Recipe for Adventure
Hey, game masters, ever wonder what the heck you're going to run next game? Sometimes a little research can make it all come together. For what it's worth, he're how I made my last adventure.
Start with an Idea and an Internet Search
Throw your idea into a search engine and see what comes up. Or just jump right to Wikipedia and start your search there.
My idea: Nicolas Flamel, alchemist. I knew he was a big name in alchemy and used in a number of fictional works (Harry Potter for one). Wikipeida tells me more.
I find that according to legend he A: Discovered the Philospher's Stone and B: Found the secret to eternal life. What's not to like about that?
There's a bit about his gravestone and where he was buried in Paris. More research finds that the graveyards of Paris were all dug up and the bones of SIX MILLION PEOPLE put into catacombs, really old limestone mines that undermine the city of Paris.
Now, if you live in Paris, this is old news to you, but to me it's the best thing ever. After inhaling the very great Wikipedia article on the Catacombs of Paris, I search for "Catacombs of Paris Movies" because why not? And I find As Above, So Below. I love movies, so I rent it (Amazon Prime) watch it, and take notes for the adventure.
- Giant walls made of bones and skulls
- Unlit, but still hot candles that show someone is down in the catacombs
- Women in white robes and face paint singing
- Crawling over bones
- "To Get Out Go Down" said by an out of touch person that the characters knew years ago
- Growing fear
- Dead end except for brackish water that can be swum through to reach hidden chambers
- The undecayed corpse of a crusader knight
- Collapsing passages
- Having to move, and the only way forward is also down
- Entrances that vanish
- Panic in the dark
And so on. I filled up every square centimeter of a page while watching. I would pause the movie to jot down a note. I used maybe 1/5 of my notes, but it was great to make all of them. The movie helped me improv the adventure in the catacombs.
My game isn't set in the modern day like As Above, So Below was, but so much translated to my 1895 setting (play testing the Yellow King RPG). If I was running D&D or 13th Age or a Cthulhu game, almost all would still work. I'm not saying the movie is the best horror movie ever (there are serious flaws), but it is so damned stealable for great catacomb crawling adventures. Plus Perdita Weeks and the rest of the cast do a great job, and I found it watchable.
Watching movies as game prep!
Putting it Together
I used a player's backstory (I think my sister is a werewolf) as the hook, and had the sister connected with an NPC, Pascal Saccard, who vanished into the catacombs after reading "The King in Yellow" and researching Nicolas Flamel.
I had a number of scenes straight from the movie, including having the players find Pascal in an unreachable space. I played him as remote and haunted. He would answer yes or no questions with a nod or head shake, then stare at the limestone wall. He told them to "go out you must go down."
I needed Flamel in the catacombs, and hey, he "found eternal life," so of course he's a vampire.
I ran through the game system's mental hazards and listed those I thought we'd hit: looking at / reading the King in Yellow, seeing things that can't be like the passageway they just crawled out of vanishing without a trace, and so on. I looked up what I could do with a cave in, and made notes so I could find it in play.
In play, the cave-in was more fun because despite me making the roll harder for the people in the back, the one in the middle failed, so the freaked out person in the back crawled screaming over the middle PC, shoving his face down into the bones while the roof caved in.
Cave-ins, underwater swimming in the dark, odd visions, and worse took a toll. By the time they confronted the crusader corpse, they were pretty depleted in fine horror movie fashion. The meeting with the vampiric Nicolas Flamel gave them the clue they needed for the next game. He doesn't like the Yellow King any more than they do, so he advised they track down all the copies of the play and destroy them.
A good time was had by all.