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Old October 26th, 2018, 09:58 PM
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Default Another Thread on Writing Adventures

I want to write adventures that will be fun to play in. Here are some suggestions pulled from this thread:

A Good Adventure
A good adventure is creating an environment where memorable and fun things happen because of the adventurers' choices, not the referee's plot points.
The Plot
Decide what happened, who did it, and why.
The Opening Scene

Note that many starting points are Patron Encounters. How do the PCs become aware that there’s a problem to be solved?
Everything is character-driven

NPCs have their own goals that they are pursuing. Spend time on NPC motivations and resources. Consider how they might react to things the players do and what resources they could bring to that. Put resources for your PCs in the setting - contacts, places they can get their ship repaired, patrons (with their own agendas) and so forth. Make things they can interact with.
Clues
Link interesting key locations or people with each other via clues. Provide three clues for each, with each clue engaging the players on a different level -- an enigma (intellectual), or excitement/combat (physical), and, if the players care about something in the game, emotional.
Start Small
Like most stories, you need to develop the playe characters first. Give them something not all that important to do. Carry a message from here to there, go get something, or whatever. That develops the characters and how they work together. THEN, show them something important, and set them after it. Now, you can show them a push and a pull, and a problem to be solved.
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Old October 26th, 2018, 10:54 PM
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Based on talking with other authors, here is what most of them say.

Define your starting point. Determine how you want it to end. Then figure out how to make the beginning and end meet. Basically, laying out the ending gives you a goal to work for.
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Old October 27th, 2018, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by robject View Post
I want to write adventures that will be fun to play in.

When I think of the Traveller adventures I like, most are not action-packed, so to speak. They describe the situations, and let the players and referee create the action... for the most part. But I don't know if that's the "best" way to do it? Surely a good adventure follows the flow of a story, with an intro, a body, a climax, and a conclusion.

I'm just drawing a blank.
I only do sandbox games that have NPCs in them with their own goals. Players add their Travellers into the sandbox. They may chance upon an NPC. They may not. Events will still happen in the background as planned if Travellers are busy doing their own thing. Everything is character-driven. That is enough to keep players coming back to find out what happens next. The story is what players remember after each session.

Last edited by ShawnDriscoll; October 28th, 2018 at 01:21 AM..
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Old October 27th, 2018, 03:11 AM
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My view about adventures these days is that I can be:

a referee who sets the scene and everything that follows is due to the action of the player characters and NPCs they run into - thus adventures should be opening scenes, NPCs and their motivations, setting fluff

or

a referee who thinks in terms of railroading the player characters to fit a preconceived adventure plot - PCs do this then this then this then this
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Old October 27th, 2018, 03:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robject View Post
Surely a good adventure follows the flow of a story, with an intro, a body, a climax, and a conclusion.
Yeah, but in my experience, most adventures written that way completely suck.

The trick to preparing a good adventure is creating an environment where those things happen because of the adventurers' choices, not the referee's plot points.
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Old October 27th, 2018, 04:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robject View Post
I want to write adventures that will be fun to play in.

When I think of the Traveller adventures I like, most are not action-packed, so to speak. They describe the situations, and let the players and referee create the action... for the most part. But I don't know if that's the "best" way to do it? Surely a good adventure follows the flow of a story, with an intro, a body, a climax, and a conclusion.

I'm just drawing a blank.
Traveller doesn't really lend itself to pulp action-adventure if you use the system as-is. Combat is pretty lethal and short and there aren't any rules for mooks or redshirts.

I would consider lifting some material for investigations from the Gumshoe SRD and set up some investigative adventures. If you want pulp action, maybe FATE or Savage worlds would be a better choice, and IIRC there are traveller adaptations for both.

I would also suggest doing your NPC's motivations and resources. Consider how they might react to things the players do and what resources they could bring to that. Put resources for your PCs in the setting - contacts, places they can get their ship repaired, patrons (with their own agendas) and so forth. Make things they can interact with.

