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Gamemastering advice on preparing adventures for Sword & Sorcery campaigns

Yora

Hero
No offense but that's a nothingburger of a premise. Surely you have more of a sense of place and conflict? It's the GM's job to come up with interesting, evocative questions to pose and discover the answers through play.
Indeed, it's total naughty word and completely unworkable. That's why I am asking.
I'm struggling to reconcile what you say here with your approach in this thread. Why are you looking for a pre-scripted adventure for S&S RPGing?
What?! I am not! No! Scripts bad!
But if you don't have a script, and don't want to tell the players what they are supposed to do, how do you know what to prepare?

The impression I am getting here is that people think the best way to do it is to start by getting a group of players and having them make characters, and only then start working on content for the first adventure. Do I get that right?
 

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Numidius

Explorer
New, disposable, blood in a vicious place is always needed.
Cults will contact them.
Evil sorcerers need swords.
Crime factions surely have some dirty work for them.
Authority probably will step up to have a word or two with newcoming swordsmen.
Plenty of opportunities

Are your Players proactive or the participationist passive type?

Eventually the ultimate question: what do YOU want to run in a S&S game?
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
So ... you're now deleting your old posts? Bruv .... what is going on... from what I read before you deleted it, was perfectly decent advice .... from yourself! A shame that you have now got rid of it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
What I really need is something for the first 15 minutes.
Four blank slates stand in the middle of a dusty town with noting but the shirts on their back and the blades at their sides.
What now?
I believe @Hussar (or maybe @pemerton) had a fairly ingenious starting Sword & Sorcery adventure for their Primeval Thule game. He basically started the characters in the middle of a gladitorial match. I seem to recall that the characters broke free following an earthquake or something. It's a great way to introduce the evils of civilization, the value of freedom, and combat without the usual "you meet in town." No, you are fighting compatriots who just escaped, and you have only the equipment you escaped with and no money.

This also gives you a number of initial hooks to work with. Why were you enslaved or forced into the gladiator pits? What will you do now that you are free? What will your ex-enslavers do now that you are free? Does anyone else want you dead?
 

Dioltach

Legend
But if you don't have a script, and don't want to tell the players what they are supposed to do, how do you know what to prepare?
What's wrong with preparing a challenge and thrusting it on the PCs? That pretty much happens in all S&S.

Also, as DM, you have a responsibility to invent the scenarios and create the challenges for the players to overcome. It's all very well to say, "I don't want to tell the players what to do," but you at least have to present them with something to react against. In my example above, where the soldiers of the Evil Vizier have been sent to uncover an ancient tomb, you can describe how the villagers are fleeing at the sight of the soldiers riding up. Then let the players choose. Do they fight the soldiers, even though their vastly outnumbered and under-equipped? Do they talk to the soldiers? Do they hide, and see the soldiers roughly questioning one or two locals about where the tomb is? Etc. If things start dragging, have the PCs be made captive, or the Big Evil escapes from its tomb, or a small child wants to attack the soldiers who are being mean to her daddy.

In S&S it's pretty easy to engages the players: just kickstart the action. It's not like heroic fantasy, where you need a whole backstory and buildup, and clues and hints, and long journeys. In S&S it's right there in your face.

One thing that I might add if I ever went full S&S: in the first round of action, you do extra melee damage equal to the difference between your Initiative and your opponent's. Or something like that. Unless you're surprised, you can avoid falling victim to this yourself by rolling your initiative before the actual fighting begins, and holding off your action until things kick off. Maybe for a max number of rounds equal to your CON bonus or something.
 

But if you don't have a script, and don't want to tell the players what they are supposed to do, how do you know what to prepare?

The impression I am getting here is that people think the best way to do it is to start by getting a group of players and having them make characters, and only then start working on content for the first adventure. Do I get that right?

Right.

So the next step, is not to think of characters as stats and skills, but as goals and ambitions, responsibilities and flaws and dependents and loyalties, oaths and secrets.

So if the players don't create all these things you still don't end up with S&S. You end up back in D&D land with GM-curated plots. If you don't let the players define their own characters' protagonism then you only ever end up with GM-led play.

