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Running Defense Adventures

by Mike on 1 April 2024

This article is one in a series where we look at types of adventures and examine

These articles include:

Your own adventure types and how you run them may differ from mine. That's totally fine. There are many right ways to enjoy this game.

Robin Laws's book Adventure Crucible – Building Stronger Scenarios for any RPG inspired my thoughts on this topic.

Understanding Defense Adventures

In defense adventures, the characters defend a location and its inhabitants from invaders, bandits, or monsters. This adventure type is structured similar to infiltrations and heists in that players spend significant time planning for the attack before the attack itself. I often refer to defense adventures as Seven Samurai adventures because of how well the model of Akira Kurosawa's classic samurai movie fits as a fantasy RPG adventure.

The typical scenario for a defense adventure includes:

Defense adventures don't have to follow this model perfectly but this scenario is a common approach.

Preparing a Defense Adventure

GMs can prepare for a defense-style adventure by

Running a Defense Adventure

Like a heist adventure, the players plan their defense during the first half of the adventure. Give players time to plan their defense, talk to NPCs, scout the villains, and engage in other activities to prepare for the attack. Improvise ability checks to see how well their defenses hold up.

When the attack begins, focus the spotlight on the characters and their part of the battle. Describe the results of the larger battle based on the defenses the characters put up and how well they did on their checks but keep the spotlight focused on the characters.

Pitfalls of Defense Adventures

Defense adventures might suffer one or more of the following pitfalls.

Avoiding Pitfalls

GMs can avoid or mitigate these pitfalls by

A Fantastic Situation for Heroic Tales

Defense-based adventures stand as an excellent adventure style to give the players agency to shape their own story. It's a perfect example of situation-based adventures in which the GM sets up the situation and the characters navigate it. GMs and players play the situation out together, building a story at the table neither side could have guessed before it began.

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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