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  1. Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default How do you actually start an adventure?

    So I'm planning on getting into DM'ing (Pathfinder to be precise) but there's one thing that stumps me. How do you actually START the adventure? I got the overall plot, setting, bad guys, quest givers etc. in order, I just have a serious issue figuring out how to go about writing the first few bits of the first adventure to get the group going. Does anyone have any guides or tips for this specifically? It's basically going to be a "find the McGuffin" style thing, I'm just having issues figuring out how to do it. So yhea, help or suggestions? I've tried googling this multiple times but my google fu tends to fail me when I try to focus on how to actually do the creative writing part for just a single adventure... :/

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Well, the first few adventures might not be related to your plot; I don't know about the specifics of your campaign, obviously, but four fresh-off-the-line 1st-level adventurers wouldn't be King Genericus' first choice for your typical save the world mission.
    As for the first few adventures, you might fiat that the characters are all connected by friends, family, or circumstance before play even begins.
    You could have some form of external force (law enforcement is a common one) bring them together.
    Alternatively, perhaps they are all members of an organization dedicated to guarding the MacGuffin, and when the villain sacks the place and takes it, the PCs, for various reasons, are the only ones left.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Well yes, the motivation isn't the issue. It's planning out how things should (roughly) run after they get the quest itself. I just have absolutely no clue on how to plan out a quest or how to get the characters from point A to B to C. This is an overall issue with any adventure/quest I've tried to write in the past (and indeed my own short stories in general) so I have nothing to fall back on or even to begin looking at here. It's also the thing that's ultimately made me not try DM'ing for the past 5 years or so cause I've only ever found vague answers that makes it seem like everyone pulls it out of their rear-ends, but logic dictates this can't be true. So how do you manage and plan events after the goal of the quest becomes clear?

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    One thing that is always important is that the players, and especially the GM, know what the party is actually trying to accomplish right now. When you're in doubt, ask the players what they hope to accomplish when they go to a certain place, even if you know they go there because the last boss villain they defeated had a map that leads there. By having the players explain what they want to achieve, it becomes a lot easier for everyone to understand how they could do it, and under what conditions they will have succeeded or failed. The PCs don't go to a ruin in the forest "to explore every room and kill all the monsters". They go there with the goal of "learning why that NPC had a map pointing there". When you create your adventure, try asking these questions and it should be a lot easier for you to know what things and NPCs need to be in the dungeons.
    Similiar, when you plan for the party to find a specific NPC, their actual goal is not "questioning him and forcing him to tell everything he knows", because they found a letter adressed to him with the last boss enemy they defeated. They seek out that NPC to "question him about his relationship to the villain and force him to tell them everything he knows about the villains plan".
    The Angry DM did a quite lengthy bit about this, but it might be a bit much at once for a new GM. Just try to avoid sending the party somewhere to see what will happen. If ever possible, think about what the party is supposed to accomplish by going to a place and how to make the players understand that this is their goal.

    While it is generally preferable to avoid this, you could always have some sage NPC being the PCs employer, who is sending them on errands while he stays at his home trying to figure out what needs to be done next.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Thank you Yora, I have tried reading The Angry DM before, but you are right, it is a bit much to absorb, but even if I only end up getting like 25% of it it's better than 0% (which is where I'm at right now on this particular issue) so I will most certainly read it. I also do like your approach because that makes sense, and when you write it out it seems so obvious.

    Luckily this is going to be a pbp game (cause I live gaming nowhere...) so I will have time to stay a step a head of the players and adjust my approach, even if it also seems to come with it's own set of unique difficulties. But really, Yora, I do think you may have managed to point me in the right direction, even if I still welcome any and all advice and help I can get here.

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Another thing I've decited to do is to leave behind the approach of starting the PCs in a vacuum and then cover everything they do for every day after the start of the campaign.
    I think sometimes it's okay to make descisions for the PCs, especially when it's situations where the players don't really have any choice. Say everything is sitting in a tavern an an NPC walks in and wants to hire them. Can the players possibly chose to not accept that job? Because if they say no, the campaign has ended just as it starts, and the players know that. And that actually happens a lot. So feel free to skip possibly even lengthy amounts of time that would be difficult to actually play out and during which nothing of real importance actually happens. If the PCs take a job as caravan guards or join a pirate crew, it's perfectly acceptable to start an adventure by saying "The group has been traveling for two weeks, during which there have been some minor attacks by bandits and small monsters, that you easily dispatched. But on the 16th day of your journey..."
    This is likely to be more fun for everyone than to have the players set up a camp and place guards 15 times and have them fight 8 encounters with wolves and goblins.

