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Thinking Outside the Encounter
Dungeon Editorial
by Steve Winter

Dungeons & Dragons groups play the game in many different ways. Some tackle nothing less than world-spanning, reality-shattering epics; others have no long-range objectives beyond sacking the next ancient tomb or forgotten temple. Some engage in dice-free roleplaying encounters that span multiple sessions; others get restless if 15 minutes slip by without an attack roll.

Most groups fall somewhere between those extremes. Variety is the spice of imaginary life, too.

That's why one of our goals for 2011 is to get more diversity into Dungeon magazine's adventures. We intend to mix things up with a wider variety of levels, settings, lengths, and styles.

Setting is the easiest element of an adventure for a DM to adjust, so we have a lot of leeway in that area. We won't put a Forgotten Realms, Eberron, or Dark Sun logo on an adventure unless something about it really speaks to that setting. Many proposals for world-specific adventures land in our inbox, but most of them have few ties to their settings beyond place names. More than sand, wind, and gladiators are needed, for example, for an adventure to be unique to Athas. Shifting an adventure from the general to the specific—from "the city of Hunkerdown on the river" to "the city of Iriaebor on the river Chionthar in Sunset Vale"—is easier than moving it in the other direction.

We see Chaos Scar adventures in much the same light. All of them have a place in the Chaos Scar, but that's a technicality; they're equally at home anywhere a DM needs an evening's worth of adventure, and we suspect that more of them get used as one-offs than in dedicated Chaos Scar campaigns.

What we're really interested in exploring is adventure style and presentation. People love to categorize things, and we're no different. There's no standard classification system for adventures, but they tend to be discussed in terms of opposites: linear vs. branching; event-driven vs. location-driven; sandbox vs. shadowbox; scripted vs. open-ended; framework vs. in-depth.

For quite a while, we've emphasized event-driven, scripted adventures presented in detail. That's partly because 4th Edition is a detail-oriented game, and the form of adventures frequently mirrors the form of the game. But that shouldn't limit what we do.

So we intend to experiment a bit with adventures. That applies to theme, structure, and presentation. We might do a few with a wide-open structure that include no preplanned encounters; a few that link across months; a few based around unusual maps; maybe even a few where the goal is to avoid combat rather than to seek it out; and perhaps some that are suitable for a wide range of levels or tiers.

Those are a few of our ideas. Plenty of experienced, talented DMs are reading this, too, and they have run countless adventures that twist and rip the envelope in exciting ways. If you're one of them, we want to see your proposals. Send an outline, along with notes on what makes your adventure different, to Be sure to put an informative subject line on your email, and it can't hurt to review our submission guidelines, too.

If you're not interested in writing adventures for Dungeon magazine, please tell us what you'd like to see. The address for that is

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