View Full Version : Creating a Linear Adventure: Advice Wanted

2018-08-23, 07:28 PM
So I am not a very good GM. And I am also developing a system that takes place in an original setting that no one else really knows about yet. I would recommend not trying to fix all these things at the same time. But kind of feel like I have trapped myself so I am doing it anyways.

My solution is to try and front load some of the work creating a module. This has turned out to be yet another thing I need some practice with. And it is kind of hard to ask a lot of system questions about a system no one else can run yet. But after oh too long of smashing my head against this wall (and chipping away at it a little bit) I am going to see if there is general advice for this.

So first up, the adventure is a play test, although I want it to still be fun (it means the play test passed after all) I am aiming to try and test various aspects of the system as well. There may be the occasional odd decision because of that. For instance I'm probably not going to polish this adventure that much, that energy will go into polishing the system itself more.

For the quest itself, it is based on an escort mission. Yeah I know. But it gives me a guiding hand or boost (the escorted character is actually quite strong, just heavily injured) if things start falling apart. It also lets me focus on a faction, that the escortee is part of, that is a major part of the setting that has kind of been glossed over previously.

The escort mission is over wild lands, with some time to go around town and collect things for the journey (buy, make or steal). For the journey itself I have a couple social encounters that can go to combat, a wild animal attack to make sure we get a bit of combat and I am working on some general terrain based problem solving situations. Actually I could use some ideas for those

Any advice? Feel free to ask questions, I'll try to keep an eye out and get back with answers quickly.

2018-08-26, 07:55 PM
My advice is to throw in as many obstacles as you can. You're trying to get from point A to point B, right?
But more importantly, make the encounters as varied as possible. You don't want to fight the same things over and over again, right?
Also, maybe have one of the enemies grab the person you're trying to escort safely so players have to chase after the thing that grabbed him. Since the creature will be holding him, can't just blast it with AoEs.
Maybe have the adventure go through a scary tunnel at some point? Like, there was a much more preferable way to get through the mountains or whatever, but for some reason it got blocked off and now the tunnel is the only option. Giant vermin attack!

2018-08-27, 02:24 AM
Hm. I think you're going at that the totally wrong way. If it helps, go look at the PF2 playtest mini campaign to get some inspiration from it.

If itīs a playtest, your primary focus should lie on testing certain aspects of your game system and how they handle under stress. The "adventure" is just the context for the stress test, nothing else. So, for example, if you want to test lethality and healing, make a short scenario about defending a place and have hordes attack in waves to see how it works.

2018-08-27, 08:06 AM
I read this and initially thought it would be about the Linear Guild... Too bad for me, I guess.

But here's some advice anyway. Angry did a series of articles on how to run good adventures with different structures. Here's the one for linear adventures.

2018-08-27, 10:30 AM
Thank-you for the replies, I am quietly mulling things over right now, except for one thing that I'm got an immediate follow up question for:

To Florian: Where can I find the PF2 playtest mini campaign?

2018-08-27, 11:03 AM
To Florian: Where can I find the PF2 playtest mini campaign?

Normally, front and center on the Paizo site. But that seems to be down due to activity overload. Ask around i n the actual playtest thread of this forum if someone will share you their copy.

2018-08-27, 05:55 PM
One of the most glorious commercial campaign I ever played with the d20 system was a very linear one. Sadly for most peoples here it was a French campaign, and only the first volume was ever translated in English.
If you want to look after it, the name was Archipelagos: The War of Shadows, published by Eden Studio. It may be difficult to find it but you may want to look at it if you stumble upon by chance.
I can't vouch for the translation, as a large part of the appeal was in the way the campaign was written, the style of the adventure and the voice of the play.

The background was a ocean of moving island, each separated centuries ago from a sunken continent. Of course the Big Baddie would come back, and the player were drawn against him.

