TTRPG Arc Design #
I want to think of a structure for TTRPG arcs that will have a emotional core or structure.
I don’t love the D&D plots that are simply Kill the Bad guy or survive this dungeon. To me, there’s not enough of an emotional core there.
What do you need for an emotional core? Drawing from some previous thoughts, I think we can go through the following stages and come up with some examples for a TTRPG setting
- Establishment of norm.
- The party encounters some type of danger
- The party saves someone
- The party makes a friend
- Something is stolen from the party
- Change from norm.
- The danger is found to be fixable in a nice way.
- The party reacts to the new situation in some way. I already have a bunch of these, but it’s nice to develop a structure for it.
So, I have a bunch of these that are in 3 or more parts that follow this chain or even have multiple forms of this chain. However, now i’m asking myself, is this too prescriptive? Does it make maybe more sense to simply set up a situation and encourage the GM to figure out how the situation should go?
There’s certainly one aspect of these scenarios that’s a little difficult to deal with in that they’re missing a lot of details. If there are two characters that disagree, it doesn’t delve into why they disagree - it tells the DM to figure out the hard part, which is manufacturing the situation. Additionally, when i read these various arcs, there’s clearly a lot of subtext that I had when I thought about when creating these situations.
The problem with these arcs is that they focus on the shallow structure rather than on the high level goals of what you want your players to experience.
Another way to make my existing arcs more compelling is by having one or more of the main characters be one of the people that the story involves. If the GM knows the characters for a session ahead of time and one of those characters would tie in nicerly, then it makes sense to tie them in.
When doing this, it makes sense to be aware of character’s skill levels. for example, it doesn’t make sense to make the weakest character in the session into the antagonist, cause the other characters would just destroy them. On the other hand, maybe this power dynamic is what the GM wants the players to explore.
We might as well also think about how to bring all these things together.
- first option is to just manually create a bunch of monsters, items, characters, regions and scenarios and shuffle them. Even if we develop generative models for some of these categories, it’s still the same basic approach of recombination
- a second option is to develop a process that naturally encourages and enables the GM to tie things together. For example, maybe we start with the high level arc template, but we encourage the GM to think about what they want in these slots. Maybe we provide a list of monsters, items, characters, or regions, but encourage GMs to modify them for the game or come up with their own. I really think I like this more.
Another thing to consider: the arcs I have right now include filler. Do I want that? Most of these could be wrapped up in 3 story stages. I kind of like the filler as a bit of additional flavor, but I could just add that flavor to the regions.
- So the first option is what i have right now, where there’s 5 regions and filler that populates with things like “party encoutners monster” or “party sees item”
- The regions are very different from one anther and having 5 of them seems like a lot.
- in there’s not very many options for the party to interact per region
- Another idea is 3 regions and we make a monster and item for all of them.
- That’s a lot of monsters and items.
- Finally, the last idea is to have 3 regions and there is a monster and item for the session in general. I like this the most.