Ad Lib Adventures

Ad Lib adventures follow a fill-in-the-blank approach. Start the game without planning. Read the setup to the players. Ask questions and use the answers to collaboratively build the adventure. Usually it is best if you just ask one question at a time. Once there is a satisfying answer to that question, then move on to the next question. Make it a group discussion: everyone collaborates on the story. Finally, ask “What do you do?” Then, play to see what happens, using players’ ideas and your own imagination!

This format is great for con games or to kick off a campaign. Here are a couple of examples. Feel free to come up with your own!

Ad Lib Adventure: ‘Slayer to Lair’

Setup:You’re visiting a small village. The streets are mostly deserted and villagers eye you with suspicion. There seems to be a disturbing air of fear.”


— “What is the legendary creature most feared in this region?”

— “What cult is sacrificing young virgins to appease the monstrosity?”

— “What else motivates you to slay it?”

— “Where is its lair?”

— “What prevents you from getting there?”

— “Who else is involved and trying to stop you?”

— “What is the the creature rumored to protect or hoard?”

Ad Lib Adventure: ‘Heroes Under Fire’

Setup:You’re in an overturned vehicle that is on fire. Someone is shooting at you. It’s very important that you protect the vehicle’s content.”


— “What’s inside the vehicle?”

— “Why are your attackers shooting at you?”

— “Who are the allies of these attackers?”

— “What riddle must you still solve?”

— “What hazards await you if you approach your enemy’s stronghold?”

— “Who else is interested in stopping you?”

A couple of years ago I had a twelve hour Classic Traveller game scheduled at my house. I spent a lot of time formatting a rules summary and setting handout, and ran out of time to prepare for the game. But, I wasn’t worried. I just pulled out my ‘Heroes Under Fire’ ad lib template, and decided to rework and expand it. Here’s what I had written on a notecard five minutes later:

Setup: “You’re in a crowded, metal corridor. Anxious bystanders walking along the corridor eye you suspiciously. You consult your map, finding the still-distant location of a noble’s child. You’re starting to wonder if the 5,000 credits are worth it. It is very important that you save this person from their captivity. A warning klaxon blares. Over the global intercom, a sultry security agent’s voice urgently demands: ‘We order all security personnel to find the intruders. Shoot them on sight.’ You see assassin robots rounding the corner with drawn weapons.”


— “Where are you?”

— “Who is trying to kill you?”

— “How did they discover you were there?”

— “Who paid you for this mission?”

— “What other dangers are ahead?”

— “What are you going to do?”

Moments later the first player arrived, and off we went. We played for almost twelve hours and it was one of the best Traveller game I’ve ever run. Players enjoy being invested in the story because they helped craft it. Aside from those five minutes of prep, the other thing I did was take a ten minute break about two hours into the game. During the break I did some deep thinking about how to make the story interesting.  I asked myself my usual question: “How can I twist this into something unexpected?” I decided that the noble’s 14 year old child they were rescuing was not really a victim but rather a super genius mastermind organizing a planet-wide coupe. That certainly put a wrinkle in the events that unfolded!

Here’s a recap with some details behind this twelve hour Traveller game.

In my next post we’ll talk about Inspirational Interludes and Player Punch Lists.