Wednesday, January 05, 2011

GM Mentoring: Supers and the Five-Act Structure...

Good Evening, All:

Tonight, my gaming group has reduced numbers, given that two out of the five members are out of town and thus not available to play in our regularly scheduled weekly game. When that happens, particularly if the direction of the main campaign would be seriously impacted by the absence of certain characters, I tend to run One Shots. I often view running One Shots under such circumstances as a personal challenge, asking the group to decide on a genre and then contribute one element per player before building their characters. These elements could be a specific type of scenario, a type of antagonist, or even something more general than that. While they are creating characters, I jot down some notes about the adventure, look up some stats, and then we're off! It's not as extemporaneous as an Iron GM tournament, but it's a challenge to me, nonetheless.

Based on previous discussions, however, I suspect that tonight's game will likely be a superhero One Shot. I could easily just download an adventure from one of any number of superhero-oriented RPGs, and convert that to Savage Worlds (as that is our current go-to system), but then that removes the ability of the players to give me some input into the elements they'd like to see in tonight's game. I don't have any prior experience running a Superhero game, so this should be interesting. I've played in a few, none of which ever made it to a satisfying conclusion before they folded. I'm just looking to run a nice self-contained scenario that provides all players with a taste of what Savage Worlds Superheroes would feel like.

Toward that end, I did read a few Superhero adventures to get the general sense of what such an adventure might look like, and found them very similar to the classic five-act structure:

  1. Story Hook: This is often a simple action-based encounter to warm the players up with a little superheroic action, and the actual details of the adventure are introduced at the end of the scene.
  2. Escalation: This scene is typically designed to appeal to the more cerebral or RP-oriented players, and deals with the PCs interacting with one or more NPCs, or possibly figuring out a trap or puzzle.
  3. Complication: This scene introduces a complication in achieving the goals of the adventure, and requires the PCs to expend resources, which may impact them in the climax.
  4. Climax: This scene is the final showdown with the BBEG and his minions, and lets the Superheroes go all out against the bad guys.
  5. Reward: This scene wraps up the entire adventure, the bad guys are locked away and the city is once again safe.

That does remove some of the mystery, and thus the quasi-intrepidation, of running games in a new genre for me. I'm familiar with this particular adventure structure, and have run a good number of fantasy and sci-fi One Shots using it. Now, I simply need to become more comfortable with the trappings and tropes of the Superhero genre, and hopefully I'll be able to create some great adventures for my players whenever they decide to spring this particular genre on me.

Wish Me Luck Tonight, (or better yet, wish them luck tonight,)

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