    I wrote a short and rambling piece a few days ago, about concentrating on what's really important for the story. Most campaigns are not going to be year long epic quests, but more like three to five sessions covering two or three adventures. So don't waste too much time on establishing the world and having things slowly build up in the background, with conspiracies brewing in secret to be revealed at a much later time.
    The players are here now and play time is valuable, so don't waste it and go straight to the cool parts. Don't plan your adventurs like novels, TV shows, or CRPGS, but instead more like movies. Star Wars and Indiana Jones obviously come to mind immediately.
    Star Wars is actually a great example because of its opening crawls, that have become a cliche by now. But it's actually a brilliant idea. Imagine how much time would have been wasted on scenes of senators conspiring against the Emperor and founding a secret organization of rebels who slowly build hidden bases and try to buy weapons in secret. And then their spies find the plans to the Death Star, but some of them are cought and the Emperor sends Vader to personally go capture them. That would have taken forever and would have been a whole story of its own. But instead the series just starts with three very brief paragraphs saying "Look, there is this evil Empire and some good guys are trying to overthrow it, but are heavily outnumbered. They got the plans to a superweapon, but got caught." It saved so much time and trouble and instead jumped straight to the point where the real action begins.
    Don't feel forced to start a campaign in a tavern with a bunch of 1st level characters with 0xp, who don't know each other and have no connections at all. Feel free to simply establish some facts just by telling them to the players. Tell them they are all caravan guards who had been working together for two years until their employers went bencrupt last month and now they've come to a merchant to start a new job. And as long as it doesn't contradict anything that has been established before, make up new things as you go. Have some NPCs appear who worked with the PCs in the past, even though they didn't exist in the campaign until 5 minutes ago. As long as you are not rewriting important parts of the PCs backstory, the players will be just fine with that.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    I'm not entirely sure if this is what you are asking for, but here is a great series of essays about how to design adventures (and not plots) and how to link scenes: Node-Based Scenario Design
    Even if it's not what you were looking for, it's a great read.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    I'd recommend avoiding specific plots, quest givers, etc. entirely. Instead, get the players to make characters with actual goals, who have an actual reason to stick together, hopefully because at least some of their goals actually overlap. Difficulties involved in getting a group of strangers who all have no goals in life to band together and do things tend to emerge from the whole "group of strangers who all have no goals in life" thing, so if character creation can sidestep that pitfall you've basically got things started for you.
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikitaDarkstar View Post
    Well yes, the motivation isn't the issue. It's planning out how things should (roughly) run after they get the quest itself. I just have absolutely no clue on how to plan out a quest or how to get the characters from point A to B to C. This is an overall issue with any adventure/quest I've tried to write in the past (and indeed my own short stories in general) so I have nothing to fall back on or even to begin looking at here. It's also the thing that's ultimately made me not try DM'ing for the past 5 years or so cause I've only ever found vague answers that makes it seem like everyone pulls it out of their rear-ends, but logic dictates this can't be true. So how do you manage and plan events after the goal of the quest becomes clear?
    Don't think of it as a story. I suggest not planning out how things will run or how characters will get anywhere (besides where they start). Plan out the setting, and let the players explore it. If the adventure is about recovering an artifact, give the players some clues about where to find it and let them figure out how to get there. You design the setting, place the NPC's and monsters, draw the maps, write up the encounter tables, and whatever else is needed. Then let the players go at it and describe to them the results of their actions. You may have certain events keyed to certain locations or times, like a monster that lives in a certain place, or a battle that will happen on a certain day. You may have NPC's and monsters which have their own motives and will aid or hinder the characters if/when they encounter each other. For the most part, the players direct the action, not you.
    Only after the adventure is over and the characters have recovered the artifact and returned to safety (or all perished in the attempt), do you have a story.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateWench

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    An adventure can start in many ways. Since you have all the relevant NPCs I can only imagine the question is "what is the first location/situation in which to begin the game?". That is very hard to answer without knowing your players and their preferences.

    Maybe they'd enjoy starting in the middle of a fight and having the explanation as to why they were there later?

    Maybe they'd prefer a more relaxed starting point and be in a tavern just having heard a rumour about the McGuffin and listening to another group make plans for how to retrieve it (and the amazing reward) on the table behind them?

    Perhaps one of the characters have simply been given the quest from an authority and you start with them on the way to the supposed location?

    You could even start with them walking down the street one day, and an injured guy runs up to them, tells them to "please deliver this message to Lord whatshisname, the fate of the city depend on it" before he stumbles to the ground and dies.

    Everything is possible really.
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2014-04-08 at 07:44 AM.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikitaDarkstar View Post
    It's planning out how things should (roughly) run after they get the quest itself.
    That's always asking for trouble, ultimately. It can work, and often does work, but at some point it's going to run into frustration.

    Anyway, some examples from my games:

    - You were part of a caravan headed to this city, but a sandstorm scattered the caravan in the desert. You've found each other and banded together to try to find shelter and water. Trudging through the trackless sand waste, you come upon ruins jutting out of the dunes...

    - You've all come to the Tournament of Flowers. Tell me why you're all traveling together? [Some participating in contests happens.] At the feast, a merchant sitting next to [PC #1] asks him for a favor...

    - You're all out working in the fields, when a young boy comes running up, yelling that bandits are attacking an outlying stead.

    - You're old friends, meeting up at the tavern in your old home village. On the way, [PC #1] came upon the dead body of a Plainsman barbarian and next to him lay a staff wrapped in hides. Approaching the village, he's stopped by some goblins...

    - You're all members of the Silver Knights of Silverymoon, riding patrol around the Nether Mountains in the wake of reports of orc attacks. You stop at Jalanthar...

    - You've all been captured by slavers and taken to the slave pits of the city, where you are to be thrown into the arena. If you win, you'll live to fight again and again... until you don't win.

    - [PC #1] is the eldest son of an old knight, but a bastard; now that his father has died, he's gotten the help of a nearby lord in overthrowing the heir before he is confirmed as the new ruler of the fief by his liege. You've approached the motte-and-bailey fort stealthily, and are laying out your plans of attack...

    - You're LAPD detectives in 2020. Here's your current case...


    Some others I've planned/written up but haven't used yet:

    - It's an ordinary day at the manor, when suddenly... orcs!

    - You're the family and servants of the lord of the manor, and are accompanying him to attend his liege, the Duke, at a feast. [Some traveling through the countryside that introduces the "neighborhood;" meeting the Duke and his household.] As the feast is winding down, a man in the robes of a priest enters. The guards stop him, but finally the Duke permits him to approach and speak. After they are done speaking in quiet and urgent whispers, the Duke stands up and announces that he needs a service performed...

    - You're [viking-types] on a ship headed to raid the coast over here. After a rough sea voyage, you've sighted land and are nearing the beach.

    - You've all been invited to meet an old friend at his house; some of you directly, some of you by other PCs (at the old friend's suggestion). [This is how all 90% of Call of Cthulhu scenarios start, really.]

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    To sortof reinterate on a key point - you CAN'T plan (even roughly) how things "should run once the quest starts", even assuming your PCs are sporting and take on your quest. You can make educated guesses about how things are LIKELY to go, and what sorts of things there "are" in the areas you suspect the PCs are likely to be visiting, but that's as far as you should take it.

    To use the stereotypical example, perhaps the Fellowship is setting off on the quest for Mount Doom. You know a few routes they could take, so you take down some notes about what's going on in Moria (Dwarves dead 5 years ago now, Balrog awake. Orcs, but most of the place is still empty), in Lorien (Elves may need some persuading, but can be very helpful), and Rohan (Wormtongue has Theoden more or less under Saruman's thumb. Other key leaders are defending the realm more or less without his permission) etc. You'll need stats for the monsters they're likely to run into (Moria Orcs, Wargs, Saruman's Uruk Hai, etc.) and an idea of the personalities of key players (Galadriel, Wormtongue, Theoden, Saruman, Eomer) but not necessarily the minor ones (Haldir (aka 'border patrol elf #3'), Eothain (aka 'Eomer's lieutenant') etc.) Then you let the players go. And maybe they decide to go over High Pass instead, so you come up with some nasty weather, and maybe throw some goblins at them to kill time so that you'll have until next session to make up what's going on in the Vales of Anduin. Or maybe they say "Screw this, we're going to the Grey Havens to commandeer a ship to Belfalas." in which case you may need to do some serious improv. Fortunately, if your playing a play-by-post game, everything the players do will take FOREVER so you'll have plenty of time to make stuff up.