So, to build on what @pemerton said, you sit down with a copy of Burning Wheel and say to the group; "Okay, I'd be interested in running some sort of sword and sorcery thing where you guys are all badass individuals with your own agenda.
"Maybe it's a bit like Elric with depraved, corrupt nobles and wierd demons? What kind of characters do you want to play?"

And what you need from the players is stuff like this:

"Yeah, I want to play a hedge wizard who had discovered the key to the portal of Azak but was driven out of town by magic-hating villagers before I could see if it worked."
"I want to play a thug who was set up by a rival in the guild and only just escaped with my life, swearing revenge."
"I want to play a drug addict who can only get the fix he needs off certain types of demons which he summons with a crystal shard."
"I want to play an outlander warrior banished from his lands by the elders who have been corrupted by foul magics and who seeks the holy place where the evil can be reversed."

And then your job as GM is to ask lots more questions. Do you know what the portal of Azak does? Who lead the villagers against you? What was the job you were on when you were betrayed? By who? How did you escape? Where did you get the crystal shard? How did you learn it summoned demons? What do you need to do in the Holy Place? What corrupted the elders? How did they change?

As that happens people will start to see how these things might align or conflct and then you have situation in which the players know their roles and their goals. So then you go through procedural character creation - you'll already have the some goals, beliefs and instincts down from the discussion about character. I'd go four lifepaths for strong characters.

Then you begin with a scene with a characters or two. The hedge wizard has asked around this dusty dead-end town to hire someone to protect him to return to the portal - and the thug and warrior both show up for the same job. What's the wizard willing to offer? What do the thug or warrior want in return... and you're up and running.

I say it over and over again, but the key element in this kind of play is the players. You need players who want to play, not players who want to hunt for the GM plot. If all they've every done is follow GM plot, they'll be lost and confused for a while. If so, you have to resist the temptation to fill the void. Frame conflicts, create tension, set stakes, roll dice, mediate outcomes which lead everyone to the next conflict. If needed reset the game, restate that you're all playing to find out happens, you're not running the show, and start over.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I believe @Hussar (or maybe @pemerton) had a fairly ingenious starting Sword & Sorcery adventure for their Primeval Thule game. He basically started the characters in the middle of a gladitorial match. I seem to recall that the characters broke free following an earthquake or something. It's a great way to introduce the evils of civilization, the value of freedom, and combat without the usual "you meet in town." No, you are fighting compatriots who just escaped, and you have only the equipment you escaped with and no money.
I've never run Primeval Thule, so maybe this was @Hussar.

But I did have a Dark Sun game start a little bit similarly, as a result of the Kickers the players authored.

But if you don't have a script, and don't want to tell the players what they are supposed to do, how do you know what to prepare?

The impression I am getting here is that people think the best way to do it is to start by getting a group of players and having them make characters, and only then start working on content for the first adventure. Do I get that right?
Speaking for myself, I'd say yep, that's pretty much right. @chaochou has sketched out how that might look, below.

I've posted links to first sessions for a S&S-ish BW game and for a 4e Dark Sun game which also has some S&S-ish-ness about it. I think, of fantasy sub-genres, S&S especially invites player-driven RPGing.
 


Yora

Hero
This also gives you a number of initial hooks to work with. Why were you enslaved or forced into the gladiator pits? What will you do now that you are free? What will your ex-enslavers do now that you are free? Does anyone else want you dead?
The idea I have in mind right now is to start the game with a short prolog in which the newly created PCs are sting in a dark cell in the dungeons below the palace of the God-Queen, getting the news that they are going to get beheaded the next morning. The players then have to make something up for what they did and who's at fault that they got into this situation. Then they'll do a bit of dungeon crawling like in The Scarlet Citadel where they get an opportunity to interact with stuff to figure out what kind of people their characters are and get a feel for the world, and eventually end up leaving the city on a ship or riding lizards before the sun comes up. I am hoping that that will produce some material for me to work with.
Sailing out to see or riding into the savanna means they can end up pretty much anywhere for the start of the first real adventure.

That means I'll have to come up with something interesting in only a week or so, but I guess in the end there's no other way than to just jump in and trying not to sink.

The only kind of advanced preparation I can think of is to write down a decent roster for generic NPCs, draw a couple of floorplans for generic monster lairs and camps, and put together some random encounter tables that reflect the wildlife and society of the starting region.
 


