Out of the Blue Adventure Design

One good gumshoe studies another
One good gumshoe studies another (Photo credit: scampion)

I’m having a weird revelatory experience with roleplaying adventure design at the moment. Key features of a tabletop gaming session come to me at the last moment.

I always have an idea in mind – and then I get on with it. Recently, I have had ‘moments of inspiration’ that catch me utterly off guard.

These have been happening at odd moments. In the last fortnight, I have had revelations:

  • 20 minutes before a convention adventure, while in the bathroom
  • the same evening as a game when I was exercising on the stationary bike
  • a week before the next session, while pondering something unconnected in the shower

I don’t normally have these ‘moments’. I mean, I probably have done in the past – but, at the moment, they seem to be coming in relatively thick and fast. I have an adventure… I have a plan… And, then I have a last moment flash and change something.

I have had some very positive comments on the first revelation. The con game went from ordinary to rather different – starting at the end to ramp up the action and, as it happens, home in on mechanics of combat and general skills in Gumshoe.

The second revelation meant I started the Dragon Age adventure this week with an unexpected attack from within the party. The group, roused from sleep, found one of their number, the Circle Mage, raging and steeped with the blood of innocents. Swords out and game on! In a group that have a little history, this actually made for a nice turn of events.

Next – well, that would be telling. Don’t want my local gaming group knowing what I have planned. Suffice to say, it has changed from what I thought originally would come next, thanks to a eureka moment.

I kind of like this – but, I could do with a more predictable delivery mechanism! I suppose it might be useful when I’m coming up with adventures to make a few notes and then set them aside. Giving them a time to gestate could provide me with more revelations to work with. I have had a tendency in the past to stick to the letter of a plot too rigidly – whereas, over the last year or so, I’ve loosened a little and winged sessions more effectively through the use of a base of prep and nothing more.

TimeWatch especially has shown me the value of this approach. If I prepare too much, I’m only likely to end up with reams of notes going unused. As a result, I have tended to read a lot while coming up with an adventure, made a few notes – nothing more than a side of A4 – and then riffed on the notes, events in the game and player comments. It has led to some pretty entertaining gaming that fits the expectations of the players more and provides more entertainment as a result. Sometimes, tales of the expected works far better and turns out as more of a surprise.

I wonder what I’ll come up with next. I suspect it won’t bode well for the players…





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