A Better Adventure: Scenarios

Posted by on January 12, 2012

In my previous article, I argued that traditional published adventures inevitably tend towards a linear story. It’s fundamental to their nature.

I’d like to propose an alternative: the scenario.

A scenario describes a problematic situation that the PCs can solve. The concept can best be explained by an example.

Let’s say that a small town is being terrorized by the undead. The PCs are sent to investigate. They pick up a clue which leads them to the graveyard. A fight against zombies erupts, leading to a crypt. In the crypt is a necromancer, who teleports away near the end of the battle. The heroes return to town and learn that the necromancer matches the description of a strange man who bought a haunted house in the nearby hills a few weeks ago. They then attack the haunted house, killing the necromancer.

Instead, imagine a document with the following:

  • A map of the town
  • A list of major inhabitants, including:
    • Personality
    • Role-playing tips
    • What they know and will talk about
    • Secrets they’ll keep unless forced
  • A description of the necromancer, with all of the above including:
    • What he’s trying to accomplish
    • The resources at his disposal
    • What he’ll do if left undisturbed, and what he’ll do if he is disturbed
  • Battle maps of the graveyard, crypt, and haunted house, but without linear paths
  • Monster stat blocks

Sounds like the first description, but note that there’s no order here. The players can interact with this scenario in any way they’d like. They might learn of the mysterious stranger and go to the haunted house directly, and that wouldn’t break anything.

More importantly, the town itself can be fleshed out. It’s not just the jumping-off-point for the adventure. It can have its own secrets, plots, and adventure potential.

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