Scenario Building Tips from Drizzit, il Gioco di Ruolo

I think most people would be forgiven if they saw “Drizzit, il Gioco di Ruolo” and thought it was simply the Italian spelling of a Drizzt Do’Urden roleplaying game. Outside of the Italian-speaking world or hardcore comics fans (i fan di fumetti), not too many people know about the web-comic character, Drizzit, who is certainly a parody of the other famous Dark Elf created by R.A. Salvatore, but it is still its own phenomenon that has spawned a card game and a roleplaying game.

And so in an attempt to cover not only the more well-known game systems, I present the condensed-advise of how to build adventures from the Drizzit roleplaying game. Fear not, it will be in translation.

Tutti Devono “Vincere”

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That’s right, “Everyone must win!” Now Andrea Zoffoli, the designer of the the game system, is quick to point out that winning is subjective, but the primary goal with the provocative opening statement is to discourage the common Narrator vs. Player mindset. He defines winning as everyone having fun, which balances story, fun, and calculated risk that has real in-game consequences. The last thing winning should be is “when your exaggeratedly powerful monster uncorks the head of the last survivor of the gaming group as if it were champagne on New Year’s Eve.” It is about telling satisfying narratives that even if there is a Total Party Kill, the players and Narrator know it was a legitimate fight filled with possibilities. It is this frame of reference that I think highlights a key point in Drizzit for gamemasters to follow in creating scenarios. They need to be empathetic. There should be a relationship between the players and gamemaster so that the Narrator knows the players and builds scenarios around the players preferences in game mechanics. It does not mean players overrun the gamemaster, but they do provide a variety of challenges that includes favored elements.

The dominating imagery in scenario building used in Drizzit, Gioco di Ruolo is that of a script, so that the central activity revolves around the main characters (the player characters for an RPG). Plot elements that figure into the larger story often touch upon the main characters’ backstory. A gamemaster should mine these already agreed upon world elements for plot points, using their various skills to fill out the challenges. Zoffoli is quick to remind us again that it doesn’t mean the scenarios are just a walk in the park or that you cannot use challenges that don’t match someone’s skills; improvisation on the part of the player characters is a key element to everyone “winning.”

Evitare i Binari

The use of the term script probably has a lot of GMs screaming, “DON’T RAILROAD!” Again with a pre-emptive response, “avoid the tracks.” The methodology employed to retain player character agency does contain what many will still subscribe to a railroady scenario, but again not everyone runs a completely sandbox campaign and these tips will be useful to them. The basic structure of these scenarios have a starting point and an end goal but the fate of events need to remain in the players’ hands. There needs to be multiple ways for the player characters to solve the various problems the Narrator prepared or to defeat the Boss Monster. The game recommends the Narrator have prepared 2 or 3 plot ideas that can fall away or change depending on the player characters’ actions.

Art by Bigio

These recommendations are dependent upon the Narrator’s ability to improvise and to modify those scenarios on the fly. The gamemaster needs to anticipate potential “detours” and navigate the player characters via parallel streets back to the main event. Some suggestions are to move events, information, and items around to other locations, providing the players with multiple opportunities to discover all the secrets of the scenario. As the gamemaster plays with his group and pays attention to how they approach tasks, it will give them more tools to anticipate various routes they will take. Nevertheless, the Narrator must always be ready for surprises just like the players.

Specific Scenarios?

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A specific recommendation on story ideas is an origins narrative. How did this grand band of adventures come to be? I think it is easy to see that as only a one-shot scenario, but if we employ Drizzit’s script imagery we can look at modern cinema’s creation of comic-book, cinematic universes. We may argue about how successful Hollywood has been in creating them, but they did create what the TTRPG world calls campaigns, multiple stories focused on an overall theme. Pushing back to character creation, the game system offers three areas to explore for ideas. One example is the mere search for adventure, whether it’s the child dreaming for something beyond their chores, a noble dreaming of rescuing the gentleman-in-distress, or the bard imagining “fortune and glory.” The second suggestion is the result of fate, the player characters being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. Forces beyond their control of pushed them together to confront a challenge. A fate scenario would be a good opportunity to start the player characters in the middle of the action: the water from a busted dam sweeping everything away or the dragon attacking a village. It is the actions of the player characters to figure out how to save the town or slay/drive-off the dragon. Failure is not an option. The third suggestion is an event that is a force of gravity, pulling everything together. It provides adventurers to arrive from various different angles to deal with this event.

Employing Comedy

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Drizzit, Gioco di Ruolo is based on a comic that is a parody of something else. It is birthed in humor and so the expectation when playing the game is that humor will be a part of the story. In general, the more popular tabletop RPGs remain firmly within the dramatic realm. Certainly there are humorous moments, but unless you’re playing something like Paranoia, comedy is often not something planned as part of the scenario. The Drizzit comic employs a lot of bawdy humor that might not be up to everyone’s taste, nevertheless, there are some suggestions that gamemasters can employ. The system does offer a “comedy roll-table” with 72 ideas spread across 6 categories, which I do wonder if it is a bit of tongue-in-cheek. I don’t intend to reproduce it in is totality, but I do think it can be summed up into four principles:

  1. Do the Unexpected
  2. Do it … Literally
  3. Do it to the Extreme (e.g. to the absurb or as a farse)
  4. Be Crass, Crude, or Vulgar (I personally would add a caveat here. Know your group and remember everyone is at the table to have fun not be ridiculed.)

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