Putting Yourself Into The Design

Where do you draw the line when writing an adventure?  Do you design the adventure you want or do you plan the adventure the players want?  It is a shifting line that falls in a different place every adventure I write.  There is art involved in making a game.  It is a form of interactive art that you create and for some this can lead to these questions.  Do you make the adventure that you feel reflects the story that you want to tell or do you alter the adventure so it suits your group.

Sometimes you just want to use these babies
in a way that will make you smile…

A lot of this question for me comes down to what scope are you writing the adventure for.  If I am designing a game for a group that plays with me every week or so then I am making adventures that we can all enjoy.  I know my group and I know where their preferences for so I can design a game for them that will/should keep them all happy.  Of course this does not mean you cannot use this kind of environment to add your own style into.

If you design regularly for a group you know list their preferences.  Write a list that reflects their preferences in a game on a generic basis.  That is, do not focus on specifics like what treasure they want to use but on what style of play they like.  My group like action with a smattering of roleplaying on a whole.  Using that list think how you can inject your artistic desires (or your stories) into the game using this style.  When I design adventures they tend to be ground in dark moral decisions and I prefer an investigative story driven adventure.

So when designing for my players I think about how I can employ my style to make a game that they will also enjoy.  I have to compromise a little to include more action into the game than I would if I were just designing a plain module.  So when I do make a game I will use combat to tell a story.  This will satisfy my need to be story driven and the players need for action.  In battle it may be a chatty enemy who feels he is immensely superior to the PC’s that will give information for the next steps, or it may be an item that the PC’s are required to get from a group that will push the story in unexpected directions when they get them.

All these ideas and so little time to use them all…

When I am designing with a particular group in mind I will always follow this process.  I do not micro-manage although I will take into account the type of PC’s that are included in the group make up.  For example, I will not build a night of adventure through a trap riddled dungeon if the group has no one that is geared up for traps this kind of design would be cruel.  But taking the meta-view of player preferences and the group make-up it is quite easy to design an adventure that will please you and your players, although it may not be the adventure that you would design if you had free reign.

So, where can you write adventures that would be made for your own preferences?  Well, there are a range of options available out there for you to do.  It is important that you get the opportunity to do this too as if you have a particular preference on how you like your games you can bet your bottom dollar that there are others out in the gaming universe that has similar tastes to you and would enjoy your work.  Also, the gaming universe is getting smaller with the internet opening up a myriad of opportunities for you to connect with other gamers.

The places for adventures written to your own desires are many.  First of all, just to practice building adventures if you are new.  Sit down and design a “module” or “scenario” in your chosen game.  Design it in a way that you want to play.  This will allow you to explore the rules that are most pertinent to your style.  If you want to share your work, start a blog and offer links to your adventures.  Ask others to provide you feedback and get an online storage service like dropbox to hold the files!  If you think they are worth something then start putting the work you do into pdf format and look at the self publishing options available to you on the net.  You could make some money!

Running adventure paths in Pathfinder
leaves only little room for designing my own
material.

If you want to run your adventure though there are a couple of options available to you.  First is an online game that you could set up through Facebook or Google+ community like G+ Tabletop Roleplaying are great spots to organise games.  Use an online tabletop system like Roll20 to be able to run your game.  If you want to take this to the next level get in as a GM in an online convention.  This way many players looking for a game will gravitate to the convention and you will be able to even have pre-generated characters designed specifically for your module.  If you are lucky enough to have a real live convention near you then sign your work up and get ready to run it.

Of course you can just say to your regular group “Hey, I know you might not like this as it is a bit slower than you are used to but can you give this a try?”  You will (almost) always get a positive response and you can play the game that you have always wanted to run for your group.

Just realise that the story is a culmination of your staging as the GM and the Player’s Actions.  If you have a story you want to tell and the PC’s don’t want to tell the same story you are likely to be frustrated.  That said you need to get what you need from your games as well.  That might mean that you need to go through a few players to get a group that is comfortable with your style.  It may also be that you need to work out precisely what you must have in your game as opposed to the things you like to have as these are the things that you may need to lose and fill with things the players want to get a good balance.

Get designing people!

I often get frustrated with some of the adventures I run because they are just not my style of game.  When I do I will work out a framework for an adventure I would like to write and work it up to a point where it is playable.  I very rarely put the “shine” on them for release but writing them gets the urge out of my system and if I am going to run a one off I have a book full of adventures I can refer to.  It is a therapeutic thing to do although it is frustrating that I rarely get to use that book for a game.

If you do design games just for yourself, then that is who you are likely to end up playing with in your regular group.  If a player is not getting any enjoyment out of your style then it is not very likely they will play for long.  Try the other outlets (convention games, blog sharing, self publishing etc.) to get your games out there and to find like minded people!  Until next time, keep rolling!

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