#AdventureSeed: Unanticipated Road Trip

I’m totally not using my current situation as blog fodder. Honest!

(Except that I totally am. These events are happening in real time. Yes, I started writing this in SFO. I still hate ORD more, but not by much. Now I’m 30,000-feet in the air. /sigh)

This is designed to be used in a Fate-based game, but feel free to hack it into BRP for CoC/Delta Green, Ultra Modern, or any other contemporary system you like.

Setup

Imagine that your heroes have an Important Deadline. Create an aspect that describes it. They need to be somewhere TOMORROW. That’s non-negotiable. BUT they have to travel to get there. By commercial air carrier. (It doesn’t matter which one. They all suck.) Make sure that there’s a bonus on the line or some other equally pressing matter. There always is.

Special Rules: They have a Short Timeline stress track with four stress boxes (one stress per box). All stress delivered during Scenes #1 and #2 hit the Short Timeline stress track. If they suffer more than 4 stress, they fail to obtain whatever the deadline represents or start the next thing at a disadvantage because they’re late to the party as follows:

  • Success means that you’ve got a set of connecting flights to a nearby airport (60-mile drive) where you’ll have to find transport.
  • Failure (i.e. being taken out on the Short Timeline stress track) means that they’ve got a pre-broken itinerary, but they won’t know it until you land late at a connecting flight and then have a much longer drive to your destination (300+ miles) and the commensurate challenges associated with that.

Teamwork: Only one primary hero can take the requisite action at any time. However, if anyone else has the same Approach or Skill used by the primary above Mediocre +0, then allow each to support the attempt with a static +1.

It doesn’t really matter where they’re flying to. This has happened to me flying to Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, Dublin, Budapest. . .you get the picture. The most annoying was probably being diverted to Tacoma after sunset (with three small children and a partner who can’t safely drive in the dark), having to rent a vehicle big enough for five people plus two-weeks’ worth of luggage, and then drive over the Cascade Mountains in the dark during a blizzard. But I digress. Hooray for adventure!

Scene #1

  1. Compel a the convenient Important Deadline aspect to delay their flight, which breaks their connecting flights.
  2. Goal: Interacting with a genuinely helpful but totally incompetent airline employee, have them engage in a social conflict in which they have to A) keep the airline employee on task despite her easily randomized, squirrel-chasing nature and B) minimize the impact to their schedule, which is challenging, because her competence level with the arcane software the airline uses very low and she’s easily distracted. Her name starts with B, and it really doesn’t matter what B stands for.
  3. Create Advantage: Allow one of the heroes to establish rapport with the airline employee in some way. Choose a skill or approach. Your opposition is +2 for the CA attempt as usual. Failure results in a complication a.k.a. new aspect Lost Luggage (the team will arrive without their checked bags, weapons, and other gear). Hint: Do not piss off airline employees–no matter their level of competence.
  4. Defend (Round 1): The first thing that they need to do is help the poor woman understand their predicament. Attack at +0. The heroes can choose how to respond to the attack. Adjust the difficulty as appropriate based on their choice of Approach or Skill. Success means that further steps will be at the standard difficulty. Failure means that all subsequent attacks on their Short Timeline have elevated opposition by +2. Stress hits Short Timeline.
  5. Defend (Round 2): The easily distracted woman is having difficulty not leaving her workstation to help other people when she should be searching for connecting flights for the heroes, especially the cute crying baby at the next counter over. Attack at +4. Stress hits Short Timeline.
  6. Outcome: Either way, the heroes are NOT going to be able to fly into the nearest airport to their destination. Do not allow them to declare facts that bypass the following scene. If they offer a concession early, give them the short drive. If necessary, compel some more aspects and make it worse and worse until they get the memo. They arrive at a connection in Scene #2.

Scene #2

When they land at the nearest airport that they can get to, the fun begins. It helps that this a remote connection for “reasons” and there is no Lyft or Uber service in the area, because it is a low population backwater.

  1. Compel: Whatever Important Deadline aspect is driving the party to need to be there TOMORROW, because there are no cars for rent. None. All of the usual suspects have completely sold out their inventory and the local cab companies are closed for the night.
  2. Goal: Find a suitable vehicle to transport ALL of them to their destination in a timely fashion.
  3. Overcome: They are free to come up with whatever wacky scenario they like, including grand theft auto (not recommended by my law enforcement experience, but guaranteed to produce fantastic roleplay opportunities AND a chase scene with the local sheriff–whee!). Set the opposition intentionally high (at least +4 higher than the group’s peak Approach or Skill). Stress hits Short Timeline, if they have any left.
  4. Outcome: Make the resulting transportation as easily identifiable and attention getting as possible, especially if the heroes need to be stealthy. The heroes arrive in Scene #3 driving their acquired jalopy.

