Predictability, or the lack of it, can make it very hard to design an adventure. I use loose plotting as it is, and I’m thankful I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time preparing. For the adventure I’ve run over the last three week, I had a view of key people, locations and event, but no absolutes about the resolution of these key features. If the players decided to send their characters off at a tangent, I needed to know what might be going on elsewhere, but didn’t want to stop them playing the way they wanted to play.
I had my location, my villain and their plan; but, in the end, the characters defeated the villain without understanding the plan at all. They saved some kidnapped villagers, but none of them would know from what. In the heat of the confrontation, the characters launched into combat and didn’t allow the villain much opportunity for grandstanding with some cackling monologue about his intentions and the likely fate of the characters. One of the characters got captured, but when the rest arrived he managed to free himself and sabotage the enemy ship – something I couldn’t bring myself to complicate as he made the best roll in the whole game while hiding from the enemy using mathematical principles.
My notes amounted to a couple of flow charts, a set of briefs stats for the enemy and their minions, and a few maps and notes printed off the Internet. Using a real world locations meant that I didn’t have to create an environment. Check out Kettleness if you have the time. An alum quarry (that in the distant past caught fire and burnt for two years?!), dinosaur bones in the cliffs, a Roman signal tower, a railway station that closed in the late 50s (with several lengths of abandoned tunnel to investigate), a mysterious black dog terrorizing the locals, and an exorcism. Perfect location for something, especially as the settlement remains remote to this very day.
I consider it a worthy development, in future, to not only have a map of locations, people and events, but also to include a matrix of clues associated with them. I may take a leaf out of the ‘Trail of Cthulhu’ game and create adventures where the clues never get missed, and the characters get to concentrate on the danger, excitement and advancing through to the conclusion. I sort of manage that with this adventure, but still felt that it could have gone better.