So, earlier this year I had a moment of realization. I came to see that while I'd been ignoring the written adventures of both yore and today I'd been missing out on learning design from other people's effort. It's not that I can't run a game, or write an adventure for myself, but going through the process of writing one for other people made me realize where I tended to say "fuck it" and just improvise. Not a bad thing, but not a great thing for published product.
So I've been looking at various bits of advice in this regard. The latest of which is "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss" which is a title that really says something about the confidence level of the author...
Published By: Kort'thalis Publishing • Written by: Venger As'Nas Satanis • 14 pages • $3.00 • Color PDF (with a print friendly option)
What's In It?
Advice that strips out most of the bullshit. Seriously, there's very little pretension here, which is a good thing. Hell, it's probably the best part of this product that it doesn't treat itself as being too far "above the reader." In what amounts to about 9 pages of text if you strip out the art, cover, and credits the author lays down the foundations of adventure writing. As a GM for decades there's not a lot here that's "new to me" but it's refreshing to see it all laid out and bare.
The content is broken out into fifteen sections ranging from about 3 paragraphs to a dozen or so. The author starts off by detailing why you may want to write your own adventures. OK, fair enough, but probably anybody who has gotten this far already made that choice. It then goes into the idea of the elevator pitch as a metric for good and bad ideas. This is pretty reasonable, if you cannot sum up an idea into 2-3 interesting sentences it's probably not an idea that will yield an interesting adventure. Or it's too much, and you need to consider breaking it up into smaller parts; perhaps your epic idea can become fodder for a series of adventures instead. From there we get some advice on finding your own writing style and trying to make the best of it. There are some words of wisdom here in regards to over-writing.
Next we get a discussion of the adventure rails. Ah, to railroad, or not to railroad, that is the question! Actually, no, screw that, NEVER railroad. But, to the author's point, knowing when to toss in "guardrails" to keep the adventure from going entirely ... ahem ... "off the rails" ... is wise. Players are ... unpredictable creatures, and having mitigating factors in place to help keep the session from going bananas is good. Most GMs simply cannot keep up improvising after a certain point without abandoning the original adventure, which sucks.
At this point we're on page four and getting into the meat. First we get "Anatomy of an Adventure" breaking down the basic (and classic) structure for storytelling. Then the author dives into scenes and starts discussing each component therein. The fact that adventures and scenes have the same basic structure is makes this all the more valuable.
From here out the product fires on all cylinders for me, right up until the last section, which just didn't float for me, but hey, that's cool, it's only one page. The writing keeps being punchy and direct, and breaks down how to build a scene up without getting overwrought. It's presents the idea of a "Trailer Test" to help prune scenes much in the way the Elevator Pitch helps prune out bad adventure ideas. This is just the fractal nature of things in my opinion.
After scenes we get a quick hit of the three most basic aspects of gaming (and storytelling) and how these should all be present in some form to make for a good session. Lastly there is some advice for "moments" or interludes, the stuff between scenes that adds color, as well as the idea of callbacks.
The layout if functional, the art is minimal (which is fine) and of a good quality, but I couldn't stand the full color version with these angry red veins rimming each page. It added nothing, and it detracted plenty. Thankfully there's a printer friendly version without that. I will say the cover is quality, and I imagine that's just good marketing to put an attractive eye catching cover onto any product. Duh.
I'd say that if you're new to GMing, and new to writing up your own adventures this is a pretty damn good purchase for $3. If you've been at it a while it may make for a nice refresher course, and the clean and bullshit free presentation of the writing does help make this a nice reference or refresher. Will this make you a "fucking boss" at adventure writing? I'm not sure about that, but it sure as shit will help prevent you from making an ass of yourself. There's plenty more to writing good adventures than structure, but if you don't have good "bones" the flesh won't matter for shit.
Score: 85% - Pretty good for those wanting a refresher course or those who are new to adventure writing. Maybe not what you're looking for if you've been GMing for a while.