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Writing Adventures 
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Ulthal

Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:38 pm
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Post Writing Adventures
From Venger Satanis: ‘The adventure designer inspires the GM with awesome ideas. The GM takes those ideas, interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’

That's it. That's what's supposed to happen. Interrupting that sacred pattern with failed novelist backstory, tedious read-aloud text, and predetermined outcomes is ruining D&D!!!”

He's talking about D&D, but IMO it covers C&C as well as most FRPGs.

Discuss. ;)

DM Mike

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Sun May 27, 2018 11:01 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Not much for me to disagree with, since it mostly describes how I use written adventures. I know when I tried to religiously run a series of modules as written, it was seriously boring for me, and my players. The only thing I would clarify, is boxed text works fine, when it conveys the vision you've decided to convey. Otherwise, you edit it or completely toss it and replace with your own text. Same with background text. I do not recall any adventure having a predetermined outcome. I recall probable outcomes being mentioned, but not a full out "THIS IS HOW ITS GOING TO END." So in my experience, that claim is pretty much bogus.

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Sun May 27, 2018 11:10 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Long 'author notes' for backgrounds and all that lose your audience before you even have them unless they happen to be really REALLY engaging. Just enough info to provide for the setting, why you're there in the first place, and what your goals are is typically enough.

I use box text a lot, mainly because it is an easy way to separate Player safe information vs GM info about what they don't see waiting for them. May as well just buy a map book without at least minimal info provided for the planned adventure/story. Given the amount of information my brain sifts through between work, life, and my hobby; if I don't write things down I lose the trees in the forest as it were.

I think the best way of thinking about what RPG's are is how I've taken to describing them over the last 30 years to people that have had no experience with them before. "The game is simply interactive theatre with dice. The GM has a basic script and the players provide the action and dialogue in response to the scene at hand."

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Mon May 28, 2018 12:08 am
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Its funny, now that I'm running games for my girls, and getting my GM feet under me again, I looked over my notes for my girls game after soccer today.

I have the next 8 'events' lined out for the story arc. Each event has 2 to 4 elements in it that will be a game each. Each of those has a location, general notes (1 or 2 sentences), and general bad guy(s) to be faced (nugs to be added as needed), and what events tie back to previous and which ones are set up for future things (juggling local thugs, international terrorists, and Hydra/net work of international super bad guys). Then a note on theme and feeling of how I want it to sound when it starts.

Plus side bars that I can use for the 'Monday night ne'er do wells' as needed.

All and all, at least months of games, and it is all on 2 sheets of hand written note paper.

All the specifics, all the actions will be, as so eloquently stated

Quote:

interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’


I don't know/remember if I was this fluid back in the day, but I am now.

Of course, it isn't a full setting where I need to have a world written out for me. It is modern America with modern cities modern event with my (and my girls/Monday night Ne'er do wells) imagination layered on top.

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Mon May 28, 2018 1:53 am
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Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Bryce Lynch has written probably more on this topic than the rest of mankind combined. If you haven't been reading his module reviews, you should be. His magnum opus is probably his review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I get bored out of my mind running other people's material. As a GM, I want to play, too. That means I have shifted to a largely improvisational GM style.

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Mon May 28, 2018 4:08 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
DMMike wrote:
From Venger Satanis: ‘The adventure designer inspires the GM with awesome ideas. The GM takes those ideas, interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’

That's it. That's what's supposed to happen. Interrupting that sacred pattern with failed novelist backstory, tedious read-aloud text, and predetermined outcomes is ruining D&D!!!”

He's talking about D&D, but IMO it covers C&C as well as most FRPGs.

Discuss. ;)

DM Mike


Who names their kid Venger?

I mostly agree with the first part, but it doesn't seem very controversial. The second part I wonder about.

First, not every backstory is terrible, and not every adventure writer would make a poor novelist or is trying to write a novel in an adventure. I am in general more favorably disposed towards an adventure's backstory than a character's (a first level character isn't that good anything yet and his or her story will be told through future deeds in game). If the adventure is designed for a particular setting, then the backstory helps bring the setting alive, and if you aren't doing that why have the setting. Though I do appreciate advice from the writer on how to remove the adventure from its context.

Second, not all read-aloud text is tedious. The main problems with it to me are when it's too long, when it reveals the wrong things or hides the wrong things, or when it's written in a voice that doesn't match the tone of the GM. Part of the solution is not necessarily fixing the read-aloud text but calling out room contents, noises, monsters, etc. in clearer way. An example is the nice maps for the Thunder Rift adventures that have everything at a glance; you could either read the text (on the map) or just interpret the other map info and you won't mess up much. This requires adventure publishers get their graphics designers, cartographers, and writers to work as a team, but these days, if you are going to buy an adventure, maybe that is what you should expect.

Pre-determined outcomes are something I don't like much but that is why I run more of a sandbox. But as some of the better single-player computer rpgs show, if you want to tell a story (in a written adventure) it will still need the parts a story has, including an ending. That said, I've gotten over the idea that players can break an adventure; they can't really if they are acting as their characters would (referencing the first part: "The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves.") There is the sad fact that you are out $10-$50 for the adventure you bought when they blow up the castle after glancing at room 1, but I guess as long as they are having fun.

