Thursday, April 16, 2009

Revisiting the First Adventure I Ever Wrote

I've made no attempt to hide my utter fascination with sandbox-style gaming. Last summer's old-school renaissance, with its focus on non-linear, location-based campaigning, struck me like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky. Here, I thought, was the sort of gaming that I had been striving toward for most of my adult life. I've seen the light!

Well, almost.

See, I had an opportunity last weekend to dig through my old RPG notebooks. The earliest was from 1997, when I had become enamored with West End Games' Star Wars RPG. At this point, I'd owned the game for several years—indeed, it was the first RPG I ever owned—but hadn't yet had an opportunity to play it with anyone. I was 15 at the time, and I cobbled together a campaign to run for my high school friends. The game quickly degenerated into a fairly traditional "adventure path" type of campaign, with the PCs shuttling across the galaxy following clues I had painstakingly arranged for them to follow and interacting with PCs that served only to further the game's plot. It was my own original work, but I was definitely railroading them.

But that first adventure, when I was still trying to lure my friends into regular gaming, was different. I had no clue how to write an adventure. All I knew was that my friends—occasional D&D dabblers—had a tendency to run all over the place and get into trouble. Knowing that, I made a location-based introductory adventure set on a wacky space station full of cantinas, bazaars and brothels. I had a few scripted encounters, sure, but my primary motivation was making sure I could react appropriately when they tried to do crazy stuff.

And it worked! We had a great time playing, and the one and only goal of this adventure (get the players a starship!) worked out well.

Fast forward 12 years, and here I am, re-discovering those very fundamental elements of making games hum. Doubtless my 15-year-old self has a few more lessons in store for my 27-year-old self to discover.


Supah said...

That lesson from your 15-year old self is certainly a core one - dreaming up locations and characters definitely allows the GM to be flexible when facing the messy first contact with players.

Here's a lesson from my 15 year old self that I always try to remember: Lazar swords that can cut through anything are cool!

Seriously. I love talking and theorizing about rpgs. But I don't ever want to forget that hard nugget of wacky 15 year old fun that sits at the base of all this. It's so punk rock. And at least for me, it's the essence of the "old school."

Patrick W. Rollens said...

I still remember one of the prepackaged encounters from that first adventure. The characters were visiting an exotic animals show and a freakin' wampa got loose and started tearing the place apart! They pwned it hard, winning the trust of a local crime lord in the process. This makes me miss d6 Star Wars...