So, we covered a toolkit for running emotive, realistic NPCs for your game table. Now we tackle the next biggest fear of the new Game Master: Difficulty. ...and stuff happening.
Do not worry - I got you covered on both counts...
White Wolf, during the mid-2000s, came up with what was suppose to be a universal adventure format. Storyteller Adventure System (or SAS) was used on every current gameline that White Wolf had out on the market. Simply put, the system was designed to offer Storytellers everything they would need to know to run an encounter (called “scenes” in Storyteller systems) stored on a simple 4x6 note card.
Along with a space to name your scene, there is a spot for noting just how difficult the scene in question will be in terms of mental, physical, and social aspects. On the bottom is a spot for a goal for the Player Characters (always written focusing on the fluff of the campaign), and a spot for Storyteller goals (written in a straightforward way to remind you of what you hope will be the point of the scene from a mechanical standpoint). While having these bottom blanks filled out will serve useful, the real value is in the middle of the card: Hindrances and Help.
Sometimes, players get really lucky on their rolls. Or, sometimes you just want to present the group with something meant to inspire fear. If you need things to suddenly get more challenging, you would apply one of Hindrances you had pinned for just such an occasion.
But the opposite can also be true: sometimes, players get their pants stolen on a bad roll of the dice (to be fair, for that scene the group was meeting a young master thief who specializes in stealing that which is hardest to steal). Sometimes, you get caught falling into the lion’s den. For those cases where you feel the difficulty of the scene seems to be taking away from everyone’s fun at the table, you can always apply one of the Helps you had pinned for just such an occasion.
Now, this is by no means something as simple as “Description: [Insert modifier here]”. If we had a Scene called “Stop, Thief!” it might look something like this:
The best part is that the basic idea of these cards can be applied to any system, and allow you to mix up and change up the structure of the story of your campaign with ease. Players want to go and do something besides the main plot you had been crafting? Pull out some extra fun side scene cards, and just play from there! Need to shift a scene from the middle of the campaign to near the end? Switch cards out! Scene cards are the easiest and best way to flexibly prepare for a session, and their ability to modify difficulty to make the scene as exciting as possible without having high or low difficulty will definitely earn you praise at the gaming table.
Check out Mr. Gone for a interactive 4-Count sheet you can fill in and print, or DriveThruRPG for supplements that use the SAS system (including a free beginner’s guide).
Christopher W. Reynolds has been running Pen & Paper Role Playing Games for over 16 years. He has a knack for explaining gaming concepts to others, and loves to teach people about the games he loves so much.