The above is all in context of published adventures. If you are writing your own for your own group, I think the less you follow the conventions of a "module" the better; you don't have the task of packaging your ideas for anyone else then, you just need what you will require to handle the actions of characters at the table.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:51 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Aergraith wrote:
There is the sad fact that you are out $10-$50 for the adventure you bought when they blow up the castle after glancing at room 1, but I guess as long as they are having fun.



Funny you should mention that Aer. Dragon Mountain Box campaign...first time I ran it with my group...they killed, no...slaughtered with extreme prejudice...every informant, NPC with a clue, or other personage the adventure writer had provided to point them at the mountain, never even truly starting the campaign. :lol: But they had fun sacking the town!


Noting that too much backstory and information provided is a bad thing, conversely not enough is also a bad thing. Why is the dungeon/villain there? What are the goals that were sought? What's in it for the characters to even check it out? If the information provided doesn't answer at least that much to some degree...why bother with it other than for a cool map? As a writer, even for games, it is important to provide those answers. What the GM running the adventure does with the information is something else entirely. For someone to come along and say that it isn't needed shows a remarkably shallow understanding of the literary process IMO.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:05 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
The thing for me is that I used to never buy modules because I dislike having to read all of the details and remember enough of them to get the plot right. If I do run an adventure module I know that it will need to be somewhat linear because there is a "point A to point B" process involved in writing the thing -- it's a lot like reading a novel for the first time. Given the choice of a linear module and a sandbox I tend to gravitate to the sandbox, but then there may be no definite conclusion but instead players wander around until they get bored.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:22 pm
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Ulthal

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Well, since I started this I might as well put in my 2 cents. :)

Too many adventures nowadays (at least in print) give tons of details that frankly aren't needed unless your DM style is simply to read aloud encounters. That's ok if it is, but IMO its too much of a straightjacket to me. I want general background info, a motivation for the BBEG and maybe 1-2 major minions, and a plot hook or two...and that's it.

I routinely modify modules to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what I think might be better/smarter/cooler/more set for my party's tastes. The only exception to this is classic A/D&D modules such as the Giants trilogy, Tegel Manor, or Tomb of Horrors. That is because IMO this is an expectation of a legendary adventure, and if I change much I feel like I'm cheating them of the experience.

That aside, I do tire of extended backstories and villages where everyone from the mayor to the scullery maid have secrets and hidden motivations. If I want that, I'll make it up on the fly. Otherwise its just page count to kick up the price point of a product. :P

Oh, and Venger Satanis isn't his real name...its his "Internet" name. Dunno why he feels that he needs to do that. Oh wait, Alpha Blue. That's probably it. :lol:

Mike

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:56 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
DMMike wrote:
Well, since I started this I might as well put in my 2 cents. :)

Too many adventures nowadays (at least in print) give tons of details that frankly aren't needed unless your DM style is simply to read aloud encounters. That's ok if it is, but IMO its too much of a straightjacket to me. I want general background info, a motivation for the BBEG and maybe 1-2 major minions, and a plot hook or two...and that's it.


Yeah. Pretty much this sort of thing should not take up more than one or two pages. Unless it is the start of a series of adventures like the A,G, and D stuff was.

DMMike wrote:
That aside, I do tire of extended backstories and villages where everyone from the mayor to the scullery maid have secrets and hidden motivations. If I want that, I'll make it up on the fly. Otherwise its just page count to kick up the price point of a product. :P

Mike


The only time something like that is needed is if the town itself is the dungeon, more-or-less. I like some basic town statistics, a list of key buildings, key NPCs and/or key people (name, sex, age, race is enough really) in the noted businesses that are likely to be frequently used by the PCs, and 1-3 paragraphs about the town history and climate. Not sure if they are trying to kick up the price point or if they are just detail obsessed. lol

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:24 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
If the adventure involves a mystery, a hunt for truth, or some other devious plot then detailing at least a little more than name, occupation, and serial numbers can be helpful. That does not mean it needs to go into novella length background but a sentence or two, even if its easily identified like "mask: this person is helpful, perhaps too much; truth: they're afraid their crime will be uncovered."

But, I guess it comes down to what the module is purporting to be... is it an adventure or is it a "story?" It can be both.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:00 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Those one-page adventure contest ones are a testament to how long a usable adventure really needs to be.

It would be interesting to have abridged/condensed versions of well-known modules. No fluff: here's what you kill, here's where the treasure is. You probably don't even need a map if you say which rooms absolutely need to be next to the other ones.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:26 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Aergraith wrote:
Those one-page adventure contest ones are a testament to how long a usable adventure really needs to be.

It would be interesting to have abridged/condensed versions of well-known modules. No fluff: here's what you kill, here's where the treasure is. You probably don't even need a map if you say which rooms absolutely need to be next to the other ones.


That's for some. I actually find one page adventures completely useless and would barely rate them as lairs never mind a full dungeon. (chuckle)

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"C'mon guys, grow a backbone. It's only ONE stupid kobold!"


Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:02 am
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