Tales from the Gazebo – Concept & Calendars

Concept & Calendars
By Cape Rust

Having to deviate from your original game concept can be a black hole when it comes to the amount of time you spend planning your game. Because of the input received from the players, my initial concept for the upcoming Firefly game has to go through some major changes. Fortunately, I’ve learned from past mistakes… lots of past mistakes.

I will start by revising my original idea without completely discarding the first one. My original idea was to run a mostly planet-side game that started the characters from square one. The players, being the creatures of chaos that they are, have changed my plans. To run a good game, I need to give them what they want while still working with material that I want to run. Remember that whole “role-playing is a team sport” thing?

This game needs to have plenty of space travel, a good amount of space combat, and enough intrigue to allow for some interesting role-playing. The last part is as much for me as it is for the players. I want to make things slightly unique on this adventure, so instead of having the characters being on the run from the empire, I will have them start by being hired by the empire to transport something to a remote outpost. Nothing too crazy, but it will be something different. The group will be attacked by a group of Brown Coat sympathizers who need the cargo so they can continue to resist the oppression of the powers that be. The cargo will later be taken from the rebels by pirates who want to make money off of it. This basic idea will support the player’s desires and create some fun vignettes as well.

Next I figure out an end state. There is quite a bit going on, but no worries. In the end, I want the players to recover the cargo and have to make a choice between who they will turn it over to. This gives the group at least three possible courses of action, all of them with interesting consequences. The key to the end state is to try to keep it broad enough to allow tweaks, but narrow enough so you avoid “campaign creep”.

This is the point when we develop some of our major plot ideas. This is also where things get dicey. We still don’t have a complete idea of all of the characters and their quirks, and we have no background information on the characters. We can still develop ideas for major plot points, but we can’t get attached to them because, even at this point, they can still be changed. In fact, everything is subject to change. At this point, I am looking at all of these ideas like an outline. Sure, we have a few bullet points but by sticking with this train of thought, we maintain maximum flexibility.

So here are a few major plot points I want to happen and these are plot points I think will get the players closer to the desired end state. First will be the encounter with the government agent who hires the group. This will get the cargo into the players’ hands and get the ball rolling. Then I want a life threatening mechanical problem on the ship, one that will test the entire crew. If they are able to fix the problem, I will spring the rebel attack right after the problem is fixed. The rebels will seize the cargo in this attack or subsequent attacks. The players will track down the rebels and learn that pirates stole what they stole from the players. The rebels will appeal for the players to recover the cargo, and the empire will pressure them to deliver it as well. Players will track down the cargo, fight the pirates for the cargo, hopefully live through the fight, and seize the cargo. Once the players have the cargo, they will have to choose who they give the cargo to and why.

With this information, I can start to come up with an estimate of how long this game might take. I’m not going to develop a timeline because those never seem to survive the actions of the players. Including a character creation session and allowing for at least one game session for each major plot point, plus a few fudge sessions if things get bogged down, I’m looking at 12 to 15 game sessions to complete this campaign. There are so many factors that go into that though, like how long do sessions normally last? If you tend to run marathon sessions then that number will decrease.

I try to figure this out now so that I can look at the calendar and try to spot any holidays or major events that might affect the game.  For the sake of this game, let’s say there are two major holidays and a new patch is being released for an MMO that all of my players play. One of the holidays is a wash so I’ll cancel that session right away. The second one might be a chance to get in a bonus session (sweet) so I’ll discuss that with the group. I will go ahead and cancel the session on the day of the MMO patch release, but ask the players if they want to hang out while they raid in the new areas in the MMO expansion. I will add one session where we go to dinner or watch some movies, just to break things up.

There are some things I can’t plan until I know more about the characters and the players’ goals for the game. In the next few weeks I will cover developing a few foes and planning some major locations. The player plot hooks will have to wait.

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment