We’re back and we’re seeking direction. While human lives are generally chaotic, we can at least bring order to our work. Pinning down good scenario structures can help us pretend that the world makes sense. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to paint the streets with nice tessellating hexagons.
Main Topic: Scenario Structures
This episode is our examination of how we structure RPG scenarios. While scenario structures are mostly important when writing your adventure up to share with other GMs, they can affect every stage of the development process. In this episode, we try to identify different types of structure and go into their pros and cons, challenging some of our own preconceptions along the way.
Things we mention in this episode include:
- Horror on the Orient Express
- Masks of Nyarlathotep
- The Two-Headed Serpent
- Call of Cthulhu in Japan
- “The Haunting” from the Call of Cthulhu Quick-Start Rules
- “Uncle Timothy’s Will” from Blood Brothers
- “Amidst the Ancient Trees” from the Call of Cthulhu rulebook
- “Blackwater Creek” from the Call of Cthulhu Keeper Screen Pack
- The Appeal of Investigative Games
- “Crimson Letters” from the Call of Cthulhu rulebook
- Hot War
- “Jailbreak” from One Shots
- “In Media Res” from The Unspeakable Oath issue 10
- Beginnings, Middles and Ends
- “Pinfeathers” from Unknown Armies 2nd edition
- “The Green Glass Grail” from Weep
- “The Horse of the Invisible” from White Dwarf 66
- Carnacki, the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
- “Hell is Other People” from Screams and Whispers
- The Good Friends of Jackson Elias Discord server
Flotsam and Jetsam on How We Roll
Scott has just finished running “The Star Brothers”, Brian Courtemanche‘s opening chapter to the Flotsam and Jetsam campaign, for How We Roll. The first two episodes are now out, with several more following soon. The players include Joe and Eoghan from How We Roll, Veronica from Welcome to St Paxton, and Seth Skorkowsky, If you would like to run Flotsam and Jetsam yourself, simply join the Cult of Chaos.
Paul on Storytelling Collective
Paul has contributed a number of lessons to the Call of Cthulhu track for the Storytelling Collective‘s Write Your First Adventure course. Sign up to learn all his secrets! The programme encourages you to publish your new creation on the Miskatonic Repository.
Call of Cthulhu Classic – 40th Anniversary Kickstarter
Chaosium have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a reprint of the 2nd edition Call of Cthulhu boxed set. This includes all the original booklets, with tidied-up layout and typos corrected. Extras include a newly designed Keeper Screen, ruby-coloured dice, and reprints of the Cthulhu Companion, Fragments of Fear, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, Trail of Tsathoggua, and The Asylum and Other Tales. Follow the campaign for more goodies as further stretch goals are unlocked.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Android | iHeartRadio | Stitcher | TuneIn | Deezer | RSS | More
As I listened, I was reminded of an old essay on video game level structure- linear progression vs. sandbox. The author posited another type of progression that I think might be worth mention, that they termed “string of pearls.” A video game example might be Deus Ex- there are so many different approaches possible in each location that it feels like a sandbox, but there is definitely a linear progression going on between “boxes.” The story has a definite goal structure, even if it can be reached in a dizzying number of ways.
This structure is what I think of when I read modern D&D “dungeons”; modern characters simply have so many varied abilities at their disposal to circumvent challenges in creative ways (teleportation, unnatural stealth, flight, stone shaping, mind control) that it’s simply become a mark of good practice to have a scenario based on what resources are present and how goals relate to each other rather than “plotting” how a particular leg of the scenario is going to go. I don’t consider this to really be a sandbox though, since it has a given start and end state in mind, while a sandbox wouldn’t have a “finished” state.
What is your take? Is the “string of pearls” just another example of linear structure, or is it different enough (as I think it is) to warrant mention in an RPG context?