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War of Ashes

Adventure Creation, Expanded

This section expands on the advice provided in Chapter 9 of Fate Core using a method for writing scenarios called Fractal Adventures, which relies heavily on the Bronze Rule ofFate. It was created by author Ryan M. Danks, and a more detailed discussion of the method can be found on his website, starting with Fate Core: Adventure Fractal.

scenario or adventure is one short story arc, the sort of thing you might see wrapped up in one or two sessions of an adventure television show, even if it's a smaller part of a bigger story. Usually you can wrap up a scenario in one to three game sessions, assuming you play for three or four hours at a time. But what is a scenario, and how do you build one?

Creating A Scenario: The 30-Second Version 1. Pick a Goal and High Concept Aspect 2. Find Problems 3. Pick a Trouble Aspect 4. Scene List: Ask Story Questions 5. Pick Adventure Aspects and Approaches 6. Establish the Opposition 7. Set the First Scene Once you get the hang of it, writing an adventure should take about twenty minutes, assuming you already know what the story will be about.

Goal and High Concept Aspect

First, you need a goal; this is the problem(s) the story will center around. What is it the PCs want? Create an aspect to represent the goal; you can call it the adventure's high concept.

Once you know the goal, decide whether or not the PCs will obtain their goal—"maybe" is a sufficient answer here, relying on the PCs to determine success or failure on their own. It isn't always necessary that they succeed; failure leads to more adventures.

Find Problems

Scenarios are centered around a problem which the heroes will try to solve, encountering twists and turns as they move towards resolution.

A scenario needs two things: An adversary with a goal and a reason the PCs can't ignore it.

Adversary with a goal: You've probably figured this out already. The campaign's main opposition, or one of his allies, is probably your adversary.

Something the PCs can't ignore: Now you have to give the PCs a reason to care. Make sure the adversary's goal is up in the PCs' faces, where they need to do something about it or bad things will happen to them, or to people or things they value.

And that's how your "problem" is born.

Here's the best tool to make sure the PCs can't ignore the hook: go fishing from their character sheets for problems theywantto interact with, and from the campaign aspects for problems which they are bribed to tackle.

Problems and Character Aspects

Look at the characters' aspects and see if anything can make a nice juicy core problem for an adventure. When you're trying to get a problem from a character aspect, try fitting it into this sentence:

You have [aspect], which implies that [fact about that character or the world]. Because of that, it would be probably be a big problem if [describe a situation].

The second blank is what makes this a little harder than an event compel—you have to think about all the different potential implications of an aspect (and this may be a list of things, by the way). Here are some questions to help with that.

Who might have a problem with the character because of this aspect?

Does the aspect point to a potential threat to that character?

Does the aspect describe a connection or relationship that could cause trouble for the character?

Does the aspect speak to a backstory element that could come back to haunt the character?

Does the aspect describe something or someone important to the character that you can threaten?

As long as whatever you put in the third blank makes a nice story problem, you're good to go.

Ulf Long-Teeth has The Good Ship Blaggard, which implies that he inherited his ship from somewhere. Because of that, it would be a problem for him if he was challenged for command.

Iva the Stubborn is Searching for Her Banished Lover, which implies that her lover has enemies at home. Because of this, it would be a problem for her if she needed help from one of his enemies to find her lover's whereabouts.

Rustica Bibulus is a Connoisseur of Atronian Folklore, which implies that such folklore may contain elements of truth that have been overlooked by scholars. Because of this, it would be a problem for her if the pursuit of an obscure legend brought her face to snout with a mythical monster.

Problems and Game Aspects

Problems you get from a game's current and impending issues will be a little wider in scope than character-driven problems, affecting all your PCs and possibly a significant number of NPCs as well. The game aspects include the ones you chose in your campaign creation process, any scenario or adventure aspects, and perhaps some lingering aspects from a previous adventure.

Attach one or two aspects to the adventure you're designing; you can use the aspects suggested with every story seed in this book such as the ones attached to location descriptions, or come up with ones that are tailored for your group. As an incentive for players to get involved, you can allow one free invoke per adventure, or even one per game session for multi-session scenarios; alternately, you can use it as a compel on the PCs, offering them fate points for going along with the problem.

When you're trying to get a problem from a game aspect, try fitting it into this sentence:

Because [aspect] is an issue, it implies [fact about the character or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably create a big problem for the heroes.

