• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

Don't Prep Plots + Obstacles

furashgf

Registered User
Validated User
Has anyone had any experience using the 7th Sea kind of approach (I think someone mentioned it) where you're constantly generating new consequences from their current activity?
 

MoonHunter

Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Loose planing is what I advocate. There should be a number of plotlines for the characters, main NPCs, and settings/ organizations and a main story arc full of key scenes (and a lot of fluff you can pad the time between these key scenes) that you can use to create a given session. I also advocate creating plotlines for games as flowcharts, as no player ever goes in the straight line.

Now, I am trapped mid project to finish this sequence, but I have some of the preliminary stuff started in in my blog.

Also if you are looking for how I do it on the session, then then read it here.
 
Last edited:

Alter_Boy

Big Brain Ideas
Validated User
The accepted current wisdom (at least when I've asked online before) is to prep and run games using a "present a situation, not a plot approach" (as described in "Don't Prep Plots"). When I've tried to implement that approach in the past it hasn't always gone well, as there usually isn't enough for the player's to do. That is, if the situation is "X is doing bad thing Y," we just end up with a scene or two of finding "X" and dealing with him, which is not very satisfying.

What do those of you that use this approach successfully do to make engaging sessions? Everyone loves PBTA games these days so do those games solve this problem in some clever way?

One thing that occurs to me that is in fiction, there are a series of obstacles between achieving the protagonist's objective and the objective, and those obstacles are sometimes other factions / interests.
Like most cases of 'current accepted wisdom', it is often as flawed as the last 'widely accepted wisdom', just less stress-tested and its failings known. Now, I do think this approach is great, but it has its problems, and accepting the wisdom of the crowd as being the best validation is a losing bet.

Like any sandbox approach, it assumes the players will go out and grab the situation by the collar. It also assumes they have the patience to fulfil a multi-step plan to succeed, and the perseverance to continue on when their plans fail, or were never feasible to begin with. If the players want fast and reliable success, they'd be better off jumping on the railroad. Perhaps the best approach would be to introduce very small obstacles that the average gamer can think a solution for.

Has anyone had any experience using the 7th Sea kind of approach (I think someone mentioned it) where you're constantly generating new consequences from their current activity?
I've been doing that for years. If they defeat an enemy, a vacuum is created; either the PCs and their allies fill it, or another faction will do so. If a war between two super-powers is averted, then the warmongers must be appeased (or quelled) and the instruments of war must be disposed of or used in a way that doesn't fuel future conflicts. If a jewel thief is caught, her knowledge of the criminal underground can lead PCs to new ne'er-do-wells or weaknesses of known thugs.
 

Mondo231

New member
Banned
I run a sandbox environment, and I avoid scenarios based on individuals, preferring organizations instead. That way the players have an enduring enemy for the long haul.
 

Bankuei

Master of Folding Chair
Validated User
The key to making it work is having enough for you, the GM, to be able to improvise from. For me, I find "X does Y" is not really dynamic or interesting enough. What works better for me is a roster of NPCs who are involved in a situation, usually between 6-8, who all have their own angles, alliances and motivations in play. I look down the list, I find someone who jumps out to me as probably someone who will take action/make a demand/ask for help/something interesting based on whatever happened before and I set a scene from that.

The other half is that the players have to have good motivations for their characters. If the characters aren't really tied up into the situation, they're not going to bump into all these NPCS (or hell, each other) in terms of clashing goals and desires.

So right now I've just started running With Great Power, a super hero game. The rules use Villains having a Plan, as the central organizing point, and we've done some stuff around that in the first session. The fallout from what happened is where I'm going to have more fun - family and friends around the PCs are going to get involved, and we'll see what the PCs are really about besides just "fight the villains" and then we can feed that back into play for something more dynamic and interesting.

I won't have a specific set of events, but I will have a list of NPCs with motivations and goals (subject to change according to what fits the character and events that play out) and that is what will be the situation that drives my game.

- Chris
 

Ulzgoroth

Mad Scientist
Validated User
If the situation is "X is doing bad things", that should also include "and their resources / hostages / whatever reason they haven't already been removed are Y and Z."

A plot with obstacles emerges from that, but which one matters. If the emergent result is "We murder X, his hostages die, and now the townsfolk are after us", that's different from "We plan and execute a hostage heist" is different from....
Yeah, a simple question that should usually be asked is 'why hasn't this situation already been resolved', and 'we're the first ones to come across it' is an answer to use sparingly.
 

Psikerlord

Member
Banned
Validated User
The accepted current wisdom (at least when I've asked online before) is to prep and run games using a "present a situation, not a plot approach" (as described in "Don't Prep Plots"). When I've tried to implement that approach in the past it hasn't always gone well, as there usually isn't enough for the player's to do. That is, if the situation is "X is doing bad thing Y," we just end up with a scene or two of finding "X" and dealing with him, which is not very satisfying.

What do those of you that use this approach successfully do to make engaging sessions? Everyone loves PBTA games these days so do those games solve this problem in some clever way?

One thing that occurs to me that is in fiction, there are a series of obstacles between achieving the protagonist's objective and the objective, and those obstacles are sometimes other factions / interests.
I dont know about the "current wisdom". DEpends waht you're running, if something liek a D&D adventure path, there are plots hardbaked in. If you're running an open sandbox, then fair enough, just set up lots of situations, maybe with plots running in the background.

In shadowrun, the situations presented often get out of hand quickly due to unforeseen interruptions - 3rd party rivals becoming involved, police problem, double cross etc
 

Jacob Kellogg

Lv3 Game Designer
Validated User
Have you tried running a game that does the "prep" work for you? For example, my group has recently begun a game of Mutant: Year Zero, and there's virtually no prep work for the GM. Instead, PCs select projects based on what they want for their home settlement (no prep), respond to threats drawn from a deck of cards (no prep), and explore map-squares whose contents are generated as-needed through dice and tables (no prep). It's been really fun so far, and entirely sidesteps the issue you've described. I'm sure there are other games along those lines as well. And even if you don't want to play those games, you could copy those procedural generation systems into your preferred game.

Hope that helps!
 

Stone-Tharp

Registered User
Validated User
I run a sandbox environment, and I avoid scenarios based on individuals, preferring organizations instead. That way the players have an enduring enemy for the long haul.
This approach works incredibly well. And if the PCs kill/defeat/depose/etc... some particular leader of an organization, it can be very interesting see how new leadership changes the organization's tactics, style, and so on
 

solarpunk

Registered User
Validated User
If you let plot and obstacles develop naturally, then they feel more authentic; prep work should go into setting detail so that the setting has more depth from which plots and obstacles can grow.
 
Top Bottom