Following my thoughts from earlier, one of the things you really want to achieve with an adventure is a highly concentrated collection of cool things that can be used by game masters to run the adventure for their group. Published modules play out differently depending on the group that’s playing and the game master running the module. It can vary even more, depending on the characters the players are using.

What you want to aim for in encounter design (and by extension, adventure design) are highly evocative creatures and settings, compelling plots, events and set pieces, and intriguing background characters. Any one, or all of these items can make an adventure what it is for the group that’s playing it. Sometimes you might design a dozen encounters and only use three — but they become a memorable adventure in and of themselves.

In some ways, an adventure is like an art book, more than it is a program manual. Sure, you can run an adventure “by the book,” but it’s far better to tailor it to your unique cast of players and characters: they’re the ones who will ultimately run the game: as a designer, you’re only there to provide the outline of the story and inspiration, and as game master, you’re only there to be the referee and provide the supporting cast.