Monthly Archives: December 2010

Why and How: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 7

No Gravatar

Up to this point, in this series on turning adventure seeds into full-fledged adventures, we’re down to the last of the questions that will give us the background information we need for our adventure. So far, we’ve covered the who questions, describing all the people involved in our adventure, the what questions that tell us what’s going on with the adventure, the where and when questions that tell us about the adventure’s location and time it takes place in. Now we’re down to the very last of the questions: why and how.

[Photo provided by exfordy via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]

Why Questions

In many ways, these are the most important questions of all, for they give us the reasons that the adventure and its events are happening. They’re also the most often over-looked. Have you ever played through an adventure that doesn’t make sense? That’s usually because the adventure’s creator never fully answered the “why” questions.

Why do the PCs need to be the ones to go on this mission?

This is the question that covers our adventure hooks — the reasons why each of our PCs would go on this adventure. For that reason, we need to know the individual PCs involved in the game. Since we haven’t created a party for this adventure, this is a question you’d want to answer for each of the characters in your game.

Collectively, however, we can posit the reason the prince would hire the PCs as a group, rather than using some of his own men. The reason here is that the PCs are outsiders–which gives Alexei and Fedor plausible deniability. They can always claim that the PCs are acting on their own behalf and have other, ulterior motives on the princess.

Why did the leader hire these entertainers?

The princess wished for these entertainers because they’re the ones performing the most popular play around. Also, the wizard, who arranged for the performance in the first place, was an old adventuring buddy of Kirill, the head of the performing group. We can state that perhaps the wizard isn’t fully convinced about this marriage himself and is hoping that perhaps Kirill can turn the princess’ eye away from himself.

Why is (s)he holding the performance?

Entertainment is a traditional part of a princess’ confinement time. After all, she’s shut away from everyone else for six months. We could make part of the tradition for a princess’ betrothed to supply entertainment for her during her confinement.

Why is the mission taking place?

While we’ve pretty much covered this in earlier questions, it helps to spell it out clearly. The mission is taking place because the Prince Alexei views his sister’s marriage as a threat to his own inheritance of the crown. It would make the king’s favorite adviser a member of the royal family which could, potentially, threaten his inheritance. It would also give the wizard even more of the king’s ear. If he can somehow get the princess to marry his best friend, Fedor, he can put someone else into power who’s more loyal to him than to his father.

Fedor doesn’t want the marriage to take place because he’s been in love with the princess since he was a boy and he doesn’t want to see her married to anyone else, but particularly not an “old man” such as his master.

Do the PCs know?

The PCs are actually being given a false reason to go on the adventure–they’re being told that the princess is being forced to marry against her will. Alexei and Fedor hope that this will give the PCs even more reason to help them, hoping to engage the PCs’ on an emotional level, thereby making them more committed to the mission.

Why should the PCs go?

This goes back to our motive question, but with a slightly different twist. Instead of explaining why Alexei and Fedor would want the PCs, we explain why the PCs themselves would want to take the mission. Again, individual motives would have to be determined by the GM for each individual PC and for each individual group. For the group as a whole, though, one reason would be that Alexei and Fedor will pay very well for a successful completion of the mission. Also, it would place the future king of the country in the PCs debt–never a bad thing, since adventurers have a habit of causing trouble wherever they go.

Why are the entertainers taking this job?

Presumably the payment for the performance would be a huge incentive. But we can also say that the leader of the entertainers, Kirill, sees it as a way to thumb his nose at the king, using it as a way of counting coup against him. Also, perhaps Kirill owes the court wizard (let’s call him Roman) a favor from their adventuring days and this would allow Kirill the chance to repay it.

We’ve also brought up a couple more “whys” while answering the earlier questions:

Why would Fedor want the plan to fail?

Back in our who questions, we posited the idea that maybe Fedor wants the mission to fail. But why would he? Perhaps he’s having second thoughts about. Maybe he’s realizing the princess wants to marry Roman and that he wants her happiness above his own desires. Or perhaps he and Alexei had some kind of falling out and Fedor sees this as a chance to get revenge. The GM would have to determine the circumstances of the falling out.

