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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 33 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Scenes from the Mall  (Read 855 times)
daranp
Member

Posts: 14


« on: September 15, 2011, 01:51:36 AM »

Hi,

I am in the process of writing the first scenario for the ParaSpace Role Playing System. Scenes from the mall begins with a wraith awakening and zombie uprising (although, along with a magical awakening, the game is intended to become a post apocalyptic fantasy filled with all manner of creatures). I have played the scenario through with several groups and each have given some very positive feedback. However, now coming to write it out in full, I am finding it quite a struggle to set down all of its many intricacies.

Although, at first glance, the scenario seems to be a “standard” zombie romp (dawn of the dead style) and can certainly be played through in this manner, during play tests, I have explored many side plots involving character development and emotions. In particular, I am attempting to provide enough detail with each “named” NPC to enable a GM to provide his players with some opportunities to build tensions within the group of survivors that might, depending on character actions, lead to some great role playing and, possible, confrontations. The idea being to get the players to interact with these NPCs as real people (rather than a bunch of stats to overcome).

For my part, I've been GMing for over 25 years but, having never written a scenario out in full and always preferring the thrill of the unexpected, I am trying to gage an interest as to what amount of information other GMs prefer. In the writing, I have tried to keep things basic and simple (so as not to overload the GM with things he must remember) but offer enough to detail to form a fabric from which to base any situations that may occur. I would therefore be really grateful for some feedback and advice with regard to the information I have so far provided; in particular, the NPCs.

Thanks in advance
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Mike Sugarbaker
Member

Posts: 150

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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2011, 11:56:32 AM »

What kind of "intricacies" are we talking about?
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Publisher/Co-Editor, OgreCave
Caretaker, Planet Story Games
Content Admin, Story Games Codex
daranp
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2011, 12:41:48 AM »

By intricacies, I am referring to the fact that their are a number of elements that combine together to build the scenario. As well as, what I refer to as “the overarching plot” where the characters struggle to survive the awakenings of wraiths, zombies, ghouls, magic and more, there are also a number of, what I refer to as “sub-plots” that will unfold. This section is very much a work in progress and I intend to add a fragment to the end of each day in a section called “Personal and Social Development”. In this I am hoping to steadily build tension and fractions within the community. What I aim for is to have provided enough NPC information to enable the GM to adequately be able to role play these scenes.

In particular, early in the game, there are moral issues to consider when putting to rest two youth zombies. Another issue occurs soon after as an NPC is bitten and must too be dealt with (while his girlfriend looks on). Further into the story, as food begins to get scarce, issues of rationing and sharing must be overcome and natural disease will also take its toll and may require quarantine (or extermination) of the victims. There is an obvious social gap when rich meets poor (some of whom have a dark secret) and there are cracks in personality and friendship that will be driven between some NPCs (and player characters). With no law and order, and several thefts taking place, any of these situations could explode and divide the group at any moment.

It is also worth mentioning, at this stage that, through Father Miller and Queen Mab, there is a sub-plot that deals with Christianity and Paganism; albeit within a post apocalyptic fantasy setting (I am obviously wary of this sensitive subject and would seek any advice in order to do it justice).

During play tests, I have tried many of these (and other) situations across a number groups. Obviously, each group responded differently (which makes it hard to predict how others will react) and, therefore, makes it very difficult to write conclusions. However, as previously stated, I personally prefer the excitement of the unexpected and so am happy to leave these sub-plots as open ended stories for the player characters (and the GM) to solve in their own way. Unfortunately, as a result, in order to continue with the overarching plot, I am finding myself writing statements like “It is the assumption that x, y, z has occurred. If this is not the case within your game you will need to adjust the following events as necessary”. Do people think that is acceptable or would they prefer to see notes on how to steer the game in a particular direction (or is that just railroading)?
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Daniel36
Member

Posts: 63


« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2011, 04:05:05 AM »

It's a choice. You can choose for the sub-plots to be left to the GM and the players, since you cannot possibly predict what kind of characters your players are going to create. They might all just be random people enjoying their day in the mall when all hell breaks loose, but who's to say there isn't a character that is trying to find something of importance in the mall? Perhaps at the time of hell breaking loose one person is already on the lookout for his or her son or daughter... Do you have to write out rules for this possible sub-plot? In that case, you need to write out all possible sub-plots.

I, personally, wouldn't mind if I were forced to choose from a list of "sub-plots" from the get go, so this IS a possibility, mind you... I am of the belief that "complete freedom" in character creation is nonsense, so if I had to choose a person, whom I can name, for who I can create a certain look, but whose previous life has been written out for me, alongside his initial goals in the aftermath, then that would be fine by me. In fact, I might just throw that idea into my own game Chronicles... I shall henceforth call it "Destinies".

It is not railroading!! :D

You should consider what you want.
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daranp
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2011, 02:02:49 AM »

It is my intention to include some archetypal pre-drawn characters. However, I hadn't considered including a specific background or "destiny" with them. That is certainly food for thought. Even if all payer chose not to use an archetype or pre-determined background, it would enable me to create specific examples for the GM as to how a particular sub-plot might play out with a certain type of character.
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Mike Sugarbaker
Member

Posts: 150

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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2011, 09:50:03 PM »

There's certainly no shame in pre-gens... they're even kind of stylish right now (as if that matters).

But yeah, the constant struggle with scenario design is how to have anything resembling a linear plot without railroading, versus how to have a big enough sandbox without having to design for literally every possibility under the sun. I kind of favor a story I heard once about how Raymond Chandler used to plan his novels: he'd meticulously outline every aspect of a dozen subplots all the way up to... around halfway through the novel. Then he'd finish the novel by playing it by ear.

If you haven't I'd recommend looking at The Armitage Files, a scenario for Trail of Cthulhu. It's exemplary in this department.
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Publisher/Co-Editor, OgreCave
Caretaker, Planet Story Games
Content Admin, Story Games Codex
daranp
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2011, 11:53:47 AM »

Thanks Mike, I shall check this out.
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