Animation Test Video
Makes me want to dust off the old Forgotten Futures rules and get writing.
|E. Gary Gygax |
(July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)
|Cast: from L to R:|
Idris Elba - "Vaughan Rice" a soldier
Jack Davenport - Det. Sgt. Mike Colefield
Susannah Harker - Dr. Angela March
Philip Quast - Father Pearse J. Harman
First off, what's the difference between a linear and a non-linear plot?
Characteristically, linear plots will feature a single timeline of events or scenes which the PCs need to resolve one after another in a specific order (e.g scene 1, scene 2, scene 3, etc...). This is the formula used by most theatrical productions which use the Three-Act Structure.
|Linear Plot - The Three-Act Structure|
Non-linear plots can have multiple timelines, flash-backs and the scenes
do not need to be completed in a specified order, or at all (even
though some scenes may be missed out entirely any events in those scenes
may still occur). If you've never experienced non-linear story telling then try playing a game of FIASCO. This indie RPG introduces flash backs and flash forwards as an integral part of the collaborative story telling mechanism. Games take about 3 hours and there are a hundred genre playsets to choose from.
There's nothing wrong with a linear plot, they're undoubtably easier to write and run, especially if you are a time poor DM, and they can be just as entertaining for players. Here's a few techniques that I've used to make them seem less linear.
Scenario Timeline - One of the biggest drawbacks of a linear plot is that it's easy for players to start thinking that the world revolves around their characters. Using a scenario timeline allows the DM to trigger events independently of the the PCs actions, they might only hear about the event as a rumour or hearsay or over the radio, tv or net, they will still encounter the scenes you have arrange in a predetermined order but they will feel like there's more to the story that they can't influence.
If you split your party the timeline can become a useful aid to keeping track of WHEN each group of PCs are rather than WHERE. It's possible to have multiple timelines in operation but make sure that there are key events which tie them together otherwise it's easy for a subgroup of PCs to get too far ahead of the other party members.
Fast Pace - In my experience it's not a good idea to give players too much thinking time in any adventure. When this happens they start reverting to their player archetypes and end up thinking about where their next power-up or wander off trying to find an interesting NPC to chat to. A fast pace to a game often focuses players minds to the immediate task at hand.
Elastic Time - Remember that time is elastic, if you need characters to trigger events and they're in danger of missing it, Don't worry you're the DM, stretch time, but keep up the tension as they race to the next scene otherwise they'll get into the habit of dawdling. If they're on the ball and ripping through scenes like a chainsaw you might need to slow them down a bit by throwing a wandering monsters or random encounter at them.
It's a good idea to have a few of this sort of thing in your DMs toolkit anyway, they don't have to be related to the plot, just the setting, a bit like the little old lady who asks the policeman to help her across the road whilst the perp is running away.
NPCs (aka Plot Monkeys) - When a party does get bogged down in a decision it's useful to have a recurring NPC in the plot you can use to prod them in the right direction. I often have an NPC as a member of the party for this exact reason and they also come in very handy when you have a drop-in player that needs a character. Be careful how often you use them though, PCs sometimes take exception to NPCs giving suggestions all the time especially when you have an insecure de-facto leader.
Clues - When you leave clues in a scene to further the plot, make them really obvious. I can't tell you the number of times that a party has walked past a too subtle clue or picked up on it to only miss it's significance. It's an easy trap to fall into when writing scenarios as you become immersed in the plot during the creative process, what seems obvious to you at the time of writing may be a leap of cognitive faith several weeks later when a player encounters it.
I often leave multiple clues in a scene which reinforce each other and the correct path to take to the next scene, if the players miss one, they may pick up on the others and players often get a big buzz out of finding clues.
Use What Works for your Players
These are just a few of the techniques I use when writing, the important thing is too see what works in your sessions and what doesn't and see if you can improve the player (and DMing) experience. If your players begin to get too comfortable with your writing style mix it up a bit.
In 1985, when I was an impressionable 13 year old, someone gave me a copy of Dragonroar RPG by Standard Games.
I remember it not for it's qualities as an RPG but for one hideously bad monster idea.
|The Killer Penguin Miniature???|
Now I'm not one for dismissing people's creations off hand, but come on guys, what were you smoking that day? Needless to say no-one's arguing over the rule changes between Dragonroar 3.5 and Dragonroar 4e so the RPG itself was neither a commercial or a critical success and it has long sinced disappeared into RPG obscurity.
However, I do think that we need to preserve the memory of the Killer Penguin as a warning to all the misguided monster makers out there who may be toying with nature.
If you can think of any other more catastrophic monster mistakes or you think that the KP is much maligned feel free to write to the usual address...
|A simple cardboard tube scroll case|
|Obverse (Front): Battleaxe to Footman's Pick|
|Reverse (Back): Horsema's Pick to Voulge and Missile Weapons|
Caught this movie trailer on The Book of Worlds.