Why does the princess want to marry Roman?

Perhaps our princess Darya has a crush on Roman–a May to December romance. Maybe her own father was cold and distant and she sees in Roman someone who cares for her and will take care of her.

Just to add another twist, let’s say that Roman doesn’t want to marry our princess. Very likely, he could see her as the daughter he never had. Let’s also say that he knows Fedor is in love with the princess and let’s say he thinks Fedor would make a very good husband for her. So perhaps Roman’s gotten wind of this plot on the part of the Prince Alexei and his apprentice and is actually hoping it will succeed, particularly if he believes that Darya and Fedor would actually be happy together. Maybe they were close friends growing up, which would give Roman a reason to believe that the marriage would be a happy one.

How Questions

Usually in an adventure, how to solve a mission is best left up to the players to figure out. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least one idea as to how to solve it. That way, if the PCs get completely stuck, the GM can drop some hints to get them moving again. We also have a few “how” questions  that need answers:

How are the PCs going to fit in with the entertainers?

Entertainment groups have their own culture and the PCs are likely to stick out like sore thumbs. I’d actually leave it up to the PCs to determine how they’re going to fit in, but they do have a week to prepare, so Kirill can do his best to give them a quick introduction to the life of a traveling player.

How might they prepare for this mission?

Obviously, their week of training would be the major way for them to prepare for the mission. It’s also important for the GM to remain flexible and incorporate the players’ ideas for preparation into the mission.

How might they succeed?

Well, given all of our plot twists, success could very well be in the eyes of the players. If they do manage to get the princess out to marry Fedor, they’ll have succeeded at the parameters of the mission as originally outlined. There are several ways to go about this. One way would be to disguise the princess as one of the entertainers, another could be to smuggle her out in one of the prop trunks.

How might they fail?

The main way the PCs would fail is to be detected and reported to king. That would pretty much ruin every plan they could come up with (now that I’ve said that, some group will come up with that as their actual plan and make it work).

How are the entertainer going to perform?

The confinement compound could have a central courtyard that would provide a space for entertainers to come and perform in. Since our group are traveling players, they’re going to travel pretty light, meaning they actually use few props and scenery. So their performance is going to be an acting one, with the play’s emphasis being on character relationships rather than scenery and special effects.

Now we’ve answered our main questions and we’ve got the beginning of an adventure forming. Using these techniques yourself, you’re most likely to move back and forth between questions as answers to one question lead to more questions that need other answers. Keep working back and forth until you’ve answered enough questions– “enough” being defined as “until the adventure takes shape in your mind.”

Next time we’ll go back over our answers and begin pulling this information into an actual adventure.

Other posts in this series

Enhanced by Zemanta

Where and When: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 6

No Gravatar

So far, in this series of posts on creating a full adventure from an adventure seed, we’ve written down the adventure seed and asked ourselves questions about it, then answered the who and what questions of our adventure, now onto our “when” and “where” questions. Once we’re done with the questions, we’ll move into creating the actual events of the adventure.

[Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]

When Questions

When is this performance to take place?

How much time do we want to give our PCs to prepare for their assignment? We want to let them have some preparation time, but we don’t want to slow down the adventure by giving them too much time so that they run off on tangents. Lets give them a week. So, the performance is going to take place one week from the time the PCs get their assignment.

What is the current date?

This is the in-game date. If we’re hooking this adventure into a larger campaign, the current date can be significant. If this is a stand-alone adventure, we don’t really have to set the current date. But it might be useful for us to figure out how much time the princess has spent in seclusion already (two months–so she’s definitely ready to talk to someone from the outside world) and how much more time she has left to go (four months, which seems like an eternity to her at the moment).

How much time do the PCs have to prepare?

We’ve answered this question above, but we’ll restate it here: one week.

How much time do the PCs have to complete the mission?

They basically have as long as the performance lasts to get everything set up. They should plan on actually getting the princess out as soon as possible after the performance.

How long is the performance to last?

Two hours.

