In thinking about how I didn’t get what I wanted out of Scenes of Chance, I realized that I hadn’t really articulated to myself what I was trying to do. I said one thing (“I’ll write an adventure! That can also be a tutorial!”), but started to work toward another thing (a sandboxy module — in the component sense — that could be used in more ways).
Habit, I suppose. I have always gravitated — in game design and in software development — to toolsmithing and building strong foundations for work that follows. In this case, I said in the first post that I didn’t have background for the adventure, and that’s where I instinctively started to focus my development.
In my mind this is important work. Even if the players never consciously see it, my having context for an adventure (or a story arc, or larger component) gives me a background for my focal object that is very helpful. Even though I’m looking for a fairly small, constrained adventure, I want to have a strong background to put it in.
Okay, fair enough. What does this mean?
To start, I’m going to start over, this time explicitly and deliberately building ‘a place for the adventure to happen’. I don’t mean the site itself, but I will identify the narrative elements that surround it so I can know for myself how this fits. Broad strokes and bold colors only, then refine as I get closer to the actual adventure I want to develop. I don’t expect to go quite so far as I would if I were developing a full campaign, and it’ll be only the largest-grain detail at first, but it will give me a sense of place for the adventure.
Then the PCs can kill the goblins.
Hello, fellow A-to-Zer! Interesting post. I have never run an RPG campaign, or developed a world to play an RPG in, but I know how hard world-building can be, from a fiction writing POV, and I imagine that there are lots of parallels.
There are many parallels indeed, Melanie. One of the greater challenges — and greatest joys — of world building for a game setting is that things can go in unexpected, and even entirely unanticipated, directions.
I once ran a Microscope session for “The Shen-long Empire”, covering the rise and fall of a dragon-themed culture. On the second turn we found that the council of evil dragons sacrificed five of their most powerful members (and the capital city, he adds as an afterthought) to “create a Tiamat”, the classic D&D god-queen of dragons.
Ooookay, I think we see how the empire ends. Let’s explore some more of what happens before that.