What?! I am not! No! Scripts bad!
Newly created PCs are sting in a dark cell in the dungeons below the palace
Then they'll do a bit of dungeon crawling like in The Scarlet Citadel.
End up leaving the city on a ship or riding lizards before the sun comes up.
Sailing out to see or riding into the savanna means they can end up pretty much anywhere for the start of the first real adventure.
Oh look, the script.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yora in post 90 said:
they'll do a bit of dungeon crawling like in The Scarlet Citadel where they get an opportunity to interact with stuff to figure out what kind of people their characters are and get a feel for the world, and eventually end up leaving the city on a ship or riding lizards before the sun comes up.
So there's your script.

EDIT: ninja'd, just, by @chaochou.
 
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Yora

Hero
No?

"Your in a cell and there's nothing to do but get out" is hardly having pre-written scenes with fixed outcomes that the players must act out in a fixed order.
And I wrote that this is the inciting incident to start the game, but if that goes past your heads I really can't help you.
 

No?

"Your in a cell and there's nothing to do but get out" is hardly having pre-written scenes with fixed outcomes that the players must act out in a fixed order.
And I wrote that this is the inciting incident to start the game, but if that goes past your heads I really can't help you.
Yes! Do we have to spell it out? Clearly we do - here's what you wrote:

ONE - Newly created PCs are sting in a dark cell in the dungeons below the palace
TWO - Then they'll do a bit of dungeon crawling like in The Scarlet Citadel.
THREE - End up leaving the city on a ship or riding lizards before the sun comes up.
FOUR - Sailing out to see or riding into the savanna means they can end up pretty much anywhere for the start of the first real adventure.

Pre-written scenes with fixed outcomes in a specific order. Totally scripted.

But if you're too locked into your railroading to see it, I can't really help you.
 




ART!

Hero
Indeed, it's total naughty word and completely unworkable. That's why I am asking.

What?! I am not! No! Scripts bad!
But if you don't have a script, and don't want to tell the players what they are supposed to do, how do you know what to prepare?

The impression I am getting here is that people think the best way to do it is to start by getting a group of players and having them make characters, and only then start working on content for the first adventure. Do I get that right?

The idea I have in mind right now is to start the game with a short prolog in which the newly created PCs are sting in a dark cell in the dungeons below the palace of the God-Queen, getting the news that they are going to get beheaded the next morning. The players then have to make something up for what they did and who's at fault that they got into this situation. Then they'll do a bit of dungeon crawling like in The Scarlet Citadel where they get an opportunity to interact with stuff to figure out what kind of people their characters are and get a feel for the world, and eventually end up leaving the city on a ship or riding lizards before the sun comes up. I am hoping that that will produce some material for me to work with.
Sailing out to see or riding into the savanna means they can end up pretty much anywhere for the start of the first real adventure.

That means I'll have to come up with something interesting in only a week or so, but I guess in the end there's no other way than to just jump in and trying not to sink.

The only kind of advanced preparation I can think of is to write down a decent roster for generic NPCs, draw a couple of floorplans for generic monster lairs and camps, and put together some random encounter tables that reflect the wildlife and society of the starting region.
My sense is that you're stuck thinking about all this in traditional D&D adventure ways. There's a real comfort in using a planned adventure, but playing a S&S rpg means not doing that kind of planning. The kind of planning you need is NPCs with motivations, groups of NPCs with motivations (the theives guild, the dock workers, the kids at the lizard mount stables, the town guard, the local religious fanatics) , and then a variety of cool locations (the bar where the theives guild meets, the docks, the lizard mount stables which has access to the sewers, the town guard armory, the temple of murdergod). Also: a sense of what the surrounding countryside is like should they actually decide to leave the city. Maybe a location or two for that area. Now you're done. That will probably serve you for a couple sessions.

It may also be that you have a GMing confidence issue like my own, wherein I have the ideas, but the thought of actually running brings anxiety. I tend to over-plan, which doesn't help.

SO: less structured planning + more confidence. Easy, right? :ROFLMAO:
 

I guess in the end there's no other way than to just jump in and trying not to sink.
Not a bad choice to print on a GM’s mug.

When is your first session? Please report back with details and lessons learned. I’ve been intrigued by the conversation here.
 

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