Spilling and gutting the contents of Labyrinth, The Hobbit, and now Over the Garden Wall in this format has revealed many cool things about adventure structure to me.
In sharing this ideas on a forum called <redacted>, I’ve continued chatting these ideas with Tim B, Lord Perci, Tom, and Shane.
Long form just helps me think better.
There are some tenets/principles of this structure that have been unearthed and dislodged, just from talking about them and being asked more and more questions.
Scene-based adventure properties
- These adventures are made scenes, which are highly interactable set-piece encounters with their own challenges, allies, and rewards.
- The order, number, and content of the scenes is up to the GM to serve the flavor of the game and the needs of the table.
- These adventures are largely linear, choosing to emphasize “what do you do in this situation?” instead of “which path do you choose next?”
- The locations of these adventures are often amorphous, large, unnavigable areas that allow for little to no points of reference, like the woods, a maze, a city, the wilderness, underground, the sea, psychedelic space.
- The GM may outsource the decision of order, number, and even content of the scenes to the dice (or another randomizer such as cards, generators). Specific mechanics may be given based on the adventure.
- These scenes may be strung together by a “pressurized context” like a ticking clock, a final battle, or an avoidable fate.
- The scenes may impact the finale of the game of the PCs. Some scenes are influential, others less so.
- Players’ decision to go forwards or backwards between scenes may come with consequences.
- Some scene-based adventures allow players to trigger their conclusion when they believe themselves to be ready or (on a meta-level) when the campaign is drawing to a close.
RPG examples (roughly) include…
I’ve been thinking about this as a great community project. Imagine:
Someone comes to a forum with the premise, first scene, and last scene. Each participant then builds one or more scenes that fits the context each with challenges, allies, and rewards of their own. It’s compiled as a zine. Boom.
Players have worked up an incredible debt in a labyrinthine casino. They’re on the escape from the owner (some twisted Willy Wonka-esque character) who keeps calling for their capture over the loudspeaker. Players navigate the gambling house/mansion while avoiding guards, bounty hunters, money monsters, and cameras. It’s like a reverse heist. It’d be great in Electric Bastionland, that’s for sure.
What scenes would be in this adventure? What are some ways you could ramp up the tension? What if the players became imprisoned? What people of the casino would they bump into? What treasures would they find? How would the finale look?
All questions to ask. 🙂
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