It will come as no surprise to most that I’ve read a few more roleplaying games than I’ve ever brought before the group. For a couple years now we’ve been playing narrative games. First Esoterrorists and now Dresden. I’ve also read Dogs in he Vineyard, Fiasco, two more Fate system games, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, Apocalypse World and this week a new Marvel Superheroes game.
I had an epiphany while reading Marvel. An obvious one.
One of the main problems I have in my games is the players wondering what to do next. There are several reasons for this. First, and lamest, is that I come from a dungeon crawl heritage. Where to go next? Try the next door. It is lame because I’ve been doing complex adventures for many years that have offered more choice.
Second is that I like to create open ended adventures. I like investigative adventures with multiple ways forward. Where to go next? You tell me.
But mostly it is because I don’t provide enough of a frame. I can do that and still leave it open ended. So here is the epiphany. After reading dozens of games that describe setting up the action in scenes, I realized I should set up my action in scenes.
A scene has a beginning and an ending. It has a goal. It leads to the next scene. It has a setting and a cast of characters.
Here is what I will try and do. Clearly start a scene. Give the setting and characters – it doesn’t need to be the whole party. Establish the goal. Let the scene run. Try and work in 2-3 compels. Let the characters decide ho to achieve the goal. (Or do something different – if they go a different way it still achieves the goal of the characters having direction.) Then end the scene when the goal has been achieved, failed or circumvented.
And make the whole thing snappy.
What I’m still playing with is how to setup the next scene. Sometimes it will be obvious. But when it isn’t? For a fully plotted adventure I can work it out ahead of time. I did this in the giant fish adventure – my favourite I GM’d in Dresden. For a winging it adventure, I need to do it on the fly.