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- Join Date
- Sep 2009
Nothing is scarier... - Adventure design philosophy
In the case you don't know what the tittle refers to.
So, how do you design adventurers? Do you think it's important for every location to count? What is your favorite way to keep players involved and in suspense?
Early in my GMing career, I crammed my adventures full of stuff. There was no single room without treasure, no corner without a monster behind it. I tended to make highly detailed notes of everything. I thought that rooms without anything to capture player attention were boring.
This had the drawback of taking awful lot of time - both while making the adventure, and when playing it. I hadn't really considered that with every room being an encounter, the players would advance veeeryyyy slooowlyyy due to time it took to resolve them mechanically. Thus most of my adventures, even those intended as one-shots, usually didn't get finished during one session - many didn't get finished at all, when gathering the whole group together again in a timely fashion turned out impossible.
Lately I've resumed GMing with a somewhat different mindset. I don't have as much free time as I used to, or would rather use it for something else than scribling down encounter notes (or reading someone else's, for that matter). So I don't. Often, I just draw a map, and don't even mark down what place is what - I've always liked improvizing, and it comes pretty naturally to me.
Still, it's quite hard to come up with involved puzzles or suitable mechanical obstacles on the fly - so I know use them much more sparsely than before. I still ascribe to the philosophy that every room should be interesting, though - but now it manifests as rather elaborate descriptions of rooms that are nonetheless empty.
Fortunately, even where there are no skill checks to be made, no monsters to be fought and no treasure to be looted, the players can still drive themselves crazy. Over nothing. I tell you, nothing is more amusing.
In the end, I think my games are better for it. Less time spend preparing an adventure means a less stressed DM, plus it prevents me from having too much investment in any one outcome - so I won't be disappointed when the players don't stumble over every carefully planned trick of mine. Nothing is also a good way to keep the players guessing - and to lull them into a false sense of security. Actual encounters and surprises feel, well, much more surprising when the players have first whipped themselves into trembling paranoia, and are finally starting to consider that maybe, the place is empty after all..."It's the fate of all things under the sky,
to grow old and wither and die."