By Jason Campbell

Creating an adventure based on another source – one in a different genre – shouldn’t be a literal translation. The animated film Finding Nemo has no connection to epic magic and fantasy, but it can still inspire a fantasy adventure. Break the story down to its core themes and create something original based on them. The story doesn’t need to be set under the ocean or rely on a father and son relationship. Break the story down to its core themes and values and build an adventure from there. 

The Premise

First summarize the movie in a single sentence: A father travels a great distance to rescue his kidnapped son. From there identify the protagonist, what they want, and what is keeping them from getting it. The father is a mild mannered everyman who wants to rescue his son. His son is trapped, but what really stands in the father’s way is the distance between them (the open sea).

The Protagonist

In creating an adventure the player characters represent the protagonist. In Finding Nemo the father/son relationship provides the motivation for the father to go on his journey, the adventure needs to provide a similar motivation for the characters. A good motivation is the theft or loss of something important to the characters and their allies. There’s nothing as valuable as a natural resource, like light. Have a villain use a magic artifact to “steal” the light of an entire region, throwing the lands into darkness. If the heroes find this artifact they can free the light of the region, but the artifact is far away at the top of icy mountains. Darkness over the characters’ home is a personal challenge that they will feel invested in, and seek to overcome.

The Quest

In Finding Nemo the vast open sea presents the difficulty of the father to get what he wants. The trek to the far off icy mountain is the difficulty the characters face. The adversaries and friends the father meets along his journey represent the adventure that makes for a great story. The adventure the characters will go on should present the same opportunity for adventure.

The Adventure

Along the way the characters will encounter opposition from adversaries and the environment making the journey arduous. They’ll also find allies who help them on their journey and clues about their goal, as the father does in Finding Nemo


Adversaries can include minions of the main villain sent to slow down the heroes’ progress. It might include natural adversaries like creatures defending their territory from trespassers or animals looking for their next meal. Some of these battles should be encounters that are simple for the characters to get through and others challenging combat. Varying the challenges of encounters keeps the adventure interesting.

The Environment

Challenges can come from the land and weather rather than an opponent. Fording a mighty river, crossing a deep chasm or surviving a raging storm are great non-combat challenges. Let the players come up with creative ways to succeed so these don’t turn into a series of die rolls.


An ally is anyone who helps the characters, whether they sympathize with the goal or not. To keep the focus on the player characters the allies only help for a part of the journey. They might be tied to a region or have their own goals elsewhere. 


The characters know where they’re headed, but don’t know everything about their task when they get there. Along the way they find information about the villain, their lair and their defenses. Some of this comes from allies or adversaries, some from found objects.

The Twist

In Finding Nemo, the father gets to the office where Nemo is captured, but believes his son is dead, and leaves believing his mission is a failure. Only later is he reunited with his son and they return home together. Since this is a game adventure, not a story, the GM shouldn’t try to anticipate what the player characters will do. But there can still be a twist. The characters find clues that the artifact that stole the light is a golden lantern, but this is a ruse. When they capture the lantern they find instead it’s a beacon which draws the villain to them. The artifact they need to capture is actually a pendant the villain wears. If the players are clever enough to discover this ruse early, that’s great, they should be rewarded for great game play. 

The Conclusion

Finding Nemo has a happy ending of course. But does the adventure end well for the player characters? There’s only one way to find out!

What do you think? Have you ever used a story from another genre as inspiration for a TTRPG adventure? Let us know!