Ask yourself:

What threats does the issue present to the PCs?

Who are the driving forces behind the issue, and what messed up thing might they be willing to do to advance their agenda?

Who else cares about dealing with the issue, and how might their "solution" be bad for the PCs?

What's a good next step for resolving the issue, and what makes accomplishing that step hard?

Because the Lost Island of Konar is an issue, it implies that the location is both hard to find and dangerous. Therefore, having to retrieve a map from Kuld-infested territory would probably create a big problem for the heroes.

Because Secrets of the Ice is an issue, it implies that the information is valuable, coveted, and protected. Therefore, reaching an elderly scholar and protecting him before rivals capture him would probably create a big problem for the heroes.

Because The Seal of Prolyus is an issue, it implies that the organization has gathered temporal power. Therefore, an alliance of the organization with a powerful Merchant House would probably create a big problem for the heroes.

Problems and Aspect Pairs

You can also create problems from the relationship between two aspects instead of relying on just one. That lets you keep things personal, but broaden the scope of your problem to impact multiple characters, or thread a particular PC's story into the story of the game.

There are two main forms of aspect pairing: connecting two character aspects, and connecting a character aspect to an issue. They look like this:

Two Character Aspects:

Because [character] has [aspect] and [another character] has [aspect], it implies that [fact about the characters or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably be a big problem for the heroes.

Ask yourself:

Do the two aspects put those characters at odds or suggest a point of tension between them?

Is there a particular kind of problem or trouble that both would be likely to get into because of the aspects?

Does one character have a relationship or a connection that could become problematic for the other?

Do the aspects point to backstory elements that can intersect in the present?

Is there a way for one PC's fortune to become another's misfortune, because of the aspects?

Because Ulf has Family Trumps Everything. Almost. and Iva has Single Mother With A Fawn, it implies that Ulf is loyal to his family but also understands family loyalty in others. Therefore, siblings of Ulf hired to kidnap Iva's fawn to blackmail her would probably be a big problem for heroes.

Because Rustica has Overachieving Elvorix Scholar and Ulf has Out to Make A Name for Himself!, it implies that they are both ambitious and competitive. Therefore, finding the clues to a treasure trove of Ancient artifacts, which Rustica wants to remain secret to all but the Academy, and which Ulf wants to describe in heroic tales of his mighty deeds, would probably be a big problem for the heroes.

Because Iva has Sponsored by the Stone-Seekers and Rustica has Owes Valius Nummus a Favor, it implies that their patrons have their own agendas. Therefore, Iva and Rustica both promising to bring back the same Ancient artifact, the Mask of Kuldarus, to their respective sponsors would probably be a big problem for the heroes.

Character Aspect and Game Aspect

Because you have [aspect] and [aspect] is an issue, it implies that [fact about the character or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably be a big problem for you.

Ask yourself:

Does the issue suggest a threat to any of the PC's relationships?

Is the next step to dealing with the issue something that impacts a particular character personally because of their aspects?

Does someone connected to the issue have a particular reason to target the PC because of an aspect?

Because Rustica has The Collected Notes of Peony the Elder and The Seal of Prolyus is an issue, it implies that the manuscript might be worth much to the secret organization. Therefore, the Seal of Prolyus trying to steal the notes from Rustica would probably be a big problem for her.

Because Ulf has The Good Ship Blagaard and Lost Island of Konar is an issue, it implies that Ulf will face some challenges when he sails his ship in search of the lost island. Therefore, theBlagaardbecoming trapped in a Bermuda Triangle-like area of sea would probably be a big problem for him.

Because Iva has I Can See Further Than You Ever Have and Secrets of the Ice is an issue, it implies that Iva will be interested in the long-term effects of the Great Catastrophe on the ice. Therefore, choosing between pursuing the mission the heroes undertook or dropping it to pursue new information about the cause of the new ice age would probably be a big problem for her.

You can also browse the story seeds in this book and see if any of them generate ideas for connections with your character aspects, issues, and campaign aspects.

Trouble Aspect

How will you make it inevitable that the PCs will act toward that goal? To keep tension as you move from scene to scene, create a trouble aspect. This should represent the danger or death that's overhanging in the adventure; again, if there's no chance of physical, psychological, or professional death at all times, there is no tension, which means a boring game. The trouble is what happens if the PCs ignore the adventure, and also what will step in from time to time and remind them why what they are doing matters.