The adventure would play happily every possible trope, from a fight in each and every tavern (closer to Asterix or Bud Spencer and Terence Hill than anything) to the famous wagon race scene in an abandoned mine. Every navigation would see a pirate attack. you would have to protect some annoying kid who would, by the end of the day, become the fabled Savior of the world, a kind of young Jean-Claude Van Damme without the kung-fu but with actual mystical powers.

And the gnomes... At one point, the city is on fire and maybe sinking (yes! oh yes! both at the same time!) and the players have to make ten or more back and forth between two hostile factions of gnomes of the city.
The upper army say "We let you pas if they put down the hanging gnome"; "it's not a gnome, it's a dummy, and we put it down only when they stop hanging each night the sign "pen pusher" above the fort" say the lower army.
The lower army accept only if the upper army present excuse for the term "Lousy army" they used a few days ago.
The upper army may accept they have gone a bit far and may agree to present excuses but only on the condition that a delegation of the lower army would come without armors or weapons to present the honors to the delegate of the upper army.
The lower army inform the players that they may agree only if the deputy of the upper army agree to sing the hymns of the 27 district, 27 long strophes screamed with drums and trumpets.
The upper army may concede to sing in this choir but only after the lower army concede to have cheated on the last game and accept to replay for the cup.
By which point the lower army would agree and you would have to stop the gnomes to replay the game in the middle of a full scale invasion.

The tone what really not that far from this comics here, conscious of the trope but taking the adventure seriously, heavy on pun but also on character building and with some huge pay-offs along the way.

I learned a few things about linear adventures playing it a few times with some new players (not always to the end but still more than one time, which is quite unusual in my way of playing.)

At one point, you would have something like the weight of the narration who make it easy for you to more or less discern where to go.
Think about it a bit like about the last season of Game of Throne: all the stakes are apparent, you would mostly fold every plot line and the path is really straightforward.

But we are here to start at the beginning, with new players, and mostly new rules.

In this campaign, they used a small chunk of land, a single island, as a starting point. Each segment was designed around an even smaller area, like a single village, a tavern or the market place. But the point is to start small, with relatively few obvious opportunities for your players to go outside your plans.
One of my friend started is first party as DM by describing his player along the road, on the evening, and near the road, a bit further was a warm fire. The story would start around the fire but the players clearly headed straight on... So be prepared.

The ways between each area would be mostly easy to follow, with clear briefing at each point of the road. Then each segment would play as its own self contained scene.
In the first adventure, a small village, a lot of things could happen, from a donkey stuck in a river to a peddler who reveal itself to be a crook, but only a few would be related to the main story and let the player make the next step.

Each segment would at the beginning play around a specific kind of circumstances and thus introduce a specific set of rules. Hiding and seeking then fighting at the beginning, when you have to defend the small town against a mysterious foe, then acrobacy, climbing and such in the first tavern were obviously some fight involving chicken would happen, then a race in the market when a halfling stole some macguffin.

Those rules would come in handy at the next turn of the scenario, only this time used to represent a race between the players and a pirate ship, and the subsequent boarding action.
The scenario would in the tavern as much as in the ship use as much as possible the background, such as a net in the wall of the tavern, a weapon on the ship, the sails, and so on to give the players enough opportunities to shine and challenge to overcome in creative ways. Both scenes play like a kind of video game level, with clear spaces to play in and obvious obstacles. At this point, the fun come by the way the obstacles are presented, and the variety of situations but also because the game is designed to help with the learning curve, introducing a few rules at each step of the way and building upon that.

Not every part of the scenario is like this, the next is the exploration of a whole island, but the campaign would often use tricks to direct the players.

One of the more obvious was the Race into the Dungeon. Imagine a dungeon: the players have to follow an enemy, or are themselves followed by a dangerous foe.
The reality of the race is irrelevant, It is a narrative tool you use to focus the players. Some of their actions should nevertheless have a payoff later on, as in a ice dungeon where they could drop ice pikes on their followers, lessening the danger of the next fight. Still the real adversary is not the time but each and every room of the dungeon, the DM would simply play them one after another until the climatic fight, on the side of an iced cliff.

