Adventure Flow

I’ve decided to take a step back from the mechanics today and look at the experience I want to provide in my next game. Here’s a rough sketch of how I’d like the game to play out. Any suggestions on improving this or pointers to systems that already do this are welcome.

Getting Started

To start a new adventure, follow these steps.

  1. Pick a Premise: Decide what the adventure is about. This should include:
    • Setting: Where does the adventure take place?
    • Protagonists: Whose actions are the players following?
    • Conflict: What are the protagonists striving for or against?

    Seventh Sanctum has an excellent example of these here. Despite being geared for action films, that generator does a good job of establishing the setting, conflict, and heroes in a single sentence. I may want a similar system in place to build adventure kickers.

  2. Build Cast: Write up a few sentences about some of the characters that might show up in the story. This may be assisted by random generators. The focus should be setting up quick hooks and interesting bits of flavor.
  3. Choose Sides: Each player can choose which side of the conflict they want to support. Each player starts neutral and can pick another side at any point during play. Here’s how the sides breakdown.
    • Nemesis: Nemesis players put conflicts in front of the protagonists. If there are multiple nemesis players, each can pick an element of the game world to specialize in. They can also convert characters to villains. Each such character must have a motive that sets them in opposition to the heroes.
    • Neutral: All players start out neutral. Players that stay neutral may select an element of the game world to specialize in.
    • Heroic: Heroic players can promote supporting characters to heroes. Each promoted character must have a motive which ties them to the central conflict. Bonds to an established enemy or hero can be used to fulfill this requirement. Heroes can be directly controlled by a heroic player. If a heroic player controls no heroes in the current scene, they can act as neutral players.

    At least one nemesis and heroic player are needed to play the game.

  4. Set Opening Scene: Set up a scene where the starting group of heroes gets together and makes a commitment to taking on the main conflict.


Any time a character wants to accomplish something significant, they can start a challenge. By default, challenges consist of a single check with a minimal reward on success and no notable penalty for failure. Once a challenge has been attempted, the character can not normally retry the challenge.

Players can modify a challenge in a variety of ways.

  • Taking Chances: The higher the chance of failure, the greater the reward for success.
  • Raise the Stakes: Increase the penalty for failure to raise the reward for success. The reward bonus scales up with the “taking chances” reward. Higher stakes may also let heroes tap more of their bonds and motives during the challenge.
  • Add Complications: A complication must be defeated before the challenge it was added to can be completed. Treat this like a secondary challenge where reward points transfer over to the main challenge.
  • Extended Challenge: An extended challenge requires multiple successful checks to beat and has either a time out condition or inflicts a penalty the longer it takes to overcome them.

On succeeding at a challenge, its point value can be cashed in for various rewards. These can include:

  • Second Chance: Retry a previously attempted challenge.
  • Find a Lead: Bank reward points for a future challenge. Banked points can not be spent until the linked challenge is completed.
  • Damage: Weaken or take out a character or obstacle. The cost scales up with the importance of the target and how severely the damage limits their impact on the story. By default, heroes can not be permanently removed from the story until the final confrontation.
  • Recovery: Rewards can be spent to buy off previous damage.
  • Resources: Challenges can provide extra descriptive text to help with future challenges. Any resources that help the character overcome their opposition increases the character’s threat rating.


Once the heroes have overcome enough challenges, they can go on to the final confrontation. This works much like a challenge with the following special features:

  • No Holds Barred: Characters can risk almost anything during the final confrontation (possibly limited by how much build up was needed to reach this point).
  • Worthy Adversary: The final challenge is always guarded by a extended challenge obstacle. A common example is a final enemy, though other options are certainly possible. This obstacle is always scaled to be as strong to slightly stronger than the heroes. They’re meant to be at a disadvantage in terms of normal tools and resources, but should be at a net advantage if they tap their motives and bonds, essentially overcoming the obstacles with spirit and will.


Once the final confrontation has played out, the winning side gains narration rights, though the losing side can mitigate this with their leftover reserves.

If there are any further challenges, they should yield less of a reward. On the other hand, leftover reward points from the final confrontation may be spendable at any point without even needing to complete another challenge first.

Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hello
    I stumbled upon your blog by way of a comment over at Angry DM.
    I’m in the process of reading your posts from the beginning but if they are as good as the 4E Variant: No Rest for Heroes, you’ll have a eager new reader.

    Keep up the good work.

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