Kim picks a few ideas from her list and lays the bare bones out in detail as a Fractal Adventure:

The Mask of Betrayal: Aspects

Goal: The Mask of Kuldarus

The PCs must locate and retrieve this item to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands.

Trouble Overhanging: The Seal of Prolyus Is On the Trail!

The wrong hands, or at least some wrong hands

Reinforcing the Themes

If you want the adventure's aspects to strongly color the action, make them known to the players and allow the players to invoke these adventure aspects like any other.

Scene List: Ask Story Questions

Once you have your goal, work backwards to create the scene list—scenes are where players get to play; without them, you have no game. This is where you need to create a list of story questions.

How do you flesh out the situation which you created with the problems? You start by asking lots of story questions as yes/no questions, in the general format of:

"Can/Will [character] accomplish [goal]?"

You don't have to follow that phrasing exactly, and you can embellish on the basic question format in a number of ways. The first question you will ask for a given adventure, but probably the last you will answer, is:

"Can the heroes resolve the adventure problem?"

All the other story questions will be the dotted line, the stepping stones leading to this one. Each can explore a specific facet of the problem, including who, what, where, when, why, and how.

The Mask of Betrayal: Problem and Story Questions Because Iva is Sponsored by the Stone-Seekers and Rustica Owes Valius Nummus a Favor, it implies that their patrons have their own agendas. Therefore, Iva and Rustica both agreeing to find the same Ancient artifact, the Mask of Kuldarus, and bring it back to their respective sponsors would probably be a big problem for them. Some questions immediately pop to mind because they are implied in the choice of aspects used to create the problem: Will Iva get the mask for the Stone-Seekers? or Will Rustica repay Valius Nummus? These are the questions we will be answering by the end of the scenario. In order to get there, we have to answer some other questions. We're reasonably confident that both Iva and Rustica will be interested in finding the mask, but Will Rustica agree to bring the mask back to Valius Nummus? If the answer is "no" right at the start, then Valius Nummus might decide to force the issue through some other means—persuasion, blackmail, threats—or he might try to locate the artifact himself, or hire a rival team. Will Iva and Rustica share with the group the requests their respective sponsors have made? Perhaps one or both will choose to keep it a secret. And if they share the information, Can the PCs come to an agreement on what to do with the mask? This might take the whole adventure to resolve, or they might immediately decide that one faction has better title to the prize. Do the heroes know where to find the mask? If not, then that's probably a chunk of the adventure right there, finding out the artifact's whereabouts. This is a good place in the adventure to use Rustica's scholarly abilities, Iva's arcane connections, and Ulf's mundane ones. Can they get there? Sometimes getting there is half the fun. Or all the fun. The players have shown interest for lost islands and sea adventures, and this will hook Ulf into the scenario, so Kim decides that there must be a sea voyage to a dangerous location protected by teeth-like reef formations and treacherous breakers. Is there a reason why neither the Stone-Seekers nor Valius Nummus have already obtained the artifact? There must be great difficulties in recovering the mask, otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure. Difficulty of access, dangers, guardians, even magical protection shield the mysterious artifact. Is there a reason to search for the mask now? If the group prefers to limit the amount of investigation in a given scenario, then perhaps a manuscript has just been discovered that talks about the location of the mask; that way, the problem is reduced to obtaining the manuscript and deciphering it. If on the other hand the players love investigation but tend to dissolve into analysis paralysis, perhaps the clock is driven by the fact that a rival team—say, Laetitia Bibulus and the Seal of Prolyus—is already on its way to retrieve the mask and put it to ill use. Do the PCs know what the mask's properties are? There is ample room for secrets and surprises. What does the thing do? Under what circumstances? Is Valius Nummus friend or traitor? To what ends does he wish to acquire the mask?

Pro Tip: Multiple Solutions

When you're asking your story questions that will lead to scene ideas, try to think of several different ways of completing a segment and several different paths to get the end questions, the ones that are wrapped up in the problem. One way to do this is to ask,How would a player or a group complete this if:

  • They want to investigate their way through?
  • They want to fight their way through?
  • They want to negotiate their way through?
  • They want to sneak their way through?

