Freeze Frame

I was talking adventure design with a friend, specifically challenging players without expecting specific solutions. Their design method would make linear events that X is done then Y then Z. Great for some things, but it can require a bit of laying tracks for the GM Railroad.

I mentioned an idea they might like is the tableau. It is a dramatic style where actors would assume a stationary position like a picture had been taken. Then the curtain would come down, actors move to next mark and when the curtain opens it is another image in the scene. This tells a story when all put together.

As a RPG element, this is akin to a movie designer building large set pieces for the important scenes. It doesn’t have to be action stuff like a duel on a volcano, it could be drama or otherwise. Maybe a feast scene where a group of warriors tell tales and sing songs showing the culture, or maybe its a big awards walk like in Star Wars. By coming up with large set ideas like this, you are able to build interesting pieces that you could even go so far as to look at adding music and pictures to and makng a full experience.

By using a tableau as a design option, you are not defining how the characters get to each point, simply things that happen once they are there. Maybe you’re in a pirate adventure, so one can be a run in with a pirate hunter, another is meeting natives and a third is finding treasure. All of these are scenes and encounters, but they’re free floating of any specifics beyond the key points. Maybe the natives are hostile, maybe the PCs appease them somehow or even hire them as workers. Anything os possible, so long as you are not committed to specifics.

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