Every writer hits a point of "Oh, crap. Word count!" at some point. Sometimes it's that you're done with a project and don't know how to fill the rest of the words you've been assigned. Much more often, it's when you realize that you have many, many more words than your word count allots to you. This latter problem isn't so bad; it forces you to refine your presentation, picking only the best and clearest words. It's really hard to kill words, but being forced to do so makes for better projects.

I'm running up against that word count wall hard.

At the beginning of this whole process, I committed to 30,000 words for this whole AP, or about 1,500 words for each of the 20 adventures. And I aim to stick to that, treating as the word count assignment from my developer or publisher. But when I thought, "okay, this is the blog where I talk about expanding one of the adventures I outlined--say, the 3rd level The Cat's-Paw Deception--into a full adventure. I realized I was already halfway done. My robust outline is already 750 words! So when I thought I'd be giving more of an adventure path framework than a robust 200,000-word adventure path (as Paizo's are), I was completely right.

Adventure Presentation
So now I need to think hard about how to present my adventures, and the vast majority of words in an adventure are in the individual encounters. I've talked before about the many ways to present encounters, with the short, narrative 5th edition D&D presentation at one end and Paizo's long, detailed, oft-subheadered presentation at the other. I've got to pick something that's even shorter than the 5th edition method, and it's going to have to be "framed' with very little text. So let's assume I can have just a couple sentences at the beginning and end of the adventure, and commit the rest to encounters. 

Encounter Presentation
Let's pick two encounters from The Cat's-Paw Deception and figure out how to present them: one simple encounter and one more complicated encounter. For the simple encounter, I'll go with the first encounter in Part 2: "On the way here, the heroes are ambushed by 1 lion and 2 catfolk pouncers." For the complicated encounter, I'll go with first encounter of Part 3, which has the heroes fighting a redcap dragging a catfolk corpse and interacting with townspeople.

I'll have to present monster names in bold, like D&D does, and I need to avoid wordiness: things like subheaders to present treasure, lengthy encounter names, and so on can't exist. But what must an encounter include? At its basic core, each encounter should address the following:

* The difficulty of the encounter ("Moderate 4" or "Severe 19," for example). This is helpful because it both answers, "how hard will my players find this?" and "what level characters is this encounter aimed at?"

* The setting of the encounter, and its immediate environment.

* The creatures in the encounter.

* Any complications from the encounter, like the fact that one creature is holding a hostage, or that a creature is willing to talk if the heroes parley.

* Any rewards (treasure or otherwise) from the encounter.

* Signposting as necessary to lead the heroes to other encounters.

It would be nice to have subheads for each of these for each encounter, but I've already determined I don't have enough words for that throughout the entire adventure path. Maybe I could have some sort of graphical element, where each encounter gets its own table, and the first row in blue is always Difficulty and the next row in green is always Setting, and so on, but I'm not a graphic designer and I worry that such a presentation might look a little too much like a board game at the end. So a short narrative is the way to go.

So let me try this with the two encounters I've picked.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 3)

...wait, hold up. I just decided a thing. Each adventure is going to have about 12 encounters, and most adventures will have multiple parts (needed for natural break points between sessions, or so the characters can rest). I'll number my encounters by part, then within the part. So Encounter 2a is the first encounter of Part 2. (You'll know it's in Chapter 3 because of the "3" after "Moderate"). Clarity of structure in just a few words!

Encounter 2a (Moderate 3)
As the heroes travel to the thicket along a forest trail, a lion and two catfolk pouncers ambush them. Characters who aren't expert or better in Perception are flat-footed during the first round of this ambush. 

Encounter 3a (Moderate 3)
When the heroes make their investigations around Fallinghollow, they don't find anyone with knowledge of a stolen amulet. But while traveling an isolated street they come across a redcap dragging the corpse of a catfolk it killed hours earlier to help frame the townsfolk. The redcap fights to the death to silence the "witnesses." Afterward, townspeople drawn to the sound of the fight share rumors that malevolent red-clad fey like this one inhabit Rust Gorge two hours outside town. 

Are those still too wordy? I'll see when I put the entire adventure text together, next time!