Playtesting

After we have brainstormed our adventure, we can do a freeform, improv-heavy, roleplay-focused playtest of our adventure.

Our goal is to play out a fun story, see the adventure from the perspective of the players, notice any existing issues and open questions, come up with more cool ideas, and to practice running the adventure before we do it for our players.

Creating your Character

Copy this template, fill it in, post it in #characters.

**Name**: Character’s Name
**Description**: Who are you? Appearance, personality, occupation, motivations.
**Abilities**: What can you do? Profession, cool powers, special skills, spells, useful items.

Come up with up to 8 abilities, feel free to use this list of examples for inspiration.

Give your character a profession and a few talents, these will describe what your character is good at and give you advantage on rolls:

Charming Gentleman Thief. Nimble Ninja. Tough, Strong, and Intimidating Warrior. Insightful Detective. Menacing Pirate. Cunning Aristocrat. Crafty Scientist/Inventor.

Clearly define what your skills/spells/items enable you to do:

Gunslinger - I can make extremely precise shots at the tiny objects extremely far away.
Illusion - Create an illusory object no larger than a horse. Within 50 meters, in line of sight.
Bottomless Mug - Can hold a swimming-pool-worth of any liquid.

Discuss your abilities with the GM. If an ability is too powerful, add an interesting limitation - maybe it is unpredictable, expensive, attracts attention, requires a sacrifice, takes time to use, puts you in danger, has other costs or negative consequences of some kind? Turn overpowered spells into single-use potions.

Summon Beast - perform a 10-minute-long ritual to summon a rampaging animal. Roll the dice, if you roll above 10 it will obey your command, otherwise it turns against you.
Vampirism - I can turn into a bat, walk on walls, and regain strength by drinking the blood of my victims, but I get hurt by direct sunlight, can’t walk into houses uninvited, and must feed at least once per week.
Polyjuice Potion - Drop someone’s hair into it, and drinking this potion will turn you into that person (or non-magical creature) for 2 hours.

Character Example:

Name: Salazar Von Neumann
Description:
Former Dark Lord who has lost his powers and memories after being defeated by the pesky band of plucky heroes. Now undead, he travels the world trying to solve the mystery of his past. A slender figure clad in flawlessly elegant black robes, charred skull, emerald flames burning within the empty eye sockets.
Abilities:
Charming and devious wizard. Can use telekinesis (on small objects), create minor illusions, send telepathic messages. Has a Cloak of Disguise which allows him to assume an appearance of any humanoid creature up to 4 times per day. Has a charming demon-familiar named Faust.

After each adventure, your character can gain a new ability or improve one they already have by removing some of its limitations.

Rolling the Dice

When you attempt a task that is difficult or risky, the GM can tell you to roll a 20-sided die. If you roll above the target number (set by the GM) - you succeed, otherwise you suffer a negative consequence, setback, or a complication.

The target number depends on the difficulty of the task, situation you’re in, and your approach to solving a challenge. GM sets lower numbers for easier tasks and clever solutions, and higher numbers for difficult situations or risky actions. If you saw a movie character attempt something like this, would you expect it to work?

You can improve your chances by rolling with advantage. That means you roll multiple dice, and take the best result. Roll with advantage when you use an ability or an item relevant to the task you’re attempting. If you want to use multiple abilities - roll an extra die for each one, up to the maximum of 4. Example:

If you’re trying to really scare someone, and your character is Strong (scary looking), Insightful (can figure out someone’s biggest fear), and is holding a Bloody Axe, you can add all 3 abilities to your roll and roll 4 dice with advantage.

Type !roll in the discord chat for a regular roll, type !adv2, !adv3, or !adv4 to roll multiple dice with advantage.

Roleplaying Guidelines

Follow these guidelines to get the most out of our games. If you’re new - don’t get too overwhelmed by all these tips. Practice them one at a time - pick one principle you’d like to get better at, and focus on that one thing for the duration of the game.

Play to find out what happens

Do things that result in a good story, optimize for fun instead of “winning”.

Yes, and

Embrace other players’ ideas and build on top of them. Don’t shut down ideas. Actively help others to have cool moments and achieve their goals, create opportunities for the other characters to shine.

Share the Spotlight

Avoid talking over other players and dominating the conversation. Help the quieter players to feel included - ask their opinion or what they would like to do next. If you notice someone being interrupted - ask them what they were about to say.

Actively contribute ideas to the story

Don’t be afraid to add information to the story. Try to describe things vividly, point out interesting details in the world around you. Answer unsolved questions, come up with explanations for things that seems inconsistent, fill in the the missing information, help to create a story that makes sense.

Advance the Plot

Help the GM to move the story along. If you notice that players are stuck talking to each other and going nowhere - make a decision, conclude this scene, and move on to the next one.

Be an active player

Don’t wait for others to entertain you, assume the responsibility for making the story more fun for yourself and others.

Positive energy and enthusiasm are always welcome.

Stay in character

Try to immerse yourself in playing your character, like an actor. Try playing characters with real feelings and believable motivations. Try to make other people love and care about your character. Think about your character’s distinctive features, quirks, unique speech patterns. Don’t be shy to act it out, do a silly voice.

Develop your Character

What are their values and ideals? What do they fear? What flaws/weaknesses do they need to overcome? What is their backstory, significant events that shaped them? What is their deep dark secret? Do they have a strong opinion about what’s going on? What’s going through their head at this moment?

