General => General Discussion => Topic started by: DMMike on May 27, 2018, 06:04:04 PM

Title: Writing Adventures
Post by: DMMike on May 27, 2018, 06:04:04 PM

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 most FRPGs.

Discuss. ;)

DM Mike

Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: sgtslag on May 29, 2018, 08:31:30 AM
Backstory has its place.  It is a delicate balancing act:  background, history, mythology, cultures, role-playing, etc.  I use it all to create a dynamic, life-like experience for me, and my players.  I think what works the best is listening to my players' table talk about what they think is really going on.  I listen to it, massage it a bit, and then play it out:  they "realize" they were mostly correct in their assumptions, but there are subtle differences which make it more believable.

I view it as interactive story-telling.  They play a critical role in helping me to develop my game world, on nearly every level.  I don't dictate to them, for the most part.  I had a player, back in the 90's, tell me she was taking the "Etiquette" Non-Weapon Proficiency...  I was flabbergasted, and disappointed:  "Why that?  What's the point?  Seems like a genuine waste where there are so many other NWP's she could take, which are far more useful..."  I buckled myself down, and read, and re-read, the description.  I thought about her homeland:  a kingdom ruled by a Paladin, with knights, Dukes, and Barons.  It all started to gel together.

With her prompting, I developed a culture, and a kingdom.  It was Lawful Good, which, to me, meant that they had strict cultural rules, and a strict caste system.  I developed ranks, and classes:  Royalty and Nobility, along with peasants, and everyone else.  I came up with Spurred Knights, and Un-Spurred Knights [spurs are earned by defeating a (relative to you) powerful enemy, usually a monster]; Greater and Lesser Royalty, and Greater and Lesser Nobility.

In the end, two players were so annoyed by the strict caste system, they flouted it, to the point of being arrested, with one choosing execution -- she wanted to end the character, and this was her chosen method of 'retiring' the PC.  It was great fun for everyone!

Interactive storytelling means listening, and incorporating, your players' input, into the game.  Back-story, history, culture, etc., can all become a part of the grand story arc, but you need to balance it all, to make the whole, memorable for all.  Cheers!   8)
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: DocMindwipe on August 15, 2018, 01:22:04 PM
First up, guess who's back. Yup, it's your alltime favourite Norwegian-in-Exile, Doc :D Remember me? No? Fine. Be that way.


I feel a good adventure should contain a fair bit of backstory, as otherwise, all we would have is one hack&slash fest after the other with very little  to feed the imagination and roleplay. There should be enough in the background story(for theDMs eyesonly, untill further noticeat least) so that I as one of the players gets this sense of wonder and try to figure the whole shenanigan out.

With no real backstory for the DM to plug into, the adventures will then feel like "more of the same" to me.
That is my NOK0.05.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Pladohs Ghost on September 16, 2018, 02:07:51 AM
I reckon it's that backstory that sparks ideas for the GM. Besides placing the adventure as written in context, it can sparks ideas as to how to develop things further.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Mojo on September 29, 2018, 12:51:03 PM
Now when you say back story you mean the 3 page kind. I come from a more simplistic point of view. Back story should be short. Like 1 or 2 sentences. Those should cover where the PC is from, & what they did there. Let the back story grow as the pc advances in level.

I agree with what was originally said, because it seems that the lethality of the game is  being phased out of FRPG's by the younger generations.  The focus of the hobby is being shifted from the mind set that "my pc could actually die" to "what a great story where everybody lives." It is like the hobby is following Drizzit stories, or the original Drangon Lance books. The heros never die.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Pladohs Ghost on October 26, 2018, 11:24:02 PM
Well, yeah, in that regard, there are a whole lot of players now who don't want to play to find out if they can manage the odds and rise to the challenges of stepping into the wild unknown and coming back to tell the tale. They want the cinematic escapades of super-heroes in fantasy garb knowing that the movie has a happy ending.

There are times I fear that's become the norm and I have to admit that the munchins won the field; the grognards are in disarray.

