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How do you write an adventure?

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  • How do you write an adventure?

    I'm a long time fan of the system but as someone coming from D&D/Pathfinder, I've found myself having a hard time wrapping my head around GMing without any sort of module as a jumping off point. In the past, I'd assemble a campaign from different adventures but it looks like it's up to the GM to do more heavy lifting when creating one for M&M, even down to writing the flavor text. I've found a lot of plot hooks but I was wondering how others typically put all of the pieces together and how much of it is just improv?

  • #2
    Well, there are a few ways to do it and I generally lean more into improve style than anything else (although not completely).

    Generally I've found that a good way to plan a M&M game is to have an idea of what the world is like. Who are the villains and heroes that are well known? Is there a Commissioner Gordon or Lois Lane type figure the hero knows? Etc. The more you can base on the player's complications and backstory the better I think. Basically a three act setup works pretty well I think.

    From there (and this is assuming a fairly standard game setup with a team of heroes in a city) you need some kind of setup,a call for the heroes to spring into action (again assuming players that are a bit more reactive). This is the starting point to springboard into the next step. Some examples to see how this works:

    1. Natural Disaster (Hurricane, Flood, Fire whatever seems appropriate based on the players and setting local) has struck and people need rescuing. This is a good time for non-combat actions.
    2. A Crime in Progress. This is the simplest. A jewelry store robbery has turned into a hostage situation. An armored car was stolen and there is a high-speed chase. A monster is rampaging.
    3. Weird Happenings. Basically something weird happens and the authorities are willing to let the heroes handle it. Ghost sightings downtown. People acting strangely. An unknown transmission interrupted a TV broadcast.


    I always like to have scenes were the heroes have to talk to police or the press. It's a good thing to do from time to time. It could be a good social encounter as well and effect how the police, press and citizenry interact with the heroes.

    But wait there's more. So from the setup, it turns out there's more going on either the setup has downstream consequences or there were people working behind the scenes. A lot of this is time for investigation, research or SCIENCE! to answer questions that need answering. More examples:

    1. Natural Disaster: The disaster has awoken a monster sealed away by heroes from the past. The disaster just happens to expose a villain's lair, they were in the middle of plotting something but what? During the disaster a villain used the disaster to kidnap someone important/steal an item for a superweapon/cast a foul ritual.
    2. A Crime in Progress: The criminals were hired by someone as sinister as they are mysterious. The criminals are otherwise boring people that are obviously being mind-controlled by something. The criminals have advanced weaponry, where did they get it?
    3. Weird Happenings: The "Ghost" is actually someone from another dimension trying to communicate/warn us/escape for enemies but they can't fully come over. The people acting strangely are aliens hiding on Earth as humans for some reason, who are they and why are they here? The transmission is a now sentient AI trying to explore and understand the world.

    Now the conclusion, the big ending so make it big. A fight with an interesting location, whatever it is:

    1. Natural Disaster: The monster is defeated and resealed, hopefully for good. The villain has accelerated their time table and it attacking the city now! Find and invade the villain's lair to stop them before it's too late!
    2. A Crime in Progress: The man behind the curtain has been revealed, a public figure is an evil mastermind! A sentient virus is taking over people and forcing them to help it towards its evil ends. Aliens are selling advanced tech on the black market hoping the chaos caused will leave the Earth vulnerable to invasion.
    3. Weird Happenings: The veil between dimensions is finally broken and a threat pours through it! The aliens have fled their homeworld due to a threat from the stars and it turns out it followed them here! The AI learned about the world through TV and likes it better than the real world. It is attempting to fix it. Can the heroes stop the AI while jumping over a shark on waterskiis? Aaaay!


    The day is saved and the heroes are ready for the next adventure. Do they have a new ally they've made? A new enemy? Is there a dangling plotline you forgot to deal with, which of course you left open as a lead in to the next adventure? Basically, everything has fallout (good and bad) what did your players do that might lead to another adventure?

    And basically that's what I do. I may have NPCs already named and ready, with what they want and what they will do depending on the heroes actions. But just a simple narrative structure works. It's still like rooms in a dungeon, just the rooms are more conceptual. I'm also a big fan of the thread below from the old AtomicThinkTank forums if you need to add some fluff or sub-padding (and not just because I made a lot of the posts in it):
    The Endless Thread of Sub-plots and Adventure Padding!

    And just to emphasize again, use your players complications and backstories and the foundation. It will help you not have to think of as much on your own and the the players more personally involved.

    Hope that helps. Let me know if you have other questions.


    • #3
      The hard part about superheroes is the modern setting. People don't generally go around reading job boards looking for search and rescue or home invasion jobs in modern society. It seems perfectly normal in Pathfinder though, right?

      In a modern setting, you need to really get into your villains' heads. What are their goals? How do they plan to attain those goals? What steps are they taking to enact those plans? Once you know this, you can start answering these questions: How well do they hide what they are doing? How do the heroes find out about their actions? What contingencies do they have in place to handle meddling heroes?

      This is a lot of work, admittedly. But once you can deal with the villains in this manner the world more easily comes alive for the players. Why is the villain robbing a bank? Just for money? Is this bank important for some other reason? Is the bank robbery a distraction? Is the villain working for some other villain and the bank robbery is a distraction for the big boss' plans?

      Just to make this more complicated there should be more than one villain boss in the area each with their own plans. Afterall, the do-gooders are going to foil someone's plans each "episode" and dealing with just one villain subplot at a time makes the world feel small.