    But in all seriousness. Lay the situation (as they understanding) out before the characters/players and let them decide "how it's going to go from there."

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    To sortof reinterate on a key point - you CAN'T plan (even roughly) how things "should run once the quest starts", even assuming your PCs are sporting and take on your quest. You can make educated guesses about how things are LIKELY to go, and what sorts of things there "are" in the areas you suspect the PCs are likely to be visiting, but that's as far as you should take it.

    To use the stereotypical example, perhaps the Fellowship is setting off on the quest for Mount Doom. You know a few routes they could take, so you take down some notes about what's going on in Moria (Dwarves dead 5 years ago now, Balrog awake. Orcs, but most of the place is still empty), in Lorien (Elves may need some persuading, but can be very helpful), and Rohan (Wormtongue has Theoden more or less under Saruman's thumb. Other key leaders are defending the realm more or less without his permission) etc. You'll need stats for the monsters they're likely to run into (Moria Orcs, Wargs, Saruman's Uruk Hai, etc.) and an idea of the personalities of key players (Galadriel, Wormtongue, Theoden, Saruman, Eomer) but not necessarily the minor ones (Haldir (aka 'border patrol elf #3'), Eothain (aka 'Eomer's lieutenant') etc.) Then you let the players go. And maybe they decide to go over High Pass instead, so you come up with some nasty weather, and maybe throw some goblins at them to kill time so that you'll have until next session to make up what's going on in the Vales of Anduin. Or maybe they say "Screw this, we're going to the Grey Havens to commandeer a ship to Belfalas." in which case you may need to do some serious improv. Fortunately, if your playing a play-by-post game, everything the players do will take FOREVER so you'll have plenty of time to make stuff up.
    This, very much so.

    Don't plan out a linear story; no plan survives contact with the players, and no player wants to play a story where the outcome is predetermined. Instead, you create a world and a chronology, and let the players muck it up as they will. In fact, expect them to! Create your geography, your empires and civilizations; create your internal power struggles, wars, and devious plots; and know that your players may join in with some, derail others, or completely ignore them all in favor of starting a agricultural commercial empire.

    The trick to starting is to have an immediate goal. The "you all start in a tavern" cliche exists for precisely that reason; people sit around and talk in taverns, so it's pretty easy for the PCs to hear about something that needs doing. An alternative is to request that the PCs start the campaign with goals of their own. By way of illustration, in the game Ironclaw, all PCs are required to start with at least one Goal, usually something minor, such as "Get out of town," "Find a job," or "Pay my debts." This is something that's written right on the character sheet at the start of play.

    As the GM, you'll be hard-pressed to impose objectives on your party. You can lead a horse to an adventure hook, but you can't force him to slay a dragon. Encouraging your players to come up with their own goals allows you to start the adventure at their pace. Once they've gotten to work attempting to overcome their initial obstacles, you can start introducing them to the world, its history, its people, and its conflicts. By subtly introducing plot elements while the PCs go about their business, you can create the ability for the PCs to join in any number of plot elements.

    That's how you get them started. Let them start themselves up; when they find out about the plot on their own instead of being spoon-fed, they'll be much more invested in it.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedKnightGirl

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Have the players created charcters/backstories yet?

    Generally, there are two ways to shape how the adventure will start.

    Top down:
    -You decide how you are going to bring the party together and you inform the players that there will be a built in assumption that there characters have gotten to this point.
    -It is up to the players to figure out why their character has arrived at this point.
    -Pro: You get a lot of control over how things start and you know your players will follow your hook.
    -Con: You have to start from scratch and players may not like their options.

    Bottom Up
    -Players build characters and write backstories.
    -It is your job to figure out why those characters would be invested in your story.
    -Pro: Players can give you more direction and inspiration regarding how things will kick off.
    -Con: Players may give you a group of people who don't really fit in your adventure or wouldn't typically be working together.

    In this case, since it sounds like you aren't sure how to start, looking to the players for inspiration may not be a bad idea. You can have the party start out working towards one of the characters minor goals and then start leading them towards your campaign's main story (although, beware that they may not go where you want them to, as others have said).
    Last edited by ElenionAncalima; 2014-04-08 at 10:13 AM.

