In her left hand, she clutches a magic amulet. She’s clearly the leader of the group. After a moment of silence, she says, “We’ve heard that you’ve located a baby dragon. We’d like to make you an offer.”
What do you do?
The group might choose to turn and run, take her up on the offer, or try to fight their way out of it (more on that shortly).
No matter what they choose, they roll dice to determine whether or not they’re successful. What happens as a result may impact the rest of the game.
For example, if the players agree to sell the baby dragon, or if they try to run but fail and the dragon is stolen, they’ll return back to Lacey with only four dragons. They might try to get the dragon back, or decide that that the amulet is worth more than whatever Lacey was offering.
This adds another rich dimension to the game.
While much of Adventure is focused on exploring and problem solving, you can introduce battles as a way to keep things interesting.
Starting the Battle
When a battle starts, the players and the Guide each roll one die.
If the players have the higher number, they go first. If the Guide has the higher number, the villains go first.
Each character/villain takes turns making an attack on a member of the opposing side, with the Guide controlling the villains. Players can be creative with how they attack, using their skills, tools, and items in the environment.
Determining attack actions
Like all other actions in Adventure, attacks are determined by rolling dice.
Each villain in a battle has two characteristics: a difficulty level, and a health total (from 1-3). All players have a health total of 3.
- The player gets one base die.
- They get a bonus die if they have Attack as their combat style.
- They also get a bonus die if they have a special weapon or item they’re using with their attack.
- If their die roll is equal to or higher than the villain’s difficulty level, the villain loses a health point.
- If their die roll is lower than the villain’s difficulty level, their attack misses.
- The player gets one base die.
- They get a bonus die if their combat style is Defend.
- They also get a bonus die if they have an defensive equipment, or an item they want to use to protect themself.
The Guide rolls a number of dice equal to the villains base health level (before accounting for damage).
If the villain’s highest roll is higher than the player’s, the player loses a health point.
Determining who wins a battle
When a villain has no health points left, they’re knocked out of the game.
If a player loses all of their health points, they’re knocked out until one of the other players can help them. More on that in the Health and Healing section below.
The battle is over when all of the villains have been defeated or the players retreat.
Fleeing a battle
Each battle encounter also has an overall difficulty level.
If players decide to flee instead of fight, they each roll to flee the battle. Normal die roll rules apply (their highest role must meet or exceed the difficulty level). Players who fail the die roll don’t get away, and must fight or get captured.
Players can choose to flee a battle at any time, including in the middle of one.
Health and Healing
Every player starts with three health points.
Losing Health Points
If a player takes damage during combat, they lose a health point.
They can also lose health points when trying to complete challenges if their die roll is two or more below the difficulty level. For example, if a player tries to scale a cliff with a difficulty of 5, and they roll a 2, the Guide might say:
You lose your footing and tumble backwards down the side of the cliff, striking a rock.
The Guide would then subtract one health point.
Getting Knocked Out
If a player loses all three of their health points, they’re knocked out until someone in their group heals them or the next encounter starts.
Knocked out players cannot solve challenges or participate in battles.
There are a few ways players can heal damage:
- They can use their turn during a battle or encounter to heal themselves or another player with a healing potion or spell. If they do, they cannot attempt to solve the challenge or attack a villain until their next turn.
- If the player is a Healer, they can restore one health point to themself or another player. This also uses their turn.
- Waiting it out. Moving from one encounter to another restores a health point.
Healing potions make great items for players to find after defeating creatures and solving problems.
The Guide can reward them (or restrict them) as needed to keep the tension and pacing of the game well balanced.
Total Group Knock Out
If every member of a group loses all of their health points, that’s a total group knock out (or TGKO).
A TGKO can happen if the difficulty of a particular challenge isn’t properly balanced for the skills of your group. It can also happen if luck just doesn’t work in the players’ favor (a series of low die rolls, for example).
Since a TGKO would otherwise stop the adventure in its tracks, the Guide can use their creativity to save players from this situation.
- A pet belonging to one of the players runs off and returns with healing potion, or a non-player character that can help.
- Players awaken some unknown time later. The creature is gone, along with what they were looking for and a bunch of their gear and items.
- Players awaken to find themselves trapped in a locked room, unsure of where they are or how they got there. They must use their skills and items they can find in there surroundings to escape.
This can add a really fun new aspect to the game, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Gear and Items
Gear and special items can be used to solve problems, overcome challenges, and give players new skills and abilities.
- Gear are objects that improves the player’s base abilities in some way. This includes things like swords, axes, a bow-and-arrow, or a shield. It also includes wands and spell books.
