Designing Missions

Written by Cory Buford
Edited by Princess Irish

This is merely meant as a brief guide to designing missions based on my past fifteen (15) plus years as both a Role Playing Game(RPG) player and Dungeon Master of "Dungeons & Dragons" (Ed. 1, 2 and 3). In my experience, A mission is any place where opponents and treasure may be found. A mission is usually a group of rooms, connected by corridors. It could be an outpost (new or ruined), some caves, or anything else you can imagine. The "level" of a mission indicates the amount of danger present in that area of the mission. Level one (1), or the first level, is usually the easiest part of the mission - the place where the smallest opponents and treasure can be found. Level two (2) is usually more dangerous than level one, and as the numbers increase, so does the danger. A mission may have any number of levels.

Types of Missions

The levels of a mission are usually built horizontally with no areas above or below the first. In this instance, a lower level would be a section of the mission further from the entrance, but no lower or higher than the first level. A group of caves is an example of this type. Some mission may be built vertically; one above the other. In most mission, the deeper you go, the more dangerous the mission becomes. The entrance to the mission is usually on level one (1), and stairs, pits, chutes, elevators, or sometimes even teleports lead to the lower levels. Some mission may be built in the opposite way, with the more difficult levels above the first, rather than below. A tower is one example of this type. There may be more than one entrance to a mission. All entrances need not lead to the first level. Some may lead directly to other levels, bypassing the first. When you design a mission, you may use any method. It is recommended that you make simple horizontal missions first, with more dangerous levels further from the entrance. You may find other types available for download, and you may construct more elaborate types after some practice.

Good and Bad Missions

You could "design" a mission simply by drawing a group of circles and squares (for rooms) and connecting them by lines (for corridors), and making a list of opponents and treasures to be found. However, this random "design" is not a good mission. A good mission is reasonable, its design is carefully thought out and the opponents and treasures are placed for a reason. A good mission is more than just a place to meet opponents; it provides entertainment, puzzles, and clues. Quite simply, it fits together in a meaningful way. In a good mission, the player gains a sense of achievement - of successfully meeting a challenge of some kind. Even a random mission could be a good mission, if the opponents within it were selected and placed carefully. Randomly drawn caves would give a disorganized design of rooms and corridors, but could be a good adventure if occupied only by cave dwellers, such as Sand People or Jawa (play "The Dark Tide I" for a better feel of this concept).

Step by Step

The following steps can be used as a guide in making a good mission. Read them for ideas, and follow the steps if you wish. Every step is important.

1. Choose a scenario
2. Decide on a setting
3. Select special opponents
4. Draw the map
5. Stock the mission
6. Fill in the Final Details

1. Choose a Scenario

A "scenario" is an idea or theme which ties the mission Together. The entire mission should fit the scenario. A good scenario gives the player a reason for adventuring, and keeps the mission consistent and logical. The opponents and treasures are placed later, based on the scenario used. In short - the scenario affects EVERYTHING in the adventure.

Exploring the Unknown: The player is hired to map unknown territory. The area might once have been familiar but is now overrun or destroyed. A strange tower might mysteriously appear overnight in a familiar area

Investigating an Enemy Outpost: The enemy is preparing an invasion. The player must enter an enemy outpost, find the strengths and plans of the enemy, and destroy them; if possible.

Recovering Ruins: The player is scouting an old village before permanent settlers move in. The ruins may have been overrun by a certain type of opponent, who must be driven off or slain. The ruins could even be underneath, or part of, a thriving town such as Nar Shaadda or Coruscant.

Destroying an Ancient Evil: The "evil" may be an opponent or item but the exact type is not known. It may have been deeply buried and reawakened by recent digging, exploring, and so forth.

Visiting a Lost Shrine: To remove a curse or recover a special item, the player must travel to a shrine which has been lost for ages. They have only a rough idea of its location, and may have to consult a Jedi during the trip.

Fulfilling a Quest: A planetary or galactic leader assigns an epic task to the player. It may involve the recovery of a valuable or powerful object.

Escaping from Enemies: The player has been captured! They must escape from their cell deep within a mission (be sure to make escape and the recovery of some equipment possible; though not easy).

Rescuing Prisoners: Valuable or important persons are being held prisoner by an evil group. The player may be hired or may simply be seeking an announced reward. The player may be a guard for the person negotiating the ransom demands. 

Using a Magic Portal: A "Magic Portal" is a device which magically sends players from one place to another. It may be a "door" into another dimension or world, and could become the point of an invasion from a far off place! It could simply be a way to force the player into a secret part of the adventure. The player might be on a mission to destroy the portal, or might be hired to reopen of find a closed or lost portal. The portal may be known or secret, and may operate both ways; or one way only!

Finding a Lost Race: The player finds a long lost race that was once human, but has lived underground for so long that many changes have occurred (change of color, animal habits, infravision, etc.). The details of the lost race must be invented carefully.

2. Decide on a Setting

You do not yet have to make a full map of the adventure, but you should decide how the area will generally look. After choosing a general type (some are given below), make notes on any specific ideas you have for special rooms or areas.

