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View Full Version : Node-based scenario design: Do you use it? Opinions?



Coidzor
2016-03-19, 04:44 PM
So I stumbled upon this Alexandrian article series about node-based scenarios after someone brought up The Three Clue Rule™ in another thread.

It's inspired me to try it out in my newest adventure rather than having a basic sequence of events from start to finish.

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/7949/roleplaying-games/node-based-scenario-design-part-1-the-plotted-approach

So, anyone use this in their own adventures? Seen any good published examples that use it?

Any types of adventures you think it's well suited for or very unsuitable for?

Telok
2016-03-19, 05:06 PM
So I stumbled upon this Alexandrian article series about node-based scenarios after someone brought up The Three Clue Rule™ in another thread.

It's inspired me to try it out in my newest adventure rather than having a basic sequence of events from start to finish...

...Any types of adventures you think it's well suited for or very unsuitable for?
I've done this for a supers game. It works pretty well, multiple clues and multiple paths (and multiple clues for each path) and helpful NPCs.

Seriously, if you want the down and dirty on a mansion find a servant who likes to talk. Just asking people stuff is amazingly useful.
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo198/jcc_telok/2015-12-18-101722_zpsulmcenwg.jpg (http://s375.photobucket.com/user/jcc_telok/media/2015-12-18-101722_zpsulmcenwg.jpg.html)

Thrudd
2016-03-19, 07:19 PM
So I stumbled upon this Alexandrian article series about node-based scenarios after someone brought up The Three Clue Rule™ in another thread.

It's inspired me to try it out in my newest adventure rather than having a basic sequence of events from start to finish.

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/7949/roleplaying-games/node-based-scenario-design-part-1-the-plotted-approach

So, anyone use this in their own adventures? Seen any good published examples that use it?

Any types of adventures you think it's well suited for or very unsuitable for?

I think any construct which allows a more free-flowing adventure in which the players' choices actually make a difference is preferable to one with a pre-set linear sequence of events. Once you start thinking about a game this way, there should be no going back. In other words, it is most suitable for all games that are not pure open-world sandbox. Even then, you might use it a bit.

Chauncymancer
2016-03-21, 02:48 PM
I once rewrote a No Exit Call of Cthulu adventure to use the 3 Clue Node system, because I wanted a more open-ended structure.

Coidzor
2016-03-21, 05:03 PM
I once rewrote a No Exit Call of Cthulu adventure to use the 3 Clue Node system, because I wanted a more open-ended structure.

No Exit? Is that a group that wrote CoC adventures?

lacco36
2016-03-22, 06:05 AM
I agree with Thrudd - once you start doing your preps this way, the traditional "map the dungeon, stat the NPCs, write a plot" becomes really hard to do. I tried to do it few months ago (my players asked for "traditional" dungeon crawl") and I couldn't do it... :smalleek:

OldTrees1
2016-03-22, 07:08 AM
I agree with Thrudd - once you start doing your preps this way, the traditional "map the dungeon, stat the NPCs, write a plot" becomes really hard to do. I tried to do it few months ago (my players asked for "traditional" dungeon crawl") and I couldn't do it... :smalleek:

And instead you made a node based dungeon right?

4 levels, 5 paths between levels(1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-4, 3-4), each level having 2 points of advancement lends itself to at least linear branching although some loops might appear. Then insert an objective & BBEG at level 4 (maybe different locations?) and various relevant but optional NPCs throughout the dungeon (the non linear nature of the dungeon makes the NPCs optional).

Honestly that sounds like a "traditional" dungeon crawl from the information available to the player.

lacco36
2016-03-22, 07:32 AM
And instead you made a node based dungeon right?

4 levels, 5 paths between levels(1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-4, 3-4), each level having 2 points of advancement lends itself to at least linear branching although some loops might appear. Then insert an objective & BBEG at level 4 (maybe different locations?) and various relevant but optional NPCs throughout the dungeon (the non linear nature of the dungeon makes the NPCs optional).

Honestly that sounds like a "traditional" dungeon crawl from the information available to the player.

3 levels (my players have an equivalent of attention span of a cat when it comes to dungeons - they want to enter them, but as soon as they get in, they are searching for a way out - one-session dungeons are the best for them)
3 nodes per level (each representing an obstacle, interesting landmark or decision point)
List of occupants with "starting points" and traits (not statted, except for one monster - I knew it would attack them)

Yes, the players didn't notice a thing. The difference - when I used to map these things, it would take me around 2-3 hours to prepare everything (ideas, list of occupants, rooms, loot, map it all, write down notes to rooms).
Now? 30 minutes, give or take.

And running it is easier - I remember rifling through several pages of notes to see that I forgot about some key they had to get previously. Now they get it - either they find it hanging from a hook near the goblin camp, or they get it from the belly of the beast, or the goblin chief loses it as he runs away...

Quild
2016-03-22, 09:22 AM
I've been DM-ing for the first time ever this week-end and I did use a node-based scenario.

