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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Adventure Pitch: Monstrous Piracy

So, way back in the distant past (January, 2015), I posted the first of the six-word sparks. These sparks were designed to be short and sweet in order to distill an idea to its core (and to make them easy to look through in large batches). The goal was to have a huge compilation of ideas to pull at random in order to inspire an adventure outline.

I'm convinced that this is a great idea, especially since I came up with it myself (as far as I know). Unfortunately, it leaves GMs with a weird middle ground. Say a GM finds a six-word spark that she likes, and she wants to run an adventure based on that. But what if her players aren't interested? She is left with (seemingly) two options: either offer the players the six-word spark as a concept or write out a full adventure outline in order to run it. One option is too short to be of much use to most players, and the other option involves a whole bunch of up-front work on the part of the GM without any guarantee that the players will even be interested.

But wait, there's a better way!

An adventure pitch fills the middle ground between a six-word spark and an adventure outline. It's very similar to my campaign sparks, except that it is shorter and doesn't include content like the setting or the twist. Since it is an adventure, not a whole campaign, the setting is presumably already established. And since it is player-facing, the twists can be left out. You can choose to include the stakes, or not, based on whether it helps the pitch. If the stakes are more likely to draw in players, use 'em; if they aren't particularly interesting, leave 'em out (or better yet, make them interesting).

So, these adventure pitches generally include just two things: the conflict and the up-front NPCs. Generally, the "conflict" is actually something like an event, an interesting location, or an antagonist. The NPCs included (if there is even more than one) will usually be those related to the conflict and/or the initiators of the adventure—and that might even be the same character. NPCs might include the antagonist, the quest-giver, or even the target of the adventure (someone to be found and/or rescued).

Obviously, there needs to be enough information to draw in players without giving away too much. My suggestion would be to limit the word count (or even the character count). As with the six-word sparks, I am a firm believer that limitation is the mother of creativity. I'd suggest something as simple as using Twitter's 140-character limit or the SMS 160-character limit. That also makes it easy to communicate with the players between sessions: just type it up and send it out. Hopefully they'll get back to you and let you know whether they're interested in playing it or not.

Anyway, abstraction is all well and good, but let's get down to an example, shall we? Way back in that original six-word sparks post, I mentioned a swashbuckling bugbear that was seeking a crew in order to start up some piracy. I'm going to transform this six-word spark into, not one, not two, but three different adventure pitches. (It sounds impressive, but it's fairly simple since they're so short.)

Pitch 1: The PCs vs. the Bugbear

A rogue bugbear pirate is harassing the coastal town. Someone must stop his piratical actions before the duchess shuts down the harbor.

Pitch 2: The PCs Join the Bugbear (Heroics)

A bugbear pirate and her motley crew of monsters are looking for allies in their nautical war against a genocidal elven despot and his navy.

Pitch 3: The PCs Join the Bugbear (Villainy)

A dastardly bugbear captain needs a new crew to sail into dangerous waters to plunder wealthy dwarven mining towns along the coast.

And there you have it. Take your own fledgling adventure ideas and flesh them out a little. If your players are interested, you've already got the major players lined up, and you're ready to begin preparation.

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