Released in Norway on 29 Oct 2010, but so far no details on when it will be scheduled for release in the UK, I expect it will be straight to DVD. Enjoy...
I can see this having lots of potential for a modern horror scenario, perhaps Cthulhu Now, Delta Green or Conspiracy X. How about mixing in a bit of Kaiju, Godzilla vs Grimetosser perhaps?
Update: This film was fantastic and everyone should see it.
|A 2D Multi Zone template|
|THE PATH OF HORROR|
|SER||PATH #||CARD TITLE||CARD TEXT|
|1||1||Hint of Madness||Theme Card: The hideous wails of a thousand sorrows rise from the pit, slowly growing into a crescendo of madness. This Path explores that aspect of reality, or lack of it, which deals with life on the edge.|
|2||1||Lost Cause||Theme Card:All efforts and ambitions are doomed to failure and defeat. Ultimately, everything that the characters attempt will fail - they are on a lost cause. There may be a way out, but only after this streak of misfortune plays itself out|
|3||1||Sense of Foreboding||Theme Card: The apprehension of danger foreshadows great peril. Something in the air portends calamity, misfortune and death. What is going to happen to you, or rather - when is it? The horror of anticipation should permeate this Path|
|4||1||Vast Unknown||Theme Card:The universe is broad and contains much within it that is unknown, and ultimately, unknowable. Mysteries, secrets, hidden terrors, dark horrors, and all that lurks beyond our sight can be a part of this Path|
|5||2||Eerie Sounds||Describe a strange, nearly unidentifiable sound resounding from the depths of the night - cackling laughter, God-foresaken howling, whispering voices, or a cry in the dark. "What was that! Did you hear something?"|
|6||2||Sickly Stench||Describe a horrible, nauseating smell of unidentifiable origin. The smell might be of import to someone, a clue to what they are searching for. "Its stench is like a cross between burning rubber and milk that's been left out for a month."|
|7||2||Unnatural Silence||Where there was once sound, noise, life, now there is only stark brutal silence. Inexplicable and sudden, the absence of noise makes the heart grow cold. The clutch of fear grasps all with this somehow sinister change in events.|
|8||2||Unnerving Premonitions||Describe to a single character a dark but uncertain vision of what may await them if they persevere in what they are doing. Make it as sinister, malignant and apocalyptic as you desire - perhaps it really is only a vision.|
|9||3||Fleeting Glimpse||Through the trees, out od the darkness or from the shadows, the characters catch sight of something horrible or strange that fills their hearts with terror. Describe in detail what they see, but who or what it really is might not be known for some time.|
|10||3||Ominous Omen||Introduce an enigmatic omen of peril into the story - a black cat crosses the rod or the characters discouver the moldering corpses of a previous expedition. Something suggests future evil, but the significance of an omen is always uncertain.|
|11||3||Strange Apparition||Describe the appearance of a phantom, haunt, spectre, marsh-fire, will-o-wisp or even a delusion. Something that is conjured out of the fog or supposedly seen in the shadows. Whether real or hallucination will be discovered soon enough.|
|12||3||Suspicious Stranger||Introduce a stranger to the story - a cloaked wanderer, a sly guttersnipe, or a brutal bounty hunter. Someone of a sinister nature that suggests, rightly or wrongly, of future peril - an outsider in your midst.|
|13||3||Remembered Dream||A relevant dream is recalled by a character. Describe the specifics of a nightmare, daydream or vision in an evocative and compelling manner, in a way that relates to the character's personality. What the character makes of it, however, is up to him. (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Regis Bacquet)|
|14||4||Hapless Victim||An innocent is harmed, sacrificed, or oppressed. Perhaps they are hoodwinked, duped, tortured, or brutalized. Describe the appearances of the situation, but leave the specifics to the GM.|
|15||4||Open Assault||Climax Card: The anticipation is over and the horror finally emerges in its full splendor - there is no need of dread, for terror will do. Describe an attack of some sort upon a character or characters by an agent of the horror.|
|16||4||Something's Missing||Describe the loss of an object, person or animal which might have been important to a character, and explain why it might be missing (it had better make sense). Whether it's really gone or not, or if the character is just imagining things, is up to the GM.|
|17||4||Unknown Lurker||Describe to a character the sensation that someone or something is lurking near them, just outside the periphery of their vision. Identify how evidence of this fiendish prowler was obtained: tracks, sounds or maybe a confrontation.|
|18||5||Horrifying Discovery||Discoveries are not always heroic, they are often horrific. Describe a discovery by a character in a way that will appall and frighten the players. The close presence of such perversity is startling even to the most jaded.|
|19||5||Sudden Panic||Describe the frenzied emergence of dread and horror in a character or characters, or its residual effects. It could be just a false alarm, or they might have seen, heard or sensed something.|
|20||5||Unforseen Calamity||Climax Card: Because of what was overlooked and misunderstood, a great tragedy occurs, and something of consequence to the characters involved. What appears to happen is up to you - what actually occurs is up to the GM.|
|21||6||Abduction||Climax Card: Someone or something is taken away, kidnapped or stolen - or an attempt is made to do so (perhaps just the results of such could be discovered). Describe what is seen, but leave the results to the GM|