As far as backstories go, though, I find that the more complete the backstory, the more I have to work with as GM. It's easier for me to flesh out bits around that skeleton than to create a skeleton, myself--and if I'm using somebody else's adventure, I don't want to be creating the skeleton, myself.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: LordXenophon on October 27, 2018, 10:14:06 AM
It's helpful for a published adventure to have a fair amount of back-story, but if you are running your own original adventures, you can just draw on your world's back-story.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Loma on April 12, 2019, 09:26:10 PM
Going back to Mike's original complaint, I see the boxed text as being there for lazy DM's. A good DM will take it as information about the room, but describe to the players what he thinks they would actually notice, in his own words. A lazy DM just reads the text.

I especially have a problem with this when I am expected to just sit there and listen to ten minutes of an NPC talking to us, without getting to interrupt. That's not roleplaying. That's storytelling.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: DMMike on April 13, 2019, 05:11:40 PM
Agreed Loma. I mean, I GUESS I can see how box text can help a newbie DM trying to get their feet wet and learning what should or shouldn't be blurted out to the PCs....but overall not my bag.

DM (Good at paraphrasing) Mike
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: sgtslag on April 15, 2019, 12:33:25 PM
With commercial modules, I tend to go off script (or my players lead me off script with their actions and decisions...), pretty quickly, most times.  I find that reading the boxed text, no matter what, tends to be boring for everyone at the table.  I typically paraphrase it, in my own words.  Of course, once we go off script, it tends to become a free-for-all.  My campaign world is not scripted, so I can't go off-script with that.  Using published modules to fill in blanks, however, can be fun, and rewarding.  By the time I am done running a published module, though, most would not recognize it.  We tend to go way outside the lines, as published.

To me, this is a very good thing, typically.  Running a series of modules, however, can create continuity issues if an original NPC dies, but needs to come back in the sequel adventure.  Still, there are ways of dealing with this "challenge".  This often takes you even further afield of the published script...  And that makes it even more fun, and more personalized for you, your game world, and your players.  Cheers!
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: DMMike on April 16, 2019, 07:08:16 AM
Well put, and those darn players seem to live for going off script. ;)

The only time I adhere to adventure modules is when its something "Classic" (ie G1-3 Giants, Tomb of Horrors, Tegel Manor, etc.) where adherence to the writing is part of the appeal. That is, players want the "original" experience. Otherwise yeah, I take a published adventure and tweak it to a greater or lesser extent.

I do find myself using more published stuff than I did BITD. Time crunches I guess...

DM (Good at time management...not.) Mike

Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: RobJN on April 29, 2019, 04:37:19 PM
"No module ever survives contact with the PCs." :P
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: DMMike on April 30, 2019, 11:08:50 AM
Word! LOL!

Of course, sometimes when players do something unexpected its actually a lot of fun!

DM (Good at being street?) Mike
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Loma on July 06, 2019, 09:13:08 AM
When the players do something unexpcted, that's when the game really begins.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: DMMike on July 06, 2019, 06:13:52 PM
When the players do something unexpcted, that's when the game really begins.

Quite true, especially when they come up with a way to resolve a monster/trap/etc. that I hadn't thought of. That's when as a DM I start having the most fun. ;)

DM (Good at enjoying losing a battle of wits) Mike
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Mercuri on December 11, 2019, 08:00:41 AM
I guess all of us aren't meant to be DM's. I couldn't cope well with players doing unexpected stuff all the time. haha
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: teaman on December 21, 2019, 10:09:55 AM
One thing I have found is that players enjoy whenever you can link an adventure to their character's backstory.  Finding a lost relative, finding the sword lost from their village, etc... All of these really help.

Now, some folks don't give me much, so in that case I try to sprinkle something (if possible) into the adventure design that might hook them.  Promise of treasure for the thief, magic books for the wizards. 

In terms of the back story I write, well, it's rarely more than a paragraph.  And sometimes you can get some mileage out of what the PC's latch onto.  In my current game, I think they are very concerned that the dragon cultists are more than a local organization (though that's what I figured.)  So I might be doing more with that dragon cult in the near future.

Whenever you can let the players do the heavy creative lifting, that's a good day in my book.
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: sgtslag on December 23, 2019, 08:18:48 AM
One of the very best resources for ad-lib DM'ing, I've come across, thus far, is the book, XDM:  X-treme Dungeon Mastery (https://www.amazon.com/X-Treme-Dungeon-Mastery-Tracy-Hickman/dp/0977907465/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=X-treme+DM&qid=1577109937&sr=8-1), by Tracy & Curtis Hickman.  It confirmed most of what I learned the hard way, over 30+ years of DM'ing.

Ad-lib DM'ing is a skill learned by doing.  It takes time, work, and a lot of effort.  It is worth it, though.  A couple of my players have told me that I have ruined them for other DM's:  they enjoy my style so much, that other DM's are just disappointing.  I am heavy into role playing, however, so that is a huge portion of why they enjoy my games so much.  I also make sure that their PC's actions are impacting their world, in small ways, at lower levels, but their actions have much more impact as their levels go up.  It is a blast for all of us:  I feed off of their table talk ideas, and some of them are good enough to use -- after I tweak them a bit.  To do this, I have to have cultures, rituals, and customs, as well as other society factors which the players must learn, and abide by.  It all works to enmesh them deeper into my imaginary world.  They become a part of it, helping to shape it.

Like I said earlier in this thread, it is a delicate balance.  When done properly, though, it will suck your players into your fantasy world, deep into the realm of what goes on; they will care about NPC's, what happens to them, they will seek rewards beyond mere magic items, large and small.  They will want to shape the 'world' merely for the sake, and reward, of making it a better place for all NPC's, and themselves.  When your players are more interested in righting a wrong, than they are in acquiring a particular magic item, or more gold, then you know you have achieved something really fun and exciting.  Cheers!
Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Malrex on January 06, 2020, 02:01:54 PM
I like a little backstory...I call it 'fluff'. But 1-2 paragraphs is perfect. It's enough for me to work with to get the overall vibe of the place. If it's longer than 1-2 paragraphs--then put it in an Appendix or something for optional reading so that its out of my way while running an adventure as I'll probably not use it. Same for past history of a room--I don't need it. I don't need to know that this room was used 100 years ago as a torture chamber--unless it's relevant to the current adventure or an important clue that PC's might/need to discover.

Magic items? This is where I like a little fluff or backstory. The reason is that this info might actually be determined by a sage, mage, or bard while trying to identify it. A longsword +1 is boring to me. Throw on a griffon claw pommel or engravings or a sentence of past history about the past wielder and it becomes a lot more interesting to me. But this only needs to be 1-2 sentences. In general, book magic items are kinda boring. Players probably have read them all anyways which takes away their awe and mystery. Create new magic items and it bring that sense of wonder back.

NPC's? Give me 3-4 descriptive words on their looks/mannerisms and maybe a few bullet points of what they know, what they are trying to do, or anything else that's relevant or something that has a chance the PC's will find out DURING the game.

Pre-determined outcomes are no fun for anyone. PC's will stray and be frustrated that they are brought back on the railroad/their actions/decisions don't matter...and DM's will get frustrated that the PC's aren't "doing what they are supposed too". Sometimes an action/encounter needs to be forced...for example, the main premise or in order for the adventure to be run, the party needs to be shrunk....This can be really tricky and a designer should give some hints/tools for a DM if a player avoids it somehow, but I think a little force is ok to present the situation if absolutely needed--but then open up the sandbox immediately once more so the players can deal with the situation and their actions actually do/mean something.

Title: Re: Writing Adventures
Post by: Loma on January 26, 2020, 08:09:47 AM
As a player, I don't actually mind being railroaded, Malrex. As long as the story is good, I want to play it out. I sort of agree with the rest of what you said, though.