Your Complete Guide to BroadSword Magazine Adventure Design
These guidelines are meant to assist authors who wish to submit their modules for publication in BroadSword Magazine. Before submitting a Fifth Edition adventure to the magazine, you are strongly encouraged to review the chapters on designing adventures in the Fifth Edition DMG. This book is invaluable and covers many of the topics mentioned only briefly herein. In addition, you should familiarize yourself with the information found in the Fifth Edition Systems Reference Document as well as the Open Gaming License as we follow the guidelines therein.
If you have any questions that are not answered in these guidelines, we will respond as quickly as possible to inquiries as long as you contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not phone us with queries: we prefer to respond via email.
The modules in BroadSword magazine vary from brief encounters to those about 20 magazine pages long (1,500 – 15,000 words).
We will not look at modules for non-Fifth Edition game systems or those that have been simultaneously submitted to another gaming magazine or company or sold independently online, nor those that have been displayed on social media platforms or personal blogs.
All submitted material must be your own work and cannot be copied, in whole or in part, from any published or copyrighted source.
Queries and Forms
Before you submit a module to BroadSword Magazine, send us a brief proposal. Your 1-2 page double-spaced proposal should include the following elements:
- a working title
- an original and compelling plot
- the major foes
- the types of characters for which the module was meant
- a summary of the rewards to be gained and foes to be overcome
- an estimate of the completed module’s length and number of maps.
A copy of our Standard Disclosure Form is included with these guidelines. An electronic version is available on the submission form for you to review before making a submission. You cannot submit a proposal without checking the Standard Disclosure Form box.
For submissions, go to our submission form: BroadSword Magazine Submission Form.
Rights and Payments
Any module published by BroadSword Magazine becomes the sole property of Hamrick Media, LLC. We purchase all rights to any submission that makes use of our company’s copyrighted materials or that makes changes or additions to a product of Hamrick Media, LLC. We do not offer royalties on the modules we purchase; we pay a flat fee. Payments are made within 60 days after acceptance, at a basic rate of 8-9 cents per word.
In addition to monetary payment, we send you at least one free copy of the issue containing your published work.
With your submission, please include the best email address to contact you by, plus any methods via social media to reach you at. We will notify you upon receipt of your submission. However, we won’t be able to inform you immediately as the acceptability of your adventure, but the reply will let you know that your submission arrived safely.
Download Quality of Modules
Modules should be sent to us in digital form, preferably as a Google Document with Comment privileges enabled. Alternatively, you can send it as a Word document sent through the submission form. It does not have to be professional formatted (ie, using Homebrewery or done in the style of BroadSword Magazine) but should at least be readable. Use a legible 12-point typeface. We do not accept handwritten modules or those sent as scans. Type your name, your address, and the exact word count on the first page. You should format your module with 8 1/2 in. by 11 in. settings.
Double-space your document to allow room for editorial comments. Small corrections can be made on the document. Please keep module submissions to a maximum length of 50 double-spaced pages (15,000 words). Long submissions are only accepted in rare cases, usually in conjunction with the release of an official Fifth Edition product. Consistently poor spelling, grammar, or sentence structure almost certainly causes a module to be rejected. We do not insist that your document be perfect, but we look more favorably upon those that require less editing. Please use your spelling/grammar checkers.
While not required, it is preferred that you use proper headlines, punctuation, and bullet points to allow for clarity. Remember: the less work our editors have to do, the more likely we are to accept your submission.
Artwork and Maps
A finished module should be accompanied by all relevant maps and diagrams. Additional drawing sketches and charts might be added for clarification. Group all maps at the end of the document in or in separate files (.jpg, .png, .eps, or .pdf preferred) or reference through a file sharing account such as DropBox or Imgur. Maps and images should be rendered in grayscale with 300 DPI.
Make sure that all artwork and maps are rendered neatly in ink or through graphic design software. The map grid (if any) should be clearly marked without obstructing the map’s legibility. Scale lines may be used for outdoor maps. Use a straight edge to draw the straight lines on your final copy. Darken solid areas (such as rock around a dungeon complex). Whenever possible, draw the furnishings or obvious features of an area. Use icons for beds, desks, ladders, trapdoors, curtains, and so forth. Try to make your icons recognizable without a map key. Refrain from painting your maps.
Remember internal consistency when designing maps. Inhabited areas require provisions for bringing in food, water, light, and heat; a method of disposing of waste materials; and ways for the inhabitants to get around easily. Large area maps should conform to known geographical principles; not special cases. Use numerals for rooms in dungeons and other structures numbered consecutively throughout. (Do not start over with room number 1 on a dungeon’s second level.) Always check your maps against the finished text. Make sure you have described all relevant areas on the maps and have no mislabeled anything.
