—Stephen King, On Writing
劇透 - :
CHAPTER 22:IMPROVISING SCENES AND SITUATIONS
“Plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”
—Stephen King, On Writing
As part of our preparation, we develop a loose list of scenes that might take place during a game session.Sometimes those scenes develop as we expect. Other times the game heads off in entirely new directions.
IMAGINE A LIVING WORLD
The world of the game should act naturally and realistically. NPCs don’t sit around waiting for the characters to show up. It’s not the GM’s job to plan out exactly how a game session will go. Your job is to set the stage, describe it to the players, and let them interact with it.
The rest of the world around the characters acts the same way. When the characters talk to the local sheriff, the sheriff might not care about them at all. She has her own problems. If she thinks the characters can help, that’s great. But she doesn’t exist only to deal with the characters. She’s there to help protect her town from the constant spate of odd happenings that always seem to occur there.
LET THE WORLD REACT TO THE CHARACTERS
As the characters start doing things, the world reacts to them. Their foes begin to take notice. Those foes might test the characters out with some low-challenge threats. Or they might decide to end their meddling before it starts by sending assassins after them. They might begin to fear the characters, sealing themselves behind potent defenses while they frantically work to bring their plots to fruition. The characters take actions, and the world reacts in response.
EXAMPLE: THE FORTRESS OF GRAYSPIRE
As part of our “Scourge of Volixus” adventure, we have a large location: the Fortress of Grayspire. When we think about the fortress, we want to put ourselves in the mind of the villain and think about what’s going on there.
Volixus has two dozen hobgoblins and three dozen regular goblins in his service, along with his ogre mercenaries. He might send two patrols with a couple of hobgoblins and six goblins around the area outside the fortress to make sure no one is trying to storm the castle. He might send out raiding parties with two of the ogre mercenaries, four hobgoblins, and ten goblins.
About a third of his forces are sleeping at any given time, and another third are usually out on patrols or raids. This leaves eight hobgoblins, twelve goblins, and two ogres awake at the castle. Volixus probably assigns a hobgoblin and a couple of regular goblins at each of the four watchtowers at the castle. The remaining hobgoblins, goblins, and ogres are likely in the yard, working on Volixus’s infernal war machine alongside the gnome alchemists and engineers. They might also be conducting exercises, cooking, packing away loot, or meeting with Volixus. From time to time, Volixus might go out on a raid along with his hell hounds.
Thinking through the setup of the monsters tells you what the situation looks like at Grayspire. The characters can find out much of this by interrogating prisoners or spying on the fortress. Though this all seems
detailed, you don’t need to plan it out ahead of time. You can simply keep these ideas in mind, or make them up as the game evolves.
This arrangement also doesn’t consider the characters or their actions. This is just how Grayspire operates. It’s what makes sense within the context of the story. If Volixus learns that a group of adventurers is trying to infiltrate Grayspire, or if some of his patrols and raiding parties start disappearing, he’ll react to this in whatever way makes sense for him to react. But how the characters deal with it is always up to them. You can guess at some approaches they might take, such as sneaking in through the tunnels beneath the Watchtower of Set and infiltrating Grayspire from inside. But that’s just one idea. The players will come up with many others.
CHECKLIST FOR BUILDING SCENES AND SITUATIONS
• Imagine the world as a living place.
• Monsters and NPCs fill out locations and roles as they would in the real world.
• The world and the NPCs within it react to the actions of the characters.