[This template will be included in Universal Exploits, an upcoming supplement for Alpha Blue. Kickstarter happening now]
Few Space Dungeon Masters out there are as free-wheeling as myself. I like to have a general idea of what’s going to happen or maybe a few key random tables at my fingertips, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t do much planning – especially for a “space sandbox” RPG like Alpha Blue.
And despite that – or possibly because of it – I frequently find myself adhering to a particular formula. I mean, I’ve only watched, like, a trillion hours of sci-fi movies in my lifetime. When I was 5, I had pretty much every word of Star Wars memorized. Eventually, certain concepts absorbed into my weird geek brain, becoming second nature.
Is a formula absolutely necessary? Hell no. Is it a good idea to be familiar with a formula that works, you know, just in case? Absolutely. Even stream-of-consciousness can benefit from having structure. Besides, this formula has a lot of play. By that, I mean it’s open-ended enough to accommodate thousands of ideas… millions!
Below is my handy guide for crafting a stellar sci-fi adventure. Don’t be afraid to play around with the formula. As I said, it’s a guide – not a list of commandments. If you feel like a couple of your sessions are more misfire than direct hits, come back to this, take a look at the structure with fresh eyes, and see if there’s something you’ve been leaving out… or adding too much of.
Scene One: The PCs are doing their own thing, chit-chatting about what’s important to them (robotics, boobs, robotic boobs, etc), just taking it easy, or following their own agendas based on background or present circumstances.
Scene Two: The PCs stumble onto something new – either by accident or someone else’s design. This is “the hook” that draws them into the adventure.
Scene Three: The PCs take their first steps toward the investigation, exploration, taking down that one guy, establishing relationships, etc.
Scene Four: The PCs get sidetracked by something other than the primary antagonist or obstacle. Something out of left field has appeared and must be dealt with.
Scene Five: The PCs return their focus to the primary objective. They make significant strides and begin to make real progress… perhaps discovering the bigger picture.
Scene Six: The PCs come face-to-face with whatever it is they’re struggling against.
Scene Seven: The PCs resolve the conflict (for the moment). Mysteries are explained (most of them, usually). Conclusions are drawn. Either the PCs return to whatever they were doing before they got hooked or the resolution has spurred them on to new adventures.
Sprinkled throughout, there should be a bit of action, humor, interesting characters, combat, exploration, putting the pieces together roleplaying opportunities, and since this is Alpha Blue we’re talking about – sex!
You’ll notice that each of these “scenes” begin with the player-characters. That’s because the PCs drive the action, the narrative is ultimately about them. It’s their story!
Nevertheless, a Space Dungeon Master should not make the mistake of letting the entire foundation of the scenario fall on the players’ shoulders. The players have their characters to worry about. You, Space Dungeon Master, have the entire universe to manage.
Rule #1: Don’t be boring. Rule #2: Make it awesome! Rule #3: Keep things moving!