15 Minute Adventure Prep!

Monday has come in like molasses on a cold winter’s morn and is leaving in a maelstrom of madness as I continue work on Echo of Dead Leaves, and wrangle with the logic branches which naturally arise in the plot points. Things are moving apace, and I’ve got excitement and confusions, and equivocations aplenty. It’s still rough in patches, but that’s what the next pass is for. I’m moving currently at a pretty good clip.

Let me pause, take a deep breath, and make a proper effort to center the conversation.

Tonight, I’m coming in just under the wire. Believe it or not, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write about. It was as if all my words for the day were used up; I admit, I had a seriously productive day.  Not the most exciting words, but at least they’re honest.

If you stuck around despite my rather weak, self-indulgent intro, thanks. May a thousand roses bloom in your yard tomorrow. As those probably aren’t much use to you, I’ll offer up a bit of quick and dirty adventure design.  These are suitable when you don’t have a lot of time to prep a game, but you’re picked to run with little (or no) advance warning.

Quick & Dirty Design Tips:

1. Note  a list of NPC names

2. Note a list of place names/locations

3. Decide a central theme

4. Think of an obstacle

5. Think of three set pieces

When I say NOTE, above,  I don’t care if you scribble on your iPad, throw the words on a notebook, or just store it somewhere in your gray matter, just make certain the lists are available for quick reference.

Now these last three demand scribbling…

So, giving a quick run thorugh, let’s say you’re going to run a horror game using Realms of Cthulhu.  If the players don’t have pregens, you have about fifteen minutes or so to get the game together while they cobble together concepts and scribble down their choices. Fifteen minutes is really all the time you need to prep out for a quick session for Savage Worlds.  I’m by no means knocking proper pre-packaged adventure fare. These adventures we’re cobbling together provide fun, certainly, but detailing out a complex adventure off-the-cuff is not what we’re addressing here.

So, let’s give this a quick run-though. Shall we? Remember: it’s perfectly legitimate to reference names from things you read when you’re doing something like this. Just don’t make them too derivative.

Alfred, Bob, King, Knight, Bishop.  Okay. I started thinking of Batman, and got Alfred (the butler), Bob (for Bob Kane, the creator), and King (from Batman’s nemesis, Scarecrow and leapt to Scarecrow and Mrs. King), then I jumped over to chess with Knight and Bishop. These are plenty of names and give us a chess theme.  We’ll come back to that in a minute, when we should be talking about theme.

2. Places…if we’re running a “chess” theme. Let’s have “The Castle”, “The Pawn Shop”, and “Rook’s Books”. That looks like it works alright.

3. Theme…”chess” is nice enough as a placeholder theme, but let’s dig a little deeper. Okay…we’re going to go with powerful people manipulating others…and as we’re talking Cthulhu here, we have a Ms. Bishop who runs a small bar called The Castle who is manipulating Howard Knight, owner of The Pawn Shop, into getting a copy of a rare book for her. This is where the characters come in. He needs them to get this book for him–and is willing to pay. He believes that Rook’s Books has it.

4. Bob King is the owner of Rook’s Books (he inherited it from his strange uncle Alfred who now lives on Queen Street) and wants Ms. Bishop for herself. Certainly that’s an obstacle because he won’t be willing to give the book up easily.

5. Set pieces—besides the intro and aftermath–you need the three set pieces…I think if we have one take place at The Castle, Rook’s Books, and Uncle Alfred’s, we’ll be good to go. The intro should be at The Pawn Shop and the aftermath will take place there as well. Tidy all around.

1. The set piece on The Castle can be the characters going to visit Ms. King to get some details about the book only she knows and the characters have a run-in with a biker gang.

2. The second set piece takes place at Rook’s Books. The characters are going through the stacks and encounter a strange, secret room, and the body of Bob King dead. (See? We’re already twisting our story. The key is to make things flexible.) His body is marked with an impression of a rook’s head. A photograph on the wall show Uncle Alfred standing outside Rook’s Books with nephew bob. He’s wearing a top hat and holding a cane with a –you guessed it–raven tip.

3. Uncle Alfred is using the heart of his nephew to extend his life in a ritual in the book Ms. Bishop wants. We should note King’s heart is ripped out. We should also note Ms. Bishop has until midnight to get the book or she’s going to die of old age–she’s 200 years old. The characters come up to the old manor and have to deal with mad Uncle Alfred who has a few tricks up his sleeve. To make it interesting, the old gargoyles on his house come to life and attack. The reason? Ms. Bishop followed them. After the characters deal with the gargoyles they will come in just in time to see Uncle Alfred locked in a mortal grip with Ms. Bishop and their ages shift between young and old. The characters have to deal with them, knowing whomever wins will not want to leave them as loose ends, knowing their dark secrets.

There you go: if you’re willing to be flexible in your thinking and follow these guidelines, you can scribble down enough to give you a pretty meaty adventure. If you’re adventurous, give it a go. It’s a great way to improve your improvisational skills and can provide the basis to make more robust adventrues as well.

Until next time, I bid you adieu!

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