Making an adventure whole-cloth out of a novel? - Page 2
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  1. #11

    Enchanter (Lvl 12)

    Stumblewyk's Avatar

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    May 2008
    Perkiomenville, PA
    I've done this twice.

    Once, I basically turned the events occurring in Macbeth into an adventure, via the guise of a powerful enchantment cast on the PCs by a high level Bard () while they slept. The PCs existed inside the play, stuff went down, but the party had the ability to influence and effect the outcome.

    The second time, I based an adventure on the short story The Evil Within by Sarah Douglass, casting the PCs in the role of the priest sent to save the village.

    The key is to set up the story in such a way as to allow for the PCs to completely destroy things. You're really more or less doing an adventure "inspired by" the source material.

    As for Fool Moon you could easily set things up that way. Marcone, the FBI agents, the Alphas, etc. are all excellent NPCs and could the events of the novel could play out in such a way as to pull the PCs in. You just need to be prepared for the PCs to do things in a way that's completely "off the rails."

    And the Dresden Files RPG is excellent but it doesn't translate the novels into adventure form. What it does do is let you play a supernatural, investigation-based game inspired by the books, using the lore from the Dresdenverse. Great game, but not exactly what you're looking to do.

  2. #12

    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

    OnlineDM's Avatar

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    Jun 2010
    Highlands Ranch, CO
    @Stumblewyk - Thank you, this is exactly what I was wondering about! It sounds like you had a good time with your adaptations.

    Could someone cover Stumblewyk with some XP for me? Apparently I've found him to be awesome too recently.

  3. #13
    I've never done it, but I've considered it many times.

    I think you have to look at the novel as if you were reading how other players went through the adventure. Since it is difficult to control player direction without the player feeling railroaded, I think the thing to do is look at the novel. Pick out locations, bad guys, timeline events, and other obstacles. And, then just let your players go through the adventure their own way--which may be completely different from how the protagonist in the story did it.

    - Example -

    As an example of how I would approach this type of thing, consider the Robert E. Howard's short story (yes, I know it's not a novel, but will suffice for the example), "The Tower of the Elephant". In that story, Conan is young and new to civilization. He wants to make a name for himself as a thief. He asks about the Elephant Tower, decides to rob it without planning, and heads to the part of town where the Tower stands.

    During his break-in, he meets another thief--the master thief Taurus--and the two team up to rob the Tower's owner. They run afoul traps and creatures. Taurus gets killed. Then Conan comes across Yag-Kosha before the climax of the story where Conan meets the master mage Yara.

    Instead of developing exactly the parts of the story that Conan experienced, I'd start with the main location of the adventure, the tower. I'd map the entire thing out, plus the grounds outside. I'd pay attention to the encounters Conan and Taurus had, but they didn't explore every nook and cranny of the place in the story. So, I'd actually add to the story by creating the entire Tower with rooms never mentioned in the story.

    I'd populate the place with Yara's human and non-human guards, plus add in a few beasties (like the giant spider Conan fought).

    I'd create the major NPC's of Yara, Taurus, and Yag-Kosha.

    I'd add in some treasure not mentioned in the story (maybe one of the PCs is a mage and looking to increase his power?).

    Then, when I finished with the tower itself and the outer grounds, I'd maybe make a rumor list or figure some interesting hook for the PCs to discover in the town.

    I'd try to have contingency plans, too? What if the PCs spend a lot of time gathering information on Yara and the Tower? I'll need NPCs, maybe even a Scholar or Sage for them to speak with. What if the PC's try to cut the jewels out of the side of the tower before they enter? How much are they worth? Are they glass? Are they necessary, in a magical sense, for the construction of the tower (which was said to be errected over-night...and item for the rumor list).

    And, if I wanted to, I could even expand the adventure beyond it's beginning in the story. Maybe the Tower connects with city sewer system, and following that leads to.....???

    Then, once I created all this stuff, I'd simply set my PCs down into this little sandbox I'd created and watch 'em go.

    Chances are real strong that the story we create when playing the adventure will be A LOT different than what I read in the Conan story.

    ....the PCs talked to so many people before the braved the walls of the Tower courtyard that word got back to he was ready for the thieves instead of being in a dope-fueled stupor as with the story.

    ....the PCs break in through the front gate rather than go over the wall, as Conan did. And, they never meet Taurus...they find him dead at the top of the Tower from the Spider bite (he dies as he does in the story). Or, maybe they meet him later in the adventure--the GM could reserve him as a way to get the PCs out of trouble should Yara prove too much for them.

