Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

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GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

I find myself between a rock and a hard place. I had my fair share of GMing experiences and got good rep for doing it. Yet, i can't satisfy my adventure "writing" skills, meaning planning beforehand and crafting something that fulfills the storyteller in me. I'm adept at improvisation, mostly because i dive into backgrounds and can handle the ideas players come up with.

But, i seriously want to plan this adventure ahead because it is intended to introduce my Shadowrun group to Eclipse Phase somewhere in the next months.

I'm looking for guidelines, tutorials, checklists or something on writing adventures/campaigns, what to look out for, what to consider, how to get players a good grip on entering Eclipse Phase, especially people who aren't into SciFi that much (i think EP is awesome enough to hook them once they are halfway familiar).

My brainstorming right is stuck on those facts:
- Players don't know jack about EP and shouldn't be required to read through the whole book to understand every nuance of the setting.
- Background could reflect this. Possibly held in cold-storage or cryo (idea was posted here some time ago).
- Group should have a need to be together, easiest solution would be an enemy they can pursue, either voluntarily but the option to force the players (or blackmail) should be there.

Sketch: Players are woken up from their storage on a remote facility in the Inner System, Station gets attacked, guy behind it becomes enemy. ??? Profit!

As sketchy as can get, but you probably see why i need help.

Draconis Draconis's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Step 1: Find out what kind of game your players want to play, political, social, military, exploratory, etc. You don't want to create a hugely detailed and plotted game that your players aren't in the slightest interested in. This is called catering to your audience.

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root root's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

root@Creating an Epic Adventure


It would depend on what sort of Shadowrun players they are. If you are cursed with a crew of sadistic troll blood-mage/cyborg/otaku, I'd start out with a game Gatejumping into Exsurgent plots. Lots of squicky things to satisfy the Shadowrun kill-lust, and the opportunity to learn at the end of they day that guns alone don't solve problems in Eclipse Phase. One method I've thought of is to have a Big Bad be their only encounter inside of a puzzle maze, but encounter him over and over again. Have the Big Bad step over the pile of its own corpses to continue its conversation with the characters that they keep rudely interrupting with their bullets.

If your group is more fond of taking backgrounds that hand you as the Gamemaster a juicy stack of opportunities for storytelling, then hand them copies of the pre-gen characters and explain to them that these characters rock as hard as anything they can make at character gen and come with setting appropriate backgrounds. Make sure to include the Octomorph.

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Ancient History Ancient History's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

The keyword is motivation. You need to decide what motivates the NPCs, and you need to develop an arsenal of tools to motivate the PCs - fear, revenge, greed, honor, compassion, etc. are your stock-in-trade...and the players may or may not take the bait, so you need a fallback approach too. The idea is to get the players and PCs involved in the action; once a part of it they will generally follow along until they get to some sort of resolution (i.e. people stop shooting at them/they get paid) or they manage to extricate themselves.

The few adventures I've written are essentially linear. A typical outline might be:

I. Setting the Stage
a. Player characters become involved in the plot
b. One or more NPCs/locations for the story revealed

II. Getting There
a. One or more scenes that cover different approaches the PCs might take to a problem. Some of these scenes are mutually exclusive, and there may not be a scene for every available option.
b. The GM works with the players as they make plans for their characters, not against them. Explain or illustrate the difficulties of certain approaches, and let the players figure out ways to overcome them.
c. Repeat as necessary

III. Plot Happens
a. While the PCs make their plans, the NPCs are still driven by their motivations. Often, this causes encounters between the PCs and the NPCs that the PCs didn't plan. A good place to make the plot thicken, introduce remaining characters, drop hints, and break up the tedium with a bit of combat.
b. Remember that these scenes are optional and dependent on the outcome of the actions of the PCs and NPCs. Keep motivations for both firmly in mind.
c. Repeat as necessary

IV. Resolution Segment
a. After the PCs arrive/defeat the Big Bad/save the bunnymorph, there should probably be some sort of tidying up. This is generally where the PCs get paid/hostages returned/drink to a fallen comrade's memory.
b. Loose ends and NPCs are fodder for future adventures.

The basic idea with "scripted encounters" is that they are events that there are many different routes to the same place. If your adventure takes the PCs from Mars to Luna, for example, then the spaceport where they land/arrive at is good place to set a scripted encounter. The PCs might choose to bypass the spaceport entirely, which is fine; they miss the encounter, and the GM will have to decide when or how to bring parts of it back in, if they're important.

Example: In any game where the PCs are acting as adventurers-for-hire, a common problem is the beginning negotiation to undertake a job: the player's refusal effectively negates much of the adventure. This is a case where the player-bait (getting paid/greed) has failed, and you as a writer should have a back-up plan for the GM. My favored approach is for the person hiring the PCs to be killed at the end of the negotiations, and the PCs appear guilty by association. The PCs are thus involved in the plot - even if they don't care about clearing their names, the other NPCs will believe the PCs are involved with the death of the first NPC and will seek the PCs out of their accord (cue scripted scenes).

Draconis Draconis's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Octomorph! That'll certainly get them shifted and thinking in EP mode.

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GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Hehe, great, one of the players is already freaked out by the mere presence, but i think i described it as too uplift/synthmorph centric. *grin*

Thanks for the hints so far :) It certainly helped clear some cogs and i will force me to sit down in the evening to come up with something (which i will keep track of in a seperate thread)

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

I'll echo the comments I've heard in other threads. If I were bringing an SR group into EP without requiring they have any background knowledge, first I'd run a mission, preferably a related mission, in SR. Maybe the party is breaking into a facility belonging to Tsing Neurotonics in order to steal some of their prototype matrix equipment. But it's actually a set-up. The facility belongs to Renraku. They've been developing the prototype uploading technology and they want some lab rats for testing resleaving - preferably lab rats who have intrinsic economic value and plausible deniability (i.e., shadowrunners). Upon busting in, the whole facility is doused in knock-out gas, the runners are collected, uploaded, and the original bodies put into cold storage (just in case they need a clean upload).

Time goes on. The bodies are forgotten in a massive body bank. Renraku falls apart and is bought up by another corp - and another. The Fall happens.

Now you have a couple of ways to run it. Either the characters are actually the originals, in their original bodies with their original, stone age ware, ejected from their cryogenics chambers as the emergency power-loss contingencies cut in. Or they are egos captured by... someone... and put in fresh, new morphs. Either way, they way up to a post-apocalyptic landscape which they need to explore, assimilate, and beat to get off Earth.

Once off Earth, their problems redouble - they are officially forks of the 'originals' which, care of Renraku, survived and thrived first and made it up to Luna early on. These doubles are crafted to be perfectly loyal to their corp, are extremely up to date, and basically have accumulated a few thousand karma each - and they're going to be pissed to know their stone age selves just crawled out of a hole.

This story line not only doesn't require your players read anything, but it actually leverages that as an advantage in the form of future shock. Writing the first adventures isn't too hard - basic job offer, setup, capture. Then your second adventure, return and surviving a hostile environment. Figure out how they might get off-world and how they determine the threats of the satnet.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Interesting idea. I'll keep that in my backpocket.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

I roll with the idea. Basically, the characters start 50BF, get sacked in, uploaded, forgotten. Forks will be made, experiments happen, their forks get full identity status and become loyal corporate citizens (as applicable). On the outside, they could even be used as a "look, we can rehabilitate criminals in no time!" propaganda.

Meanwhile, the backups are transferred to a orbital facility of the megacorp. Fall happens, most of the forks are already in space, so nothing too bad is coming to them. The megacorp dies and gets salvaged by the forks and the former board who reinvent the thing under a new name and as a hypercorp (dunno if extropian or not... still thinking, autonomists have some kind of robin hood attitude which i could subvert by using an extropian corp as villain) model.

Somewhere in 10AF, a reclaimer scours through an abandoned station, he recently found. He more or less trips over the primitive storage device and starts the usual procedures. Checking for TITAN infection, if they are still sane, etc. The forks will prove to be usefull and so they egos are re-instantiated in Alpha quality and in VR. Something that seems homey and nice, a wood in fall (pun unintended) where they can ask questions and get a newsupdate.

I think this would be a good point, where they get word of their double life.

Thoughts?

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Just be aware that you're still looking at a data dump - and a 'tell don't show' method. It's up to you to decide if your group will enjoy that more.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Yes. I set up a wiki to note down how i want to set scenes and chain the story together. Good thing i have some time left to really write everything down.

