Home Forums General Game Design Scenario design on the fly

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    Avatar photoTony S

    I’m just wondering how often a scenario changes, or gets written on the fly, while the game is actually playing.  I’m not talking about a scenario where one side is just getting hammered, and the referee quietly decides that the Emperor has committed the Cavalry Corps much earlier than the scenario had previously called for, or that the tank reserves are suddenly a troop and not just a single Cromwell as the players were expecting.

    No, those are purely for play balance, because for perhaps poor luck, or poor planning, or both, just to make the scenario or game interesting and challenging for everyone.

    The question occurred to me yesterday, after an absolutely fantastically fun and entertaining game. It was a multiplayer, Fistful of Lead game set somewhere in England, sometime during the Wars of the Roses.  I was the only experienced FFoL player, so the referee just set up a simple table wherein all four of us were seeking to settle unspecified grudges against all the others, and each entered on a corner.  Victory points were for each kill made.  Simple, but admittedly bland.

    But as we were approaching a large bridge in the centre, before any actual bills were crossed, the referee suddenly added a few things.  One player had brought far too many cases of his WoTR figures, and the referee had been idly looking through the drawer marked “civilians”.  Inspired by the interesting collection he put a herald casting on the bridge and announced the first player commander there would be announced as the Lord of the Span, and get a couple of victory points. Then he put a lovely lass figure in front of the nearby pubhouse, and announced the first commander to successfully woo her would become the son in law of the wealthy pub owner and inherit the profitable establishment.  (There are task rolls in FFoL, so if the commander passed his roll, the young lady would be smitten by his glib Yorkist pickup lines.  And if you used a “heart” card to activate, obviously you’d get a bonus, which I thought was a particularly inspired addition by the gamesmaster).

    I was just impressed by the improvisation on the spot of the referee, and I don’t think I’d ever played in anything similar.

    Oh, for the record, I reached the lady first and rolled a one.  In FFoL, that’s a critical fumble.  Obviously I’d trodden in something rather unpleasant, or perhaps my earlier breakfast of beans and asparagus somehow coloured our conversation; suffice to say, my advances were rejected rather conclusively.  Broken hearted, eyes filled with tears, I stumbled back and determined to show her my courage by slaughtering a few enemy archers that had drifted close.  I managed however to drop my sword while charging an archer, who simply stabbed me with his dagger, which one would think my expensive armour would turn, but no.  It was a fatal blow, and I dropped dead immediately.

    (I managed to roll three ones in a row on a D10.  Sigh.  I can only hope that a few decades after this skirmish, a young playwright named Shakespeare might hear of this romantic and tragic event, and write a farce about it).

    Avatar photoMike

    I do like a game with a ref/gm. It has been so long though.

    Sounds like enjoyment was had!


    Nothing a good Dungeon master hasn’t done for about 50 years.

    Mick Hayman
    Margate and New Orleans

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    The only time I can remember doing anything like that was with a Warmaster 10mm multiplayer game.

    Four forces started in the corners of the table. In the centre was a hamlet, who ever controlled the hamlet at the end of the game would be the winner.

    One of the players raced his cavalry towards the hamlet only to see it replaced with Hasslefree’s Travelling Court of the Brownie King. Which lurched around the table spitting fireballs at anything it could reach.

    Some archers were startled to find the ridge they aimed to use as a firing platform was actually a giant snake.

    The lake had a giant tentacled monster in it.

    There were a couple of other scenic surprises but I forget what they were.

    Much mayhem ensued, much fun was clearly had.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I realise I missed out some important info in the previous post.

    The substitution of the hamlet was triggered by the player running a Dwarven army lamenting his lack of cavalry and wishing the hamlet would “pick up it’s skirts and run toward me!”

    Also, another scenic was the churchyard generating random undead units from time to time.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    I often run multiplayer same-side Vietnam games, and with all of the teamwork going on the NVA/VC often get a serious drubbing.  To keep things lively and the players interested I often add in additional enemy forces, possible boobytraps, surprise tunnel entrances or bunkers, wandering civilians or even the rare elephant or tiger attack.  In one game the troops were coming into a small village where there were a couple of monks pulling a cart, just for scenery.  One player was convinced that he needed to search their cart because of course that was where contraband would be hidden.  It was never the intent, they were just scenery, but it soon turned out that they were VC in disguise armed with pistols and grenades and a frantic point blank fight took place, with the VC being able to dodge among the huts and almost get away.  really made the game memorable for the guy and he still talks about it 10 years on.

    Tony, I really like that idea of “the lord of the span” and wooing the pub gal, a bit of roleplay is always fun in a game, helps with immersion and interest!

    Mike, it sounds like a terrifying time for those troops, especially if even a small bush could turn out to be some horrible monster!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    I recently ran a NapGothic Horror game set in Haiti, where the marsh terrain held a couple of hidden crocs waiting to ambush a passing Royal Marine and indeed did so..  There were also a few snake figures openly sunning themselves in the pathway i had thrown out just as scatter, one of which the player insisted on trying to pick up with his occultist.  Poisonous, of course, and biting!

    Mick Hayman
    Margate and New Orleans

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Poisonous or venomous? Asking for a pedantic friend.

    All these sound like great improv by the umpire/ref/gm. I admire games like that.

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