Situational vs Plotted adventures


I was designing the next adventure for my modern day horror/sci fi campaign. The PCs will be recruited into a special agency with the government and I have all those adventures planned and ready to go. They have already finished the first adventure, based on Robert R. McCammon's Stinger.

After review, I decided that the group should go through at least two, possibly three, unrelated "incidents" before being asked to join the agency. These adventures will serve to prove the characters' resourcefulness, resilience, and their ability to act.

The first adventure was written in a standard format. One alien crash lands on earth just outside of a small Texas town named Desolation, located 15 miles from the Mexican border. The alien ejects just before the wreck in a little blue sphere that a 9 year old girl finds. The alien possesses the girl, locking her mind up in the sphere. This is the good alien.

About 10 hours later a second alien lands on the town. This alien, named Stinger by the first alien who calls herself Dauphin, is an intergalactic bounty hunter. Stinger starts hunting for the first alien by digging tunnels under the town that come up through the floors of the building and homes. Stinger kills the people it finds and replicates them as cyborgs that do his bidding.

The PCs befriend the Dauphin, discovering that she is a rebel fighting for her species survival. They join forces with her and journey through the tunnels into the alien spaceship where they confront and kill Stinger. Dauphin possesses the body of a mentally retarded war vet, giving him the eternal peace and security of the blue sphere. Then she takes the ship and leaves Earth to fight her battle.

Pretty straightforward right?

I decided to do something completely different for the second adventure. No aliens, no monsters, nothing weird or supernatural. This adventure is more circumstance and situational comedy than anything else. This adventure is based on the novel Tricky Business by Dave Barry.

The players are on a gambling ship during a severe storm. The owner of the ship set up a planned robbery of the $4 million that he has laundered for the Chinese Triad. One of the men working for him has decided to keep the money for himself and has no qualms about killing everyone else involved, covering his theft up. Added to the mix are some stoned band members, a naked woman with a knife, two 80+ year old geriatrics, and an undercover DEA agent who is a single mother and lives with her mom.

The adventure is purely circumstantial. The pc's just happen to be there while crazy stuff is going on. I have nothing planned to get them involved, nor do they have to do anything. I'm wondering how involved the players will get in this adventure and whether they'll enjoy the change of pace.

So what do you think? Which style or adventure would you rather play? Why?

I like both. The plotted adventure is more streamlined and obvious, and a lot easier to get immersed in, but I love the unconventionality (that a word?) of the second. I could totally see myself as a PC bashing my brains in trying to figure out the purpose behind the whole venture, only to find that there wasn't one.

I can see the situational adventure as being much harder to run from a GM's standpoint, but much more rewarding and memorable for the players. I could also see situational adventures getting old very fast.

So, I guess my recommendation is to mix and match them. Gage the players' reactions, and adjust accordingly.

Ha, where do I get off giving advice to the great and untouchable Calamar? That's just my two cents.

This whole campaign reminds me very heavily of "The X-Files". Remember that while the "government conspiracy"-type episodes were the true plot of the show and were what kept people watching, the one-shot side "paranormal activity" episodes were what made the show really great.

The real question is, do you have a Fox Mulder?

Yeah, I gotta agree. I like both. I think a good campaign needs to have both to show the players that not everything that happens in the setting is because of or for them. Allowing them to get involved instead of it just being "background noise" is even better...because that how it is in real life. Hence, it has the effect of the players still feeling that they have impact on the world, despite the fact that what's going on has absolutely nothing to do with them, and would have happened whether they were there to see it or not.

"...the great untouchable Calamar". I like that. ;-)

I only have two pc's for this adventure. One pc is a total geek. Much like Hiro from the TV series Hero, only Mexican American and just out of High School. He speaks Spanish, English, and Klingon fluently.

The other PC is my Mulder. She is a rancher's daughter who is studying to become a veternarian. She has completely blocked the events of the first adventure from her memory and is completely straight-laced and practical.

The model for the campaign is based off of a Conspiracy X sourcebook that I received for GURPS. Very cool stuff...

So... I finished the short but sweetly humorous situation experiment. The players liked it a lot, but preferred the more story-driven adventures.