Making a Pathfinder RPG Adventure: Episode 9 – Adventure Subgenres – Geek In the Closet

    In terms of literary genres, I don’t think many people would argue that a Pathfinder RPG or D&D adventures would fall under the Fantasy genre. All adventure modules (and campaigns for that matter) must contain a decent amount of action and combat to keep the players engaged, and as such, could also be considered as falling in the Action and Adventures genres as well. Given the nature of what an adventure module is however, these general types of classifications don’t really convey any useful information to a GM who might be interested in running it. More importantly, a writer who is merely trying to provide ‘action’ or ‘adventure’ in their adventure has no chance of tailoring it to create a specific and intense level of emotion in the players. For this reason, it is important to establish a new method of subcategorizing adventures – one that more clearly defines what kind of adventure it actually represents.

    Since there is not already a list of agreed upon subgenres for adventures that I am aware of, let’s start by looking at the commonly identified genres in fiction. Doing a little research online proves that there is no universally accepted list of genres even when it comes fiction either. Categorizing any creative work can be done in many ways and I don’t think that there is one correct method, but for starters, let’s start with the list of genres found on the Wikipedia website and see what we have.

    Of the genres listed, some lend themselves well as subcategories for fantasy RPG adventures, while others clearly do not. For example, Comic/Graphic Novel and Short Story genres seem more like formats to me rather than genres when viewed from the perspective of an adventure module. Also, how do you deal with cross-genres? If you have a short mystery adventure for example, would this fall under the Short Story or Mystery genre? And do not all adventures contain fantasy, drama, and suspense? Clearly a better system is required.

    I propose that a much more useful method would be to think of adventure subgenres in terms of the primary story goal (not to be confused with plot). Consider the following list of proposed adventure subgenres:

    It’s not a perfect system I admit, but I think that using the adventure goal as a means of defining the subgenre is as good of a system as any.

    I am not at the point in production where I am ready to share details about my adventurers plot (although I have something in mind), but I can safely say that it will fall into the Mystery subgenre using this classification system.

    I would love the hear your opinion about this method of defining adventurers subgenres. Did I miss any major ones? Can you offer better names for the ones that I have come up with?




    Jerett Schaufele is an aspiring game designer.


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