We're Geeks. We Play Games.

I'll put something more exciting here later.

In the meantime, have a beverage and relax. It could be awhile.

What beverage would I suggest?

  • A nice sangria.
  • An old fashioned.
  • A Long Island Iced Tea.

Writing a Dread Scenario: My Experience

I enjoy writing enough to lead a local writing & critique group, but this was my first experience writing any type of RPG scenario. After running several "pre-packaged" games of Dread: A Game of Horror and Hope, a friend requested a Superheroish scenario. The book is full of suggestions for creating your own stories, I like to write, it seemed doable.

I skimmed through the book once again and started brainstorming. I needed a story that would allow my players to use some kind of supernatural powers and yet keep that sense of dread, that realization that they could meet death at anytime. A Justice League kind of hero wasn't working for me but an XMen mutant take would do nicely. My Muse ran free and I jotted down ideas for the premise until it began to take form. 

I knew I wanted to use the three Act structure as the book both describes and demonstrates in its scenarios. After typing out the premise and the deception, I wrote down Act I, II, and III and placed the word Scene four times under each Act. I had my structure, now I needed the details. 

I had a vague idea of the opening scene and how the ending might play out. I wrote these down first, titled them, and replaced the first and last SCENE in my three Act structure with their titles.

Now it was time for building the questionnaires. I wanted the standard thirteen questions and I knew the last would be, "What is your name?". We would have six to seven players for the game, so I typed up seven questionnaire templates and filled in the last question for each. I needed each player to share what their power was, as well as their weakness. These would be similar with a slight twist. I worked on these until each questionnaire also had the first two questions filled in- power and weakness.

Only seventy more questions to go...

The questions work best when they are leading but open ended. I came up with a loose idea of what each character was like and then flipped through the book, searching the questions along the bottom for something that would fit that character. Sometimes I used one straight from the book, sometimes they sparked something else that would work better. Finally, I had seven complete questionnaires.

I was running short on time before the game itself, so I sent these off to the players (along with the premise) before I finished writing the scenario.

I had three Acts, seven character questionnaires, a premise, an opening scene, and a few lines describing possible endings. It was time to fill in the middle. At this point I needed to consider what could happen next, how the treatment would work, what types of obstacles they could face that would require pulls, and most importantly how they could use their powers in the scenario (this was the main requirement of the friend requesting the game) without being too powerful to fear failure. Again, I needed to keep that continual sense of dread.

I finished the scenario the night before the game. I regret not having more time to integrate the answered questionnaires more fully into the game. The characters I had in mind when asking the questions were nothing like the characters the players created with those questions. That was fantastic, as that's exactly what I wanted, but I think the story would have had more depth had I had time to weave more of their answers into my scenes. Either way, the game seemed to go well and everyone said they enjoyed it. And yes, the Jenga tower managed to cause one death in the party as we were nearing the climax. Mission accomplished. 

It was a lot of fun to write and definitely a different experience than writing most fiction. I felt like I was writing a Choose Your Own Adventure where I didn't provide the choices, but had to be sure they were there anyway and that the story could stand no matter what those choices ended up being. It was also interesting to write ideas rather than actual story (although I did that a bit with the opening scene), and to start with the beginning and end before filling in the middle. At the end of it all, my friend seemed pleased and I'd had a blast putting it together. Sounds like a win.

Check out the scenario, SuperHumans, and see what you think. Then get yourself the Dread book and have fun writing your own!