Innovative Adventure Designs

The clock

I am always on the lookout for odd ways to build adventures.  It has been a fair bit of time since I built my own adventure from scratch but that does not stop me collecting an eclectic mix of items used to inspire me in building adventures.  At most times an adventure hook will grab me in my sleep and although I have excellent intentions of having a journal beside me so I can catch those snippets it never works out that way (my wife likes a clean bedside table so my books and pens disappear).  Today I am going to tell you a tale of probably the most innovative idea I have used to build an adventure from.

When I was trying out third edition D&D around the year 2000 I had an idea about building an adventure in a temple for the god of time.  This idea would have worked well in a number of systems (imagine a Doctor Who adventure along the same lines).  It was to find a wind up clock (alarm or otherwise) and pull it apart, creating a temple based on the inner workings (cogs, springs, hands etc.) of the clock.  The temple would house the lord of all time and he would either be causing problems or he would be in danger and the players would have to free him from that danger.  To do this they would have to move through the time temple with a bunch of temporal effects and traps so they could eliminate this threat.

The back is covered in a brown sleeve

I spent years (probably around 5 to be exact) going to stores everywhere trying to find a wind up alarm clock to use as the base of the adventure.  They just do not sell mechanical clocks anymore, they are all powered by battery and made to look like wind up clocks which frustrated me no end.  I would travel to op shops, markets, antique stores, tip stores, anywhere so I could find that one elusive clock that would serve as my basis for an adventure.

In the end it was my wife that asked, have you checked eBay?  Of course it was probably the logical solution but I had not even considered it by that time.  I quickly typed a few search queries in and was up to my neck in broken and cheap as well as expensive and working wind up clocks.  I did not really want to pay for a working one and I did not want one that was too smashed up either so I did a bit of searching and settled on what looked to be a fairly old clock, guaranteed to be wind up but the seller had no idea if it worked or not.

The covered mechanism

It came pretty quickly through the mail.  I was a little disappointed as it was not as old as I had hoped (at least I don’t think it is) as it’s shell is contained in a cardboard sleeve and a leather stretched over wooden box.  Still, some of the gold filigree had worn away and the casing of the actual clock had a little rust so it felt old to me.  My wife asked if it worked and I replied that I did not think so and gave it a wind and it sprang to life.  I then faced a conundrum as I did not want to pull apart a working wind up clock.  In fact, I felt as if it was a prize or an artefact that I had discovered with the amount of time I had spent looking for one.

So what I did was spent a great deal of time examining the clockwork inside and built my adventure from that point.  It was a good adventure and had a few great twists to it.  I built it level by level, painstakingly revealing to the players a little bit at a time where they were and what they had to do.  The game was a few years ago now and I remember it fondly due to the innovative approach I had taken and the amount of time it had taken me to find the clock to use.  The images here are of that same clock.  I have pulled it apart to give you some idea of what I had to deal with.

The mechanism revealed!

I don’t still have the adventure unfortunately as I have a habit of selling my notebooks on eBay when they are full and I am done with them.  I like to think that adventure is still out there somewhere doing the rounds of gaming tables.

There are a couple of things that I would like you to take away from this.  The first is that there are ways that we are taught to look at the world and that is fine.  But twist that perception and you can come up with some cool ideas on adventure making or simply taking inspiration in other ways.  I shared this idea a few years ago with the guys at adventure a week and they loved the idea and asked if I would like to help them design an adventure in a similar manner.  I agreed but we lost touch and it never happened.  I was pleased then though that others thought this was a cool idea.

A different angle 🙂

What I am now going to do is revisit this idea.  Once a week on the blog I am going to create an adventure (it will definitely be different than the original) utilising the same clock and work a bit harder on the story line.  I will do this openly here on the site and you can take the adventure and use it in your own games or you can follow the ways that I put an adventure together and see if there is anything you would like to do in a similar manner!  The first post in this will begin next week.  I will work some of it up in the coming days as I am quite excited to what I might come up with the second time around!

If you have done something similar or want to share a moment of innovation or inspiration with me please put it in my comments.  If you are not a native English speaker please feel free to put it in your native tongue and I will translate it.  Feel free to share these moments so we can all appreciate the innovation and the inspiration!  Until next time, keep rolling!

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