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    Frozen_Feet's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    "You were drafted into the army" and "here's your 1st mission" are classics. They explain why you have a bunch of armed ragtag misfits in one place and tell them in no uncertain terms what they have to do, or face unpleasant consequences.

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    That's how you get them started. Let them start themselves up; when they find out about the plot on their own instead of being spoon-fed, they'll be much more invested in it.
    It sounds all pretty and fancy, but how would you actually pull it off in practice? Starting with "the PCs sitting in a tavern" and telling the players they are now free to do whatever they can imagine isn't going to cut it. At best one of the players will start asking around if there's any quest giver nearby and the party will do whatever that NPC might tell them to do. And then you're right back at square one, having to come up with a backstory for the quest, NPCs involved in it, and some interesting encounters and unexpected complications.
    If the players have character goals like "find my brothers killer" or "I want to run my own thieves guild, it's really the same thing. You need to create quest specific NPCs, encounters, and so on.

    The only way it somewhat works if there's a famous ruin or dungeon nearby, and the players decide to check it out. Because it appears to be obvious that they are supposed to do that, since it's the only thing there is to do. Once a campaign has been going for some time, the players might become able to tell you what kind of adventure they want to do next. "We destroyed the raiding party that has been harassing the region, now we want to travel to their homeland and find out what chief they had been working for" or "we claim this pirate ship for ourself and start exploring these islands for old ruins" are great things that players might set as their own goal. As GM you still have to create that barbarian tribe (and possibly even two or three more that live in the same area), some islands with ruins that actually have mysteries to uncover, and lots of NPCs and encounters. Using generic floorplans and random encounters won't make fot exciting adventures.

    Players can come up with hooks for adventures, which frees the GM from making up a good reason why the PCs would care about the quest in the first place. But you still have to create the rest of the adventure.
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    It sounds all pretty and fancy, but how would you actually pull it off in practice? Starting with "the PCs sitting in a tavern" and telling the players they are now free to do whatever they can imagine isn't going to cut it.
    Basically the first session isn't an adventure, its a discussion of the world and characters. Its a way to figure out what everybody wants and expects. I find it also builds buyin from the players.
    Current campaign ideas at:

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    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    To sortof reinterate on a key point - you CAN'T plan (even roughly) how things "should run once the quest starts", even assuming your PCs are sporting and take on your quest. You can make educated guesses about how things are LIKELY to go, and what sorts of things there "are" in the areas you suspect the PCs are likely to be visiting, but that's as far as you should take it.
    That is what I was trying to explain that I needed help with, but using slightly different words. I don't plan on detailing out every single step the characters take and word they say, if I wanted to do that I'd be writing a novel (actually I wouldn't, cause I'd still be running into this same problem, cause gods knows I've tried. :p ) not trying to make something that's fun for a group of people.

    But you can't just not have some direction and sequence of events in mind, right? Sure the players may decide to ignore them completely (even if I'm not sure I'd recommend turning air pirates when there's a bunch of pissed of, rampaging dragons around, but hey if they feel like doing that we'll see what we can do. :p ), but if there's no direction or incentive in place at all nothing will get done either. And if there's no challenges and twists and turns in place there won't be much of an adventure either. My problem lies in figuring out what events may happen, how many alternative routs and destinations I need to plan out, and how detailed I need to make certain things compared to others.

    @Knaight and Thrudd. While that sounds great, it also sounds very much like a sandbox game. Which I admit I think I may enjoy playing in and running at some point, but it also seems like some more advanced DM'ing. Let me get comfortable with my training-wheels first, ok? :) As for avoiding the "wandering murder-hobos with no goals in life" situation I do have a plan for that, which will somewhat restrict character creation, but hopefully not enough to be off-putting, but enough to make sure that the characters are at least respectable members of society. But I really don't want to try the sandbox approach yet, but sure, if people decide to wander off and explore something else then that's okay too, I don't want to glue them to any rails either.

