Thursday, June 23, 2016

In media res

This is the sequel to the blog I started about convention or one-shot games.

In the first blog I talked about the hook, now I want to talk about which scene I chose to run first. When you think about it, an adventure is a collection of scenes. When each scene is designed to follow another one, it becomes difficult to pull one out of the mix if you're running out of time and get the full effect. It's much easier to insert more scenes to make the adventure longer.
So maybe you only have 2 hours to run the game, you're expecting 6 players, half of them are new to Savage Worlds, there are 5 scenes in this One-Sheet, Savage Tale, adventure module or whatever you want to run (because you don't have time to prep). Chances are slim to none they'll get past the third scene if there's a combat in there, even with a fast system like Savage Worlds.
Now let me put on a black raincoat, cool shades and ask you: What if I told you there's a way to pace your adventure to last pretty much as long as you want it to last without having to remove any important scenes?

So you've got your hook, now let's wrap it in with the set-up, first scene and goal/destination.

The Don wants you to make Dominic the accountant disappear. Contact Jerry for more information.
[insert conversations with the Don and Jerry along with questions here]
[insert trip to hardware store to get everything on the "Kidnapping for Dummies" list here]
[insert kidnapping scene here]
Hey look at the time, you probably spent more time than you were willing to spend on this part of your adventure and most of it probably wasn't Fast, Furious or Fun with the exception of the kidnapping scene maybe.
Consider starting in media res (in the middle of things).
There's a mob accountant alive in the trunk of your car. You lost a lot of money because of him. The plan is to take him to Coaldale, toss him in a hole and pave a road over his body. You're cruising along on I-95 when your sideview mirror is blown up by what you believe to be a high caliber bullet. What do you do?
Bada bing bada boom! Your game has started with a bang. Maybe the players wouldn't have tackled it this way would they have played it, you say? You're most definitely right. But then again no group wants to role-play every minute of an adventure. Sometimes you fast-forward to the next scene. This is no different really. You just decided where it starts.
After this scene is over, you can answer any questions the players have and provide more details. What state is the accountant in the trunk in? I don't know, you tell me, what did you do to him? Would you like to play it out? Yes? let's go Pulp Fiction with this then.
Why do scenes have to be played in chronological order? Because how do you handle a character dying in a flashback scene Mr. Fancy Pants GM? Remember, incapacitated doesn't necessarily mean dead, and if it's during a flashback scene, why not modify that table and give the PC a permanent injury instead? You can also do as suggested in Beasts & Barbarians and take a Benny from the "deceased" PC.
You have to understand the players are likely playing their character for the first time. Yes, there are hindrances on their sheet and a bunch of stats giving them some type of direction but they still don't know their character.
What I found the best way to put them in character is to drop them in media res where they have difficult choices to make. From the latest examples, do they duck for cover, try to see where the shot came from, pull out their weapon or let out an expletive? This also helps you figure out what kind of players you have at your table.
For players new to Savage Worlds, this allows them to make a few die rolls and get the jitters out of the way.
Starting in media res basically cuts the crap. Do I always start a game out this way? No, I don't, but I found out it makes it harder for the game to switch gears if I don't.
In the next blog I want to show you how I turn this into a full adventure that I can ad lib with and make it last as long as I want it to.