Yesterday, we discussed a revision to the previously created adventure fractals. Today, I’d like to delve into a thorough method of writing these adventure sheets to help GMs fly through the process.
Writing an Adventure
Writing an adventure shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, assuming you already know what the story will be about.
First, you need a goal. What is it the PCs want? How will you make it inevitable that they will travel toward that goal (if it isn’t, they may decide not to partake in the adventure at all)? Once you know the goal, decide whether or not they’ll obtain their goal – “maybe” is a sufficient answer here, relying on the PCs to determine success or failure on their own. It isn’t necessary that they will, however, as failure leads to more adventures.
Once you have your goal, work backwards to create the scene list – scenes are where players get to play, without them, you have no game.
What steps will the players need to take to achieve their goal? To bring a killer to justice, they might first have to discover his whereabouts, which requires discovering who he is, which may require questioning witnesses and following clues, which requires investigating the crime scene, which requires being alerted to the crime.
Read that backwards and you have your scene list: hear about the crime, investigate the scene, talk to witnesses/follow clues, discover the killer’s identity, discover his whereabouts, take him down. While reading that you might decide, like I just did, to increase the tension somewhere in the middle. Maybe a witness turns up dead, too – or a fight ensues between a masked killer and the PCs as they arrive just before a witness is murdered. This is logical, as the killer would want to throw off the investigation.
Important Note: No plan survives contact with the PCs. If the scene’s don’t go in perfect order, that’s okay. Maybe the PCs manage to skip a scene through ingenuity, or make a scene irrelevant, or create a new scene by following some tangent they came up with. Go with it! You can always bring them back on track, or modify a previous scene on the fly to create the new scene.
Now you can come up with your adventure aspects. Write two for each scene: one for the location/setting, and one for the obstacle the PCs will face. You can write more than these, but include at least these two.
Now that you know what the adventure is going to be about, look at the four adventure skills and determine which ones will be used more often, those should be your Hard and Average skills. Give each skill a rating for this adventure. This is what you’ll be rolling for every NPC or setting element that comes into play against the PCs.
Record your vitals (stress and consequences), keeping in mind how many PCs are going to play in the adventure to figure how many bonus vitals you get.
NPCs and Stunts
Finally, go through your obstacles (one of the aspects you created for each scene) and create one or more stunts to represent that obstacle with reliable mechanical effects.
That’s it! You have your completed adventure ready to share with your players. Don’t forget to roll with their punches, er…ideas, and keep things fluid. Like most good outlines, this one is subject to change at a moment’s notice. Don’t force the issue of your perfectly devised plans. If the PCs get off track, find a way to get them back to their goal – the reason it was inevitable/imperative that they obtain it is a good motivator to get them back on track.
This system seems fairly self-explanatory to me, but I’ve received a few questions about it in social media. Let me know in the comments below if you’re interested in seeing an example of play using this system. I’ll try to write one up (maybe even create a video) to demonstrate the finer points.
After some demand, here is an example built using this method.