Fifth Edition Open Gaming License and Systems Reference Document
All material from BroadSword Magazine follows the guidelines for the Fifth Edition Open Gaming License and Systems Reference Document. Any proposals or module submissions that use trademarked intellectual property will be rejected.
For additional information on the Open Gaming License, please refer to Wizards of the Coasts® website for details on the SRD/OGL.
Adventure Design Guide
Use these guidelines and templates when designing Fifth Edition adventures for BroadSword magazine. An adventure module contains the following elements, preferably in the given order.
Here is everything that your adventure’s introduction should include:
- The introduction begins with some small bit of flavor text, a quote, or some other appropriate text.
- It also provides a one-to-two sentence adventure summary, as well as information on the encounter levels.
- Also, the introduction contains additional subsections, including the Adventure Background, Adventure Synopsis, and Character Hooks (or For the Players).
This is an excellent space to provide GMs with all of the information they need to set up the adventure, including advice on what sections of the core books (referred to as PHB, DMG, or MM) they might need to reread.
Include a paragraph detailing the class composition and the general level for which they have designed the adventure. Some designs might allow some flexibility in character levels; this section can include notes to help GMSs scale the adventure for parties of varying size and level. If this section gives instructions on using the adventure for more or fewer than four characters, or for characters who are not of the suggested character level, remind the GM that changing the total number of monsters also changes the overall encounter difficulty of each encounter and most likely the total number of experience points available for a given party.
Adventure Background (Mandatory)
This section provides the GM with a clear, brief summary of events leading up to the adventure, including any pertinent historical details and villainous machinations.
Adventure Synopsis (Mandatory)
This section provides a clear, concise summary of the adventure for the GM, including a “road map” or timeline that tells the GM how the adventure should play out. Outline surprises and “plot twists” here, not during the course of the adventure. Optionally, this section might also include a brief description of the adventuring environment, as well as special rules, adventure hooks, and other suggestions to “get the ball rolling.”
For the Players or Character Hooks (Mandatory)
This section helps GMs lead the characters into the actual adventure. It offers ways to inject the characters into the adventure. At least one motive should be simple and straight-forward, such as delivering a message or traveling to visit contacts in another area. Other motives can exploit alignment, class, race, and society. Hooks should not presume anything about the characters’ actions, nor should they follow the standard adventure hook that presumes they are mercenaries available to the highest bidder. Hooks that thrust the characters into the action and/or provide them with personal motivation for pursuing the quest are greatly preferred.
Here’s an adventure hook designed to lead characters to the dungeons beneath a mountain: “A dwarf in the party is the distant relative of a renowned dwarven smith believe to have died under the mountain. Now that he has proved himself capable, his family expects him to find the smith’s remains and ensure that he is buried properly. The clean leader distributes a gift to each character who agrees to participate (a magic or special item worth about 1,000 gp), and dwarven characters might even be able to earn a special favor upon completion of the quest. ” Even if the GM does not use the more specific alternative motives, they still serve the purpose of showing the GM how to use a character and world details to create plot hooks.
This section can also contain rumors and background information for players. Other potential elements include notes on towns, time of year, and other relevant bits. If you include information and rumors, include information that a character might know thanks to a successful Intelligence (History) check, rumors that a character can gain by gathering information with successful Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion) checks, and (at higher levels) knowledge that spellcasters might gain through divinations.
The Adventure’s Encounters (Mandatory)
The adventure itself consists of a series of planned encounters keyed to a map or timeline. Each encounter can include any or all of the following sections: Read-aloud Text, General Description, Trap(s), Treasure, Creature(s), Tactics, and Development. Do not include sections that are unnecessary for a given encounter. For instance, an area devoid of traps does not require a trap section.
Each encounter should be rated with an Encounter Difficulty rating in the main encounter header, allowing the GM to quickly assess the possible to threat to his or her characters. The Encounter Difficult ratings are described on page 82 of the DMG. For example, an encounter header could appear thus:
23. Vampire’s Den (Deadly)
In the case where the encounter is easier or more difficult than the four types of encounters, note accordingly as Extremely Easy or Extremely Deadly respectively.
