Saturday, March 26, 2016

How tied in is too tied in?


I'm working on an adventure to be published, and one of the things I keep waffling about is making it all neat and tidy.

Let me explain.

There are two plots, and the opening incident ties into one of them. I could make it tie into both of them. Part of me likes that parsimonious approach. Everything that is, should count.

On the other hand, this isn't a short story. One of the side effects of any adventure is that it provides things to use in later adventures. Because I was thinking about them recently, here are the things you get out of a few of the ICONS adventures:
  • The Skeletron Key: An organization to steal from, and a villain.
  • The Mastermind Affair: A villain group, three masterminds, and a villain besides.
  • Danger in Dunsmouth: The existence of Lovecraftian horrors and a mechanism for them to appear.
  • Jailbreak!: A super prison and a set of supervillains.
  • Sins of the Past: Supervillains and a partial history.
Even if most GMs pick and choose from the modules, I'd like them to have stuff to pick and choose from.

As currently designed, the opening scene accomplishes a few things:
  • It provides a set of villains to beat up and for the GM to re-use; as currently set up, they are explicitly the kind of villains that exist to be an intro to something rather than a main event. Some villains are world-shakers, and others exist so that you can beat them up and feel like you've accomplished something even if the rest of the adventure is frustrating.
  • It introduces one of the two plots, which is no small potatoes.
  • It provides a low-stress way for newcomers to practice the system.
  • It can be cut in case of time constraints, which is not essential but it's worth thinking about. What if someone wanted to play this in a tournament?
Not to mention the usual assortment of villains and organizations.

However, if you make everything neat and tidy, that tidiness is also a sign to the players. The more genre-savvy ones recognize that everything is tied together, so given a set of pieces, they try fitting them together and sometimes beat you to the punch. You can't avoid that entirely, but you can provide elements for re-use that are red herrings.

I will probably make it neat and tidy, but at least you know that I'm thinking about it.