Friday 17 October 2008

World Adventure Writing Month

World Adventure Writing Month (WoAdWriMo) is an event each year that seeks to get people writing adventures to share online. The challenge is to write an adventure for your favourite game in a single month. Once complete, you upload your adventure document to the site and bask in the glory that is completion. The entries then displayed proudly for all to enjoy. In 2007, Jeff Rients was inspired by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I made it through NaNoWriMo in 2007 and it certainly was a challenge I was thrilled to see finished. No doubt the adventure writers in WoAdWriMo see it with the same trepidation and glee for finishing. The deadline for WoAdWriMo of one month is a soft one, so if you miss it by a bit and don't quite manage to get it in on time, Jeff (and the team?) will still accept. In 2007, June was the month and 2008 was July. Support for participents is good, lots of hints and tips about writing what you know, sticking to simplicity and just getting words down. Vaguely reminiscent of NaNoWriMo and understandably so (a WoAdWriMo blog post comparing the two perhaps, Jeff?) as they are both creation under pressure.

The output of WoAdWriMo is a series of free adventures in varying quality, consisting of a raw, hot-blooded gush of ideas in PDF/Word Doc form. That might sound like a criticism but the output (as reviewed below) benefits from the rough-and-brave thought-vomit you tend to get from creating under pressure. The documents themselves are well presented, there aren't as many graphics or maps as you might hope for but in all cases that loss is subliminally felt by the respective authors and replaced with rich narrative, passion and energy.

At time of writing, only the 2007 entries were available, so I chose two very different ones to review.

Zero Sum Gain by Bobby Derie

Zero Sum Gain is an adventure for Shadowrun 4th Edition by Bobby Derie. The adventure is based around the Shadowrunners being blackmailled by a woman who has had her own lover kidnapped. It's dark, gritty and of adult content. The 'good guys' aren't particularly nice and the whole adventure is cast in a sea of human social effluent. Although essentially linear, the adventure is arranged as a series of scenes such that a GM can chop and change. Each NPCs has enough motivation and backstory for successful ad libs. The final confrontation is likely to be a mix of tough decisions depedent on the players route through the scenario.

The start of the adventure begins with the GM doing a one-on-one-roleplay with a character and although some players might resist being thrown into plot (as mine definitely would), Bobby does well to offer was around this. Each scene is well written, with tips on how to get around foreseen plot barricades while breaking up the familiar 2-column layout with pictures, some of which are impressionistic and take a little staring at before you see what they are. I must admit wishing I'd not been so clinical with some of my projects.

Zero Sum Gain is repleat with resources for the GM: NPC stats and descriptions, maps and lots of feeling. With such a large amount of content it is difficult to believe it was written in a month. If you like gritty, hard hitting near-future adventures then download it. The adventure is generic enough to be run in any dark near-future setting. Great work, well done!

The Blue Mountains by Jay A. Hafner

The Blue mountains begins with the attractive strapline: "The Blue Mountains are your clan’s next home. It is your task to do a simple cleaning up before the clan can move in." which sums it up rather well. It is an adventure written for D&D 3e in the Frostburn setting of Conan and the Hyberian Age (by Robert E. Howard and others) that describes an alternative prehistory of Earth with ancient gods, palaces, tombs and so on. It takes the daring line of requiring the GM to know a fair amount beforehand, including the Frostburn setting and Norse mythology. I soon found that this was not entirely required but would allow a keen GM to turn it into a strong campaign.

The scenario is peppered with optional new rules that dovetail into D&D 3e. These include new races and some new rules that diminish the power of magic as weilded by the players. The background is thin but Jay has taken the sneaky (and effective) move of adding hyperlinks to the Wikipedia articles on Norse, Pictish and Finnish mythos. A good when time is short. A quick blast through the different locations the characters will go adventurin' and the descriptive half is over. The rest of the document is set aside for maps and stat blocks, which is very welcome. It helps bring everything together. I would like a little more description and tie in to the setting but there are so many big ideas crammed into a small package (in a short amount of time), that it would take a considerable amount of time to fill out. We can only hope that Jay does as the setting is enthralling and the style of writing very easy. Nice one, Jay.

Thoughts on WoAdWriMo

WoAdWriMo is a great idea and superb source for free adventure material. It would be great to have all the WoAdWriMo material in one place, 2007 entries are on a defunct blog called Treasure Tables, there's also a blog and a main site (that looks like a blog) so it's a touch confusing. Perhaps a little graphic showing that a site is part of the WoAdWriMo network might help. Where the scenarios are list, it would help if there was a little more information. Perhaps a 'difficulty' grade hinting on whether it's a simple dungeon crawl or a more expansive plot idea. The text describing the scenario should read more like the back of the book. Thus, scope and tone of the adventure can be gleaned before downloading (especially important for adult oriented works like Zero Sum Gain). These aren't problems per se but would help pull the whole event together.

Like most resources, WoAdWriMo has a nifty community forum, which rightly shows that there is a burst of activity around the event month and then tails off either side. It's good to see that people want to talk about their works as they work on them. The forum is relatively new (available only this year) but I think it will be a good solid feature for next year.

An event that enthuses people (who do not ordinarily share their campaign material) to throw something onto the web for free is a great idea. It's a philanthropic challenge that should be applauded. If you're looking for a whole adventure or ideas to fit into you existing campaign, there is a wealth of ideas at WoAdWriMo. Well done to Jeff for bringing it about with such energy and congratulations to all the participants past and future. I wait with baited breath to read through the 2008 entries.


Zachary Houghton said...

The Blue Mountains looks pretty cool. Thinking of working it in to my next C&C game!

I also like jrients' Asteroid 1618 from the same site.

Rob Lang said...

I did read through Jeff's Asteroid 1618 and it's really good. I have it saved for a future post of its own. I thought that if I add it on here, it might look a bit like I am about to propose marriage or something!

Frankly, all of the WoAdWriMo games are of considerably high quality that there is plenty for me to review in the future. No doubt, by the time I get to the rest of the them, it will be July 2009 and a new batch will have arrived!

Anonymous said...

Many of the 2009 adventures are available. You just have to go to the forum to get them, since they don't have their own archive yet:

Anonymous said...

I just saw your post on the WoAd forum asking for feedback from people who participated.

I wrote ZOMG, and it was a lot of fun. I'd run a very similar one-shot adventure for a couple groups of players before, and putting down the loose plot into some kind of tangible form made me realize just how much work goes into writing adventures. I had to clarify and explain and expand a lot of things I hadn't even thought of when running it, since I usually improv most things.

I do wish that I had more images and better maps. I had a friend who drew some character portraits for me, but her scanner and digital camera simultaneously broke, so she couldn't get them to me in time.

The experience was certainly a worthwhile one, and I look forward to doing it again next year. Even if I don't, I now have a "portfolio" of sorts to advertise my DMing prowess.

Rob Lang said...

Thanks for the input, DI. Glad that the forum post worked. Images and maps are a bind and I am researching for a future post on options for the philanthropist.

Did you find the month deadline restricting or focussing? Did you struggle to create something that was playable? Did you leave much out? How did you remain disciplined?

Are there any adventures you've read and though "YES!", any you really liked I might review?

Many thanks for popping by.