Now, this will be the last section of this article. This time we’re talking about two things—building dungeons, and refining and building on an adventure between sessions.
Why a dungeon? Partly because it’s one of the most classic experiences in Pathfinder, and it’s a blast. Partly because it makes sense that the Sewers would be a bit of a navigation challenge. And partly because it’s awesome and fun and I think it’s a natural place to go next with the adventure.
But first, refining the adventure. First, one thing I didn’t talk much about last time, is narrative flow. It’s important to build up and resolve tension, like in any story. But another important point is that ultimately you need Exposition.
We had a massive introductory scene to the adventure, but we still have several characters that we have yet to even introduce. So far, the player has met Leonizar and sorta Janet. When you have characters in a story, you have to introduce them, and how you introduce them is important.
That said, I’m not going to tell you how to introduce them. Remember, this is a creative, communal, and intuitive process. Instead of deciding “what’s going to happen,” it’s better to think of things in terms of creating “encounters,” be they combat or roleplaying experiences, and trying to weave those encounters in a suitable place in reaction to the player’s actions. But even then, you shouldn’t prepare everything, because you have to leave room for surprises—and the players will surprise you… and how the story builds will too.
So why did I bring it up? The important thing is to remember to introduce them. There are natural lulls and pauses in Pathfinder or any tabletop game, and when you detect the player is not sure what to do next, it may be a good time to introduce one of your NPCs. If they actually do something that would make them cross paths with the NPC, do it then, but otherwise, look for the opportunity, and try to keep what the NPCs are doing in the back of your mind. It helps me to reflect at the end of each session about what your NPCs are doing, and how they’re reacting to recent events.
Try to work with the narrative flow and logic of the world that is building here, and try to be consistent about said logic. That said, if you make a mistake, contradict yourself, or sort of force something awkwardly, shrug and move on, because if you do, then gameplay will keep moving and being fun. Also, try and accommodate what the players do or try—it’s almost always better to say “yes, and…(add something)” to what a player tries or suggests, than to say “No,” because the former keeps energy flowing and the latter halts it (old improve trick, and quite effective). You’re still the GM however, so make sure there are logical consequences for actions, and make them work for what they want—there should generally always be a chance they could fail, and dice are there for a reason. Don’t make everything a chore, but make them earn most of the important things.
So, I know I need to start introducing characters next session, and how that happens will depend on the players’ actions. Eventually, the players will make it into the sewers… Okay, there’s a small chance that they won’t. There’s always going to be a chance that what you prepare is wasted, and that’s a good thing, because it means the players have free will. Generally, you can re-skin a dungeon or encounter, similar to how I describe monsters differently and just use the stat block. That way you can adapt your preparations to the context that develops, with maybe some tweaking. But if that just ain’t gonna happen, then don’t worry about it. You can always tweak it and work it in later or in another adventure.
One thing I will do is start next adventure by having the gnome return. He’ll urge Pamela to come with him, because “it’s extremely important.” It’s always good to start the adventure with a bang and something really interesting/urgent, so that you grab the player and pull them into character immediately. The gnome will take her to meet a bunch of other gnomes, including a shaman, in the forest, where she will take part in a festival/ceremony (if she goes along with it). There she’ll receive the mystic… Bunny necklace. I’m deliberately giving her something that will seem ridiculous—but it’s an item that will not only resurrect her once, but give her +2 to all physical stats for one hour, if she falls. It’ll also break at that point, and restoring it might be another adventure… but it’ll will further interact with a magic item in the dungeon.
Next time, I’ll talk about building dungeons.
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