Scene 2 – Complicate That Shit
goal(s): establish the villain, up the stakes horizontally severely
element(s): role-play, puzzle, physical challenge
This is a non-combat encounter, and it’s goal is to up the stakes horizontally. The best way to describe this is to give you the typical scene early in a novel or movie.
The hero has what appears to be a simple problem.
“This mayor hired me to check out that graveyard where scary sounds are being heard from.”
The hero appears to solve the problem.
“I arrived at the graveyard, and sword-punched a bunch of zombies in the head. Problem solved!”
The hero breaks something along the way, or discovers that the problem is way more complicated than previously supposed.
“All of the zombies went down easily. We could clearly see their eerie green soul juice float away towards that creepy tower up the hill.”
Overlap with Scene #1
This scene can use the same site as scene #1, it just occurs sequentially afterwards. In the above example, the fight with the zombies is scene #1. Scene #2 would be something mysterious about the zombies (strange tattoos, glowing gems, , possessive spirits, scroll fragments) for the players to interact with. It can be obvious the PCs screwed up and made things worse, or left ambiguous for them to argue over.
Introduce the Villain
If there is not a singular villain (the EBG) established yet, now is the time. The existence of “evil bad guy” is a ring in the nose of PCs they will rarely ignore. Putting a name to the “face” is just that important. It’s hard to hate something you cannot name, or a nebulous organization.
example: the Necromancer Evilbadgai possesses the fallen zombie corpses from a distance, and warns that players of their certain doom if they try to disrupt his plan. The players have to wack-a-mole (err.. zombie) to shut him up, perhaps with other players arguing with them to stop chopping up the zombies because they want to talk to Evilbadgai.
Make this Scene Have Flesh
You will want this scene to take up screen time. I’ll say this over and over, but treking everybody out into the woods (after hours of driving, costume prep, etc.) for a grand total of 20 minutes of content is not cool. The same goes for having a scene where only one PC interacts, and the rest play swap the but thumb. Yes, those other larps you play in do it all the time. Slavery isn’t cool either, and everybody used to do it.
The best way to increase screen time is to adhere to Rule #2 from the first post of this series (i.e. make sure every PC is involved).
Whatever your non-combat macguffin is here, make it involve the efforts and interactions of as many PCs as possible. The resulting complication and coordination will become a content creation machine.
example: Evilbadgai is able to speak with the dead relatives and ancestors of the PCs. He has seen them coming for days from his interrogations of the spirits of the dead. As a result, he is prepared, and will torment and vex them with the status of their loved ones (or enemies) in the afterlife.
Transition to Scene #3
As always, you must have a clean transition to Scene #3. You very likely need Scene #3 to be in a different site than Scene #2.
sidetopic: communication channels
Whenever you increase the stakes, you are performing an information transfer from you to the PCs. You’ll want to figure out how to best do this transfer. You can just drop a “forsooth, you hear drums in the distance. It sounds like the ritual has begun.” In some cases, that’s the right thing™. How you convey the stakes is just as important as what the stakes are.
- Forsooth from the Storyteller (or an ST-enabled NPC)
- Lore from a NPC
- a written document
Each of these information channels has strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll wax about here.
Forsooth from the Storyteller
The Storyteller does an info dump.
|cheapest production cost||Usually too fast, so it isn’t content|
you guarantee that the PCs get the info
|Usually boring, as it is an info dump|
|Breaks the “show don’t tell” rule|
Lore from a NPC
An NPC does an info dump, or is available to be questioned. The typical here is either the Mr. Johnson, or a captive NPC.
|This is slow, so it’s content.||Medium production cost – you must prepare the script and info for the NPC|
|Best role-playing interaction.||Worst consistency
The NPC could be killed, the PCs could not ask, the NPC can screw up the important points of information, the PCs can miss it easily
|Can act as your non-combat macguffin itself, rather than the result of the macguffin||Requires a reliable NPC|
You have a written document to be recovered by the PCs. This is a scroll on an NPC, or a book on a table.
|Almost as consistent as a Storyteller Forsooth.
It can be missed if the PCs don’t search the appropriate location.
|This has the highest production cost|
| This is take-away content, to be referred to later by the PCs.
Ergo, the ST doesn’t need to repeat themselves.
|Best method for complex information|
| Best method for foreshadowing
(i.e. the most likely to be remembered by the PCs)