Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Manual Labor

Today's post comes in light of a module that we went on at the last Exiles event. We were doing a module where we were fighting bandits on horses. Now, for those of you who don't play Exiles, I would say the most unique thing about the game is the exciting "vehicle" modules that appear at pretty much every event.

A "vehicle" module is one that has some sort of non-standard environmental effect that the players have to work around. Sometimes you're on a runaway train, and you have to keep a hand braced on something to walk. Sometimes you're on a riverboat and you have to turn the ship in the right direction while dodging obstacles like low branches and rapids. We've had mine carts, horse chases, airships, and stagecoaches, each with different rules. And it's ton's of fun.

But it also takes some time to explain.

The module at this event was lots of fun. But it took the better part of half an hour to explain, and there were still some questions about mechanics in the middle of the module, which breaks immersion.

So what can you do to avoid these awkward pauses?

Write a Manual. An IG Manual.

A lot of times, you can explain the effects of a module using terms that would make sense IG. That way, players can learn how to do the module before hand in an IG way. And even in situations where the manual cannot be fully IG, you can make sections of the manual OOG (last few pages, section on each page). And, in situations where it's applicable, the time it takes to read the manual might be a significant challenge in a module.

For example, you could have to start a car, boat, or train to get away from a group of zombies. Most of the party is fighting off the walking dead while one or two players read through the book to learn what actions must be performed to start the vehicle (thus ending the module).

And as a final benefit, having a document like this means that the mechanic can be as uniform as possible. Different plot teams will know exactly what rules govern a stagecoach, horse, or train module (with leeway for special circumstances, of course).

So get to work on some manuals!

And as an added bonus, having a manual for


  1. Based on the title, I was certain that this post was going to be about how to trick your players into doing manual labor for you. Like the old "help unload the wizard's caravan" module.

    Or you tell players that they have to deliver this big box full of medicine, and then they discover that the sick person is actually a marshal who is just too lazy to carry his own props.

  2. I can honestly say I've never run those modules.

    ... but I might now.

  3. PCs "I cut down the tree!"
    Plot "Okay, it's cut down, what do you do with it?"
    PCs "I take it to the dwarves."
    Plot "Okay, go get the logs over there and carry them to the fire pit."
    PCs "Yay, fire!"

    More on topic... How do you ensure that people will actually read those manuals?

  4. LOL interesting... In our system helping an admin earnes you extra XP just like LARP in trash out and some other things to help keep the realms and avoid burnout.

  5. @Hedgehog

    I haven't really thought about problems with players not reading the book. Generally, the players in our areas would absolutely read a book if it came out as an IG item.