Any advice on how to actually write up scenes and chapters?

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

nezumi.hebereke wrote:
Just be aware that you're still looking at a data dump - and a 'tell don't show' method. It's up to you to decide if your group will enjoy that more.

So it might be more fun to have the unfrozen wake up not in a nice simspace with a helpful communicator, but just a bunch of scavengers trying to sell their bodies and souls as quickly as possible after getting away from the creaky derelict station they are on. The characters have no clue about the situation, but given their background they might have the reflexes to get free and start trying to find out the answers.

Extropian

root root's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

root@Creating an epic Adventure


Given the Shadowrun setting, you could always wake them up surrounded by people with either solid blue, green, or white eyes. If the characters ever got stuck in Renraku this should make them flip straight the hell out and start blasting away.

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Ancient History Ancient History's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Quote:
Any advice on how to actually write up scenes and chapters?

Start off describing the scene. Keep in mind what the players will experience - more than what they can see, but what they can smell, hear, feel, intuit, and don't forget the noise on the local Mesh. Sometimes a glaring absence does as much to catch the attention and set the mood than a lot of noise.

Players like to get their exposition in small bites and to chew over the details themselves. So keep any long-winded explanations from NPCs to a minimum (or, better yet, let the players look up the details themselves through a little research; a few concise wikipedia page-style printouts does wonders).

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

root: Its not actually Shadowrun. I just pieced together everything that happend until 40BF and scribbled that up into a "imagine it as your typical cyberpunk world with those details and you are ready".
I think it can work.

Arenamontanus: Hmmm. I don't think that they would actually reinstantiate them in the first place so that they would have a chance to actually break out.

But i have an idea.

Ancient History: It's good you remind me of that. Too often, i lose the focus on "feeding exposition in small bits" and that people love figuring stuff out if it is not actually a "figure this out" plot.

So... combined with the idea of Arenamontanus, i have the following scene in my mind:
They press you down into a chair, restraining you. You feel a painful sting at the back of your neck and your limbs become heavy and wobbly. As your heavy eyes close down, you feel something on your head, like a crown of thorns pressing on your hair. The world becomes black... suddenly, you are in a nice and sunny little wood, reminiscent of nostalgic old vids, before the earth went to hell. The smell of wet leafes and wood ascends your nostrils. Oddly, you are not blinded by the bright sun shining into your face, warming the skin. Far away, you hear the wind blowing through the deeper woods.

You note the absence of varous entoptics as you turn around and see [Number of other Players] people standing around you. At first you don't recognize them, but now various displays pop up, identifying them as your former coworkers. Though they look different now. [Randomly descriptions of the characters will be prepped and given the players to describe how they look and how they react to this situation, i give them some minutes to ask their muses and themselves whats going on, since their rescuer]

Everything looks calm and peaceful, as you hear footsteps coming from the woods. A young man appears, his mesh presence identifying him as Pavi [i actually like the idea of using Pavi with the Scavenger sample character since it always seemed that he IS the scavenger and he just uses a humanoid simulmorph to easy the transition. I'd describe his simulmorph as something appealing, a sum of everything the characters appreciate.]

He looks at you and greets you with a slight wave of his hand as he shortens the distance to you.
"Hello, fellow persons. Uhm... how do you feel? You slept quite a bit, so... nauseous? Anxious? Stressed?"

They will have some dialogue, small exposition on what the time is, that they are in a VR simulation, earth is scorched and off limits, inner system vs outer system ideology and then Pavis ship gets attacked by other scavengers who tell him that the station he is currently at is their claim.
Pavi asks them for help to fight them off, sleeving them into cheap cases he keeps handy should his primary morph get offed. Or they could man the ships weapon systems if they know their way around.

Either way, i think it would be good that they fight a loosing battle and actually strand somewhere, where they have many options to go their own path without resorting to "Well hell, you need a starting capital, so you work for US now." etc.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Creating an epic Adventure - Back to the Basics

Fun Intel. My players were so excited that i switched the plot to a scenariobased adventure with heavy inspirations from Pandorum and Alien 1.

And a new player joined. His first question about the game "Can you play an AI?"