Where Questions

What is the nation is the princess from?

If you’re using an already created game world, you’ll want to make her a member of a nation that already exists on that world. But let’s assume that we’re creating this game world from scratch as we go along. So we’ll call the princess’ country “Sunfall”, and place it in the eastern half of our new game world (where the sun seems to set).

Is the PCs’ employer from the same nation, or a different one?

The same nation. He’s her younger brother.

Is it the same nation as the PCs?

For maximum impact, lets make the PCs from a different country and call it “Seavale”, a coastal nation. Seavale borders Sunfall, but relations have been strained between the two countries (yes, I am making this up as I go along 😉 ). Prince Alexei deliberately looked for people from Seavale, so that if something went wrong with the plan, he could claim that Seavale agents were trying to kidnap the princess for their own ends.

Where is the compound located?

Near Sunfall’s royal palace, which is located near the middle of the kingdom. The compound is close by, in case relatives want to visit and so that the king and queen can visit and more easily keep an eye on who comes and goes from the princess’ seclusion location. But let’s say it’s between the palace and the Seavale border, which means that the far side of the compound is going to be well-guarded by people the king can trust.

Where is the performance to take place?

Let’s interpret this to mean “where in the compound the performance will take place”,  since we already know that the performance will take place in the seclusion compound. We’ll schedule to performance to take place in the compound’s inner courtyard.

What is the adventure’s starting location?

The prince will want to meet the PCs somewhere where they can talk freely and he won’t be recognized. The first thing that leaps to mind is the very much overused seedy tavern, just inside the Seavale border. Trite though it is, this location does have a lot of aspects in its favor. For one, if we posit that the crown prince has kept a very low profile in the kingdom, so much so that few people outside of the royal family would recognize him, he should be able to come and go from from such a place without notice or comment (unless someone does recognize him…). People in these types of places are used to minding their own business. Depending on how competent we want our prince to be, he can either dress down to match his surroundings (the prudent course of action) or he can flaunt his wealth, attracting every major pickpocket and cut-purse in the area, which could create some wonderful complications to the adventure.

What is it’s ending location?

That will depend on if the PCs get the princess out or not. If so, the adventure will end at a “safe house” the prince has set up on the border of the kingdom. If not, the adventure is likely to end in the princess’ seclusion compound. Either way, we should have the safe house location prepared.

What other locations might be important?

The castle, the wizard’s tower are all possible locations, but the bulk of the adventure should take place in the princess’ compound, so that’s the location we’ll spend the bulk of our location preparation time on.

What are the languages, customs, and practices of the entertainers? Are they different from the PCs?

We could go hog-wild on this one and set them up with a different language and some really unusual customs, making them originally from a very different culture than the PCs. But I don’t want to spend time on that aspect, so we’ll make all of them–the PCs and the entertainers–from the same basic area, Seavale.

However, theatre people tend to be a superstitious lot, so we can have a little fun with the PCs by giving our troupe of players a few quirks, but not so many that they take over the game session. So, first, we can have the actors begin their day with offerings to whichever god in the campaign world watches over performers and traveling players, followed by a couple of hours of vocal and physical warm-up exercises. So unless you’ve got a party full of bards, that should help push the PCs out of their comfort zone somewhat.

The day would continue with rehearsals of the current performance, as well as some stage combat practice (less deadly, but just as demanding as real combat practice)., finally concluding with some street performances to bring in needed money. The PCs will be expected to take part in these, so that they can learn what they need to know to preserve their cover.

We can also give the troupe a couple of superstitious habits, based on real-world theatre superstitions, the primary one being the practice of never wishing “good luck” to someone going on-stage (hence the real-world practice of saying “Break a leg”). Let’s say that actors in this world say “Crack your head”. Also, having a black cat in the theatre house prior to performance is said to bring good luck and a successful play. Since ours are traveling players, they don’t usually perform in theatres, so let’s say they keep their own pet black cats who travel with them as companions and that it’s a very bad omen if one runs away or gets harmed.

Next time, we’ll finish up the questions with “why” and “how”.

