Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Writing A New Solo: Thoughts And Practical Advice

It's been a long time since I even looked into writing a solo; but as I'm getting back into writing after taking an extended break, it seems both a fun and worthwhile outlet. Also, as with all my previous solitaire adventures; it'll be free.

In truth, I'm not sure how long it'll take till I have something to release, but my guesstimate is that 6-8 hours worth of work can produce something pretty good. Not a Fighting Fantasy novel by any stretch of the imagination, but something that will be enjoyable to play through certainly.

So far I have a plot (which I won't spoil by saying too much at this point), and a rough plan of the narrative flow. If it were just a short story, we'd be ready to start drafting at this point; but being interactive fiction there is need to throw a few divergent paths in there. Which is where things become tricky.

You still want the reader to have a coherent experience. Which means you need them to hit key paragraphs where the plot points of the story are, but you don't want to railroad them into always picking the same path; as that somewhat defeats the point of interactive fiction. So, it's a real juggling act in that respect.

You also need to be mindful that the divergent paths don't dilute the story. Spending several paragraphs fighting goblins for no real reason for example; when the adventure is about recovering an idol from a cult that has set up base in a disused temple. The goblins may well fit into the ecology of your dungeon (they could be slaves of the cultists or something similar), but if they only detract from the adventure itself; then do they really warrant being included?

Replayability is a big thing that I like to weave into my adventures, and I have a few ways of doing this; randomly generated paths and tables of random content included with the adventure for example.

Random tables are probably one of the most commonly employed tricks by writers who want their adventure to be good for more than one pass, but I do feel that random tables aren't always used to the best effect. Sometimes being poorly balanced, or overly random.

In some solitaire adventures for example, to generate a random monster or random loot; you roll 2D6. Which seems simple enough. What's often overlooked however when populating these tables is the weighting of the dice rolls. You're mathematically going to see a lot more 7's than you will 2's and 12's; so this should be reflected in the results generated by the table if this is the method you're going to use. It seems fairly obvious when it's laid out in such simple terms, but I have seen it overlooked.

Overly random tables is also a bit of a personal bugbear. Whether this be in terms of content, or the relative disparity of difficulty; I don't really like it when the range goes all the way from rats to T-Rex's, and said rats can kill the T-Rex's in a straight fight. There's no harm in mixing it up a little; that is what random tables are for, but just because it's a random table it doesn't mean that logic goes out the window. Yes, this may be a magical land full of wonder, but there is no surer way of severing your readers connection to your work and that place than by throwing something at them that is either unfair or completely out of touch with the expectations of that world.

Admittedly,  what I have planned so far is a bit mad cap when compared to traditional fantasy writing; but it does have its own internal logic. This is where Tunnels & Trolls really shines through (which will be the system that I am writing adventure for). It allows for both serious and farcical adventures.. The trick being to decide which you're writing ahead of time; and to stick within that framework.

My forthcoming adventure will be within the genre of the intentional B movie, but with a fantasy flavor. I've chosen this not just because I really enjoy those kind of movies (they're so bad, that they're good), but because the combination of genre and setting gives me a wide scope to work within. There is a passion here, and a crossover of styles that is largely unexplored.

Possibly for good reason, but we'll see. One thing is for sure though, and that's that Tunnels & Trolls is the perfect vehicle to traverse this new terrain; being as it is geared towards humor and outlandish adventures.

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