Scenario Writing

Where new Keepers can ask "stupid" questions without fear of hazing.
Koakai
Sponsor
Sponsor
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:34 pm
Location: abbotsford, bc

Scenario Writing

Post by Koakai » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:15 pm

So I am sitting here, having thoughts of scenarios running through my head and knowing that I know little enough about the game but wanting to get these ideas onto some sort of paper. I have a place, a group or people or two, and even some thoughts on mythos critters that could take route there but have little enough experience with playing the game much less any sort of idea on how to beat all these into a playable form.

How does one take all this stuff and turn it into the gold that these scenarios turn out to be? If you base it on reality do you fudge some or all of the facts?

I have in mind a tale of some of the fellows from the PCMR, and a scene and scenario in which they could readily be during the time they were active. There is isolation I can bring into play, and deep dark secrets as well. What I essentially need is tips on just how to do this right.

Thanks.

Koakai
PhD. Candidate at MU's western Annex.
PH.D candidate -M.U. Western Annex

PirateLawyer
Senior
Senior
Posts: 158
Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:19 am

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by PirateLawyer » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:31 pm

I'd recommend using a well-regarded scenario book as a model. Pagan Publishing does first-rate work so picking up a copy of their recent Bumps in the Night book, or Mysteries of Mesoamerica, would serve two purposes: either book would provide 4-5 fun scenarios to play through, and you could use them as a template as you experiment with writing up your own stuff.

Keeper Dan
Daemon Sultan
Daemon Sultan
Posts: 708
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Keeper Dan » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:24 pm

Koakai wrote:So I am sitting here, having thoughts of scenarios running through my head and knowing that I know little enough about the game but wanting to get these ideas onto some sort of paper. I have a place, a group or people or two, and even some thoughts on mythos critters that could take route there but have little enough experience with playing the game much less any sort of idea on how to beat all these into a playable form.

How does one take all this stuff and turn it into the gold that these scenarios turn out to be? If you base it on reality do you fudge some or all of the facts?

I have in mind a tale of some of the fellows from the PCMR, and a scene and scenario in which they could readily be during the time they were active. There is isolation I can bring into play, and deep dark secrets as well. What I essentially need is tips on just how to do this right.

Thanks.

Koakai
PhD. Candidate at MU's western Annex.
:
This sounds like a show topic. In the mean time, I'll think it over and see what ideas I can come up with after I get off work.

Sent from my Amazon Kindle Fire using Tapatalk HD
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

Keeper Dan
Daemon Sultan
Daemon Sultan
Posts: 708
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Keeper Dan » Fri Feb 08, 2013 1:19 am

Sorry for the delay.

PirateLawyer is right about using existing books for ideas on how to format an adventure if you plan to produce something to share out.

For designing the scenario from the beginning, I almost always start with a spiral notebook. I'll jot down any ideas as they come. For a game with your friends, that's about as far as you need to go, really. Don't overextend yourself trying to prepare for every path the players may take. There's no way to do that.
Write down your basic ideas of what the bad guys are doing, and what they plan to do if they were never interfered with by the players. I've found that this always helps me to gauge how the enemy will react when the players start to mess with their plans. It also helps you map out possible methods you can use to get clues to your investigators.
Figure out your hook. The players need some kind of connection to the plot that makes sense for their characters to be interested in. In Call of Cthulhu, these usually come in a couple of common methods.

1) The investigators are hired to look into the story. Having some kind of organization that they're already members of makes this a fast way to get them into the story.

2) Friend/Relative asks them to do something that leads them to the story. This can be a person who is worried about the odd behavior of someone, or it could be the relative/friend that recently died and left some kind of item/property to the players that brings them to the plot.

Don't worry yourself about the method being cliche. The players are there to play, and everyone knows there has to be a way to get the story rolling. The method you choose will probably be best determined by the kind of characters they make. If there are private eyes in the group, then hiring is good.

As for the era, don't worry about being historically accurate. I doubt that any of us run games that are all that accurate in many ways. I like to focus on technology available in an era. That works for me as a good scale to keep things within the setting.

Feel free to ask more if I'm not being very clear or there are other areas you're wondering about.
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

Dr. Gerard
Professor
Professor
Posts: 1353
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Dr. Gerard » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:20 pm

Keeper Dan wrote:Sorry for the delay.

PirateLawyer is right about using existing books for ideas on how to format an adventure if you plan to produce something to share out.

For designing the scenario from the beginning, I almost always start with a spiral notebook. I'll jot down any ideas as they come. For a game with your friends, that's about as far as you need to go, really. Don't overextend yourself trying to prepare for every path the players may take. There's no way to do that.
Write down your basic ideas of what the bad guys are doing, and what they plan to do if they were never interfered with by the players. I've found that this always helps me to gauge how the enemy will react when the players start to mess with their plans. It also helps you map out possible methods you can use to get clues to your investigators.
Figure out your hook. The players need some kind of connection to the plot that makes sense for their characters to be interested in. In Call of Cthulhu, these usually come in a couple of common methods.

1) The investigators are hired to look into the story. Having some kind of organization that they're already members of makes this a fast way to get them into the story.

2) Friend/Relative asks them to do something that leads them to the story. This can be a person who is worried about the odd behavior of someone, or it could be the relative/friend that recently died and left some kind of item/property to the players that brings them to the plot.

Don't worry yourself about the method being cliche. The players are there to play, and everyone knows there has to be a way to get the story rolling. The method you choose will probably be best determined by the kind of characters they make. If there are private eyes in the group, then hiring is good.

