Flexible and Adaptable:
Posted by Mage Mistress
I have been a bad friend, and for that I apologize. Life has been… busy. I do hate it when life gets in the way of the important stuff, like gaming, but it does happen from time to time.
I’m back now, so enough of that.
Among the things keeping me busy is RetCon prep! It’s that time of year again, and this time around I’ll be running Savage Worlds. It’s a whole new system for me from the GM side, which is exciting and fun! It’s also a lot of work trying to get the game balance in my head and making sure I have the rules for various situations down pat. I have three totally different modules in three very different genres brewing in my brain as I write this. There will be more specifics as the dates of RetCon (8/23 – 8/25) draw nearer. I will say this though: prizes for the Super Villains game I’m running made their way into my hands today and they are very sweet – if you like autographed books about Super Heroes and Zombies that is! And who doesn’t like that?
So I’m pretty busy on the work front (things are really ramping up in my little corner of the 9-5) AND being constantly distracted by story ideas involving Space Colonialists, 1940’s Relic Hunters, and Super Villains. Fortunately my coworkers have accepted that I’m an odd duck. There are so many possible plot threads, so many areas to explore, so many ways I can really ruin a PCs day that I can’t reasonably expect to get to them all in a single session of each scenario… and so there will be a wide range of what I call “modular elements” for my one-shot adventures.
Putting elements into a one-shot adventure is in many ways like furnishing an apartment. You want to have enough furniture to have a sense of style, and make the place look interesting and lived in. You also don’t want to have so much furniture that somebody calls the Hoarders crew about you. Having moved a few times myself (and very recently I might add) I have learned the joy of having modular pieces, because you don’t need any particular one of them, so if you don’t have room for an L shaped sofa now you don’t need to buy one. However, if you buy a modular piece, then when you move into a bigger place you can get a matching piece to have that enormo-sofa you always dreamed of for game nights without needing to ditch the piece that you originally purchased! (Leaving you more money for games!)
Of course, there are certain elements that you do need, your apartment won’t be very liveable without a fridge for example. Adventure plotting is the same. You need certain key elements to get your story across to the players. However, if you find that they are ripping through those necessary plot elements way too fast, or maybe you’ve decided to run the same adventure again and have a longer time slot to fill, or perhaps you are finding that they need to be led to the clues by the hand like young children, you can sneak in a modular element to fill that need if you have one prepped that suits the adventure.
For example, when I wrote my Asylum adventure I hoped that I would get to run it for a group of people who would really ham up the idea of being a film crew making a “Ghost Hunters” type of TV show and act out some on-screen monologue-ing and such. Of course, I had to accept the fact that there was every possibility that the people I had at the table wouldn’t be into that level of improv, so I dreamed up some NPCs they might run into on the grounds of the abandoned asylum in case I needed to fill some time. There are some gang bangers who might be tagging the dilapidated buildings, some ravers partying in the potter’s field, some elderly folks visiting the graves of relatives buried at the site, a care-taker who can be played as either a surly pain in the rump, knowledgeable source of historical information, or a kick-ass man of action depending upon how the game is running, and of course the odd cultist or two who might be up to any kind of shenanigans. None of these characters are necessary to drive the story along if the players thoroughly investigate and want to act out the filming. (Which is planned for tabletop play, but really could be used as a LARP night if one is so inclined and has a good location handy.) I planned the game with handouts containing information that are given to players who make certain discoveries during the game, so that they can describe what they uncovered in their own character’s words. Those handouts are the key elements. Of course, it’s always possible that they will simply pass around the piece of paper and then look at me to “give” them something to interact with, which is where the Modular NPC Elements come in. They are organically woven into the narrative so they won’t feel like something just thrown together as filler, but at the same time they aren’t necessary to drive the plot so they can be dropped in favor of other things that are working well without the game feeling rushed.
Another good thing about well planned modular elements is that they can be ported into other adventure if you put a fresh coat of paint on them. Gang bangers in an seedy location can be easily re-purposed as head hunters in a jungle, or organized thugs. The nuisance/crazy/knowledgeable/kickass/all-of-the-above groundskeeper could be a drifter, a doorman, a homeless person, a wealthy eccentric, or a malfunctioning android depending upon your setting. The raw stats will largely carry over, you just need to spice them up with the right ties to the location and theme of the adventure.
And the best part is – when you run the adventure again you can toss in different elements this time! They are all right there for you, so whatever strikes your fancy and fits in with the players’ choices is all good if you have it prepped.
Remember, the players will nine times out of ten refuse to do something that makes any kind of rational sense whatsoever. You will want to have a few modular elements prepped and ready to make them suffer for it!
Posted on July 26, 2013, in Campaign Summary, Convention Gaming, RetCon, RPG, Savage Worlds and tagged RetConGameCon, Role Playing Game, Roleplaying Games, Savage Worlds, tabletop RPG. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
I use a different analogy for the same concept of “modularity” – cooking. You have a certain set of ingredients in your pantry/refrigerator/freezer, and you can use any of them to add to what food you have for different results.
Exact same idea, different way of looking at it. But then, you’d probably expect that from a person who calls himself “BeefGriller.” 😉
Excellent post! 🙂
Thanks! (and sorry your comment got trapped in an approval filter. #sigh)
Cooking is an excellent analogy for spicing up adventure modules. I am indeed shocked that you would think of things in those terms. 😉