Other posts in this series

Questions Continue: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 5

No Gravatar

whatThis is part 5 of our series on how to develop a full adventure from an adventure seed.

Last time, we began answering the questions our adventure seed suggested. We answered the “who” questions; today we’re going to continue with the “what” questions. As before, none of these answers are set in stone–we can come back and change them at anytime.

Now, onto the “what” questions:

What are the exact goals of the mission?

Players need concrete goals that allow them to know when they’ve succeeded or failed in their mission. Let’s say the princess is in the secured compound because she’s been betrothed to the court wizard, who’s also her father’s best friend and 30 years her senior. We’ll call him “Roman” and add him to our growing list of NPCs to create. And let’s give the kingdom a tradition where a bride-to-be spends time in seclusion with only her closest female friends and (in the case of nobility) maids.

Our PCs are going to be tasked with the mission of smuggling the princess out of her seclusion so she can marry her “true love”: Feodor (that’s what Prince Alexei will tell the PCs). We’ll go into more detail about this when we get to the “why” questions.

What is the performance the players are going to do?

They’re going to perform a play that’s been popular in the surrounding kingdoms, a romantic piece about true love, high adventure, and daring-do. Given the fact that most PCs have little to no performing skills, Kirill’s, our troupe’s leader, plans to use them as stagehands. This will also allow the PCs more room to fulfill their mission, as they don’t have to be on stage at any particular time.

What kind of performers are they?

A troupe of actors, who travel around performing plays at various courts and festivals.

What security measures are in place?

We’ll come back to this question later. Once we’ve answered the other questions, we may have a better idea about what resources the kingdom has to draw on to create the security measures.

What maps do you need to create?

As of this point in time, the only map we really need is one of the secure compound where the princess is serving her “seclusion”–that is, a time before her marriage takes place. But we’ll go into this more in our “when” questions.

What special items might the PCs need to succeed?

So far, we’ve got nothing to tell us that the PCs will need any special equipment, but we may come up with some as we further flesh out or adventure.

What does the compound look like?

Given the fact that this is for the princess, it wouldn’t be odd for the “compound” to be beautiful and comfortable. It would be filled with the princess’ favorite things and probably display the wealth of the king, her father, and of the kingdom itself. So think soft, comfortable furnishings, artistically painted walls, probably with murals, perhaps even an internal courtyard with a garden and a pool.

What group or faction does the national leader belong to, if any? What group or faction does the PCs employer belong to, if any?

Our adventure isn’t shaping up to include factions or groups, so we can safely ignore these two questions. If we change our minds, we can always come back to them.

What obstacles might stand in the way of the PCs succeeding?

Well, first and foremost, there will be the security measures we’re going to detail out later. Other possible obstacles could be Kirill, if he discovers the nature of the PCs’ mission and doesn’t like it. Another obstacle could be the princess herself. What if she doesn’t want to be “rescued”? What if she actually wants to marry the wizard. Of course, the PCs won’t know this at first–they’ll have been told by Prince Alexei that Fedor, Roman’s apprentice, is her true love. And if, despite her love of sappy love stories, the princess is extremely competent, she could pose a formidable obstacle, indeed, particularly since she knows the compound much better than the PCs do.

What will happen if the PCs succeed?

First of all, they’ll have made a enemy of the princess. But Prince Alexei will be willing to pay a rich reward for foiling the official wedding plans. This is where having knowledge of your PCs comes in handy. What reward would they wish? Perhaps Alexei, not being the most astute of princes, will allow each of the PCs to name any reward within his power to grant.

What will happen if the PCs fail?

The princess’ wedding will go on as planned and the PCs will have gained the wrath of the crown prince and possibly the wizard’s assistant, as well. If we postulate that the wizard himself doesn’t want the marriage to go forward (perhaps he sees the princess more as the daughter he never had), they could possibly be granted a reward by him. We’ll hammer out the consequences of success and failure as we go along.

Next time, we’ll cover “when” and possibly “where” questions, as well.

[Photo courtesy of Vikki-Lea via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0]

Other posts in this series: