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The Hourlong Drama Television Structure and What an Act Is

By : Frank Lee
So to keep you up to date on my work the last few days, I'm going to go over episodes from three different television shows as an exercise in understanding how we organize narratives. The shows will be Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation (Excelsior!). And I'm going to start by taking an example episode from each one, analyzing its act breaks, and then I'll look into how one might create an adventure scenario around one of them.

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Game of Thrones on HBO is a popular fantasy-genre drama right now, normally the episodes fly all over the place focusing on 20 different or so characters, often only giving one scene to each, maybe two if they're special. If I had just looked at their episodes on paper, I would wonder if such a design could ever work, but of course it does. Your brain easily flies all over Westeros and then across the ocean to see whatever the Khaleesi is up to. But unfortunately that ensemble design doesn't have much use for creating roleplaying games.

So instead I'm going to focus on one of their uncommon single focus episodes, Blackwater, where the siege of King's Landing is about to to take place, pitting the crown-holding Lannisters against the invading Lord Stannis Baratheon.

I've heard that HBO shows often use a four act structure, though I know no more than that. As we'll see, one of the main points of this blog post is to show that an act structure is a lot more than the number of acts. But I will assume a four act structure since after analyzing the episode that makes as much sense as any other possible structure. I won't go so far as to post the whole scene list, but there are 25 scenes (more or less), starting with [SPOILER ALERT] the prelude to the attack by Stannis showing worried Lannisters, especially focused on Tyrion Lannister, the disrespected dwarf son who is nonetheless commanding the defense of the city by proxy for his nephew King Joffrey.

After about 7 scenes the battle actually begins. Things go well for Tyrion in his first moves of the battle, and I think that's the point of this second act. We identify with Tyrion and as his prospects rise and fall, so we also gain hope or feel despair. Tyrion manages to blow up half of Stannis' fleet through alchemy, severely cutting into the invaders 5-to-1 manpower advantage. There is some additional plot covered as Cersei Lannister, mother of the King and brother to Tyrion drunkenly berates Sansa Stark in a cellar hiding place.

Now about 15 scenes into the show, Stannis lands his forces and we see a reversal in the tone of events. Lannister forces try to force back Stannis with arrows, and by sending a small force outside to hold the vulnerable gate he is sending his battering rams toward. But the force falls back and the arrows aren't enough. Cersei orders a knight to go get her son King Joffrey off of the walls and into safety, which suits the cowardly Joffrey just fine. The men are dispirited to see their King flee, and the logistics of Stannis' advantage in terms of men is becoming apparent. Characters see that there is little chance the outmanned city forces can actually prevail. We come down as an audience by this point, things are bad. Though we may also want to see the Lannisters get what's coming to them aside from Tyrion, in which case, things are good. But either way, things are going poorly for the Lannisters and Tyrion, and well for the stiff and characterless Stannis Baratheon.

However, now at the 22nd scene Tyrion gives an inspired speech to his men, and leads them outside to ambush the Baratheon men at the walls and destroy their siege equipment. Now will this work? The truth is, as television audience members, we don't know! We don't know how many men remain, or what technical factors are currently affecting battle conditions. After all, historically speaking, running outside of your walls to fight a sieging army is a really terrible idea, because the walls are what's giving you an advantage. So who knows, the point is, dramatically speaking, it feels like anything is possible. We've had an set-up act to get us worried, we've had a positive act to get us hopeful, we've had a negative act to make us despair, and now it comes down to this. It's going to be a life-or-death struggle to decide things.

Tyrion has some success before almost falling to a murder plot by his own sister. As he passes out he sees even more men charging his position and we in the audience are left with no knowledge of what is happening for a minute. But right before Cersei poisons herself and her little, far less evil than Joffrey, son, Tywin Lannister, her father, bursts in the doors of the throne room announcing they have won. The men were his relieving army and they cast Stannis back to the sea.

As you read, I think the act structure behind such shows is predicated on the flow of the narrative emotionally. There's four acts, but more importantly, the design is such that we have a first act for exposition, two acts in the middle to bring us up or down, and a final act where things are meant to seem precarious for both victory and defeat. That's a different philosophy than you're going to use when writing an RPG adventure, though the up and down, yo-yo of drama is still a tool you may apply. Heroes can face whatever issue the plot throws at them and succeed at first, then face a second wave of tougher challenges that they must largely survive, only then to face an even wrestling match to decide who will be the actual victor.

Of course one can reverse that order, have the first wave of challenges be overwhelming, then allow some success, only to find that success partial, and face a renewed enemy for a final confrontation. Or you can repeat the process indefinitely for as many acts as you like.

You may recognize this up and down tool of the narrative if you've ever read any screenwriting books. It's definitely a way to inject conflict and interest, rising and lowering our hopes over and over again. Though using it as the primary tool (as I've read it suggested by some popular how-to books) seems rather shallow when writing a screenplay.

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Next let's look at an episode or two from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here the acts are clearly defined by the script, this show uses a teaser to start, then follows with four acts. If you spend much time analyzing television show scripts you'll see some of them follow a structural formula very closely in just about every episode. Not just in terms of the act breaks which must remain consistent for television production purposes, but the events within the acts themselves are like a paint-by-numbers for plot. Buffy is one such show.

My favorite episode of the whole series was Hush, despite taking place within that stupid "Initiative" plot arc of season four. The teaser on Buffy sets up the eventual main plot (the plot with a villain, often a demon), here Buffy has a creepy dream warning her of a coming menace to Sunnydale.

Once those couple minutes are out of the way the show can spend a leisurely first act introducing us to what our main characters are currently up to. Demons come and go every episode, but the characters themselves have arcs that last all season, this first act doesn't worry about the main plot of the episode so much as it worries about continuing those character arcs, as well as defining the episode "moral," which will be explored further thanks to the main plot.

For Hush, every character is about to lose the ability to speak, so they all have trouble communicating with words. For Buffy, words get in the way; for Xander, he can't adequately express himself through words; for Willow, she can find no connection at college through the local Wiccan group, as they are all talk. But at the end of this act a group of demonic "Gentlemen" roll into town and use a magic box to steal the voice of everyone in town.

The second act of Buffy is about things going wrong. In this episode it's obvious right away there's a problem, the entire town has lost their voice completely, and the characters know black magic is invariably going to be the cause. In other episodes the fact that an evil plot is afoot may not even be known to start the act. The characters look for solutions and struggle with the fact that they must communicate with erasable marker boards, until the demons strike that following night, finding victims in their beds and cutting their hearts out, all while they are unable to even scream for help.

The third act is about figuring out what to do about the main plot, while in turn the villain ratchets up their efforts. Giles discovers information on the demons in question, and silently explains that they come to a town to collect a certain number of hearts before they move on and that the only way to kill them is with a live human voice. The characters must figure out what to do from there. Also the plot will usually resolve lesser subplots during this act.

Anyway, the efforts lead to Buffy finding the demons hideout in a tower, where she and her boyfriend fight them, meanwhile Willow's new Wiccan girlfriend discovers a spell to return everyone's voices, but is found by the Gentlemen on her way over to Willow's and is chased until she meets Willow and two of them try to barricade themselves in a laundry room.

Finally the fourth act resolves things, Buffy sees a magical box containing all the voices, recognizing it from her dream during the teaser, Willow and her girlfriend combine magical powers to move a laundry unit in front of the door just in time to prevent it from being broken down, Buffy's boyfriend smashes the box and Buffy kills the whole lot of demons with a scream. Then we have denouement where everyone moves on.

I don't like to ever shoehorn on ideas that don't fit, but with that in mind, I think it is possible to imagine designing adventure sessions along similar lines. In four acts you start with just the characters engaging in on-going troubles or relationships or other maintenance level needs. The second act is where trouble falls, but the heroes are not in a position to confront the problem, they don't know enough. The third act allows them to finally get their resources together and begin overcoming challenges that stand in their way of eliminating the final problem. Then the fourth act is the big climactic confrontation.

It's actually quite similar to the three act structure one sees in investigative RPGs, where the first act is spent gathering info about a known problem, the second act is spent overcoming the hurdles between the heroes and their ultimate plan to foil villainy, and the third act is a climactic battle. Except we add in another act at the beginning, basically an act one where nobody knows any problem exists, and indeed the evil plot only really gets kicking at the very end of that first act (though you can always tease it at the very beginning).

Conceivably you could do shorter(-ish) adventures using this structure with a group of RPG characters who have lives outside their latest adventure (lives that are dramatically interesting that is). Let them play out four scenes in this first act, then another four in the second act as they react to the trouble befalling them. Once they've got a clue or two about what's going on, give them just two or three challenges to overcome in the third act so they can get through them quickly, and then of course, have a final battle at the end for the fourth act. You've got a 12-15 scene adventure right there.

And you can even use some additional formula within the acts to make it easier on yourself. Buffy often has characters split up in the third act and one is solving the problem and the other is surviving the problem (makes it easier than cramming everyone into the same scenes I suppose) along with a variety of other commonalities. Just something to keep in mind.

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Finally let's look at Star Trek: The Next Generation. Who wouldn't want to run an episodic sci-fi adventure like that as an RPG? Star Trek is written in five acts with a teaser at the beginning. Star Trek is not radically different from Buffy, but it does show more variation in how the plot works because there are a variety of different types of stories they can go into. It's not always just a villain causing trouble.

For example, in the episode Cause and Effect, the teaser shows the Enterprise collide with another ship and explode. But they immediately come back for the first act, only to end the act by replaying the events we saw in the teaser, and they explode again. They're stuck in a time loop and each act ends with them colliding with another ship and exploding.

But the show still manages to follow it's normal arc. The first act introduces the problem. The second act "deepens" the problem, things usually get worse for our intrepid crew. The third allows for the crew to react somewhat to the problems, but generally things get worse. In the fourth act, things get worse still, but finally the crew seems to figure out some solution that may or may not win the day. Then the fifth act allows for a final struggle in which the outcome of the plot (and often whether several characters live or die) is resolved. In Star Trek the heroes always win, like in most shows, but we go on that journey anyway. Basically the show spends the first act introducing the problem, the next three acts digging a deeper and deeper hole, and the last act allows our heroes to finally implement a solution. One they more or less use the third act and especially the fourth act coming up with.

If you were going to do an adventure like this, basically you're going to pile on the PCs, using a problem that just keeps getting bigger and more unbeatable, until at the end, when the chips are really down, they are presented with challenges which they can overcome to save the day. One could organize an adventure around a very involved first act where we quickly find out the problem (usually we find out some inkling of the problem, then the ship takes awhile to fly through space to get there so we can have some character-based scenes, then we go back to the main problem). Then you just have challenges that the crew has to survive, maybe one or two per act, through the second through fourth acts, except in the fourth act the challenges also include ones like figuring out how you can save the day given what you know about the problem.

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Different act structures suit different story types better or worse. Television is all about a roller-coaster ride. The acts yo-yo you around, worrying about the heroes, watching them get out of sticky situations, only to get right back in them again. The acts all end on cliffhangers (well at least on network, where antiquated ideas about how we watch TV still rule with an iron fist), so we are left wondering what will happen after all those commercials are over. (I usually forget what I'm watching halfway through the commercial break, and certainly don't remember the cliffhanger, not to mention even if I did, how many thousands have I seen and how many of those always ended with the heroes surviving and the show not derailing? Like all of them.)

An act is really just a term for a group of scenes, how you group them, that's up to you! The five acts used in Star Trek are quite different than the five acts used by Shakespeare. And you can even apply that to your adventure writing or solo roleplaying efforts. If you start with the three act structure I present in my book, where you have a first act of events that introduce the story, a second act of challenges where you must overcome hurdles until you can enact your final plans to save the day, and a third act where you save the day, you can begin modifying those acts into smaller and more focused units. A "first act" that is only about stuff that doesn't involve the main plot for that adventure, followed by a "first act" that is only about discovering clues over a mysterious criminal incident. Or a "second act" where the challenges are all about dealing with the villain's attacks, only later to be followed by "second acts" that involve discovering means to thwart said villain.

In such a way you could make a five act adventure with a totally idle first act using the first act design of the basic three act structure from my book, then a second act using the first act design, except focused solely on events caused by the main plot. Then have two acts following that based on the second act design, where the first of the two is all about the villain enacting his evil plan, while they second is all about the heroes striking back. Then a traditional final act where the forces of good and evil battle it out.

