Elemental Appearance – Should it depend on the environment?
While driving around during a recent snowstorm (not much snow, but lots of wind), I…
What do you remember most about your favorite campaigns? I bet it boils down to one of three things… characters, plot, or encounters. Maybe setting could go into that pot as well. And of course none of it is possible without friends to play with. But mostly it’s those three key pieces.
I’ll probably talk about characters in another one of these rambles and we could talk about plot forever, but I seem to be stuck these days on encounters. Designing one of those unforgettable encounters is like the perfect storm of coincidence and preparation. And I’ve been trying to ferret out a way of defining them. Have I hit upon the perfect solution? Heck no. But I have come up with a scheme that I want to explore further…
So what are the elements of an encounter? I’ve narrowed it down to:
These are pretty common terms, so let’s just dive into an example.
An idea that came to mind for an encounter is this… Let’s say the party is in a small ruin and “randomly” comes across a child who has been lost in the dark for a few years, gone feral, and attacks the party. It takes a traditional fantasy world encounter (the dungeon delve) and gives it a bit of a real world twist. Now let’s figure out a few specifics by going through the 6 qualities we listed.
While working on this approach, I was chatting with Joshua O’Connor who is working on a supplement for Modiphius Entertainment‘s Achtung! Cthulhu series, and he is also wrestling with some encounter design issues. Though I’m attempting to use a more system-neutral approach, he’s designing for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds, which poses its own problems. How much detail do you go into? Too much gets “prescriptive” as he put it and too little begs the question about why you’re including any description of the encounter at all.
Ultimately I don’t know that there is a “one size fits all” approach. The “Six Qualities” I describe above leaves it wide open to interpretation and is more of a plot idea really than a single encounter. So is that what I’m trying to define?
If you break down the scenario from above into encounters, you might have a few:
Still open ended, but it offers a few concise plot points and the possibility of more bounded encounter definitions.
Which approach would you prefer? The less defined “Six Qualities” approach or the more concise plot points that usually accompany a module or adventure-based approach?