Tuesday, May 04, 2010

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Complication...

Good Morning, All:

This article continues the One Shot Adventure Creation Series. Like others in the series, we will be discussing one of the core scenes from the basic One Shot adventure outline I originally proposed at the beginning of this series. In this aricle, we will be looking at the Complication, a scene about half-way through the adventure that impacts the party's ability to fulfill the needs of your plot.

The Complication scene often forces the party to decide between several consequences as they proceed with fulfilling the needs of the plot. This scene often requires the characters to expend resources, forcing them to decide on whether to spend their resources on this particular challenge or the big climactic challenge that is coming up next. In addition, this scene often introduces a plot twist or restriction that makes the resolution of this challenge and/or the climax that much tougher. Forcing players to make such decisions often leads to a deeper investment in the game, as challenging the players typically brings a stronger focus on the events of the scenario.

The complication that arises here often possesses a moral quality, since moral judgments and other ethical challenges are frequently not governed by game mechanics (and it is a very small issue on the GM's part to avoid those challenges that are). What you are seeking here is something that would require players to step beyond their character sheets and add an element of roleplay into the scenario. We've already looked at the combat and non-combat capacities of the characters with the first two scenes; this one hopefully adds elements of character portrayal into the mix.

Of course, if the entire party sees the complication you've presented in the same light, there may not be any issues that arise, and the ability to roleplay in regards to this scene is somewhat diminished. If you have NPCs in the mix (which I strongly suggest against doing, unless they are simply men-at-arms, guides or porters), you can introduce the different sides of the dilemna through them, and let the players talk it out once you've opened that can of worms for them.

Another key point in the complication scene is that the dilemna you've created impacts the course of action the PCs might undertake. If they are fighting trolls, the trolls could have a pair of human children in an iron cage suspended over a cauldron of boiling water, which limits the kinds of area effect abilities that the party can use without putting the children at risk. (Children are always good for creating limitations on the scene itself.) If the PCs are chasing bandits that have captured the princess and the bandits set fire to hovels of the poor district to help cover their escape, the party has to decide whether they will save the orphanage or pursue the bandits as they pursue the kidnappers. (Should they decide to split the party, you have carte blanche to hit them with your best shot.) There are literally hundreds of different complications you can add to a given scene to create dilemnas and promote character choices.

One final point to remember is that there should be no right choice and no wrong choice here. Each option should have both good points and bad points. Ultimately, this is a One Shot, and you want the players to leave the game feeling good about the game. If making a choice totally screws them over for the rest of the adventure, then you've probably created the wrong complication. Even if it seems like the decision should be a no-brainer, chances are that you'll get the party of adventurers that take the choice you'd prefer they didn't consider, and then you're stuck. Make plans for either option, including both success and failure for each, so that your overall adventure can move forward. This may place more obstacles in the climax, of course, but their decision shouldn't remove their enjoyment of the scenario, however matters get resolved. It can be a rough line to walk, but if you can manage it, the result will be a very memorable encounter and a very enjoyable game.

With Regards,

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