SAGE Writers Guidelines
The following list is a meandering collection of advice which may
or may not be applicable to the scenarios at hand. These are not
requirements, but simply suggestions. This is a general list which is
applicable to any RPG scenario.
Before putting pen to paper read both the Mission and
NPC sections of the Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook in their entirety. If you
have any questions, ask them before you get started. We would rather
answer your questions up front than have to ask for rewrites.
Fully develop every idea you present. For example, if you introduce an
organization, provide its statistics per pages 389--395 of the
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook. Alternately, if you introduce a red herring,
include enough detail for the GC to both adequately run the herring
and get the scenario back on track.
Don't forget, the purpose of any game world is to seek adventure. For this to happen, there must be some form of intrigue, something not quite right or just a dark underside. When writing and thinking about world building, always remember to plant hooks, even if you never plan on exercising them! Did the princess go missing 30 years ago with unusual circumstances? Do people hear odd noises coming from the castle on the hill at night? These things are paramount to creating a compelling setting.
Remember: If you write something where everything is a utopia, it will sound like a great place to retire to, but nobody will want to adventure there.
Legacy of a Place
What is more intriguing: The lone ruins of a castle on a hill, or the crumbling remains of Castle Tarchevor, once the capital of an old kingdom until the ruling family was brought down by a curse upon the land because they had the audacity to build the castle on the same location as an ancient Lauthu temple?
It is important to always think about why something is where it is, consider several hundred years of history if need be, just to help it make sense. This history will inherently then seep out in the setting as greater depth, providing a better tapestry for the stories. These elements can also seep out from time to time just to help give that sense of Legacy. Perhaps it is a weathered stone marker in an ancient language slowly sinking into the ground, or maybe it is just a simple folklore tale from the local area told in a tavern.
A really simple way to make sure you are covering this is to look at something and ask yourself why
three times. If you can answer each of them, great! For example: Why are the castle ruins there on the hillside?
Because the family and kingdom collapsed. Why did it collapse?
Because they were brought low by a curse upon their family. Why were they cursed?
Because they ignored the local traditions and built their castle upon the ruins of an ancient Lauthu temple.
Another good way to create Legacy for a place is to attach it within something that already exists. It's far easier to create a town within an existing country than it is to create an entire country just so you can then create your town. If you've got an idea that may fit nicely within something already established, don't be afraid to say so. You're probably right.
Ultimately, the purpose of any players is to have fun. But, of
course, not all scenarios can make everybody happy. Do not use this as
a crutch. If it is likely that at the end of a game many players
will be unhappy, spend some time thinking about why.
Feeling like a Hero:
Give the players the opportunity to feel like a hero, not just a
mercenary. Give them the opportunity to provide a brave rescue, great
deed or noble sacrifice.
One of the greatest measures of having fun is the ability to
butt. There should be one encounter where the players can have the
opportunity to shine without feeling like they barely survived by the
seat of their pants and a long measure of good luck.
Don't Pick on the Players:
The easiest way to ruin the fun for a player is to make them feel
picked upon. If all of the combats are overpowered or the tactics
provide for seemingly unfair behavior or anything similar that puts
the player in a situation where they feel picked upon (lacking
choices), they will no
longer have fun.
This isn't to say that villains cannot be
intelligent. Focusing on a single character in combat is Ok.
Surprising a single character while separating them from the rest of
the party (their support group, perhaps for the entire combat) is not Ok.
Combat Challenge plays a big part of this. Poorly balanced
combat can easily swing into the players feeling picked upon.
To avoid this problem, you are encouraged to include tactics for
how scenes may
run in a 'best-world' scenario and personalities and motivations for
"Forcing the Players' Actions: Be very careful making major choices
for the characters either on- or off-screen. It's okay to make
assumptions about what occurs leading up to a scenario (in order to set
the action up), but it's not appropriate to make any assumptions
about the characters' actions during the scenario. The players should
always be in command of their own actions and every scenario should
consequently prepare for several expected actions."
Boxed Text Problems
Boxed text can often be a good indicator of the quality of a
mission. Good boxed text simply explains an environment, nicely but
As an author you can look at your own mission and ask the following
Show, not Tell:
The best role
for boxed text is to simply explain an environment. It should not
tell players what they are doing, it should not dictate a character's
actions. The only exemption for this is the introductory
boxed text, to start a mission. From that point forward, all boxed text
should simply describe a newly encountered environment (but it should
not even tell the players how to get there). If you find yourself
writing boxed text as glue between combat encounters, there is a
Keep it short:
Long boxed text will be skipped by Game Controls. They would rather
paraphrase than sit there droning on and boring the players. You
are better off paraphrasing for the GC what the players see, so the
GC can turn around and put it into their own words. Boxed text
over a paragraph or two should be pruned and truncated.
