Craig Judd’s Designing Scenarios : Planning for the Journey

Hi all!  Mark from the Pathfinder Chronicles here to say today and the following two days my Blog is being taken over by +Craig Judd who has supplied me with some of his material for his up and coming game called PowerFrame RPG after a discussion on one of my recent blogs.  If you want to find out more about the game after reading this or either of the two follow ups then join the community at Google+.  That link will take you straight there.

Craig Judd tells us his views on scenario building

Planning for the Journey

Designing a scenario is a lot like planning a surprise holiday for a group of friends. You probably have some idea what they like, and have some locations and activities in mind, but if you get too absorbed in planning a strict itinerary you might discover your fellow travellers have other ideas about what they want to do and where they want to go.

Some travellers are happy with the simplicity of a guided tour, while some prefer a flexible tour with optional side trips, and others would rather to go off the beaten track and find their own way. Players can be just as varied, so it’s useful to discuss how much they would like to contribute to the game’s direction. 

Sometimes the players are happy to go along for the ride. If your group is like this and you know them well, you may be able to plan linear scenarios based on a series of events. Other groups might become frustrated if you force them to stick to a planned scenario regardless of what they want to do, because it robs them of the sense that their actions can affect the world.

Consult the Players

Probably the first place to start when looking for scenario ideas is to ask your players if there are any things they really want to see come up in the game, and find out if they have any plans or goals their characters are interested in pursuing.

Once you know the general direction the players would like the game to go, you can prepare material that’s less likely to be ignored or avoided.

If you have players who are new to RPGs, they won’t have any context for these questions. Instead, consider talking to them between sessions about the approach you’re taking, what alternative approaches exist, and to gauge which parts of the game they enjoy or dislike. 

If the players don’t express any preferences, then you should be fine to go ahead and plan a scenario as you see fit. Check back after the session to make sure everyone’s still happy with the direction things are going.

Get to Know the Situation

To avoid excessive planning before the game and frustration during play, try to develop a broad understanding of the situation and the area in which the game is happening (see the following sections for more advice). This way, you’ll have a reasonable idea how to respond regardless of the direction the PCs decide to go.

If the players are big on following their own plans, you should try to be flexible and accommodating. However, this doesn’t mean you have to abandon your prep work. Like a tour guide, you can point out locations, people, and events that may be of interest. The PCs might encounter signs of a situation that is unfolding without their involvement.

In any case, it’s generally better to give the players a hook and see if they bite, rather than jamming it down their throats.

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