I suggest that you consider making your party a few notches above nobodies and try not to think in terms of the universe largely ignoring them. Make them something that the rest of the setting will potentially react to (even if they're just semi-well known thugs on the make), and scale the setting appropriately.

I've found that the setting of a bunch of strangers turning up in town isn't necessarily the best relationship for your party to have with the rest of the world and isn't the richest of settings. If you embed them in a setting where they need support from the setting and could potentially burn bridges, then you can work on your players having some attachment to that setting and some feeling of a place in the world. It also acts as a disincentive to behave as murder hobos.

Start with a small setting - a single cluster of worlds in a subsector, and put NPCs who know the party in a number of key locations. These could be potential patrons, contacts, enemies or other parties that might have reason to have dealings with the group. Have them reach out to the party and try to give the party reasons to reach out to them.

Balance the railroading. It can be useful in some cases, and just be open and tell the party that's what's happening. Don't overdo it but you can present scenes, or a graph of scenes with leads (read the linked article below) that lets you railroad the adventure without seeming like it was railroaded.

QOTD: "No man is an island."

https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress...5-node-mystery
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Old October 27th, 2018, 05:11 AM
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The "best" way to write an adventure is dictated by the group you expect to be playing with and what they want.

Broadly there's three "extremes" of play groups I've found, with most groups leaning towards one of the extremes but wanting a few features from the others.

Structured Story
Character-Driven Plot
Total Freedom Sandbox

Players who like Structured Story games enjoy seeing the work you put into a game. They want to play out your story; they expect to be entertained. If you lay your game in a way where the method of getting from A to B is clear to them, they can be counted on to go from A to B for you. They do enjoy choices - but they ultimately are fine working towards a goal you've set for them through the campaign. You can write a campaign based upon adapted classic tropes such as defeat the dark lord, rescue the princess, escape the labyrinth, steal the idol, so on (while people say trope like it's a bad thing - remember tropes endure because people love them). These kinds of games are some of the more rewarding for Refs - they really let you detail out worlds and NPCs and situations as you know the players will encounter them. However, the players will expect you to take them to thrilling places, experience cool things, and so on. They'll appreciate the occasional session where they're allowed to do whatever they want, but typically if they're not given something to do after a session or two they'll get bored and want to get back to the main plot. On the other hand, players who prefer the other two types of games won't like it as much. Game con groups are by default this group - any player who expects character-driven stories or a sandbox at a gaming con is a buffoon, IMO.

Character-Driven Plot players seem like they're in the middle of structured story and total freedom sandbox players but are distinct in themselves. Players like these want long-term goals, but they want those goals to be ones they set themselves. With groups like these, it's okay for you to ask them what they (as a group) want to do long-term and make them commit to it. Then you can consider writing adventures based upon the various incidents the players experience on the way to achieving their goal. Players may have their own goals, they might have short-, medium-, and long-term goals. As a Ref you can write games based on what the players want to do, based on their longer-term goals.

The last group are Total Freedom Sandbox types. These players want to do whatever their whims at the moment dictate. I personally don't think there's much reward in writing adventures for groups like these at all, in fact I don't feel there's much point in preparing stuff at all in many cases for groups like these. Just play it by cuff - players like these tend to react very negatively to any feeling of being "railroaded." Some will have their characters deliberately derail anything the player thinks is too structured.
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Old October 27th, 2018, 10:40 AM
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+1 on The Alexandrian node-based design notes. An amazing repository of knowledge and ideas there.

I think the idea is get away from thinking of detailed, story/plot moments that rely on specific actions from the players and think instead in terms of nodes or chunks of action. Sort of like the old EPIC ideas, the stuff can happen in any order and still lead to the payoff.

The best note from the Alexandrian for me though is the Three Clue Rule. Every node or chunk of action should contain three clues that lead to the subsequent nodes. So if the players miss one or two, the adventure doesn’t fizzle. Also, they put the pieces together themselves so player agency is preserved and in fact encouraged. And the basic structure works for pretty much any adventure scenario you can think of.