Abandoned Mine

Ancient Temple

Castle or Tower

Caves or Cavern

Crypt or Tomb

Stronghold or Town

3. Select Special Opponents

You should select (and not roll at random) some special opponents, based on the scenario. You may create new opponents if desired. For example, if the scenario is "Recovering Ruins" in a Ruined Town setting, you might place a few Jawa along with the droids they are repairing and their sand crawler. The rest of the Ruins could be filled randomly. The entire adventure could be used for several missions.

4. Draw the Map

You may wish to use graph paper to first draw a rough sketch of the adventure. First select a scale; most find the standard Grid8 (8DFU) grid in WDFUSE to be best. Keep in mind that the player needs at least a 4wx3h to be accessible and can not jump over 9DFU. Familiarize yourself with both WDFUSE and WEDIT as both excel in differing areas.

Second, draw the overall shape of the adventure based on the setting. For example caves need no exact shape while a tower may need a predetermined size and shape. Some sections of the map may be left blank to be filled in later.

5. Stock the Mission

The process of placing the opponents, traps, and treasure in a mission is called "stocking" the mission. First, place the Special opponents in their areas, along with their treasures. Then you may either select other creatures or roll for them at random using either dice or a random number generator.

6. Fill in the Final Details

After the rooms have been stocked, you can add details about normal items, sounds, smells, and so forth. Try to add enough detail to make the adventure interesting, but no too much that the player becomes bored. You will develop a "feel", in time, for the right amount of detail.

To finish, you should include a few wandering opponents. Not possible in Dark Forces you say? Try installing a few generators, possibly with INF conditions, to make it appear that life is going on regardless of the players intrusion (play "Assassinate Darth Vader" to gain a better feeling for this).

Random Stocking

After placing special opponents in a mission, you may fill the rest of the mission with creatures either at random or by choosing. Many rooms should be left empty. If there are opponents everywhere, the adventure will be too dangerous. As a way of checking, imagine what would happen in the adventure setting when the player is not around. Guards should have something to guard, officers should have troops to command, and both should have something to do when they're off duty.

% Room Contents

% Items Found

33% Empty


16.5 % Traps


33% Opponent


16.5% Special

(usually no treasure)

Room Contents

Most RPGs (Role Playing Games) use a very simple formula to determine the balance of an adventure. On average, 33% should be empty. This is not to say that all the walls are in RWCLEAN1.BM with the floors and ceilings in IF3.BM. While the sector containing the primary goal will no doubt ALWAYS have opposition, how often, for example, are living quarters empty? At least eight (8) hours every work day. That's right, 33% of the time and, depending on the level of detail, each person should have their own bed and each Troop/Platoon should have their leaders. By the same token, 33% are usually occupied and the remaining 33% is split between "Traps" and "Specials" equally. This is summarized in the table that follows.


A trap is anything that could cause damage, delay, or change in the logic of the game. The trap may be found and, possibly, avoided. Traps may be placed on doors, walls, ceilings, room furnishings, or directly on a treasure. You may combine traps, or place several in one area, but try not to make the encounter too dangerous for the player. Deadly traps are not recommended until the second level of a mission is reached. Some typical traps:

Blade: A blade sweeps out, down, or up hitting the player for damage.

Opponent: An opponent jumps out and gets a surprise attack.

Darts: Some tiny darts, shot by a spring mechanism perhaps, hit the player for damage or some other effect.

Explosion: Something blows up, causing damage to the player.

Falling Items: A rock, or something, falls on the player causing some amount of damage.

Fog: Looks like poison gas but may cause some other effect

Illusion: Something strange happens. The player may see an imaginary opponent, false clue, or could be led toward another trap.

Light: A bright light flashes, strobes, appears for no apparent reason.

Pit: A section of the floor gives way and the player falls in for damage, underground passage, or chute to next area.

Poison Gas: Player is caught in poison gas without gas mask.

Poison Needle: May be spring loaded to cause damage or some other effect.


A "Special" is anything in the adventure that is not normal, but is not a trap, opponent, or treasure. Some typical specials are:

Alarm: Summons opponents, opens doors, or has some other effect.

Illusion: A feature (stairs, room, door, opponent, treasure, etc.) is not really there, but is merely a phantasm.

Map Change: A shifting wall moves after the player passes, cutting off the exit. The player must find another way around until the wall shifts back.

Movement: The room (stairs, door, or item) moves (turns, drops, closes, rises) unexpectedly.

Pool: Magical water has a strange effect; healing, inflicting damage, invisibility.

Sounds: The room (item or treasure) makes strange noises.

Statue: A large statue of a person, opponent, or gadget is found. It may be valuable or covering a treasure.

Transportation: This could be a trap door leading up or down, secret stairs, elevator, teleport (another room, level, or mission).

Trick opponent: This applies to any variation of a standard opponent such as a Commando with a Concussion Rifle.

Weird Things: You may let your imagination run, placing such things as; weapons which fly, attacking by themselves or treasure firmly stuck to a wall, floor, or ceiling.