Upside-down pyramid style:
This is a term from journalism, but it is highly applicable to
writing boxed text as well as any other part of the mission.
It is the method of placing the most important information
first (in this case
most important for the character assessing the room). It doesn't
matter how lavish the room is, or how nice the mosaics are, if there
is a bomb 30 seconds from detonating, it probably should be mentioned
Read It Aloud:
Before your final submittal, just take a moment to read through all of
the boxed text aloud one final time. Through chops, edits,
rewrites and various other convolution of writing the text more than
become chopped, conflicting and inconsistent.
A final read-through should help fix these problems.
Point 1 - Scene Wipes
When writing box text introducing a new scene following a long time
period or lots of action that in
which the characters need not be directly involved, it's acceptable to
skip the intervening time or
activity with a "broad strokes" statement.
Example of Bad Boxed Text
Note: the prior encounter ended in a large city, with the players
deciding to venture to a small town which has been occupied
by a local warlord.
Example: "Six hours later, your team arrives in Lesbin. A courier from the Crown met with you en route and
offered the following information, fresh from the court's rumor
When the boxed text takes place soon after the previous scene,
however, it should remain neutral
about the characters actions and the actions that occur in-between.
Example: "Following the events at the stock yard, your team
recoups and plots its next course
of action. Thankfully, you know certain things for sure..."
Point 2 - Scene Entrances
Never assume the characters approach or enter a scene in any
particular way. For instance, with a
scene that takes place in a burning refugee camp filled with enemy
snipers, don't assume they come
over a hill to observe the situation. Simply say something like this:
"Your destination turns out to be a
ruined refugee camp, flames kicking up from every building. The
moonlight glints off the blazing wreckage
like stars fallen to earth."
As you look over the serene village from your vantage point on the
top of the hill, it all looks serene and quiet from far away. Most cottages
and hovels have a few animals out in front, and here and there you can
see a local villager scurrying from place to place. On one side of the town
a black plume of smoke rises from a huge funeral pyre which burned out
sometime earlier in the day.
This text has a few problems.
First it moves too far into the scene and places the PC's
into a position they may not want to be in. This is a very difficult
line to walk, because boxed text is great for cutting out long blocks
of time between scenes. However, handling the "screen wipe" and
timing is critical.
The problem with this boxed text is it places the PC's into the
scene where they may not want to be. It is equivalent to a scene
where the PC's need to sneak into a building and ending the text with
"the doors slide open and the receptionist smiles and asks if she can
It changes from being a village to being a town. While a minor
point, it is still inconsistent.
Choppy sentence: serene is twice.
The most noticeable feature is the funeral pyre, which should be
explained first, not last.
Appearance of Player Choice
For gaming this rule is as golden as "Suspension of
No player likes to be on a linear path of random encounters (often
referred to as the choo-choo train of combat).
Let the players feel like they have a choice in what happens. This
becomes very difficult in a Wyrmstone game, because time and combats
are limited and
the options for a GC are fairly constrained. However, it is
possible to write a situation which has multiple choices, which
really all result in the same action. This allows the player to
feel in control, without having to consider a large matrix-plot
provide at least 2--3 things for the team to do in every scene, and
in many cases you should provide more. Writing a Wyrmstone
scene, ask yourself the question: What would most teams do here? What
would a character of each base class do here? Where would they look
and what questions would they ask? Strive to answer all of these in
the text so that GCs will only have to improvise to make the mission
more fun, not merely functional.
The simplest way to
do this is to leave some of it up to the GC. Explain the situation
around an encounter to the GC, and let them work out the details
with the players. It is even possible to provide a few options to the
The characters, through role-play, just accepted the responsibility of
freeing refugees that evening. Two ways of handling the next step:
Start the next "encounter" in the mission with a block
of boxed text telling the players they are now sneaking up outside the
refugee pen, just before dawn.
In the next encounter explain the refugee pen to the GC,
including the various guard posts, best times of day to sneak, as well
as tactics taken by the guards for various situations. Then leave it
up to the GC to work with the players in figuring out how they take
on the rescue.
Plot line Issues
The plot line of a mission can be easily overlooked in all the
other details of designing a mission. However, in the end a mission
is still a story, and should follow good story design including a
proper plot arc with appropriate climax and resolution.
Too few choices is another common problem. Players are quick to give
up if they cannot discern where the mission expects them to go. You
should clearly explain the options so the GC can clearly convey them
to the players. Also, if there is only one way to get to the next
encounter, there might be a flaw in the scenario.
Another problem with single-option scenes is the player can
short-circuit a mission. This can happen when the players fail, for
any number of reasons, to pick up on the one choice needed to get to
the next encounter. In this case, the mission is often over for the
players and they feel cheated. Having backup choices which the judge
can use when necessary is always helpful.
The mission should become progressively harder, with a peak at the
critical point of the plot.