@RogerBW and I had a little conversation last week about my trouble in getting ready to launch a new campaign. According to my usual custom I want to run a series of rationalised planetary romance adventures in which the paradigm is that the player characters visit an exotic world to investigate a case or carry out a mission, and have a challenging or otherwise entertaining encounter with the peculiar local society and customs. I easily jotted down a dozen missions that a party might be sent on if they were a team of “effectives” for Human Heritage (the interstellar NGO concerned with protecting artists, art, and culture). But I am having a lot more difficulty in dreaming up a dozen peculiar cultures that would present suitably varied challenges to such missions. I told Our Roger that I don’t think I can meet his rule of thumb for actually having a campaign idea that I can run. He said:
If the mission model is “we get the brief, we go to the planet, we do the thing, we leave again” that feels like an adventure to me.
But that when an adventure is not the mission that you’re trying to accomplish, but what happens while you’re trying to accomplish it
(t)he notes for the scenario will include confounding
factors; the scenario is over when the masterpiece is fully scanned and the PCs are back somewhere safe with nobody chasing them, however they achieved this.
I quickly jotted down enough missions to satisfy Our Roger’s rule of thumb, but I haven’t done the confounding factors for most of them, so as scenarios they are incomplete; I have not demonstrated that I have a campaign idea that I can run.
Following that conversation I got to considering the “adventure seeds” that are published with a lot of setting and genre material for RPGs. It strikes me that many of them amount to goals that PCs might be set as missions or seize as opportunities, with not enough material supplied about the conflict and opposition that would be needed to turn a McGuffin into an actual scenario. Many are scenario hooks but not adventure seeds.
“A beautiful dame walks into your office and hires you to find the bloke who ran off with her sister” is just a hook. The Maltese falcon is just a Mcguffin. Casper Gutman, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, Wilmer Cook, and Floyd Thursby in particular having a complicated falling-out, and O’Shaughnessy duping a PI to be her muscle: that’s an adventure seed.