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Hopefully that all helps you expand your story structure horizons assuming you've never studied TV shows before. The things I appreciate most from them is their great attention to the dramatic back and forth of danger/failure to hope/success, and the many different forms they show us we can use when designing a story. They oftentimes lack the depth in act design you'd hope to see in, say, a play, but even Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation offer us themes and morals behind their stories of demons or space anomalies.

Next time I will look at Shakespeare's Five Act Structure using his four Great Tragedies: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and MacBeth. And then after that I'll get back into RPGs proper, and look the designs of the great-sized modular campaigns of Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyalarthotep, Beyond the Mountains of Madness, and Horror on the Orient Express to see how they function and how they could even be improved. Hope you enjoyed this long post, and enjoy the rest of them as well, until next time-


Working with One Acts and Two Acts

By : Frank Lee
When it comes to story design for RPGs there seems to be one principal form which has three parts: a problem arises, the heroes then take an active role in solving it, and finally you have a climax in the action and the problem is resolved (if the heroes are successful). To put it in an example, a dragon steals a town's entire population of fair maidens, your heroes decide to help the town by tracking down the dragon and finding a weapon big enough to use against him, then they sneak into his lair and do battle.

This is how three act adventures work, this is also how one act adventures work. One acts that I've studied have the same structure, but they're pretty short so it seems silly to call them three acts. Still you could if you wanted to. Some one acts I've broken down may only be 6 to 10 scenes in length, but they'll spend the first 40% providing exposition for PCs, the next 40% throwing challenges and demanding action from the PCs, and then save the last 20% for setting up a final confrontation (because you want the biggest challenge/fight/difficulty to come at the end).

This information is hardly mind=blown, but once you know it, and you know you know it, you can use it to guide story building tools like the Story Charts in my upcoming book. The two work hand-in-hand. So you're not just pulling random ideas out of the ether and wondering how to turn a jumble of potential events into a story that doesn't feel lame.

Two acts are a little different, but instead of coming up with a different form of events as covered above, they simply take two one acts and put them back-to-back within the same narrative. So what does that mean? You start off with a problem and exposition, the heroes take some action to resolve it, except when we get to what normally would be the ending, instead a bigger problem arises because of their efforts. And then the process is repeated, the heroes gather information, develop a plan of action, and finally this time we reach a climactic ending.

You've seen countless two acts in your life if you watch television sitcoms. It's a great form for allowing characters to over-react to an initial problem, cause their own new problems, and then struggle to get out of them. It allows for a lot of comedy at the expense of the constantly messing up characters, and it also allows for an eventual return to the original stasis we started the show with.

For example, on The Simpsons in an episode I recently rewatched, the Simpsons' house has a foundation problem and is sinking sideways into the ground (an initial problem!). Homer can't cover the cost of the repairs, but after an old man is forcibly retired from Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant, Marge applies for his job to make the extra money (an active attempt to solve the problem). But while she gets the job and the money to repair the foundation, Mr. Burns falls in love with her at first sight and tries to woo her (an even bigger problem arises out of our heroes attempts to solve the problems of the first act). He then fires her when he finds out she's married, so Marge tries to get Lionel Hutz to sue Mr. Burns (attempt to solve problem of second act). But that doesn't work, however, an angered Homer demands Mr. Burns apologize to his wife, and Mr. Burns, touched by Homer's concern sends Homer and Marge on a romantic weekend getaway.

Two acts, both completely silly, starting with what is really just some throw-away problem in the first act to cause events to happen, leading to a problem involving greater emotional stakes for Mr. Burns and for Marge, then finally coming to a happy ending where stasis is fully returned (Marge no longer works at the power plant, the house is level again, and the characters can move on with their lives).

Of course one does not need to return the characters to their original lives, with no progression, just because you use a two act. And you could also write sitcoms in three acts.

Now good stories for consumption as a viewer, and not as a character yourself, often have different requirements for success, ones that are usually accomplished by taking the middle of a story and breaking it down into its own necessary parts. But there's still something to learn by studying those methods for a GM. I'll cover what we can glean from popular one hour television dramas (in case you want to have your own Game of Thrones or Star Trek style game sessions), provide a proper 5 Act analysis from the Shakespearean perspective better than any you'll find elsewhere on the internet, and discuss modular adventure design in my next few blog posts. And post some samples from the Horror and Sci-Fi story charts so you can see how they're coming along!

Until next time-

Arkham [Trail of Cthulhu solo roleplaying and story creation]

By : Frank Lee

Welcome to Arkham, a solo campaign and story creation using Trail of Cthulhu. The idea behind this adventure is that it's set in a story-verse akin to an HBO series about Lovecraft's writing. Imagine a cross between Game of Thrones and Lost, but in Arkham, Massachusetts. The great thing about the Adventure Creator is that it's tools are completely expandable and adaptable, meaning you're free to use any story structure you want, including a TV script act structure! Much like a viewer tuning into a show for the first time, I have very little idea as to what the actual plot is, or who the characters will be. But I don't need to! Let's begin.

This adventure will start soon!

So I already have some ideas about what this will be about. It's a story that slowly involves an ever increasing group of characters who in are in Arkham, who must oppose or otherwise be entangled in the plot of an ancient warlock who plans to utilize his profane knowledge to take a large step into godhood.

I'm going to try and organize things into ten episode seasons, each using four acts like I covered in my post about using TV structure. This could of course turn into an overly long nightmare of a campaign if I plan on going several seasons and don't do something to manage the time. As such I'm going to be trying to emulate a television show's speed as well as structure. Scenes will occur quickly, I'm going to try and improvise rather than roll and consider the setups to scenes, and instead focus my story-creating energy on each act and what I want it to contain.

Let's get started making up some basic characters from the Trail of Cthulhu system. I'm going to try and keep the action and description more narrative, including in the character creation, though I will interject with information about the crunchy rules and such with little editor tags [Like this!]. So let's think up some characters and get their character sheets filled out.

I know the first character I want is a young woman, an out of towner who is Arkham for some extended stay. She'll be a nice viewpiece for the audience (that's me and you!), and perhaps the heart of the story as one of the main characters. Let's say she's 24, named Alice Cobbleton and we'll figure out her job and why she's in town.

Looking over the rules, I have a background in mind, Alice is the daughter of a well-to-do family and has been sent north to Arkham to help take care of her ailing grandmother, who none of the family thinks has very long, but may as well be comforted by the presence of a close granddaughter than just the company of some nurse. She doesn't have to work a job, but instead plans to provide some pleasant company and generally have a low-key few months in a city she doesn't think will have much to offer her.

Alice is not the type to join in the party of the roaring 20s, yet a part of her secretly wishes she could: the anonymous newspaper accounts of famous speakeasies, the people there, the wild times being had, she wishes she could write stuff like that. She's an amateur columnist, but she has a hard time finding anything truly worth writing about.

[Alice has the Dilettante career, and since she's an aspiring writer she's received a variety of related skills such as library use, art, and oral history. She's also a wily and resourceful protagonist and has received a variety of helpful skills for someone in her position such as assess honesty, sense trouble, and stealth. She has a 6 Stability (lowish), meaning situations can easily shock her, but an 11 Sanity (highish), meaning she has a deep inner reserve of strength and is able to withstand horror and stress over the long term.]

Now let's figure out some other important tropes of a Lovecraftian world that we just can't leave out. We'll have a private investigator, he'd work as the perfect foil for our young lady. We'll need Miskatonic University involved so we'll need a professor or two, maybe a grad student. There's no way I can't have a jazz club in town be involved, so why not make a jazz musician and a few NPC buddies. That won't be everything, but that's a pretty good start for now.

Our private investigator, Henry Moscinski, he's the tough as nails type. Knows a lot about the world of cops but would never work as one as he has a neurotic distaste for society's authority and means of control. Slightly more handsome than a Dashiell Hammett character, he's not the type to deeply question himself or how he lives his life. He'll handle terrible situations without stopping to think too deeply about them, which will provide him some small protection mentally.

[He's a pulp style P.I. He's good at beating people up, talking people over, and being moody in a masculine sort of way. He's only got a Sanity of 8 to start, he doesn't have a lot of pillars of mental strength to begin with, he isn't religious, isn't a patriot, and doesn't really have faith in anybody but those who show they possess moral character explicitly.]