Lots of excellent ideas in this thread!
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Old October 27th, 2018, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Fovean View Post
+1 on The Alexandrian node-based design notes. An amazing repository of knowledge and ideas there.

I think the idea is get away from thinking of detailed, story/plot moments that rely on specific actions from the players and think instead in terms of nodes or chunks of action. Sort of like the old EPIC ideas, the stuff can happen in any order and still lead to the payoff.

The best note from the Alexandrian for me though is the Three Clue Rule. Every node or chunk of action should contain three clues that lead to the subsequent nodes. So if the players miss one or two, the adventure doesn’t fizzle. Also, they put the pieces together themselves so player agency is preserved and in fact encouraged. And the basic structure works for pretty much any adventure scenario you can think of.

Lots of excellent ideas in this thread!
I was going to suggest this as well!

I would think that writing an adventure depends on who you're writing it for. Is this for your own group to play? Then you can and should be more specific. Here is where the PCs are, here is their backstory, so here are the hooks to get them into the story and how they'll likely start down this trail.

Is this for publication or wider distribution? Then I would go with the Alexandrian model, create nodes of interaction and a plot line to follow. With the Alexandrian system you rarely run into a place where you have to have the PCs do one specific thing, so you avoid making the referee put on a conductor's hat. And give the referees some clear examples of how they might work this adventure into differing types of games. Running a merchant campaign? Here are a couple of ideas on how the PCs find this. Oh, your PCs are all Navy? Here's why the Navy might be involved in this story line.

I hope this is what you were asking for.
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Old October 27th, 2018, 06:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robject View Post
I want to write adventures that will be fun to play in.

When I think of the Traveller adventures I like, most are not action-packed, so to speak. They describe the situations, and let the players and referee create the action... for the most part. But I don't know if that's the "best" way to do it? Surely a good adventure follows the flow of a story, with an intro, a body, a climax, and a conclusion.

I'm just drawing a blank.
Lots of good ideas mentioned already.

Important distinction. The three act structure for novels and movies fits very poorly with adventure design, because novels and movies are of course all scripted. The characters have no agency or choice of their own, and novels and movies are about how they characters change and develop, not so much about what happens.

Adventures are all about what the characters do, and the players enjoyment of it.

So, writing fun adventures.

For players who are interested in structured adventures, engage them on multiple levels, intellectual, physical, and optionally emotional.

Intellectual = mystery, something for the players to figure out, like who is really behind the pirate raids.

Physical = suspenseful exciting action. It's usually combat, but it could be a race against time, scaling a cliff to save someone in time for medical treatment, etc, even a sports competition. A physical activity with high stakes.

Emotional = the action or mystery involves someone or something the players care about. You can't force players to care, so go lightly on this one. Players might care about a world, some people, the imperium, the imperial navy, a matter of pride or honor, etc.

So, what we're doing is creating a connected series of interesting, exciting, and meaningful tasks/goals/things for the players to do.

Meaningful also means there will be serious long term consequences if the party fails to achive the goals.

So,

1. Connect the party to the adventure. A patron, an obligation (scout ship recalled), a need (gotta make those ship payments), or a mission (miltary or similar) or even involuntary (natural disaster, involuntary tasking by authorities) informs the party if what needs to be done and motivates them to do it.

2. Initial action by the party, let them use their own intellect to figure HOW to tackle the problem or challenge, or how to reach the goal.

3. Reveal new information or events so the party discovers things are not as they seem. Party has to figure out what's really going on, creates mental engagement.

4. Party takes action, makes serious attempt to reach the goal.

5. Setback, reveal greater challenges facing the party, new obstacles appear. Increases the stakes and excitement, engages party mentally on the fly as they grapple with new or greater obstacles.

6. Party takes determined action a second time. More meaningful because they were set back the first time. The action is fiercest here. The party succeeds or fails.

7. Consequences of success or failure. If success, party vanquished foes and gets rewards. If failure, party lives with consequences, immediate and long term. Party drags their wounded away while pirate ship devastates the colony, etc. The consequences of failure are great lead ins for more adventures dealing with those consequences.
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