As for the era, don't worry about being historically accurate. I doubt that any of us run games that are all that accurate in many ways. I like to focus on technology available in an era. That works for me as a good scale to keep things within the setting.

Feel free to ask more if I'm not being very clear or there are other areas you're wondering about.

Yup, I agree with Dan - start with a strong hook and a framework for the story. The characters have to be pulled along by strong forces each step of the way.

I also recommend keeping your story pretty simple, inserting things that freak you out, and not worrying about having things explained in the end. I'm a cult follower of a book by Graham Walmsley called "Stealing Cthulhu," for tips on Lovecraftian scenarios.

I've also mentioned "the Alexandrian" blog, which has great thoughts about node-based scenario structure. For every conclusion you want players to come to, place three clues somewhere that point them in that direction. And for every scene, place or key NPC interview, throw down three clues that lead somewhere else.

As for history, be as accurate as is fun for you. You obviously enjoy history, so use it. Personally, I like to be as accurate as I have time for, and that's not a high standard. I find it fun to operate within some known event or other, but work the fiction into all the plausible gaps. We know that X, but what history books don't tell you is Y.

Anyway, about your hook...what are you thinking so far?
Keeper of the Cthulhu Dark "Secret Everest Expedition" PbP scenario
Rip Wheeler in the Call of Cthulhu "No Man's Land" scenario
Plays for Keepers

Koakai
Sponsor
Sponsor
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:34 pm
Location: abbotsford, bc

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Koakai » Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:41 pm

Right now I am just toying with what would essentially be a con game, a done in one shot scenario. This is mostly to make things a little easier on myself in the long run, plus the place I am looking at to place the game is a fairly small island. I think I will fiddle the island somewhat and might work in some aspects from a nearby town.

The local is a neat little island called Cole island, and it lies only just offshore in a harbour near Victoria. In the scenario I would nudge it further out to make it more inaccesable in order to bump up the isolation horror. But this island is notable because it was the home of a large munitions dump since 1860ish till the second world war. It had also been briefly abandoned when the British navy pulled out of British columbia in 1905. I was alerted to it by the haunted BC guys, who went by the look at a few of the surviving structures.

A place that was weirdly decommissioned during the war interests me, and I figure that this sounds like a task that might get assigned to an unimportant unit such as the PCMR in order to free up actual fighting men for elsewhere.

So an isolated island that had 80 year old buildings from a prior military force and staffed by a strange group of men. If I can not do something with that I am not really trying.
PH.D candidate -M.U. Western Annex

Keeper Dan
Daemon Sultan
Daemon Sultan
Posts: 708
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:46 pm

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Keeper Dan » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:59 am

That sounds like a great setting!
Another method if making it feel more isolated is weather. Dense fog, rainstorms or snow can make the island hard to get to/from even if was fairly close.
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

Eibon
Sophmore
Sophmore
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:50 am

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Eibon » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:37 pm

What you've got, Koakai, is a setting which is good. Now you need to ask yourself how you get to the island and the buildings. How does the situation tie to the Mythos? Was some Herbert West style unethical experimentation going on? Is the house built over something dangerous? Is it haunted?

Then you need something to happen to trigger the adventure, so someone needs to go to the island, have an experience, and then alert the players. So maybe the buildings are being re-commissioned, so builders have been sent to renovate the buildings. Something happens to them? Either everyone is killed and relatives want to know what's happened, or someone escapes? What happens to the people who remain?

Next, is there a villain? What is the villain's plan? Villains can be anything, from possessed humans, evil cultists, to actual monsters -- even just misguided humans can be villains.

If you have a villain, work out what his goal is and what stages he must complete to achieve the goal. This can be an engine driving the adventure. If no one interferes will him, the villain will achieve the plan over a time frame.

Once you have what the "plot" is from the villain's prospective, you need to think about integrating the players so they can thwart the plot. Obviously this depends on what the players are. PIs can be hired, friends of the family can agree to look into matters.

You should now have a skeleton you can hang some flesh on. What information can the players gather through research. Will you make handouts. How do the players travel to the island. And, perhaps most important, what can the players do the thwart the plan?

Hope that helps.

trevlix
Investigator
Investigator
Posts: 510
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 2:58 am
Contact:

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by trevlix » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:10 pm

I agree with everything that has been posted here.

I'll also add that you have the making of a nice sandbox environment for your scenario. Plan out locations and events for the PCs to go to and interact with, and then let them loose. You'll still have your plot going on and it won't feel railroad-ey.
[Trafford: Insanity: 4, Exhaustion: 2]

http://keepingthegame.blogspot.com/

Koakai
Sponsor
Sponsor
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:34 pm
Location: abbotsford, bc

Re: Scenario Writing

Post by Koakai » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:23 pm

I have been very slow in working on anything alas, as I have been fighting the general malaise that occurs when ye old family curse starts catching up with family members. Not that I know of an actual curse, but I figure some primal Obermeyer pissed off a critter in the Black Forest once upon a time, as it seems no Obermeyer ever dies of anything but cancer, and summon tumor was cast upon my dad back in February. We finally got it dug out of his skull to learn it was malignant and nasty, but a vast majority of other factors have kept him in the hospital such as a perforated bowel means that the nasty chemicals we need to start feeding him will not happen till he is well enough.

Morose gamer is morose.

I think I shall dump some of the thoughts I had into this thread, just to get then out of my skull and onto paper.
For example, I had a beasty that is worthy of a history writeup in itself. The thunderbird. Which I can work into the scenario as a lligor.
PH.D candidate -M.U. Western Annex

Post Reply