This is Part Two of our three-part series on creating and running closed-room adventures. Part One defines a closed-room adventure and why you may want to make one.
Here’s the steps I go through when I write a closed-room adventure:
- What are the characters’ goals? Write down what the PCs need to accomplish in this adventure. Is it to solve a murder? Thwart hijackers? Evict unwanted new tenants from a house? Elect a new Prince? The goal needs to be something definite and tangible–the PCs need to know when they’ve accomplished (or failed) at the goal without the GM telling them.
- Determine the proper location. Does the adventure take place in a mansion? One room of a castle? A lunar shuttle? A prison cell? The “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” attraction at Disneyland? It must take place in one location from start to finish. That location can have a few rooms, but it should still be a limited, definable space that can be closed off from the rest of the world (or solar system, or whatever surrounds it).
- Determine why the characters can’t leave. This doesn’t require armed guards or magically sealed rooms (though it certainly can, if that’s appropriate to the situation); a simple promise from the PCs not to leave until the goal is accomplished can be enough. Or for the ultimate isolation, place the adventure somewhere the environment will prevent the characters from leaving–such as a deserted island or a shuttle in space. Whatever the reason, it needs to make sense, given the goal and location.
- Figure out who’s involved. Determine what PCs and NPCs (if any) are needed. If the PCs are trying to solve a murder committed by one of them, you may not need any NPCs. If they need to save the passengers on a hijacked shuttle, you’ll need one or more hijackers, for example.
- Determine what the PCs need to successfully complete the adventure. Adventure needs generally come in two forms: items and information. Take the needed information and parcel it out among the characters. For maximum PC involvement, every character should have at least one needed bit of information, but no one should have all the pieces. You can place items in the location or give them to the characters, as needed by the adventure.
- Write up information sheets for the players. Take the information you created in the last step and write out a sheet for each character detailing what they know and what they have. This is also a good place to suggest individual character goals which can set the PCs at cross-purposes to one another. Pass out these sheets to the appropriate player at the beginning of the game. Tell the players that those sheets are for their eyes only–they do not exist in game so other players shouldn’t be reading them. The players need to have total control over what information reveal and when.
- Determine what the PCs know about each other, if anything. If any of the PCs know each other, this should also be in the information sheets you pass out at the beginning. Include how they know each other (are brother and sister, went to the same school, etc.) and a brief summary of how they’ve interacted in the past.
- Write an introduction for the adventure. This should be information all the characters know, setting up the scenario for them. It can be as short as a single sentence (“You’ve received an invitation to a dinner party at the mansion of a famous recluse”) or it could be a few paragraphs long. Keep it as short as possible–PCs shouldn’t have to spend more than about 10-15 minutes max reading over the crucial information. Alternatively, you can tell this to the players at the very beginning of the session.
- Create any needed maps, floor plans, etc. It can be very helpful to the players to have a visual reference of the layout of the adventure location. It doesn’t need to be a scale model (though it certainly could, if you’ve got the time and inclination), but it should give the basic information about where everything is.
- Create any needed props. If the adventure requires any in-game maps or notes, or any such item, it’s better to have at least one copy it the players can refer to an pass around. That keeps you from having to remind them about the information on the note. Also, this way, if they overlook something, it’s their own fault and not yours for failing to remind them.
- Plan a timetable of events. I rarely use planned events in my closed-room games, but sometimes they’re needed. Also, it can help to have a list of possible events to get the PCs back on track if they head off on a tangent (or red herring) or to move forward if they get stuck.
Next Time: Tips on running your closed-room adventure and some examples of closed-room scenarios in movies.
Other Posts in this Series
- “Mr. Body’s Body–It’s Gone!”: Creating Closed-Room Adventures
- “Mr. Body’s Body…”: Tips and Inspiration for Running Closed-Room Adventures
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