How I Write an Adventure, part 5 – Supplementary Information

Confession: this category is pretty broad.

For a lot of GMs, especially new GMs, one issue they run into is they worry they won’t prepare enough.  They don’t know where the line of enough is, and they’re afraid they’ll find out in the middle of a session.

And I can’t give you a definite answer to that.

But we’ve gone over the true essentials – the Objective, the Motivation, and the Obstacles.  If you have those things, you have an adventure.

This category, Supplementary Information, is a catch-all for any information you need to support the above.

1. There are lots of kinds of Supplementary Information.

The kinds of things you might want to prepare are almost endless:

  • Notes and maps of places the PCs are likely to visit
  • Notes about organizations the PCs are likely to interact with – including names of a few key members they’ll run into.
  • Stats for NPCs whose stats will actually matter.  (Which NPCs’ stats actually matter?  Very few.)
  • Notes about any McGuffins the PCs will be questing after, including their appearance, strange properties, and maybe their histories.
  • Useful resources, which can help if the PCs get stuck – individuals and organizations.
  • A list of ready names that are appropriate to the culture where the game takes place.  These are for in case you need to make up NPCs on the fly.
  • Briefings and descriptions – either notes, or full-on box text.
  • Random Encounter Tables, in case you need to spruce a stretch of the adventure up with some danger.
  • Maps!

A key word here is might. These are things you might want to prepare, because…

2. Focus on the things that give you the most bang for your buck.

When deciding what information to prepare, focus on items that are:

  • Likely to come up.  If the Objective is at the bottom of a dungeon, you need a map of that dungeon.
  • Difficult to make up on the spot.  Planning on the PCs finding a prophecy in rhyme?  That’s worth prepping beforehand.
  • Difficult to keep straight in your head.  I once ran an Exalted adventure that hinged on the rotation schedule of the various legions that made up a small city-state’s army.  Yeah, it only got less and less coherent as the adventure went on.  Organizational structures are another prime candidate here.

3. Don’t fall into rabbit-holes.

You’ll want to develop a nose for what takes lots of time versus what’s going to come up.

I mentioned organizational structures.  It’s maybe worth noting that the raiders are the 88th Company, under Captain Aurelius Coldwater, with platoons under lieutenants Zebediah Fink, Shendah Lionel, and Marissa Darcy.  It’s worth mentioning they wore uniforms with long red coats.

Is it worth working out the identities of their upper command structure?  Or what their various ranks and insignia are?  Well, maybe.  A bit.  If they’re going to be a constant presence in the campaign, over the course of several adventures, and if the players are going to be delving into their organization.

4. You don’t have to have it all ready.

If you run out of highway…

…if you hit an area where you’re really not prepared, and you aren’t feeling up to making it up on the fly, and you don’t have anything ready at hand you can steal, and you can’t turn it around on the players to have them make something up…

…then there’s no shame in calling a halt to the game session.

“Arright; let’s cut it here, folks.  Bit of a short session, I know, but I want to prepare this next bit properly.”

For that matter, you can put a pin in things.  Sometimes you can say to the players, “He tells you Doctor Worldsplicer’s schedule, and sketches a quick map of the hospital,” and then tell them you’ll supply them with that schedule and that map some time after the game session.

You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be seamless.

5. You’ll get better at this.

The more games you run, the more adventures you run, the better a sense you’ll develop for what to prepare, and where to draw the line.

Tomorrow, we’ll pull it all together.  I’ll show you what it looks like when I lay it all out, with a complete example.