The Scenario In Play
So, now you should be ready to begin: you have a problem that can’t be ignored, a variety of story questions that will lead to resolving that problem one way or another, a core group of NPCs and their motivations, and a really dynamic first scene that will get things cooking.
Everything should be smooth sailing from here, right? You present the questions, the players gradually answer them, and your story rolls into a nice, neat conclusion.
Yeah... trust us, it’ll never happen that way.
The most important thing to remember when you actually get the scenario off the ground is this: whatever happens will always be different from what you expect. The PCs will hate an NPC you intended them to befriend, have wild successes that give away a bad guy’s secrets very early, suffer unexpected setbacks that change the course of their actions, or any one of another hundred different things that just don’t end up the way you think they should.
Notice that we don’t recommend predetermining what scenes and locations are going to be involved in your scenario—that’s because we find that most of the time, you’re going to throw out most of that material anyway, in the face of a dynamic group of players and their choices.
Not all is lost, however—the stuff you have prepared should help you tremendously when players do something unexpected. Your story questions are vague enough that there are going to be multiple ways to answer each one, and you can very quickly axe one that isn’t going to be relevant and replace it with something else on the fly without having to toss the rest of your work.
Amanda had expected that the scene with Landon, Cynere, and Anna would result in a briefly violent reaction, thanks to Landon, followed by the PCs explaining that they’re not with the Cult of Tranquility and everyone realizing that they’re all on the same side.
The first swing of Landon’s sword fells Anna where she stands, killing what would’ve been their first contact with the Sun and Moon Society, an important secret organization opposing the cult. Plus, Anna’s companions are now convinced that he and Cynere are indeed cultists.
So...slight detour. Amanda sees a few ways to go from here:
- The warriors throw caution to the wind, cry “Revenge!” and fight to the death.
- One of the warriors assumes Anna’s role in the scene and continues the conversation.
- The warriors flee (making a concession) and report the killing to their superiors in the secret society, leaving Anna’s body behind.
She decides to go with the third option. These two may be good guys, but they’re not heroes, and neither one of them is up for taking on Landon after that opener. And the odds of them wanting to have a little chat with Anna’s corpse at their feet are, at best, slim.
Plus, Amanda figures Lily and Lenny will want to search the body, which would present a good opportunity to feed them information about the Sun and Moon Society. It’s also a way to bring Zird in on the action—maybe he knows something about the Sun and Moon Society already, and can make contact with them.
Also, knowing your NPCs’ motivations and goals allows you to adjust their behavior more easily than if you’d just placed them in a static scene waiting for the PCs to show up. When the players throw you a curveball, make the NPCs as dynamic and reactive as they are, by having them take sudden, surprising action in pursuit of their goals.
Amanda’s still stuck on Anna’s unexpected demise. She’d planned on making her an entry point for a whole story arc—maybe not a powerful NPC, but a pretty important one nonetheless. So if Anna’s not going to be around anymore, Amanda at least wants to make something out of her death.
She decides that, while the death of a member of the Sun and Moon Society would go unnoticed by most of Riverton, a guy like Hugo the Charitable would certainly hear about it. He’d already taken notice of Landon after he fought off a few Scar Triad goons. And now this. This newcomer is clearly dangerous, potentially a threat. Worst, he doesn’t seem to be working for anyone.
Given Hugo’s high concept aspect of Everyone in Riverton Fears Me, he sees Landon as a potential asset for the Scar Triad. If you can’t beat ‘em, recruit ‘em.
Resolving the Scenario
A scenario ends when you’ve run enough scenes to definitively answer most of the story questions you came up with when you were preparing your scenario. Sometimes you’ll be able to do that in a single session if you have a lot of time or only a few questions. If you have a lot of questions, it’ll probably take you two or three sessions to get through them all.
Don’t feel the need to answer every story question if you’ve brought things to a satisfying conclusion—you can either use unresolved story questions for future scenarios or let them lie if they didn’t get a whole lot of traction with the players.
The end of a scenario usually triggers a significant milestone. When this happens, you should also see if the game world needs advancing too.