The mission was to find 3 ex-guildmates who fled with the reward of their previous mission (50 000 GP) that they were supposed to bring back to the guild. They had to be brought dead or alive and bringing back the gold was optional (players were 2 players level 5).

The first mission they were given was a dead-end. I mean, it was to fight Beholders.
I clearly wanted them to realize that it wasn't the right mission, and if they couldn't realize that, I was prepared to railroad them back to starting point (Beholders would have been already killed by one of the two new Guild Masters before they can reach them).

Now for the right mission, they had to gather information. Guildmates were obviously the ones to ask, but I had a ton of path depending of what they asked to whom. Guildmates could be found in the library or lunch room. Some guildmates could leave the room while you are talking to some others.
Depending of questions (and some items found), players could either find each of their targets separately (find every clue), find the ranger and the fighter separately and the cleric with first one of them you get to (or both if you can't find out that the Cleric had Trickery Domain and that the guy telling you he was not your target actually was the right guy) or find the three togethers (lazy and losy path, get a guy to find them for you in the same spot).

There also was a side-quest with a mage proposing his services for magic (presumably location) researches. But he only wanted to capture the players so he could perform some researches on them (Irenicus-like). They found the side-quest, fought some monsters, the mage fled.


Most of the difference going one path or another is about the fights you would encounter. But also about the story itself. Also the world I created remained very open:
- The guild's secretary seems surprisingly skilled in quite everyting. She had been here for years while the Guild Masters changed 5 times these last two months. One might wonder if she isn't the real power. She does work an awful lot since the new Guild Masters arrived.
- The new Guild Masters are a mage you're told you can quite easily speak with (but players did not managed to get through the secretary's office) and a Paladin (players found that quite late. At some point they really were wondering if they weren't working for some very evil organization because of how the Cleric was bluffing them about their mission. Knowing that a Paladin was in charge would have helped them) that can handle several beholders alone. Next DM can chose to change them if he wants!
- The mage that tried to trap the players could be a future sidequest (one of my players really wants to find him again and kick his ass :D) or main quest. Or be never heard about again.
- Players can leave the guild. It's quite open to that if you don't steal them.

Thrudd
2016-03-22, 10:21 AM
I agree with Thrudd - once you start doing your preps this way, the traditional "map the dungeon, stat the NPCs, write a plot" becomes really hard to do. I tried to do it few months ago (my players asked for "traditional" dungeon crawl") and I couldn't do it... :smalleek:

Actually, I think traditional dungeon mapping is what node-based design is meant to replicate, not replace. The node design replaces a linear narrative plot. It is much faster than preparing a large dungeon, but it also creates a different experience and type of game. The dungeon map is, actually, a node-based design, where all the nodes are rooms.

Lord Torath
2016-03-22, 11:45 AM
Many of the early Shadowrun adventures used this format (I can't speak to the newer ones; I've not read through them) to some extent.

Mercurial
Dragon Hunt
Dark Angel
Ivy and Chrome

I'm sure there are others. In general, you get clues leading to several different "nodes," which have clues leading to the other nodes, and eventually to the BBEG. Ivy and Chrome actually had two different climaxes, depending on the clues the PCs uncovered and how they followed them.

Coidzor
2016-03-22, 01:33 PM
3 levels (my players have an equivalent of attention span of a cat when it comes to dungeons - they want to enter them, but as soon as they get in, they are searching for a way out - one-session dungeons are the best for them)
3 nodes per level (each representing an obstacle, interesting landmark or decision point)
List of occupants with "starting points" and traits (not statted, except for one monster - I knew it would attack them)

Yes, the players didn't notice a thing. The difference - when I used to map these things, it would take me around 2-3 hours to prepare everything (ideas, list of occupants, rooms, loot, map it all, write down notes to rooms).
Now? 30 minutes, give or take.

Definitely sounds interesting, then!

Starting points? Like what they're up to or their disposition when encountered, or...?

So you don't need a map except for actual battlemaps? Didn't the players get disoriented about where they were or had been?

lacco36
2016-03-22, 01:46 PM
Definitely sounds interesting, then!

Starting points? Like what they're up to or their disposition when encountered, or...?

So you don't need a map except for actual battlemaps? Didn't the players get disoriented about where they were or had been?

Starting points in the sense what are they doing and where when the heroes enter the dungeon, or where they should be. This then changes dynamically based on actions of the heroes (e.g. if the barbarian blows the Horn of Valhalla at the entrnce they will react differently as opposed to situation when the heroes sneak in).

And no, I can never predict where the heroes set up an ambush or want to fight. My players are very skilled in dodging fights...and so I don't have a map. I usually just sketch roughly the area and they show them their positions. A round of haggling ensues, who stood where and...fight begins.

I think I shou state I don't play D&D.

One thing that helps me is a list of opponents/groups. I tend to forget to take someone in account for this approach, so a checklist to see if I know about everyone is a must.

goto124
2016-03-23, 12:08 AM
I've run (and played) games where the gameplay is essentially "the MacGuffin is in 3 pieces, each piece requires you to go through its own subplot made up of connected events, but otherwise own time own pace, you can collect the pieces in any order".