Role Playing 101 #5: Quick and Dirty Adventure Building, part II

Have you had a chance to wing a quick and dirty adventure yet? Yes? How did it go? No? No matter, you will have many opportunities. And, with the three extra ingredients in this post, your quick and dirty adventure may be even better.

Last time we talked about the four main ingredients: beginning, what's at stake, the enemy, and the ending. This time we deal with colour, ally and twist.

Anything that adds a special taste to your adventure is colour. It may be the special setting, that you describe in detail. Or a special setting that players may recognize from a book, movie or holiday. It may be the funny actions of non player characters, or the funny voices you give them. It may be the typical actions of the enemy, the signature he always leaves, the strange costumes he wears, the inexplicable hatred he has of one of the heroes. It may be the music you play in the background – be it symphonic rock or moody film score. Or it may be the map you quickly scribbled on a piece of paper, or the pictures you quickly grabbed from internet to evoke the right mood.

Especially in a longer adventure, the heroes will need help. They will need an ally, or multiple allies. The best allies are worked out like player characters, like the master enemies. Typical allies may be friendly heroes, city guard, nobles, mercenaries, fairy godmothers, vague wizards, and so on. They can even be a character you play when you are playing instead of game mastering. Allies may show up as a patron – someone who hires the heroes – or they may trot along with the group, at least some of the way. Allies are also an excellent way to keep the players on track in the adventure, and steer them a bit in the right direction. Or the wrong direction, if you feel they go to fast or become complacent.

No true exciting story goes without a surprise. And that's what the twist is. Any surprise may do. But the best surprises are those which change the premises of the story. An ally can turn out to be an enemy, or the enemy can turn out to be an ally. That what is at stake may be trumped up, or change – like when you find out that the treasure is actually a lethal dragon. Or when you find out that while you were rescuing the princess, the enemy now is attacking your home city with an army. Or allies may turn out to be temporary enemies, like when the law is chasing you for crimes you did not commit. Or maybe you did commit the crimes, but they made sense because they were against the enemy. Study stories and movies for the many twists that are possible. And have at least one in your adventure. Maybe more.

There, this should make your Q&D adventure a lot more special already. Now, for good measure, let's try an example.

The heroes meet in a roadside inn on their way back from last adventure (beginning). Here they witness the kidnapping of the innkeepers daughter (stakes) by incredibly strong orcs. These orcs are led by a wizard who calls himself Orcus (enemy). As the adventure unfolds, the game master plays the music score from Lord of the Rings (colour), and the heroes traverse a forest full of spooky creatures (colour). The other daughter of the innkeeper joins the heroes on their quest, and it turns out she can fight and steal exceptionally well (ally). However, before the heroes reach the tower where Orcus has his army, they interrogate a wounded orc, who explains that the two sisters stole a magick orb from his master (twist). Orcus now tries to get the orb back by threatening the kidnapped daughter. While the heroes will make up their mind who they will help, they enter the tower for a final showdown with Orcus (ending).

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