    @DonEsteban. That is actually pretty spot on. I remember seeing it some years ago but for some reason didn't pay it any attention. But yes, that is amazing, and very much what I need!
    Spoiler: YES!
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    @Yora. If that is short and rambling I'm a little bit scared, cause that's awfully well written for a ramble! :p

    @All. Thank you guys. I think I have enough material to figure this out now, a long with a few thoughts and concerns to keep in mind that I may not have thought of before, so thank you. As always you guys amaze me with your swift replies and seemingly bottomless supply of insights and useful links. And no, that's no sarcasm, I mean it. I'm just scared to think of what would have happened if I had written my first post at a more sensible hour (aka not 3 am) so it had actually been more organized and made more sense... :p

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    In my current campaign, I gave all the players somewhat railroaded backstories that ended up with them getting in the same place (using things like family connections, war, and mysterious organizations to guide them there). However, once they were there, I have only the notes for the agendas of various NPCs and about the setting to guide them. Currently, they're working for one king, but I could easily see them switching sides at some point.
    Give quest hooks, but don't expect them to follow them. Have at least two possible adventures for each session, and prepare to improvise more.
    This is a lot of work.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    I don't worry about it.

    Have a larger overall issue that's going to define your current campaign-level arc.

    Come up with relevant NPCs *for the characters to interact with*.

    Drop in a few monster-of-the-week episodes to kick things off, where the MotWs are related either to the campaign issue, or the characters.

    In resolving those, the PCs will inevitably butt into various factions and individuals. Find out who people find interesting, and use them more heavily.

    A Spark in Fate Core is *great* for getting a campaign start going, and it's mostly system-agnostic. http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/produc...k+in+fate+core

    To get characters "started", I like using "plot grenades" - things that demand a response, but do not demand a *particular* response. Getting investment from players is helpful in figuring this out, which is also where things like Spark come into play.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2014-04-08 at 01:29 PM.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikitaDarkstar View Post
    That is what I was trying to explain that I needed help with, but using slightly different words. I don't plan on detailing out every single step the characters take and word they say, if I wanted to do that I'd be writing a novel (actually I wouldn't, cause I'd still be running into this same problem, cause gods knows I've tried. :p ) not trying to make something that's fun for a group of people.

    But you can't just not have some direction and sequence of events in mind, right? Sure the players may decide to ignore them completely (even if I'm not sure I'd recommend turning air pirates when there's a bunch of pissed of, rampaging dragons around, but hey if they feel like doing that we'll see what we can do. :p ), but if there's no direction or incentive in place at all nothing will get done either. And if there's no challenges and twists and turns in place there won't be much of an adventure either. My problem lies in figuring out what events may happen, how many alternative routs and destinations I need to plan out, and how detailed I need to make certain things compared to others.
    I guess then that I'm confused. Are you trying to get advice on what happens on how things "should run once the quest starts" or are you looking for advice on how to get the players/characters to take the bait in the first place? Or both?

    The latter should be relatively easy if you have an answer to the former. If one of the PCs has a vendetta against his brother, the duke, odds are you'll need to know something about the duke, his habits, or his fortress. If one of the PCs is a treasure hunter, odds are he'll chase after the first likely pile of loot. If one character has great respect for his mentor, he'll probably accept a 'secret mission' from him. All of those tell you, pretty much, what you might need to prepare.

    For getting things started? You need to get your players to make characters who bring goals to the table. Burning Wheel bases a large part of the game around requiring the players to do this, but even informal goals are better than nothing.

  22. Top - End - #22
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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikitaDarkstar View Post
    But you can't just not have some direction and sequence of events in mind, right? Sure the players may decide to ignore them completely (even if I'm not sure I'd recommend turning air pirates when there's a bunch of pissed of, rampaging dragons around, but hey if they feel like doing that we'll see what we can do. :p ), but if there's no direction or incentive in place at all nothing will get done either. And if there's no challenges and twists and turns in place there won't be much of an adventure either. My problem lies in figuring out what events may happen, how many alternative routs and destinations I need to plan out, and how detailed I need to make certain things compared to others.
    In that case read this: The Angry DM - Four Things You’ve Never Heard of That Make Encounters Not Suck
    It's long, but very very good. I only found it yesterday, and it has been imensely eye opening. It's part of a lose series of articles, but you can just read this one without having read the others. The key concepts here are "dramatic questions" and "descison points". Page 3 to 6 are gravy; page 2 is where really all of the meat is.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    You can always use the direct approach: "You are headed to X to do Y, for reasons Z+"
    A bit hamfisted, but it will get everybody on the same page and tell them what they need to know.

