Thursday, November 03, 2022

Playing with Adventure Frameworks

The bulk of my adventures fall into this formula:

Step 1: research.  The PCs are introduced to a problem but the cause is unknown.  They must find out what's causing it before they can solve it.

Step 2: complication.  Usually this is due to the baddies not being thrilled that the PCs are meddling, but sometimes it's just weather, local politics, etc.

Step 3: mini-quest.  The PCs know how to learn what they need to solve the problem (identity of cause or how to neutralize the cause).  A short, mini-quest is necessary to acquire what's needed.  This is usually a small dungeon (dozen rooms max), a heist, or a kidnapping.

Step 4: climax.  With the knowledge of who the villain is or the item needed to neutralize the problem, the PCs act directly to solve the issue.  This usually involves infiltrating a larger complex (24-36 rooms with multiple levels/zones).

This sort of set-up leans heavily and from the start into my favorite parts of RPGs: NPC interactions and exploration.  It makes understanding the fantasy world we're playing in important and useful.  It allows me to fine-tune how much combat is involved on the fly.  

It's also incredibly easy to reskin.  It doesn't care how the PCs are motivated; if they want to do good or earn coin, it's very easy to get them involved, and if they have other motivations, I can drop those into this framework as well.  

You can daisy-chain these pretty easily; the climax to to Problem 1 might due double-duty as the "mini-quest" for Problem 2.  Or a single mini-quest might relate to multiple problems.  

It's easy to modify.  You can change things up by having multiple mini-quests, varying the source of the complication, or creating multiple entry points.

It works great for pro-active players who have a goal they want to accomplish, as you can scatter these in their way.

Finally, and most importantly, it's great when the players zig where you expected them to zag.  You can draw out the research aspect or create a quick mini-dungeon on the fly, buying you time to craft a suitable climax for the next session.  

Illustrations crafted with Stable Diffusion and GIMP.