Jot down your answers for later use. As a rule of thumb, if you can't think of at least two or three ways to get the job done, then your scenes or adventure may be too narrow.

Assembling the List

What steps will the players need to take to achieve their goal? To bring a killer to justice, they might first have to discover his whereabouts, which requires discovering who he is, which may require questioning witnesses and following clues, which requires investigating the crime scene, which requires being alerted to the crime.

Read that backwards and you have your scene list: hear about the crime, investigate the scene, talk to witnesses and follow clues, discover the killer's identity, discover his whereabouts, take him down.

While reading this list, you might decide to increase the tension somewhere in the middle. Maybe a witness turns up dead, or a fight ensues between a masked killer and the PCs as they arrive just before a witness is murdered. This is logical, as the killer would want to throw off the investigation.

You can mark some scenes as core and others as optional; you can also jot down notes when some scenes need to be played in a specific order. Witness interviews and clue investigation can probably be played out in any order, for example, but the last few scenes may need to happen sequentially. If you know you will be limited by time when you run your game, you can concentrate on the core scenes and watch the clock to decide whether to lead into one of the optional scenes, such as the murder of a witness.

Kim uses her story questions to create a list of possible scenes:

The Mask of Betrayal: Scenes

The Theft: Valius Nummus' shop has been burglarized and the Teran manuscript stolen. Attributed to Tera Bibulus, the manuscript may contain clues to the location of the Mask of Kuldarus. Valius asks Rustica for help retrieving both manuscript and mask.

Recovering the Manuscript: Discovering the identity of the thieves and getting the manuscript back. Since the thieves used violence, there is probably going to be a physical confrontation.

The Stone-Seekers' Interest: The Stone-Seekers approach Iva and offer help in finding the Mask of Kuldarus, but ask her to bring it back to them, not Valius Nummus.

Researching the Mask: The PCs—most likely Rustica—will probably want to do a little background research into the history, location, and nature of the mask.

Race for the Prize: The PCs learn that another group is already on its way to recover the mask from its resting place. Set sail!

Nautical Adventures: Good time to encounter the rough climate of the World of Agaptus, pirates, sea monsters, and a fight against the rival team. This can become several scenes, depending on how much fun the players are having.

The Forbidden Temple: The PCs reach the location of the mask, brave its defenses, and face the competition for possession of the artifact.

Who Gets the Mask?: Valius Nummus wants it, as do the Stone-Seekers and the Seal of Prolyus, and perhaps a secret cult dedicated to protecting or using the mask. Some of these factions may be covert allies.

Important Note:

No plan survives contact with the PCs. If the scenes don't unfold in that particular order, that's perfectly normal. The PCs will manage to skip a scene through ingenuity, or make a scene irrelevant, or create a new scene by following some tangent they came up with. Go with it! You can always bring them back on track, or modify a previous scene on the fly to create the new scene.

In fact, it makes your life easier to plan on scenes that can be shuffled, combined, or removed so you can adjust them to fit the rhythm at which your game is unfolding.

Adventure Aspects

Now you can come up with your adventure aspects. Write two for each scene: one for the location/setting, and one for the obstacle the PCs will face. You can write more, but include at least these two. If the PCs will face no obstacle, then there is no tension. The scene will be boring and you need to delete it from your list. Even searching an abandoned war camp for information is an obstacle, Hidden Clues.

Kim thinks about who stole Valius Nummus' manuscript and how hard it should be to track them. She wants to bring in some physical confrontation early on and also point to the waterfront so Isaac, whose character Ulf is not directly tied to the Mask of Kuldarus, will not be left out.

Recovering the Manuscript: Discovering the identity of the thieves and getting the manuscript back. Since the thieves used violence, there is probably going to be a physical confrontation.

Obstacle Aspect: Cheap Hired Brutes

Environmental Aspect: Dark Alleys Near the Waterfront

The Opposition

Adventure Stats

Adventures use the following stats, which you can think of as its "skills" or "approaches":

Combat: This governs NPCs attacking, defending, and creating advantages using combative maneuvers.

Exploration: This sets the difficulty of (or opposes) PC attempts to interact with or move through the environment, whether that opposition comes from an NPC or another obstacle in the setting. This covers movement, investigating clues, discovering details, determining NPC initiative, allowing something to remain hidden from the PCs, etc.

Interaction: This is rolled to have the NPCs interact with the PCs.

