Adventure Design (Part 1)
I normally try to write our blog posts at least a week in advance, as it frees up time and causes less stress than doing it on the day. So, at the time where I'm writing this, there is just less than 48 hours to go on our very first Kickstarter, and I'm happy to report that it has been a success. :)
But I wanted to share a bit about the design choices we make for our adventures. It's near and dear to us, so I hope you'll like what we have to say on the subject. While the process of brainstorming an adventure takes many different forms and can't really be codified, some of our approaches to it, can.
All of our adventures should abide by these traits:
Treasure and Reward
Now these are not in any order and may move around as befits the individual adventure, but every adventure should have them, and as a rule, Plot should always be the main priority, though there are times when a cool villain will take precedence if the concept is strong enough.
The adventure should always center around the heroes, though the setup (or plot hook) might not. The heroes are the center of the story, and it is their actions that will drive the story forward, for better or worse. Choices should have consequences, and there should be a clear outcome of both success and failure, even if that is only evident to the GM and not the players.
There are different ways to approach a villain, but they don't all have to be Darth Maul level of cool (Maul is cool, but let's be honest, he got killed off much too quickly - at least until revived in the cartoons). Sometimes what you need is a Cardinal Richelieu, one that works behind the scenes, and isn't likely to confront the heroes head-on (at least initially).
The villain should be easily recognizable as such for the players (even if not the heroes), although of course this might be a ruse on behalf of the real villain, or there might even be more than one. Sometimes, proving WHO is the villain to the rest of the world should be the goal.
Getting to the BBEG should not be easy. Even the toughest BBEG should have a bunch of minions (like Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers) for the heroes to wade through before getting to the main villain. This has three reasons: 1) it makes the heroes feel like they're powerful and cool when they're mowing down the opposition. 2) It drains valuable resources - for most games, due to the action economy, heroes will have an advantage against a villain if fully rested. So some of these need to be drained away, to get to 3) A cinematic feel. Both in books and films, heroes have to overcome the opposition, often at terrible odds. Minions (and lower-level henchmen) are a great way to simulate these odds.
Treasure and Reward:
This one seems obvious, but there should be a reward for overcoming the villain or the obstacle. Obviously, most of the time that'll take a monetary form like gold and magic items, but it doesn't have to be. A lot of the time, a more meaningful reward will be a non-monetary one: A title, right to land, the services of a squire/NPC, and that sort of thing. These others will always feel a bit more special because they're so rare and don't have a direct value to the hero. They're just a bit more memorable because of the relative scarcity of them.
Each adventure, or a part of it at least, should take place in a memorable location. And here, the rule of cool is paramount. It doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense within the rules, but it should be something that stands out. This is why (to use Star Wars as a reference), most of their lightsaber battles don't take place in the normal corridors of space stations, but in scenic vistas, narrow bridges, and lava planets. It provides a very cool backdrop to the fight, and beyond the pure visuals, it also lets the heroes experience things they otherwise might not: Instead of a battle in an empty room, make it one in a throne room or one where a reverse gravity trap has gone haywire - suddenly there's terrain to deal with, or the fact that you might go up one round, and down another, and float about. If the villain has an advantage of it normally, allow for a small sidequest or story to turn that on its head. Going with the haywire gravity trap (for a sci-fi adventure), perhaps the heroes can obtain the controls for the gravity, or repair them so that they're in charge of them. If it's for a fantasy adventure, perhaps they find a pair of boots of spider climbing so they don't get thrown around or they find a way to control the magic that powers the trap.
In short, be creative, and keep it memorable and cool.
There are some logistical and design choices we make as well, but I think that's a post for next week, as this one has gone on for long enough now. :)
See you next week.