For Miskatonic University, I'm sure the tale may eventually pull in a pile of NPCs, but we'll start with a PC professor and graduate assistant. They'll both be involved in the field of ancient languages and writings. Our professor, let's make him male, English, and around 60. The graduate student can be a woman, around 26.

Arthur Pennrose is 61, a professor of ancient languages, and is well versed in many of the mythological writings of early human history. He's generally going to be good at academic things like ancient languages and history and dealing with department chairs. His main drive will be Curiosity, he's not some out of control academic seeking ever higher plateaus of knowledge, rather curious and likely criminal events at Miskatonic will lead him into discovering more of the story.

Mildred Daly is his graduate assistant. She's getting close to receiving her PhD herself, maybe in another year or so. She knows basically what Dr. Pennrose knows, though her general skills include more athleticism and stealth, being young and still fit. Her main drive is that of a Follower.

The jazz musician character will be a sort of diamond in the rough type, he lives a fun life of playing jazz music in speakeasies, but he's surrounded by mundane people without much purpose. He, however, has the spark of adventure in him, which causes him to be quick to get himself involved where he doesn't belong. He's part of a jazz trio, so he's got two good friends and bandmates with him.

Let's name him Glen Harper, trumpet player, occasional singer, and leader of a jazz trio. Him and his friends Angelo and Bernard make enough to get by playing in the clubs around Arkham and some surrounding stops. Being up late at night at anti-authoritarian establishments can lead to spending time with trouble causing people. Glen's only 28, but from the way he acts if he told anyone he was 40 they'd believe it without question. His drive is Adventure.

That'll be enough to get the story started and we'll find the rest of the characters as we go. For now I think these characters will all provide different introduction points to the story, and we'll be able to bounce around between them until they eventually meet and become one unified PC group. Which should take a few episodes!

With all that said, let's move on to our pilot episode...

Knights of the New Republic [FFG Star Wars solo roleplaying]

By : Frank Lee

Welcome to the Knights of the New Republic solo roleplaying campaign! Using FFG's new Star Wars roleplaying game, this game is set around 40 years after the end Return of the Jedi, and naturally assumes the Prequels never happened and ignores them completely. So let's get started!

This adventure will start soon! Like right below this line, it's already begun! That's fast!

Inspired by the new JJ Abrams movies and some amount of the classic DarkStryder campaign, this adventure will use the "cinematic" rules of Fantasy Flight Games new Star Wars roleplay books, Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion. I've decided to not try and include a "movie style" adventure structure proper in my book (movie structure is both quite variable, and largely quite sucky), instead this adventure will follow the modular adventure design which is itself very cinematic.

Let's setup the story...

A long time ago in a galaxy a super long ways away the Galactic Empire crushed the millennia-old Galactic Republic and nearly wiped out the Jedi after they had fallen into a period self-righteous decline. Fortunately that only lasted for like 20 years, and then the Republic was restored, which one would assume should be pretty easy since it had been going on for thousands of years and was only interrupted for a couple decades. Still the threat of the evil force using Sith remained, along with a large renegade presence fostered by periods of both lawlessness and tyranny. To combat these threats task forces are routinely launched to the edges of the galaxy, helping to make sure the Sith do not rise again and that the civilized law of the Republic is observed by those who would wish to suppress and oppress worlds that cannot defend themselves.

The 'Dawn of Serenity' is a cruiser of the Republic used in such a manner. A fast ship, only requiring a small crew for actual operations, it carries a compliment of commandos, a small squadron of fighters, and three young Jedi knights of the reformed and refreshed Jedi Order. The crew has recently received new orders to investigate a disturbance along the Outer Rim. Freshly supplied and ready for their mission the ship departs for it's destination.

Let's meet the crew...

So this adventure is going to do a couple novel things to show off what you can do with a solo adventure, one of those things is utilize a large ensemble crew. There are eight featured characters in the game, along with a crew of lesser recurring extras that will only appear when needed.

Captain - Jenyss Ghraystar
Attitude - Serious; Social - Unflappable; Character - Egotistical to Moral
Flaw - Can be callous.
Oddity - Afraid of insects.

Commander [NPC] - Teggo Iyonsteen
Attitude - Inquisitive; Social - Merry; Character - Righteous

Navigator [NPC] - Kloos Klango
Attitude - Anxious; Social - Fast Talking; Character - Self-Deprecating
Oddity - Loves science.

Chief Mechanic [and Astromech] - Kaymee Hutstruff and NVM-5
Attitude - Show-Off; Social - Vulgar; Character - Calm to Obedient
Flaw - Untrusting
Oddity - Very young looking.

Personality - Squeamish

Squadron Leader [and three NPC pilots] - Argo Highwind
Attitude - Aviricious; Social - Alluring and Strong Presence; Character - Narcissistic to Respectful

Ellaxo Blacksun
Personality - Charming

Varin Hothsleet
Personality - Moody

Penerioa Whallquex
Personality - Strange

Commandos - Greer Xulon and Namarri Lightspear
Attitude - Sanguine; Social - Dumb (purposefully so, graceless); Character - Generous to Chivalrous
Attitude - Clever; Social - Spontaneous; Character - Resolute to Humble

Jedi Knights - Haywren Mordkall, Bing Fallaxen, and Leandrre Groulkynn
Attitude - Enthusiastic; Social - Plain; Character - Romantic to Brave
Attitude - Gallant; Social - Prim and Proper; Character - Mercenary to Exacting
(Mercenary in that she quickly gravitates to those who will give her an advantage or what she wants.)
Attitude - Dangerous; Social - Cranky; Character - Disciplined to Honorable

That should give me some good guidelines to roleplay by. And the characters can all develop and grow as the campaign moves forward. So now let's get on to the Plot Sheet...

The Play's the Thing [WFRP Adventure Creation]

By : Frank Lee
The Play's the Thing is an adventure written for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I'm creating it using the Adventure Creator as an example of how you can create full size adventure supplements for your favorite RPGs to play with your group or share with others.

In the case of The Play's the Thing it is being used to replace the Something's Rotten in Kislev adventure in The Enemy Within Campaign. Using the Adventure Creator I'm confident I can create a far better fitting tale for the storyline of the campaign, and also set an adventure in the independent city of Marienburg, which is the subject of Anthony Ragan's delightful Marienburg: Sold Down the River sourcebook.

The adventure writing has already begun and let's check out the first step!

So if you're a fan of WFRP 1st edition, you probably know about The Enemy Within Campaign, and if you know about The Enemy Within Campaign then you probably know its reputation as three incredible starting adventures, followed by a fourth total-WTF-off-the-rails adventure, and then a not-that-great epic finale that totally rewrites the setting of The Empire and was completely ignored. And if you didn't know about those things, now you sort of do.

Alright, so we know what we want to write a spiffy new adventure with the help of the Adventure Creator and we know what we want the adventure to be about. Let's do it!

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Step One: The Adventure Creator Plot Sheet

Whenever we want to create a new adventure we start by coming up with an overall plot outline. And the Adventure Creator helps us do that with the Plot Sheet, which is just a premade series of idea prompts that you'll fill in with the Story Charts. Here's an example of what I mean:

Plot Device: New Leadership - Villains plan to replace the current hierarchy of power.
Plot Device: Death Cult - An evil group gets innocents involved under false pretenses.

What we've got above here are two "Plot Device" prompts, and I've rolled twice on the Plot Device Charts (one of the many charts that make up the Story Charts and provide you with ideas) to get the results. So the first roll on a d1000 was a 349, which is "New Leadership." And the second one is 770, which is "Death Cult." I just copy down the result, along with the short blurb describing the result so I'll remember what it means.

The Plot Sheet just provides me with a premade sheet that has a variety of different prompts for me to fill in with the Story Charts. All those random ideas will then help me add onto the ideas I already have.

* * *

I already know I want this adventure to take place in Marienburg. Also I got some inspiration from that old adventure Something's Rotten in Kislev, and thought I should make another title based on Hamlet. Since I like theatre I went with The Play's the Thing, and decided to include the theatre scene in Marienburg as an important element in the story. Also I'd like to have a famous young actress be one of the important NPCs, and since I think this story should be about important people and events, the backdrop to everything will be high society functions and dealings with very important city figures.

