Wednesday, October 19, 2022

A Quick Formula for an Adventure!

 How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master) #3

Sometimes you plan for weeks and weeks to make your campaign ready. You spend days in worldbuilding, days in the maps, hour after hour making the core NPCs, and even more hours working out the storylines.

Other times, you’re just sitting around with some buddies and you want to throw down some dice. While they’re whipping together some quick characters, can you improvise an adventure? Can you make something interesting and exciting?

Here’s a fast formula you can use to put out an exciting and compelling adventure! It’s “SNGC” - you could possibly pronounce that like, “SNUG-kkh” if you wanted to, but I’m not sure why you would...


1 - Setting

Where is this adventure going to happen? This is more than just “What world?” or “What city?” the players will be wandering through. Is there a basement or catacombs under an inn or a chapel? Will they be creeping through a dark and spooky forest? This is the first decision.

2 - Characters

Who will be involved? In this case, I’m speaking much more about the NPCs, rather than the players. Who will they encounter, and what will they be like. Jot down a few names (maybe use an online name generator or an old IKEA catalog) and a few notes of the role of the character and their personality. The less of this you have to improvise, the more fleshed-out the story will be.

3 - Goals

Why are we here? And why should we care? 

These are the deep existential questions your party will be asking you. Well, they might not ask these questions out loud, but believe me, they are thinking about these issues. Exploring the sandbox or shopping for new armor and potions only carries you so far before you start to wonder what the point of it all is. Is there some magical McGuffin they can seek, or some monster terrorizing a village? Is there a tourney to be won, or someone to be rescued? The sooner a goal, a task, is established, the sooner the game will get underway.

4 - Conflict

This is critical. Without conflict, you have no story. Sandbox play can be fun, but if the characters don’t have something driving them to act, they will either shut down in boredom, or will look to create some conflict with the characters in the setting. It’s NOT likely that this will end well. Trust me.

There are two kinds of conflict here: One is the conflict the party will face when they try to achieve the goal. This could be pretty obvious: The monster they’re trying to kill might not WANT to be killed, or the powerful evil wizard whose McGuffing they’re wanting to steal might not WANT to end his comfortable reign of blood and horror.

It’s also a lot of fun to establish some external conflicts between the NPCs. Maybe some of the villagers don’t trust each other, and maybe they want to get back at an old rival in the tavern. These sorts of conflicts might not drive the story quite as much, but they can sure flavor it and make it more tricky.

Remember to hint at the conflicts and the goals early on. This is often called the “Hook” or the “Teaser”. This is what triggers the adventurers into action mode and away from drink-themselves-into-oblivion-on-the-inn’s-barstool mode.

So, that’s the SNGC formula for a quickie adventure. Even if you can’t decide how to pronounce it (“SNOG-ick”? “SING-K”?), you’ll find that it will help you establish an active and energetic adventure that your players will lunge into. It can also be used in preparing the individual sessions of a long-running campaign as well.

Happy Gaming, and roll 20s!

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