|22||6||Disfigurement||Something or someone has been marred or had their aesthetic value reduced, creating something of unpleasant and perhaps horrific countenance. Describe what is seen in as much gruesome detail as you can.|
|23||6||Misguided Hope||It is hope that leads us onward into the future, and sometimes it is only hope that that keeps us going. But sometimes hope proves to be misguided. How was the hope misguided and what is likely to result because of it?|
|24||7||New Found Escape||Climax Card: Describe a potential way out of the situation, an escape which will take a character or characters out of harm's way. It must make sense and fit the story, otherwise it's going to be Vetoed out from under you.|
|THE PATH OF INTRIGUE|
|SER||PATH #||CARD TITLE||CARD TEXT|
|1||1||Animosity||Theme Card: Hostility is prevalent and open, and hate affects everything in this Path, tainting and corrupting even the player characters. This ill will may be openly expressed or harboured secretly in the heart, waiting to reupt at a later time.|
|2||1||Betrayal||Theme Card: All is deception and treachery. You can trust nothing and no one. This Path explores the double-crosses, faithlessness, and betrayals of a story of intrigue. All cards played in this Path should relate to this theme of betrayal.|
|3||1||Things are Not as They Seem||Theme Card:What seems to be one thing is actually another. What was once certain is now unknown. This Path explores the confusion and mutability of what is thought to be known - the reality behind the veil of "truth."|
|4||1||Vengence||Theme Card: The sweet fulfillment of righteous revenge is a driving force. It directs, mutates and consumes all that it touches. The effects of someone's avenging nature must touch every card that is played along this Path.|
|5||2||Lasting Impression||An impression is made or an old one is reborn. Perhaps the emotional effects of a forgotten experience reawakens within the character's mind, which may be of some import to the current situation. Perhaps something occurs which will never be forgotten.|
|6||2||Meaningful Glance||The observation of a meaningful glance between two characters might illuminate the mysteries and secrets of the intrigues that are involved. What really is seen and what it signifies are determined by the GM.|
|7||2||Mysterious Stranger||Introduce the appearance of a new and strange character into the story. This individual forbodes an uncertain and mysterious future. This card also allows you to describe in more detail anyone the GM has mentioned in passing.|
|8||2||Overheard Conversation||Relate to a character or characters a conversation overheard, making sure to describe how they happen to be within hearing distance. You should only describe the situation and let the GM relate the details of the conversation.|
|9||2||Taint of Corruption||The stench is everywhere and unavoidable, whether it be political, social or animal. It corrupts everything it touches, and always leaves its residue behind. Describe what type of corruption it is and what type of mark it leaves behind.|
|10||3||Convincing Argument||A character is convinced, either enthusiastically or reluctantly, of the validity of another point of view. They are swayed by the words and logic of another's argument. Whether they are pretending, confused, or truly convinced is up to the GM.|
|11||3||Hidden Weapon||Describe how a weapon of some sort is being carried secretly by a character, giving another character a chance to spot it. This could be a physical tool of destruction, or something less substantial, more subtle, nd far more dangerous.|
|12||3||Veiled Threat||A threat is made, though not in direct terms, for a degree of subtly is employed. While the magnitude of the threat may not be fully understood and the characters are unsure of what was said, the overall meaning is quite clear, "… or else."|
|13||3||Ulterior Motive||Describe the covert intentions of a character, motives that a character may have besides those already known. This ulterior motive may have been discovered by a character, or it could be something shared by the players (at least at first). (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Reuben Beattie)|
|14||4||Double Cross||Climax Card: After a deal or understanding has been reached, a betrayal is made which could drive a character into ruin. Describe the moment when the character first realizes something is amiss, but leave the details up to the GM.|
|15||4||Malicious Intent||A character does not mean well for those who oppose him, and concocts an evil plan. The full nature of the enemy's design and what may later befall his enemies is likely to be unknown.|
|16||4||Secret Message||A message or a letter was either seen being passed along, or was somehow intercepted. Describe the details behind the observation or the interception. The GM will determine the contents of the message, if it can be understood at all.|
|17||4||False Accusations||An attempt is made to bring suspicion upon a character, through gossip, innuendo, or open accusation. Describe the details behind the accusation, but if it will substantially alter the plot, you'd better speak with the GM first. (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Reuben Beattie)|
|18||5||Impasse||A deadlock is reached from which there seems to be no escape. Opinions and positions are entrenched and no one's giving an inch. It does not seem as if the dispute can be amicably settled and a more extreme stage of conflict might soon be reached.|
|19||5||Mistaken Identity||Someone or something is taken for something else. Embarrassment and even injury may result because of it. Describe how the blunder was made, and the GM will decide how it will be concluded.|