Lore: Governs how difficult it is to know some relevant information that comes up in the adventure.

To set the adventure's stat ratings, set one of them at the same level as the PC's highest approach rating +1 (called Hard difficulty), then choose two to be at the same level as the PC's highest approach rating -1 (called Average difficulty) and one to be -3 lower (called Easy difficulty).

For instance, if the PCs' highest approach score is Good (+3), then you'd have a set-up of +4, +2, +2, +0. If you have an experienced group of PCs that have raised their approaches to Great (+4), then you would have a spread of

+5, +3, +3, +1.

Choose the scores so that they highlight the important aspects you have in mind for the adventure. Do you want this adventure to be a tough fight with low social interaction? Have Combat be your Hard approach and Interaction be Easy. Do you want a game of intrigue with next to no fighting? Use Lore or Interaction as your Hard approaches and Combat as your Easy approach.

This is what you'll be rolling for every NPC or setting element that comes into play against the PCs.

The campaign is just beginning and the PCs' top approach score is Good (+3), so Kim assigns +4, +2, +2, and +0 to the adventure approaches. She doesn't want to make it too difficult to find the mask, so she sets Exploration at Mediocre (+0), and she wants a lot of the questions left at the end to revolve around motives and factions, so she sets Interaction at Great (+4). Combat and Lore will thus be at Fair (+2).

Divine Interest: Bear in mind that in order to beat a Hard adventure approach of +5, your group of heroes will have to roll high enough to routinely risk "catastrophic success," a roll of +9 or higher, which incurs Divine Interest. When you, the GM, select the Hard approach, you're essentially deciding what, in this adventure, most risks attracting the attention of the gods.

Conversely, when selecting the Easy adventure approach, you're nudging the flow of the story by offering a place where the adventurers will have an easier time succeeding.

Characters and Creatures

The GM gets to play all the non-players characters or NPCs, be they support, allies, contacts, etc. But some of the most important will be those who present opposition for the PCs. You don't need to fill in a character sheet for every one of them; jot down only what matters. We have two main types of characters to track in the opposition: recurring adversaries and minions.

Adversaries: When you make an adversary, you can choose to stat them out exactly like the PCs, with approaches, aspects, stress, and consequences. You should do this for important or recurring adversaries who are intended to give the PCs some real difficulties, but you shouldn't need more than one or two of these in a given scenario.

Laetitia Bibulus ix Gailus and her ally Captain Volo Troll-Axe will definitely be recurring adversaries, so Kim thinks she will write fairly complete character sheets for them.

Minions: Other opponents are minions—unnamed soldiers, monsters, or brutes that are there to make the PCs' day a little more difficult, but they're designed to be more or less easily swept aside, especially by powerful PCs. Here's how you create their stats:

  1. Make a list of what this minion is skilled at. They get a Fair (+2) to all rolls dealing with these things.

  2. Make a list of what this minion is bad at. They get a Terrible (−2) to all rolls dealing with these things.

  3. Everything else gets a Mediocre (+0).

  4. Minions use the Fractal Adventure's approaches (Combat, Exploration, Interaction, and Lore) as modified by their abilities.

  5. Give the minion an aspect or two to reinforce what they're good and bad at, or if they have a particular strength or vulnerability. It's okay if a minion's aspects are really simple.

  6. Minions have zero, one, or two boxes in their stress track, depending on how tough you imagine them to be.

  7. Minions can't take consequences. If they run out of stress boxes (or don't have any), the next hit takes them down.

  8. Give the minion a weight 0 if they are smaller than a Sentian, 1 if they are Sentian-sized, 2 if they are bigger than a Sentian, 4 if they are the size of a small building, and more if they are even bigger! Note: This weight represents their physical size. If they have a particularly impressive intellect or social skills you can mark their weight in other arenas as well. See the"Weight" section for more details.

Since Volo Troll-Axe is captain of the Skyhammer, he must have a crew, but we don't need much detail on any of them; they are rank-and-file minions.

Vidaar Sailor

Weight: 1 (Sentian-sized)

Vidaar SailorWe Are Skyhammers!

Skilled (+2) at: Sailing, fighting with boarding axes, climbing in the rigging.

Bad (-2) at: Planning, social situations.

Stress

o

Astute gamers will have noticed that using "skilled at" and "bad at" are roughly the equivalent of giving minions a few stunts and flaws.

