RPG-a-Day 2021: Day 1 – Scenario
It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Life has been hectic for everyone as usual – but we’re finally settling back in to the swing of things and the site will, once again, become a focus. To encourage regular posting, we’re going to be participating in RPG-a-Day 2021 from Autocratik and Casting Shadows!
What exactly is RPG-a-Day? Well, let’s take a look at this calendar/infographic.
Essentially, RPG-a-Day is a series of prompts to get creative about. In our case, we’re going to just write some blogs about the topic in question. Some days we may do the main prompt, some days we may do the sub-prompts, some days we might do more than one.
So – let’s get started by talking about today’s prompt: Scenario.
I have found that, over the years, I’ve developed a pretty specific method of developing a campaign for essentially any roleplaying game I sit down to play with pretty much anyone (bar a few games which do everything they can to force you out of your usual play styles). Essentially, my plotting out for a campaign goes as such – and I will use two of my Nareah-based games for examples:
- The Big Event: First, I create a driving impetus of the campaign, some event that, barring intervention, will happen.
- In the game that eventually lead to the Godsmarch in Nareah, that event was Kazar’s ascension to godhood.
- In our current Court of the Shattered Kings game, the being in the prison will eventually escape.
- The Inciting Incident: From that, I create a situation which throws the players into the path of events which may lead them to intervene in that event.
- In the Chronicle of the Godsmarch, that was the escort of a caravan leading them to a village in the path of Kazar’s army.
- In Court of the Shattered Kings, the players were hired to investigate the ruins that contained the prison.
That’s it. That’s usually the extent of my planning for a campaign – big or small. Occasionally, I may have a couple set piece encounters in my head which can be slotted in to help show what’s going on with relation to the Big Event – but those are usually extremely flexible and adaptable. Outside of the Big Event and the Inciting Incident, I try to let my players dictate the path of where the story is going to flow entirely. If they don’t want to get involved in the Big Event, that’s fine – though most times after the Inciting Incident, if I’ve created a strong enough hook, players tend to keep poking at threads that involve (or can easily be adapted to involve) the Big Event.
There are of course, a couple caveats here. I find now that I’m streaming games I often have to be a little more heavy handed than I often like with regards to player agency. In the games where time has to be spent ahead of time to prepare visuals – the biggest one being maps in Let the Burn Away and Court of the Shattered Kings – I tend to help direct the players in the “appropriate” direction for the visuals I’ve created. Even in those situations, I’m often talking to my players (either on- or off-camera) to ask about multiple choices, what they want to do next or with what they’ve uncovered, and such. Even in places such as our Lancer game Let the World Burn Away where, technically, the missions are determined by Captain Khal, the world has been impacted by previous choices to lead to the current missions (for example – our current Azure Corp storyline is a result of choices made both on- and off-camera by characters during their prologue missions).
This is, of course, only talking about games which I think there can be any scenario prep at all – and my personal feelings are starting to draw me away from games where you can do a lot of preparation anyways. We recently played a game of Action Movie World: First Blood on stream due to some issues with our virtual tabletop. As a Powered by the Apocalypse game, there was exactly zero preparation – we decided what game we were playing about fifteen minutes before going live and everything went from there. We all had an amazing amount of fun and told a ridiculous and over-the-top story from an action movie – Mortal Wombat will be available on YouTube soon, I promise, but you can catch it on demand on Twitch – with nothing decided ahead of time.
So, in conclusion, I think I’m the type of person who thinks both somewhat planned scenarios (with room for players to impact the world) and entirely unprepped stories can exist and be told. Which is right for which game will vary between the systems, the players, what kind of story we want to tell, etc. I see lots of people saying “prep is bad, everything should be player driven!” but honestly think there’s a place where you can get the best of both worlds. A game master can tell the story they want to – but they need to be ready to accept player decisions and adapt to them. In such a situation, you’re not the only person deciding where things are going – it becomes a cooperative experience about the journey more than the destination.
You know, I’m sure I’ll come back to this point later. For now, let me know what you think about scenarios – preplanned or otherwise – and how you use them in your games. I’d love to hear what you think.
Until next time!