- Items are single-use objects that provide a one-time advantage to a player. This includes things like rope and nets, charms, spells, and potions. It might also include special arrows or weapons.
When used with an action, gear and items give the player using them a bonus die for their die roll (up to a maximum of 3 dice). Only one piece of gear and one item can be used per action.
You can download a few dozen premade items and pieces of gear. The download also includes templates to make your own.
Starting gear and items
Each character should start the game with one piece of gear. This usually relates to the nature of their character.
For example, a druid may start with a spell book. A pirate may start with a sword. A warrior with a Defend combat style may start with a shield for added protection, or pick up a sword to give them an extra die when attacking.
Players should also start the game with a single-use item: rope, healing potion, food, or something else that will be useful in the adventure ahead.
Earned and discovered items
As the players go on various adventures and encounters, they’ll pick up more items—either as gifts from the people they help, or by discovering them in their travels.
Items can be shared with members in the group, and carry over from one game to the next.
The Guide should distribute items around spaces when players complete an encounter, or have non-player characters reward them as gifts. Base the items used around the current inventory of the players, their skill level, and what will be helpful for the challenges they’re going to face next.
When players defeat a particularly difficult challenge or creature, the Guide may choose to reward players with gear that increases their stats longterm.
Advanced Die Rolls
Adventure is more fun when players work together to solve problems.
If an encounter requires the skills of two or more people working together, calculate the total number of dice rolled based on each participating player’s skills and items.
Then, subtract one die for each person beyond the first. Divide the dice among the players.
Higher difficulty encounters
If players are easily completing challenges, or you have a lot of players, you may want to increase the difficulty of encounters or villains beyond 6.
If you do, add the highest and lowest numbers together instead of using just the highest number.
A Few Extra Details
Exploration vs. the Main Story
- Every adventure has critical encounters that are required to drive the story to it’s natural conclusion.
- Players are free to explore the world and deviate from the main storyline.
It’s the Guide’s job to encourage exploration when appropriate for the players’ ages and skill levels, and help steer players back towards the critical encounters if they drift too far.
You can play Adventure entirely as a word-based RPG, and let your players use their imaginations.
However, depending on the age and interests of your players, it might be more fun and interesting if you added a physical element to the game. You can create sets for each of your encounters by sketching simple maps in a notebook, building them with Lego blocks, or using toys that you already have.
Every premade adventure comes with printable maps that are labeled and annotated to help the Guide run the adventure. I’ve also put together some unlabeled maps you can print out to run your own adventures.
It can be a lot of fun to use action figures or paper cutouts for each of the characters, and let them move through physical environments as you play.
Duration and Complexity
Games of Adventure can take as little as 30 minutes, or can last several hours.
As the Guide, you have a lot of control over the length and complexity of each game. You can add more villains and optional encounters, adjust difficulty levels for encounters up or down, and save the day with non-player characters you introduce to the game.
You can also spread an adventure over several sessions, stopping after an encounter, and picking things back up another time.
Depending on the skills of the players and the difficulty of the challenges they’re facing, it can be interesting to add non-player characters into the game.
These are characters that the Guide creates and controls. They can be friends, foes, or somewhere in-between.
Non-player characters can provide critical information that players aren’t picking up on, give them misinformation to send them on a bonus encounter, jump in to provide extra fire power for an epic battle, or thwart their efforts if they’re finding an adventure too easy.
Use non-player characters as much or as little as needed to keep the game fun and interesting.
A big part of what makes RPGs so fun is how open-ended they are.
As players get more experienced playing Adventure, they may start to explore areas of Farfaria that aren’t part of the current adventure’s storyline. They might want to explore the mountains, search for a unicorn, or try to bypass a fearsome creature by using an underground cave system.
The Guide should encourage this!
The downloadable creature and item cards can provide some inspiration for off-story encounters. The Guide can also pull themes and challenges from the players’ favorite books and movies.
Eventually, players may want to leave Farfaria itself. They may attempt to cross the mountains, go beyond the edges of the Dark Forest, or sail off in a ship. The same game mechanics apply. Go create new worlds!
Ending the Game
Once all of the critical encounters have been completed and the problem has been solved, you can bring the adventure to a close.
For example, in Lacey the Luck Dragon, you might end the game by saying:
You return to the village with all five of Lacey the Luck Dragon’s babies.
She emerges from the shadows, lowers her head to the ground, and looks each of you in the eye. “Thank you, truly, for returning my babies. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done.”
As a token of her appreciation, she gives you a pair of magic gloves that protect you from anything you touch.
And with that, your game of Adventure draws to a close.