Groups of Minions (a.k.a. Mobs): If you have a lot of low-level opponents facing the PCs, you can make your job easier by treating them as a group—or maybe a few groups. Instead of tracking a dozen individual opponents, you track three groups of four minions each. Each of these groups acts like a single character and has a set of stats just like a single minion would:

  1. Choose a couple of things they're skilled at. You might designate "ganging up" as one of the things the group is good at.

  2. Choose a couple of things they're not so good at.

  3. Give them an aspect.

  4. Give them the same stress an individual would have plus one stress box for every two individuals in the group.

  5. Give the group a weight by adding up the weight of the individuals. This shouldn't go above 8. If it does, split them up into smaller groups.

When several crew members are acting together against the PCs, Kim will treat them as a group of rank-and-file minions. For example, a press gang might look like this:

Press Gang of the Skyhammer

Weight: 6 (6 crew members that are Sentian-sized)

Press GangVidaar SailorsWe Are Skyhammers!

Skilled (+2) at: Finding derelict shore parties, fighting with belaying pins, pressing civilians into service, ganging up.

Bad (-2) at: Standing up to organized groups, fighting when outnumbered.

Stress

oooo (6 crew members)

A mob of minions can use its weight to surround or split the the group of PCs. When it makes sense, the GM can treat a mob as a single unit—instead of rolling dice individually for each of three Vidaar brutes, just roll once for the whole mob.

Mobs typically have two to four stress boxes. When a mob takes enough stress to reduce it to a single minion, try to have that orphaned minion join up with another mob in the scene, if it makes sense. (If it doesn't, just have them flee. Minions are good at that.)

Swarms: Remember swarms? We talked about them on page 225. Swarms are groups of creatures which individually have a weight of 0, meaning they're too small to be a serious threat to the average character (annoying, yes; a threat, no). But when they swarm, they can increase their weight: a small swarm, the size of an average Sentian, is weight 1; a big swarm, one about the size of an Ur-Kuld, is weight 2; and a huge swarm, one as big as a Marhn, is weight 4.

Well, that's not the only thing they can increase: they can also increase their capacity to take harm. Small swarms typically have no stress boxes (meaning they are taken out by the first point of harm), big swarms have one stress box, and huge swarms have two or three.

Adding Opposition to the Adventure

Go through the list of obstacle aspects you assigned to each scene, and turn them into adversaries, minions, or at least adventure stunts (for example, for a violent storm).

In this adventure, Kim knows she wants Laetitia Bibulus and Captain Volo Troll-Axe as antagonists during the race to get the mask.

She has also listed as "live" opponents the cheap hired brutes who areSkilled (+2) at ganging up, scaring innocent people, and Bad (-2) at thinking ahead, fighting when outnumbered; and a tentacled sea monster who isSkilled (+2) at grabbing people off ships, sinking small boats, and Bad (-2) at everything else. The tentacle monster has a weight of 4 and the special monster stuntIt's Everywhere: No penalty for up to three attacks per turn.

There is also a school of nasty carnivorous little fish that can attack anyone who falls overboard at sea; Kim treats them as a medium swarm, giving them a weight of 2 and one stress box. She decides they areSkilled (+2) at swimming and biting and Bad (-2) at avoiding attacks from above.

Finally, she wants the environment of the Forbidden Temple and its surroundings to be very hostile, so she stats it like an antagonist and she gives it the stunt Skilled (+2) at creating physical danger advantages using Exploration and Hiding its Secrets and Bad (-2) at avoiding attention from explorers.

Setting Difficulties

When another character is opposing a PC, their rolls provide the opposition in a conflict, contest, or challenge. But if there's no active opposition, you have to decide how hard the task is.

Fixed difficulties: Some difficulties are already pre-defined: roaring, casting a ritual, moving multiple zones, etc. For those challenges, use the difficulties already assigned.

Adventure Approaches: If the adventure approach is applicable, use that. The heroes are exploring an island looking for an entrance to the secret temple? Use the Exploration approach for the difficulty. Trying to convince the angry spear-toting locals that they mean no harm? Use the Interaction approach.

If neither of those is applicable, here are some guidelines for making up difficulties on the fly:

Low difficulties are best when you want to give the PCs a chance to show off and be awesome. Difficulties near their approach ratings are best when you want to provide tension but not overwhelm them. High difficulties are best when you want to emphasize how dire or unusual the circumstances are and make them pull out all the stops.