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    The creative GMs gut is instantly rebelling at the thought of just telling the players what their characters are doing, but it's actually not nearly as bad as it sounds.
    Think of it this way: "The adventure is about the PCs getting a job as mercenary guards to escort a caravan, which gets raided by strange humanoids in the desert with the PCs being the only survivors who have not been taken captive. The rest of the adventure is about following the raiders to a ruined city, trying to rescue the captives, and keep the evil cultists from awakening an ancient god through human sacrifices." It's a decent and solid adventure that can possibly develop into many different directions. But whatever happens, the PCs must take the job as guards and they must successfully keep the traders safe until they have reached the middle of the desert. This must happen, and everything the players will do that could possibly conflict with it will be instantly negated by the GM putting the adventure back on track. And the PCs know that!
    A player may mention as a joke that they should keep loking for other alternatives to this job, but nobody will actually believe that there are several choices to pick from.
    And because of this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting the campaign right at the moment the humanoid cultist start attacking the caravan. There wasn't actually any meaningful choice for the players to make until this point. Maybe one or two players might reflexively revolt against the thought of the GM telling the players what job they had accepted and how well they had been doing this job for two weeks. But the GM did not take away any choice from the players, because up to this point there wasn't any choice to make. So maybe allowing the players to buy all their supplies for the journey before the start and playing out every single encounter on the road might slightly affect the amount of arrows and potions they have the moment the raiders attack. But what does that matter in the long run?

    If you have really great ideas to fill the two weeks of travel with interesting, meaningful, and fun descisions for the players to make, there is of course no reason to not play out the whole journey. But if your good ideas really only start at the desert attack, then the adventure also should only start at that point. Otherwise it's a waste of time. Which for very many campaigns happens to be precious time. You don't want the campaign come to a stop right before the PCs explore the burried temple of the sleeping god and then be thinking "if we just didn't spend those first three sessions doing boring stuff."
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    I agree. If you really think some of your players might have a problem with such a conceit, ask them beforehand. I think most reasonable people, however, will agree to a basic assumption that gets them where the adventure can really pick up. If there's an important IC reason why they shouldn't---why would a druid be in the market square of the capital city when X adventure-starting event happens--try to work it out with those individual players, and then end up in the same place, but with the conflict resolved. The snooty wizard could be a caravan guard because he's a good friend of one of the people in or working for the caravan, and his friendship is stronger than his distaste for walking. The druid could be in town to petition the king to cut back on logging operations in the northern forests. That's easy to take care of, creates great role-playing opportunities, and gets everyone in the same boat with a minimum of fuss.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikitaDarkstar View Post

    @Knaight and Thrudd. While that sounds great, it also sounds very much like a sandbox game. Which I admit I think I may enjoy playing in and running at some point, but it also seems like some more advanced DM'ing. Let me get comfortable with my training-wheels first, ok? :) As for avoiding the "wandering murder-hobos with no goals in life" situation I do have a plan for that, which will somewhat restrict character creation, but hopefully not enough to be off-putting, but enough to make sure that the characters are at least respectable members of society. But I really don't want to try the sandbox approach yet, but sure, if people decide to wander off and explore something else then that's okay too, I don't want to glue them to any rails either.

    @DonEsteban. That is actually pretty spot on. I remember seeing it some years ago but for some reason didn't pay it any attention. But yes, that is amazing, and very much what I need!
    Spoiler: YES!
    Show

    Running a sandbox game is really not more advanced, in many ways it is actually easier than the alternative. A sandbox game doesn't mean the players have no common goals or motivations, it means that you don't restrict their participation or choices.
    If you've read the Alexandrian article about Node based design and the three clue rule, that is exactly what I'm talking about. You give the players hints about different places they can go, and they decide how to get there. Regardless of how linear your adventure is, you still need to prepare the surrounding environs (or read about them if you are using a published setting). You should have an idea about all of the locations and people the characters can easily reach from their starting point, at least a brief outline, just in case they get lost or go someplace you don't expect. Unless you plan on railroading the players from one prepared scene to the next, they will explore their surroundings and ask questions about people and places, and you will want to have answers for them.

    It is true for any type of game that the players need to design characters with built-in motivation to participate in the type of game you plan on running. With characters that have motivations which fit your planned campaign, you don't need to worry about getting them into the adventure. It sounds like you already have this. You only need set the opening scene, drop the clues, and away they will go.