Now let's roll up some results on that Plot Sheet, and I'll give you a little warning here, I decided to add on even more prompts than you'll find on the basic Plot Sheet just to experiment and give myself lots of ideas. And it's important to remember, you're encouraged to adjust and add-on to everything you find in The Adventure Creator and Solo Gm Guidebook. But let's see some of the results I got...

Scheme/Plot Maker
Genre: Evil Group
Opposition: A Close Friend
Motivation: Further Goals
Plot Device: You Didn't See Anything - A power group wants people to keep quiet.
Action + Thing: Judge Mystery

Story Background

Plot Device: New Leadership - Villains plan to replace the current hierarchy of power.
Plot Device: Death Cult - An evil group gets innocents involved under false pretenses.

Action + Thing: Represent Show Trial
Action + Thing: Increase Corpses
Thing: Pirates
Thing: Patriarch
Location: Dining Room
Location: Secret Room
Location: Infirmary/Hospice

Additional Story Background!

Plot Device: Thing of Beauty - A very beautiful NPC is at the center of events.
Plot Device: He's Not Seeing Anyone - An important/necessary NPC refuses to see the PCs.

Action + Thing: Manipulate Noble Title
Action + Thing: Setup Workers
Thing: Mask
Thing: Saint/Legendary Religious Figure
Location: City Gates
Location: Terrible Place
Location: Mill

Once you've got your results your imagination should start filling with ideas. I like to just brainstorm for a few minutes, look things over, let ideas jump up, then fall away, let new ideas jump up, and so on. My first idea is rarely my best idea, so giving myself at least a few minutes to consider the possibilities helps.

The Adventures of Illy and Ludwick! [WFRP 3rd. solo roleplaying]

By : Frank Lee
Welcome to the adventures of Illy and Ludwick!

Solo Roleplaying

By : Frank Lee
So what is solo roleplaying? It's playing RPGs all by yourself! Of course solo roleplaying can be hard because rulebooks are written with several players in mind. Normally you have a Game or Dungeon Master who will handle running the narrative and all the people the heroes meet, while everybody else plays a Player Character. In solo roleplaying it's just you, so you need a way to fulfill all those roles while still having a good time.

Supplements like the Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook provide a system for solo roleplayers to use so that they can wear all the hats of gameplay, while still having a good time, and not spoiling future events for themselves. After all, not knowing what comes next is half the fun!

The Kickstarter

By : Frank Lee

The Kickstarter campaign for The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook ran from August 16th to September 16th 2013. Designed to help me raise funds in order to be able to create the book, the Kickstarter was a success and hit quite a few stretch goals along the way to the finish line!
You can check out the Kickstarter page here.

About the Book

By : Frank Lee
The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook is a roleplaying supplement meant to be used with any RPG system, and allow GMs to create their own adventures or solo players to play all by themselves.

The book is split into two different parts, the first is the Adventure Creator. GMs who write their own adventures will find help structuring their stories using several popular methods (as well as instructions for how to create their own), and inspiration using charts of hundreds of plot devices, adventure types, and so on, which will help to drive your creativity with novel and inventive suggestions. The book will include General (for any RPG genre), Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror themed charts, and mini-charts for other genres such as Super Heroes may be added to the Bonus section of this blog.

The second part of the book contains the Covetous Poet's Solo GM System, designed to allow solo roleplayers the chance to play their favorite RPGs by themselves, while still being able to create satisfying and well structured stories for their heroes to face. The Solo GM system uses the Adventure Creator to create an adventure act by act, as your characters unlock each new part of the story, while you take on the role of both the GM and the PCs.

Besides creating the narrative behind your solo adventure, the Guidebook will help you effectively play through each scene using its Answer Oracle to provide you immediate answers to yes/no questions, how conversations go, jobs and requests the PCs are asked to do and more. In addition helpful techniques for improvisation and acting are covered so you can free up your mind and trust your own creativity.

While other good systems exist for solo roleplayers, the Solo GM System is designed specifically for creating cohesive and satisfying narratives for your adventures. It does not provide a mere series of random scenes, but an entire story the way a true RPG supplement would provide. The difference is you create it as you go!

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