Goals and Motivations

Figure out what your character wants, form your own goals, pursue them, creatively overcome obstacles on your way. What does your character want from life? What is their current goal? What do they want from this quest?

Explore the Relationships

How does your character feel about the other party members? Establish a connection. How do you know each other? What do you think about them?

Create interesting tension, conflict dynamics between the characters in the party (while still collaborating as players). What does your character need from another PC? Why do they refuse to give it to you? Could your goals be at odds with each other? As the story goes on, how can your characters resolve the conflict?



Running the Playtest

Adventure authors can invite other people to participate in the game, or playtest the adventure between themselves (if they don’t mind the spoilers). We create our characters, one person volunteers to be a GM, and we play through our adventure.

If several authors want to try their hand at running the adventure, we can take turns GMing the scenes for each other (everyone plays as their character, one person temporarily becomes a GM and runs the game until we switch and someone else continues the story).

Rolling Dice

Before the roll, set the target number the player needs to beat in order to succeed at a task. Set lower target numbers for easier tasks and clever solutions, and higher numbers for difficult situations and risky actions. 5 is easy, 10 is average, 15 is challenging, 18 is very hard.

Take into account not just the difficulty of the task, but also the situation players are in and their approach to solving the challenge. That way the players’ choices and roleplaying matter to the likelihood of the success, not just their abilities.

Clever plan will have a lower target number than the reckless one. Passionate argument with well made points is more likely to persuade an NPC than a less convincing one. Injured hero will find it harder to perform physical tasks. Sneaking past the guard is easier if the players have distracted them first.

You can split more challenging/elaborate tasks into multiple rolls:

Picking a lock is a single roll. To open a bank vault you might want to roll for disabling the alarm, breaking the lock, sneaking in in time to hide from the guard patrol.
If the players want to sway an angry Orc to their side, tell them to roll for an attempt at calming it down, then for communicating in a way that it can comperhend, and finally for convincing it to follow the course of action players want.

Running Combat Scenes

Resolve combat the same way you resolve any other challenge in the game - with one or multiple (often 3-5) rolls.

Don’t run combat blow-by-blow. Instead, roll to determine the outcomes of decisive moments in the conflict, dramatically interesting turning points.

There are no hitpoints, fights are resolved narratively. Successful rolls move the players closer to victory, heroes progressively back the enemy into a corner until at some point they have an opportunity to land the final killing blow.

Wound the dragon’s wing to force it to land, distract it to help another player to get close, avoid its attacks, pry open one of it’s scales, land the killing blow.

On failed rolls, players take damage from the enemy’s counterattack, the situation gets more dangerous, victory is harder to achieve. Describe how the player got hurt and take it into account when narrating the consequences and deciding the difficulty of future challenges. If the situation gets severe, players may be forced to escape or be left at the mercy of their enemies.

The orc kicks one player onto the ground, wounds another, deflects the attack, disarms the last one. Now players have no choice but to flee or get captured.

The goal is to make combat feel like improvising a cool cinematic action sequence, as opposed to playing a turn based boardgame. You present players with interesting and high-stakes challenges, they use their creativity to invent cool solutions, roleplay the dramatic moments, vividly describe awesome actions.

GMing Guidelines

Yes, and

Listen to players and “yes and” their ideas. Let them take the story in their own direction, and build on top of their ideas.

Ask Questions

Draw players into the story by asking questions such as “How does your character feel about x?”, “What’s going through their head as they do y?”. On a successful roll, let them describe the consequences of their action - “Describe to me how you defeat the enemy.”

Keep the scenes short

Shorter scenes are better than longer ones. Start scenes as close to the action as possible, end them as soon as the interesting part over.

Rare rolls, meaningful consequences

Tell the players to roll only when both succeeding and failing at an action could each contribute something interesting to the story. The situation should always change after a roll, for better or for worse, each outcome pushes the plot forward, moving the characters closer to or farther away from their goal. Don’t roll for insignificant things, if you can resolve the situation without a roll - do so.

Fail Forward

Failed rolls always lead to negative consequences and complications, raising the stakes and making the story more dramatic. Don’t let failed rolls to halt the story - “Nothing happens” should never be an outcome of a failed roll, players should never get stuck at the door they can’t unlock.

If the action is required for the story to move forward, either make the success automatic, or roll for whether or not they encounter a cost or a complication:

The door opens but you have triggered an alarm and now guards are about to show up.

Never roll for the same thing twice

If the players have failed a roll, they must try a different approach:

You broke your last lockpick, you have to try something else (bribe the guard, break the door, etc)

Follow the rule of cool

The more awesome, creative, or funny the player’s idea is, the more likely it is to work.

Prompts App
A large collection of prompts that will help you to write or improvise adventures. Adventure ideas, antagonists, settings, challenges - everything you need!
Adventure Writer's Room
We are a group of GMs who meet in the discord voice chat, and challenge ourselves to improvise a one-shot adventure in 2 hours. Our goal is to have fun brainstorming ideas in a chill, lighthearted, no-pressure environment. We’re looking for some friendly and creative people to join us!
Mirage
A rules-light game for people who love storytelling, improvisation, and freeform roleplay. Go on imaginary adventures, play out fun stories in a lighthearted atmosphere with other friendly and creative people. Come play with us!
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