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RPGs are all about Improv

November 9, 2012

Dear Reader,

If you’ve ever played in an Pen and Paper RPG, you know that virtually no matter what you’ve planned, both the DM and the players have to constantly adjust their plans and think quickly on their feet.  This interaction – this back and forth between the DM and players as they mentally adjust their understanding of the situation – creates the fluid sense of the “real” world: observable and ephemerally understandable, but ultimately unknowable.

Similarly, at an improv show, the audience is repeatedly asked to provide input for the actors to adjust to.  If you’re familiar with Whose Line is it, Anyway?, you’re well aware of how the oddest and most fun ideas are thrown into the show so that the actors can think quickly on their feet to both impress and entertain the audience.

So when I shortly ask you for ideas for a D&D adventure, don’t feel like I’m asking only experienced players or DMs.  Quite the opposite is true; consider this more like an improv show.  I want the wackiest and most fun ideas you can come up with, particularly ideas that aren’t often associated with D&D or high fantasy.

Here’s my plan: Tobold and I are going to co-author a D&D adventure accessible to multiple editions (3.5, Pathfinder, and 4th).  We thought that we’d turn to the audience to see what kind of interesting and unexpected elements we could toss in.  We’re looking, for now, for three things: a fantastic location, a fantastic item, or an atypical (for a D&D adventure) event.

Please throw out whatever ideas you have!  In a true brainstorming session, there’s no bad ideas.  Tobold and I will confer next week about which ones we like the most, and I assure you I’ll be looking hard for the unexpected.  My longest running campaign started at a wedding.  One of the most fun adventures I ran had to do with a new race of underground mole men who wanted to sell a new building material to the overland.  Another was a desperate struggle to retrieve a sweetgrass basket that had been accidentally discarded (it was more important than just that in the long run, but the players didn’t know that at the time).  A final example was an accountant struck with lycanthropy who was cooking the books for money to keep his condition under control.  Unexpected is what defines moments in a campaign, and it’s what players remember years later.  Surprise me!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and interested)

P.S. How could I forget my PC’s favorite characters, Saul and Kink?  Saul was a young orc who acted as a “translator” for a small, supposedly intelligent potted fern.  When around the plant, you felt an otherworldly presence.  Then again, Saul could just be using the plant as a front.  Either way, screwing with either of them often left the perpetrator in a ditch somewhere.  I myself still don’t know if it was a ruse or not, but it’s nice to have weird, Kaizer Soze-like characters around.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2012 11:06 am

    The players are transformed into members of a different species that most people consider a myth and evil. They then meet other members of this species… do they integrate, try to spy on them, fight them?

  2. November 9, 2012 1:00 pm

    Excellent topic, bravo sir. It will be interesting to see the final product of your collaboration. I may have to translate it to BRP to test on my players.

    I’ll offer two, thinking in terms of single session scenarios. One somewhat more epic than the other. I’m not sure either is crunchy enough to be a good AD&D scenario.

    The players, wandering though some less than savory part of town, find a gold flute key. Thinking it only a bit of quick coin they grab it for sale to the shops in the morning. Odd things begin to happen. Time stops and skips, minutes are too long or not long enough. Worse, each individual experiences this effect independently. And many other people want that key. They need to determine what it is, and how to fix things, before time unwinds. Or, for the more power-hungry, how to use it.

    The players find themselves stuck in Hell’s Chancery. Through no fault of their own Demons are not well regarded as diplomats so the building is a bit…unusual. The players will need to work through the sorts who would send an embassy to Hell, and what Hell thinks of as suiting accommodations, to find their way home.

  3. November 11, 2012 6:27 pm

    I put my ideas up @ Tobold’s blog! Hope we find out which way it eventually goes though! :P
    http://tobolds.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/help-us-write-adventure.html

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