Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a fallback scenario for those weeks when you just don’t have time to prep a new adventure for your group?

I’ve never tried this myself, but it seems sound in principle. The goal would be to write a light, quick adventure that you can easily slot into your campaign — but how do you do that when you don’t know in advance when you’ll need it?

Here are three ideas for ways to come up with backup adventures.

Side Quest

The first is to write a “side quest” that’s very easy to scale. It shouldn’t have much of an impact on the main storyline (just like side quests in video games), as you don’t know exactly when you’ll be using it.

To make it simple to drop into your campaign, you’ll need to write it with flexibility in mind. Think about where your game is set, and what your players most enjoy doing — and also consider that the PCs may be more powerful down the road, which means it’ll need to be easy to scale.

Side quests are a good way to break the mold, and try things you might be hesitant to tackle in your “real” campaign: a new GMing style, a different tone, etc.

Distant Past

The second approach is to delve into your campaign’s distant past, and write a scenario that involves the PCs before they became a party (or at least, before your first session).

You won’t want to start the session by saying, “Okay, everyone stat your characters out as teenagers,” so play it fast and loose — the goal is character development, and accuracy should take a back seat to fun.

This might work best if you focus on one PC in particular, which would also open up the possibility of writing one for every character — giving you several backup adventures for your files. As a player, I know I’d love to be the star of a scenario from my PC’s past.

Other Characters

Finally, you could write a scenario that doesn’t involve the PCs at all, but is still tied into your campaign.

Give each player a premade villainous character to play, and let them see how the other side lives. Or have them play their NPC allies, while you (with kid gloves and your best sense of fairness) play the PCs as NPCs.

You could also involve them in another level of the world — perhaps the “big picture” level often reserved for evil overlords, or as footsoldiers in a war where their PCs are the real movers and shakers.

Since their PCs won’t be on the line, you can run a very different style of game with this sort of adventure — pull fewer punches, play for humor (or against it, if your game is usually on the lighter side) or otherwise shake up your usual formula.

What other ways could you approach writing a backup adventure? Have you ever used this technique in your own games?