|20||5||Uncovered Weakness||Climax Card: A situation may reverse itself as a weakness in the opponents' defenses is uncovered. Secrets are revealed, new information surfaces, or the missing scale on a dragon is spotted. Victory may soon be possible.|
|21||6||Inopportune Arrival||They arrived just in time - just in time, that is, to screw things up. Something or someone just arrived to the chagrin or disadvantage of someone. Unwelcome relatives, hated rivals, or perhaps the police.|
|22||6||Startling Discovery||Climax Card: What has been found is a surprise to all, giving great insight into what is being investigated or pursued. Though not all may be made clear, much is revealed by the discovery (as described by GM).|
|23||6||Unwelcome Visitor||Someone or something appears in the scene that does not belong, yet is not necessarily an enemy or a danger. They may complicate matters with their presence, but could actually be of some value later on.|
|24||7||Unexplained Aid||Climax Card: The cavalry comes to the rescue, bringing unanticipated help. The rescue, however, may not be without its price. Describe the aid as it is first perceived but leave the details to the GM.|
|1e AD&D PHB|
|GW Blue Book D&D|
|9th Print 1e AD&D DMG|
As a DM I've tried a number of different approaches to both writing and running adventures, but they've always fallen into one of two camps, the LINEAR or the TIMELINE based adventure.
In a linear plot the PCs go from location to location (or scene to scene), the events happen solely within their timeline. This is how most dungeon crawls are written, the party blunder into room 5 and trigger the goblin attack which they either deal with or don't, then it's off to the next room or location and so on until they end up defeating the evil archmage and rescuing the princess / orb of jozitzky (delete as applicable).
From a DMs perspective these are easy to write and to run as the PCs don't do much choosing which path through the adventure they take. However, depending on how immersed they are in the adventure, the PCs can sometimes detect the guiding hand of the DM which often led to player apathy and sometimes even rebellion. They can also feel a little formulaic (not that there's anything wrong with dungeon bashing) if that's all the DM has in their arsenal.
In a timeline adventure the PCs wander from location to location but the events have a life of their own and can be triggered by the PCs, NPCs, the villain or even other events. Often these are decided by an overarching game timeline, for example; at noon a fight breaks out in the marketplace, by 1pm the marketplace is cordoned off by the local sheriff, by 1:30 the aggrieved parties have been carted off to the local gaol, by dawn they are all executed.
As DM you need to be aware of where the PCs are in relation to the EVENTS and any travelling time it might take them to get there, the time it takes for players to deal with an EVENT and argue about what to do next etc. These are, on the whole, much more of a challenge to write and to DM but often more rewarding for players and DM alike for a number of reasons.
I find that some settings naturally lend themselves to timelines. Of particular note are Judge Dredd and Cyberpunk, both of which are set in an urban sprawl:
Judge Dredd: The adventure timeline is usually crafted around a single perp's attempts at either committing a number of minor crimes escalating in scale and severity which (if the PCs follow the clues) will end up in a final showdown or one big crime and then the perp tries to cover their tracks.
When I write my own adventures I pepper the timeline with lots of other events so the players have to decide which crimes are linked together in order to decide what to react to and which ones are set fressing or red herrings.
The fact that the PCs are often street judges on patrol (but in constant communication with Justice Central) helps with the planning the events in a more linear way and allows you to communicate alerts and demand responses from the PCs to things that they hear on their radios.
Cyberpunk: The adventure timeline is usually crafted around the nefarious actions of a corporation or some other organisation. The PCs interact with these events through various intermediaries or connections and may end up either working for or against the organisation at the heart of the plot.
PCs are usually updated throughout the game with regular screamsheets and media broadcasts giving the players a sense of their insignificance in the world and (as I like to do) coverage of the effects of their actions from the opposite perspective. The job for the PCs is to work out where they fit into all this and if they can or even should put a stop to it.
Communication is Key
One of the keys to running a timeline scenario is that the players need to be regularly made aware of events outside their immediate sphere. In modern or sci-fi games this is usually not a problem as PCs usually have access to mobile phones or similar which you can use to appraise them of things happening in other locations.
In fantasy games this can be tricky as long distance communication is usually impossible unless the PCs have access to a magical artifact, spell or reliant on messenger birds. In a city setting this is much easier due to the shorter distances involved. You might get word of something happening on the other side of the city passed by word of mouth but this could suffer from Chinese Whispers and the actual details of the message get corrupted. Alternatively you could have a fixer or a patron act as the party messenger using runners to get information to the PCs as swiftly and reliably as possible.