(Image from Van Helsing)
You have been charged by the church to hunt down and destroy the foul beasts that plague the lands, delving into their subterranean lairs and bringing back their heads for the glory of your god!
Each session/adventure, the party is given an assignment to investigate monster attacks and to hunt down and kill the creature(s) that is responsible. Adventures will tend to be about 1/2 investigation and 1/2 dungeon crawl; with the first part involving examining the evidence, doing research, and tracking the monsters, followed by marching into their lairs and killing them.
- You get to make great use of any monster manuals you own/get an opportunity to create your own beasts.
- There is a nice combination of role playing and dungeon crawling.
- The set-up is episodic, and allows for players to drop in and drop out between sessions.
- Will get repetitive if there isn't really any overarching plot.
- May feel somewhat linear unless the players are given options of what to hunt.
(Image from greyhawkonline.com)
Lost in the Megadungeon
The player characters are stranded in a vast dungeon, with hundreds of rooms. It is so large that there are small settlements and farms within its winding tunnels. The party's end goal is to try and find a way out.
- Allows for role playing and dungeon crawling without requiring a detailed wilderness/region.
- Offers an interesting twist on the classic megadungeon; wanting to get out rather than wanting to go deeper.
- Is the perfect set-up for psychological horror and surrealism.
- Will get really repetitive unless the dungeon has distinct regions, with interesting NPCs, monsters, and treasure.
- Requires a very large dungeon map that is constantly being updated.
(Image from Darkest Dungeon)
Heirs to the Fortune
A very old and very rich noble has recently died, but in his will was a startling discovery! Over the last few years of his life, he had begun to excavate a large, ancient ruin beneath his manor, releasing monsters into it and constructing traps. Before he died, all of his money was placed in the vast dungeon. His will states that the treasure belongs to anyone who can get it and come back alive. The party must compete with other adventurers to find the treasure beneath the manor, dealing with the noble's monsters and fiendish devices as they do so.
- Many opportunities for memorable villains/opponents, in the form of competing adventuring parties.
- Local town easily makes for a good home base.
- You could have the noble's ghost watch the party, occasionally interacting with them to give them hints/false information.
- The perfect chance to make a funhouse dungeon.
- Isn't very realistic, and might come off as a bit goofy if your players are used to more serious games.
(Image from Raiders of the Lost Ark)
Treasure Hunting Society
The party is a part of an adventurer's guild, a group of people who delve into dungeons for profit. Every adventure, the upper hierarchies of the guild approach the party with a job that is deemed suitable for their expertise. They are provided with transportation to the adventuring site, and some information on the dungeon. A cut from all treasure the party collects is given to the guild as payment, and in exchange the guild provides the party with lodgings, medical care, and a library for research.
- Extremely easy for players to drop in and out of the campaign.
- Allows for a lot of variety in adventures.
- Is easy to use premade adventures/modules.
The Wild Frontier
The party are scouts for settlers, exploring a strange new land. They scout the wilderness, looking for good places to start villages, and for ancient ruins to plunder, all the while fighting against the elements and wild beasts that roam the countryside.
- Gives the party motivation beyond just wanting money.
- Allows there to be a sandbox with a purpose.
- Unless done very carefully, could be seen as a racist and colonialist narrative that justifies the genocide of native people in the name of "manifest destiny". The easiest way to get around this is to not fall back on tropes of aggressive tribespeople, and have the place the party is exploring be genuinely uninhabited, except for non-sentient monsters.
- Could require a lot of work to make an interesting hex crawl.
(Art by Bendukiwi on wikipedia)
Saving the World Through Dungeon Crawling
The party are members of a secret society that know that the end is coming. The only way to avert this crisis is to construct an ancient weapon whose parts lay buried in distant locations around the globe. Time is of the essence, and the PCs must find the artifacts and assemble them before it is too late!
- Has an overarching plot, with potential for interesting NPCs, while still allowing for a somewhat episodic structure.
- Allows player choice in finding the pieces of the weapon in their own order.
- Has a clear end goal.
- You could have a totally awesome fight between a giant robot and Cthulhu at the end and it would make perfect sense.
- Pretty sure this has been done many times before, in things like The Adventure Zone and the Rod of Seven Parts.