View Full Version : Railroad scenario

2014-10-19, 10:13 PM
That is to say, a scenario about a railroad. Or railway, as I would normally call such things, but since I'm going for a bit of an Old West vibe "railroad" seems appropriate too. Players of EMPIRE!, feel free to look away.

So anyway, my plan is to run a scenario that revolves around the construction of a railway in a largely pre-industrial society and the resulting issues from it, taking inspiration from some of my favourite westerns (most notably, Once Upon a Time in the West) but also I guess from stuff like Cranford if anyone's familiar with that, or even Raising Steam. It'd be a one-off scenario to be done preferably in one ~four-hour session but could conceivably stretch to two sessions. The system is homebrew, fairly crunch-lite and largely freeform so we can probably move relatively quickly compared to, say, D&D 3.5; the players will all be (or should be!) familiar with the setting, and I can probably get much of the immediately relevant non-spoilery backstory out of the way before play starts.

My principal issue is that I have no experience with running short one-off scenarios. I've done plenty of GMing but that's all been long campaigns and any time I try to tell (or indeed GM) a story it always takes about four times as long as I plan for. The plot doesn't have to be particularly complex: something along the lines of "<local people/tribe> are causing trouble with the construction of the railway, the PCs are sent in to sort it out one way or another" would probably be fine. But when it comes to working it out in detail; what sort of a twist to put in, how many encounters, etc. I start to struggle because I'm aware of my tendency to overcomplicate things.

So firstly, does anyone know of any pre-written scenarios that might be ripe for adaptation? It feels like the sort of setting where there would be, but of course searching for anything RPG related with "railroad" or "railway" in the title throws up a rather predictable set of results. Secondly, does anyone have any general advice on writing short one-off scenarios that might help me come up with something original (or indeed with any adaptation I do)?

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

2014-10-20, 12:17 AM
Your conflict is written into the scenario. Are the PCs natives or developers? Are they hired to depress the property value of the land so it can be traded away for tracks, or are the PCs local tribesmen who feel that the railroad is killing their culture (invent how)....Perhaps some locals robbed the train recently and now everyone is after the race of people who robbed the train, and the PCs are brought in by the developers to look legit.

2014-10-20, 01:06 AM
I try to plan every plot around a number of defining moments, and during play I try to drive players toward those moments. Small ideas to "spice up" the campaign are made as subheadings of the major plot points that they fall under. (Disclaimer: If any of your players are rabidly anti-railroad, they won't like this)

So take your railroad plot, and say something like...

1. players hired to protect railroad
a. The person who hires the players has a French accent
b. players should be told the railroad is special

2. players will repel attack on railroad by locals
a. Locals' forces are made of 4 x, 1 y

3. players learn the railroad is built with the bones of the locals, taken from a nearby sacred gravesite.
a. Players can learn this from being captured by locals if they lose the battle, or taking a local prisoner
b. If players did not take a prisoner, they find out from a railroad worker?

4. end of session, at which point players will decide how they want to deal with the twist, which tells me how the next session will go

edit: Man, this forum.

2014-10-20, 01:30 AM
For some reason, I now have the William Tell overture stuck in my head.

2014-10-20, 02:54 AM
Ripped straight from a comic book :
The managers of the main competing form of travel (ex: boats going around the continent) try to sabotage the rail by any means, including manipulating/bribing local populations.
A band of outlaws comically misunderstand the writing on some unstable explosive furnitures intended to dig a tunnel for the railroad, believe it is valuable and try stealing it, constantly risking suicide by explosion. The defenders can't simply let that happen, since it would damage the track and they need those explosives.