  27. Top - End - #27
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    You can always use the direct approach: "You are headed to X to do Y, for reasons Z+"
    A bit hamfisted, but it will get everybody on the same page and tell them what they need to know.
    I don't think that's hamfisted at all. For some games - like any game of Conan d20 - it's not just functional, it's awesome and fitting. Nobody knows or cares what Conan has been doing between adventures, they care about the set-up to the latest one.

    The GM sets the bounds and starting conditions of the scenario; the players get to come up with the details of their character's participation (the why, the how).

    If you use it every time, it necessiates episodic play (which is fine, but not everyone's preference all the time), but it always functions as a campaign starter. Once the campaign is ongoing, you might not use it; the players might not like it if they're looking for agency on where and what their PCs are doing all the time; and it might feel "broken-up."

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrudd View Post
    Running a sandbox game is really not more advanced, in many ways it is actually easier than the alternative. A sandbox game doesn't mean the players have no common goals or motivations, it means that you don't restrict their participation or choices.
    Amen. I've found running sandbox campaigns far less work-intensive than more "traditional" (modern era) scripted adventures. Focusing on pre-game backgrounds, locations, and characters instead of in-game events and sequences and possibilities is just less mentally demanding, for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thrudd View Post
    If you've read the Alexandrian article about Node based design and the three clue rule, that is exactly what I'm talking about. You give the players hints about different places they can go, and they decide how to get there.
    Yep. A good sandbox isn't infinite in size, or empty. A good sandbox is bounded and littered with stuff: 30x40 6-mile hexes with a few dozen adventure locations is a great starting sandbox, and it will grow during play as it needs to. You start the players out somewhere with something interesting (like a dungeon, maybe even a megadungeon or megadungeon-to-be) nearby, maybe give them some rumors (rumor tables rock) as hooks for adventure locations, and let them loose. You can have tons of hooks and such lying around; whenever they get around to this village here, they find it plagued by a werewolf; this village has been hit by raiders just before they first arrive there; etc.

  28. Top - End - #28
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    ElfRogueGirl

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Sorry I'm not ignoring this or anything, I'm just out of town for the rest of the week and while this place has a nice mobile site tablets aren't super fun to write on so I'll make a more detailed reply on Sunday or Monday when I get home.

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Sorry, this isn't all about you. We're talking amongst ourselves and you're invited to leech off some of our wisdom.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    Amen. I've found running sandbox campaigns far less work-intensive than more "traditional" (modern era) scripted adventures. Focusing on pre-game backgrounds, locations, and characters instead of in-game events and sequences and possibilities is just less mentally demanding, for me.
    Yes, but I think that's mostly because they tend to be heavily overscripted. Trying to cover up the fact that it's all actually pre-scripted and railroaded is a lot of work, and you need to prepare all kinds of contigencies in case the players do something they are not supposed and you need to get them back on trail.
    Sandbox is easier than that.
    But you can also still have an open ended linear quest-adventure that is even easier than a sandbox. In a sandbox you need to prepare all kinds of pre-existing infrastructure and a range of optional things for PCs to do. But you can also avoid a lot of that by telling the players at the start that this is going to be the expedition to the Monkey Temple. There will be no pirate hunting, no monster hunting in the dungeons of Stonecastle, and no scouting of the orc border. Just expedition to the monkey temple. Now along the river to the Monkey Valey, inside the Monkey Valey, and the Monkey Temple itself, you can still have some other groups of explorers or cultists running around and doing their things. But it would be a very tiny tiny sandbox than might be useful for only five or six sessions before it's completely explored and all treasures found. The players want to team up with the other explorers? Sure, no problem. They decide to just sneak into the temple and steal the idol and avoid fighting the high priest and his demon gorilla entirely? Why not, it does not have to happen as you assumed it probably would. It doesn't wreck all your other plans for the adventure if you leave it open ended.
    Spriggan's Den - Thoughts on RPGs and some of my personal creations.
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  30. Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you actually start an adventure?

    Honestly, I don't see any real difference between module-style adventures (what you describe, basically: "here's the adventure location") and sandbox campaigns except scale. It's the same principles: create locations, characters, and pre-existing situations, with some thought to how certain things might play out, and that's it. The G1-G3 modules are awesome examples of this on all counts.

    Those adventures are going to need to be connected somehow, and making the campaign open is easier than making it scripted or pre-planned.

    Again, a sandbox needs to be scoped right, at least in the start; "Waterdeep and the Undermountain" can be a great scope for a sandbox, especially if you plan on expanding it as the needs of play dictate and time allows.

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