Rules of Thumb: If the task isn't very tough at all, give it a Mediocre (+0)—or just tell the player they succeed without a roll.

If you can think of at least one reason why the task is tough, pick Fair (+2).

If the task is extremely difficult, pick Great (+4).

If the task is impossibly difficult, go as high as you think makes sense. The PC will need to drop some fate points and get lots of help to succeed, but that's fine.

In tense situations, any obstacle's difficulty can be set at two higher than the Approach used to overcome, so it is likely to need an Invoke.

Approaches and Difficulties: Sometimes being Careful makes things a lot easier; sometimes it just takes too long. The GM may wish to adjust the target number up or down by 1 or 2 depending on whether you choose a fitting or a problematic approach.

For example, there should be different difficulties, costs, and repercussions depending on whether the PCs decide to Forcefully break down a door, Sneakily pick the lock, or Cleverly come up with a legitimate excuse to be let in.

Set the First Scene

You've got the problem, the scenes, and the opposition. All you need now is to open with a strong scene that will make the players want to jump in and act. You want to create a strong opening situation that ties to the problem, and some good antagonist characters with agendas. The players' interactions with these will create the fiction.

Pick a book from your shelf of favorites that has a really good opening, say within the first ten pages, and ask yourself why you think it was strong. Usually, a scene that gets your attention swiftly has some intriguing setting, some questions that pique the reader's curiosity and are left open, and some sort of action scene or exciting event.

Now adapt these concepts to your adventure as needed. Look at your story questions and pick one which you think will get the players' attention immediately. If you don't see one in the list, it's time to ask more questions! Whatever question you ask in the opening must make the players want to answer.

Note that you don't actually have to start at the beginning. Sometimes it's good to open with a short prologue, a flashback, even a flash forward that will be followed by "Ten days earlier" in the next scene. All of these are good, but you have to articulate them clearly so the players can understand what you are doing.

Finally, remember that the game is about characters who are proactive, competent, and dramatic. Even if you start with a scene that puts the PCs on the defensive, don't describe them as being belittled or disempowered.

The Mask of Betrayal: Opening Scene Kim really wants for Rustica to take this seriously, and she wants the favor owed to Valius Nummus to be more than a business obligation. She's also not sure how much investigation her players are up for tonight, so she decides she will set things up so she can feed them useful information as needed if they don't feel like researching the history of the Mask of Kuldarus, by creating a manuscript that sheds light on the artifact. She opens with Rustica making a routine visit to the establishment of Valius Nummus, purveyor of books, scrolls, fine writing implements, rare texts, and occasional antiques—and finding the merchant amidst the wreckage of his shop, getting his bleeding head bandaged. As a conversation with him will rapidly reveal, Valius' shop was broken into and ransacked during the wee hours of the night. After shooing away his assistants, Valius confidentially tells Rustica that a manuscript he had recently acquired has been stolen. He tells her he was studying the badly damaged manuscript in the hope of learning the location of the Mask of Kuldarus. Clearly, someone learned of his studies and wants to reach the mask first. Valius asks Rustica to help him retrieve the manuscript and find the mask. This is a compel of Rustica's Owes Valius Nummus a Favor aspect.

That's it! You have your completed adventure, ready to share with your players. Don't forget to roll with their punches, and keep things fluid. Like most good outlines, this one is subject to change at a moment's notice. Don't force the issue of your perfectly devised plans. If the PCs get off-track, find a way to get them back to their goal—the adventure's trouble aspect, the reason it was inevitable or imperative that they pursue the goal, is a good motivator to get them back on track. But if they are merely pursuing the goal in a way you had not expected, let them!

Getting Better At It

Once you grasp how it works, the Fractal Adventure method is quick and straightforward to use when creating scenarios. The unified view makes it easy for the GM to react quickly since there is no sheaf of notes to thumb through, and having the adventure statted like a character makes the GM more like another player at the game table, less like the CEO of the gaming group.

Ultimately, if you are comfortable improvising in response to your players' ideas, all you really need in an adventure is a strong opening situation that ties to one of your issues, and some good antagonist characters with agendas. The players' interactions with these will create the fiction; the entire group will create scenes on the fly.