I saw this exchange on Reddit today…
Hey guys, I am writing an adventure for a campaign set on Skull Island and I was wondering what advice you guys can offer to make the campaign and adventure great. 🙂
Don’t “write adventures”; doing that creates a tendency to railroad players. Instead, create interesting situations, with an idea of how they might develop over time free of PC interference, then throw the PCs at those situations and enjoy watching them kick over all your sand castles in new and inventive ways.
I really liked that reply. It is pretty much the approach I took in the Corrupted Jungle. There was a villain with a plan and the players may or may not thwart those plans, the villagers had an agenda, there were locations with inherent dangers but there was no actual compulsion for the characters do do anything or go anywhere. If they were completely inactive then events would over take them and they would be swept up in them.
I quite like this style. Sometimes players can become paralysed into inaction. I try and avoid any castle or tower assaults in my face to face game as my players desperately try to achieve the perfect plan with such poor information that their planning discussions simply become circular and the game threatens to break down.
With a gathering storm or wave of events that will happen regardless of the characters inactivity the characters will be thrown into a situation and they can be either proactive or reactive but the only option that isn’t there is being inactive.
Writing this sort of adventure is a strange experience. You cannot really plan a climatic scene where they face down the villain, save the prince or rescue the kitten from the well if you don’t know what the players are going to do or how they are going to react. It becomes all about planning for contingencies.
I have used this approach in the July issue of the Fanzine. The elves are doing their thing, the humans are doing something else and between the two is new(ish) NPC antagonist with their own agenda. Put enough explosive ingredients into a small space and add the PCs you hopefully fireworks will fly.