Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to write adventures - I keep talking about location based design

So, what were my experiences from Location Based Design for my adventure?

I had decided to play a game of Mutant, one of the earliest games I ever played for any extended time. It's a BRP game, which really looks a lot like Gamma World. Mutated anthropomorphic animals for the win! Thanks to those qualities I could inject lot of humour and jokes about contemporary events.

The backstory say that some kind of catastrophe occurred, and humankind escaped into subterranean bunkers, and only ventured outside when long time had passed. Knowledge of the old times have faded, and now mutants of all kinds roamed the lands. I decided to make the PCs all be part of a secret project to develop psychic powers, and they had all been put to cryogenic sleep. Now they wake up, with hazy memories and can explore the setting with no preconceived ideas, as they knew as much as their characters did.

 My location was a small village, with a sawmill powered by an artifact from the Old Days. The village was basically ruled and run by the robber baron that owned the artifact. I made up a few enemies of his, some shops and people in the village and let the players loose.

Like I wrote about yesterday I had the map, the location in question. The threat I envisioned was the tension in the village between the rich ruler and his "subjects". In order to make it something the players could not just ignore I also invented an NPC with a personal vendetta against the baron, and a timeline for how it would play out.

So, how did it work?

The biggest problem I think was related to the reasons for the PCs to be there. They woke up, and some mutated badgers brought them to the baron and the basically followed along. While they did walk around a bit, they never did take strong action for or against any of the sides in the village. I think I learned that the threat has to be immediate, and personal. If you have very pro-active players they might make things up for themselves, but I think having a clear, threat, is a good idea. It's first now when I look back at it and try to formulate what the components were that I settled on that term.

I claim this is one of the basic forms of design for an adventure. Some call this fish tank or sandbox. I'd prefer to shine the light on the Location. Why? Because a sandbox is just a somewhat flat area, of a common material. I think a location based adventure has to be much more, and that's why I never have had much success with "sandboxes". A Location has to be strange, worth investigating and exploring and there has to be a clear threat looming large and personal. At least that's the theory.

Next up I'll take a closer look at the Scene Based Design.

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