Scene #3

This is where it goes badly. Whatever looming threat you have in your game will meddle with the heroes at this point. Probably in some sort of physical conflict in an ambush. Drop in the French cafe ninjas or the cybernetic orangutan pirates or whatever.

  1. Compel an available aspect that results in the conflict you wanted to setup so the heroes will have a fate point waiting for them at the end of the scene. Heh. It could be a hero’s trouble, a game aspect, or something new–whatever seems like the most entertaining.
  2. . . .
  3. Enjoy the conflict!

That’s what I expect to happen when I land and try to drive several hours toward home because the useless airline couldn’t get me a flight to my home airport after all the cancellations and delays. Dammit. Wish me luck!

Getting Ready to Run a Game?

Hey, you, GM. GAMEXPO 2017 is around the corner (less than two weeks!). Are your sessions ready to run? I figured as much. That’s why this post is here.

Nick’s got some great points in his post The Noobs Guide to Planning Your RPG Session. He’s talking specifically about a Star Wars game, but I think his concepts apply regardless of what you’re running. I’ll summarize then extemporize. His high level outline is:

  1. Know Your Party, Know Yourself
  2. Make The Hook
  3. Decide Your Mechanics
  4. Make Your Setting
  5. Commit To Your Setting
  6. Free Up Some Workspace

Suggested Re-Ordering

Seems pretty straight forward. Although I might argue that “Make Your Setting” and  “Commit To Your Setting” should be #2 in the order of operations. . .since they sort of dictate what hooks you have available to you and how your players will expect you to implement them.

I like to think of the game and the setting as characters. In Fate Core games, the game is a first order concept with attributes and mechanics of its own, and its a logical extension of the Bronze Rule of Fate: You can treat anything like a character. Hence, I think of the setting as a character:

  • What does it want and why?
  • What does it [look/feel/taste/smell/sound] like and why?
  • What things about it aren’t obvious that the heroes are going to learn (the hard way)?

I’m sure there are lots of other great questions about a setting-character that I should ask, but those are where I start. Oh, and by setting, I mean the overall universe and each location where scenes/encounters will take place. And each one of those is like a genius loci in my mind.

The Real Hook

With regards to hooks, Nick says:

The hook should have three main things. Why they are there, what the problem is, and the cookie.

I think of “hook” differently. These three items of “hook” all boil down to context for the adventure. In regular groups and playtests, I do what Nick suggests and ask the players to figure out why they’re there. (We’re typically using Fate Core, so it’s not an unusual question for the players.) However, in other game systems, the expectations are different, which is compounded by convention play and the possibility of having five or six random strangers at the table.

What I think of as “hook” that’s important for anything, RPG session or otherwise, is what makes it interesting and different from all the other similar things in the list. I’m running two different, all-new adventures this year:

  • Modern Gods (hook: you get to be a street god defending your peepz!)
  • Forcing Function (hook: you’re smuggling are cargo that’s far more valuable than you first thought)

Modern Gods [Modernity/Fate]
Nietzsche was wrong. New gods are born all the time. You know, because you’re one of them! As a modern god, you have power coming out of your nether regions, but. . .You’ve also got responsibilities. The day to day nonsense? No, you’ve got people for that. But, once in a while, something big shows up that your devoted worshipers can’t handle on their own. When that day comes, it’s up to you and your pantheon to get off your thrones, rise up, and smite the usurpers. Today is that day.

Forcing Function [Starcrossed/Fate]
You’re an opportunistic capitalist! Hurtful Translation: Smuggler. After a couple easy years in the biz, thing were going so well! But now, the “job” that was supposed to be a milk run has turned into a looming disaster. Everything that could possibly go wrong already has. Except you’re not dead. Yet. I won’t tell you the odds, but you and your crew have never been caught behind enemy lines in a three-way shooting war with all three sides hunting you for the cargo. What do we do now, Captain?

Deus Ex Mechanics

Nick didn’t spend much time on this, but the fact that he touched on it at all is huge. Too many GMs (myself included sometimes) don’t think about each encounter and the likely game mechanics that may be necessary. Little things like changing the encounter balance to intentionally easy once in a while can add a lot of flavor to the game–not every fight needs to be a fighting-for-their-lives encounter for the heroes. Let them show off sometimes.

In the mechanics department, especially for convention play, I also highly recommend figuring out where you can fast forward if you’re burning through your time budget too fast. There are ways to turn long encounters into more manageable contests or challenges without making the players feel cheated.

Last Laughs

All up, Nick’s article’s a good reminder of the fundamentals and a helpful outline. If you didn’t wander off and read it already, go do so now.