    ....the PCs refuse to help Yag-Kosha and therefore never get the magical tool they need to defeat Yara. Yara imprisons them below his tower, using them for his magical experiments, and the adventure turns from a loot-the-mage's-tower scenario to a let's-break-out-of-this-prision-before-we-are-maimed-or-killed scenario. an act of surprising mercy, one of the players allows one of Yara's guards to flee instead of facing death at the hands of the PC. This NPC guard becomes a secret ally of the players and will be instrumental in their escape from the alerted Yara.

    etc, etc.

  4. #14

    Enchanter (Lvl 12)

    Stumblewyk's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by OnlineDM View Post
    @Stumblewyk - Thank you, this is exactly what I was wondering about! It sounds like you had a good time with your adaptations.
    I did particularly enjoy the Macbeth adaptation I did, and that's the one adventure I ran that I wish I still had the notes for. I really liked what I did, and it was so long ago, I've forgotten the specifics. =/

    Regardless, if the story is something you're passionate about and really enjoy, it'll come across in your enthusiasm in your adaptation. Whether your players enjoy the story as much as you did or not, they'll appreciate the work you did and the care you took.

  5. #15

    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    Dyir's Avatar

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    Jul 2003
    Cincinnati, OH
    Isn't that basically what the original Dragonlance adventures were? I've never run them myself, but they seemed to follow the novels in a fairly direct fashion. Granted, everyone seems to feel that they are railroady to the extreme but they are an example of a "professionally written" version of this idea.

  6. #16

    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

    Haltherrion's Avatar

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    Apr 2004
    Lake Oswego, OR
    Setting and certain situations can be readily purloined but entire plots? That's only possible if you railroad your players.

    Any decent set of players will find other ways than the author's to address the decision points in a story, quickly resulting in a divergent plot. In fact, throw a novel plot at players and you might highlight the areas where the author really didn't think through a decision point or had his characters take actions only to make later plot points work. Such cases may pass a casual read but put a thinking playing in that seat and you'll be amused by how quickly they may discard an author's "right way".

    However, if you want to capture the spirit of the novel, that can often be done with some care and some cooperation from the players. Faced with Tolkein's map of middle earth, I'm sure many players shepherding the ring south would have gone through Gondolin and Moria, would not have taken Merry and Pippin along, might have pitched Boromir sooner, etc. but you could still have an interesting pursuit story with memorable NPCs and setting.

    Put another way, I think you could start with the opening of a novel and come close to a similar ending but the points in between would likely be very different.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Dyir View Post
    Isn't that basically what the original Dragonlance adventures were? I've never run them myself, but they seemed to follow the novels in a fairly direct fashion.
    I'm not absolutely sure, but it's is my impression that the adventures came first, then the novels. Actually, I think the adventures came first, then the story of the novels was begun while the long string of adventures were written concurrently, with the novels being finished before the string of adventures.

    The adventures are very close to the novels in the beginning but begin to stray from the novels the longer the tale is played.

  8. #18

    Lama (Lvl 13)

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    Sep 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    Quote Originally Posted by OnlineDM View Post
    but is it common that the structure of a work of fiction also functions well as the structure for an RPG adventure - plot line, battles, characters and all?
    No. In fact, quite the opposite. The linear structure of most media makes for a really terrible structure for an RPG adventure. For example, DM of the Rings.

    With that being said, you can use a linear structure as a starting point if you know what you're doing.

    First, read Three Clue Rule and Node-Based Scenario Design. q

    Now, go through your source material. Every place where the protagonist reached a conclusion of some kind ("I need to talk to X", "I need to go to Y", "I need to do Z") you need to provide the additional clues necessary to fulfill the Three Clue Rule for that conclusion. In addition, you should be aware of when this can be broken out into a full node structure. (For example, what if the PCs decide to go south to the coast and rent a ship instead of going through Moria?)

    But you're not quite done. Quite a few books and movies require the protagonist to NOT do something. For example, I've read a lot of noir where the detective says something like "I'll talk to Billy in the morning"... and then Billy is dead when he gets there. If only he'd talked to him the night before!

    Well, you can't count on the PCs doing that. So now you need to go through the whole thing and figure out every place where the structure assumes that the PCs will definitely not do X. You need to figure out how to remove all those dependencies. Your adventure should never depend on the PCs not doing something.

    So, to sum up:

    (1) Make sure the PCs have at least 3 ways of figuring out everything they NEED to do in order for the adventure to be a success (because otherwise they may not do it).

    (2) Make sure the adventure never requires that the PCs don't do something (because they will).

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