By the way, you don't need an actual dungeon to use this kind of decoy. The adversaries may have taken an hostage and your players have to follow, so each step is clearly predetermined for them. It's one of the oldest trick in the book but it still do wonder.

You are close to that with your escort mission. So, as Florian pointed out, start with choosing which part of the rules you want to test first.
Actually, terrain and travel difficulties are great to see what it is all about: you can try rules for lifting and pulling by again sticking a donkey in a river, trying the first use of hide and seek with a hunt party (and also throwing some combat dices), playing with diplomacy to lessen a toll and so on.
The scene may be complex: the halfling race would involve jumping, climbing, rolling under a cart and slaloming across the peoples (and also sometimes swimming in the fountain). But each rule would be used separately, in a defined and dedicated part.

That lead me to my last point (enough is enough you may say) : don't make a list, build soon on the foundations. Use the rules of acrobatics, then use the rule of fight, then use something else then use them together. Or any combination you want. The aim is to give your players a sense of progress as soon as possible. It will feel more organic for your players and, as your system is experimental, you would be able to more efficiently correct the part that are not yet as good as possible.

Darth Ultron
2018-08-27, 08:52 PM
I want to give advice, but I'm not sure where to start.

Like I know we have a huge different view of ''linear adventure". You think it is ''badwrngfun" and I think it's "A great way to game".

I should say that an Escort Mission is like in the worst bottom ten of adventure ideas. And it sounds really, really, really bad for a ''play test". The worst thing about this type of adventure is it ''locks" the PCs into endlessly escorting. They can't play or have fun...because they must escort.

Really, the best play test is a always treasure hunt. Like you must ''recover the Four Rings of Elements". This lets you have encounters that cover all the rules.

Terrain based things....well, this is very system dependent. And, unless your game has more terrain rules then combat rules, don't do it.

2018-08-29, 10:25 AM
I like to run a somewhat linear adventure that gives the players the appearance of agency. It's not really all that difficult either. Instead of having only one option at each decision point for the player's, make up two or three options. They can do one or all of them but make sure that the end result gets them to the place that you want them to go and make their choices affect the other options in some way (it doesn't have to be a large way). This way, they feel as though their choices have made a difference in the world and that they aren't being railroaded anywhere.

Kaptin Keen
2018-08-30, 12:50 AM
I've done something that might be ... I dunno, useful.

There is a tendency to go straight from clearing the rats from the miller's basement - to rescuing the entire cosmos. Like, the first encounter in a campaign is fighting off a tribe of goblins, and the next thing you know the goblins are henchmen in the army of Grlfnrgh the Eater of all Things, and you must stop him before he eats all the things.

It's fun to save the multiverse, don't get me wrong - but it's a little hard to write a good plot for the sequel.

I've based an entire campaign around a small village, Silverbrook. The first thread of that game went to 71 pages (it's here on the forum), and the second thread is now on page 16. They're still not saving the cosmos and all the things from Grlfnrgh the Eater of all Things.

The basic idea is simple: After each new adventure, they don't go somewhere else - they go home. And then something else happens, but it's connected to Silverbrook, somehow. Thus far they've fought a weird extraplanar undead thing in Sigil (it's also kind of an inverse planescape game), scary spiders in a spiderweb demiplane, the same undead in it's ascended form (now in Silverbrook), giant flying lizards, the village cleric, they've fought nasty human nobles, elementals, and now they're gearing up to confront a mindflayer who bought the depleted silvermine in town.

They've also helped an ogre become king, some random citizens become free of mind control, found lost children, united lovers, traded stories for mail on the elemental plane of earth, helped ghouls find dragon bones to gnaw on, and a bunch of other stuff I forget.

All of it well below epic. I they ever do save all of creation from Grlfnrgh, it's because I've run out of original ideas.