Note: Certain encounters are structured so that the threats are not felt simultaneously. It’s one thing if the pit trap is in the center of the room and the monster uses it to its advantage in a fight–calculating the total Encounter Difficulty by using the CRs of the monster and trap is expected. But if the trap is on a chest hidden in a closet and will never make itself felt during a fight, reasonably that trap’s CR should not be figured into the Encounter Difficulty. Likewise, if an encounter is designed such that NPCs initially encountered appear friendly, but on a repeat visit are revealed for a threat, the Encounter Difficulty in the encounter main head should not give the Encounter Difficulty, based on the second visit, because it is not true for the first visit to the encounter.
The answer is simple. In one of these situations, append the Encounter Difficulty tag in the main header as normal, but instead of a value, use “variable.” Then, in the subheads describing the special situation (that is, Traps, Development), but the actual Encounter Difficulty of the special situation.
Dungeon Features (Mandatory)
Some dungeons have features that are common throughout. For instance, how high are the ceilings? How are the rooms illuminated? What types of doors are prevalent? (This includes such information as thickness of door and material doors are composed of, which has rule-specific implications for hit points and AC.) What about wandering monsters? Rather than repeat this information throughout the adventure, keep the information in one section.
Read-Aloud Text (Optional, but Preferred)
Set off in a box with a border around it, this section generally precedes the other entries of an encounter, although text might precede it if important to the encounter. The read-aloud text (otherwise known as boxed text) should be read or paraphrased aloud to the players at the opportune time. It also provides the GM with a description of items in the room. Read-aloud text provides a bare-bones description of the encounter area; it does not make any reference to the viewer. Avoid phrases such as “you see”, “as you enter the room,” or other phrases that assume any action whatsoever on the players’ parts.
General Description (Mandatory)
This section provides GMs with information on interesting features, creatures, traps, and other specifics of the encounter that play off the read-aloud text. This information immediately follows the read-aloud text and is not set off in any special way. Simple encounters can get by with just the general description. However, a particularly complex encounter might require more structure.
The Trap section describes in detail any traps (magic or mundane) that characters might trigger in the encounter.
Any creature the characters might encounter is described here. This section provides a physical description of the monster or NPC, as well as general motivations and background.
Bold the creature’s name if it references a creature found in the MM. In that case, include only the number of creatures appearing and any special equipment that might be carrying, as well one or two minor changes (an extra resistance, maximum hit points, etc.) Full stat blocks should only be included if the creature is significantly non-standard from the way it appears in the MM. See “Fifth Edition Specific Formats” below for the proper way to format creature statistics. (New magic items, spells, and other items should also be fully described where the creature is initially encountered.)
Note: Refer to the DMG, Chapter 3 for Creating Adventures and Chapter 9 for Creating Monsters for a general grounding in understanding how to calculate Challenge Ratings and Encounter Difficulties for a mixed group of monsters or monsters of varying levels.
If the actions or tactics of the creatures are too complex to handily fit into the general description, they can be described in this section.
Any treasure that the characters can find during the encounter is described here, above and beyond monster possessions (if any.) Special items such as new magic items should be listed here; however, the full presentation of a new magic item or other special items should go into a sidebar.
It is important that total treasure for an adventure of a given level reflect the information in the DMG in chapter 7.
Avoid petty treasures, such as “2d6 sp” and other pocket change. Keeping track of minuscule amounts of creature isn’t worth the time and effort and only slows down the game. Give individual creatures worthwhile treasure or nothing.
Sometimes, the characters actions can have unusual ramifications or affect later encounters. These changes and developments should be described here.
Concluding the Adventure (Mandatory)
Describing the possible consequences resulting from the adventure’s success or failure, including rewards, punishment, and spin-off adventures for later gaming sessions. Some of the consequences should be roleplayed to provide a sense of closure. If the characters succeeded at their task, the GM should have the tools necessary to help the players feel that they have accomplished something. It never hurts to provide read-aloud text to get the ending scene started.
An appendix (if required) should appear at the end of the document, and it might encapsulate any of the following: random encounter tables, rumor tables, new magic item descriptions, new spell descriptions, and new monster descriptions.
“Scaling the Adventure” Sidebar (Mandatory)
This sidebar contains suggestions the GM can use for (a) modifying the adventure’s encounters and antagonists for characters for higher or lower level and/or (b) modifying the adventure for different game settings. The sidebar should be no longer than 500 words.
Showing Your Work
Many times, an adventure includes new magic items, new traps, and other unique additions. It is important to show your work where multiple calculations are involved (such as rating new monsters, balancing new magic items, etc.) Although not required, showing your work enables the editors to more thoroughly evaluate your adventure in a timely fashion.
Submit to BroadSword Magazine
Once you have reviewed the content here and understand the guidelines, please submit your proposal and/or module to BroadSword Magazine’s Submission Form.
Thank you and good luck!