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The Secret Art of Abduction

Alexander Macris | 16 May 2011 21:18
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Making Abduction Work For You

The art of abduction depends on having a set of "weird facts", that is, a circumstance you need to explain. Fortunately, such facts are never in short supply. Indeed, the easiest and most accessible method of brainstorming available to any gamemaster is random generation of facts. Hundreds of game accessories, in print or online, can randomly generate content for you - random adventure generators, random magic swords, random taverns, random jewelry, random monsters, and on and on.

For example, with a single click on the random adventure generator above, I randomly created a dungeon called "The Weird Citadel of Secrets." One of these was Room 45, which noted "there are cracks in the floor here" and "treasure: 500sp, 20gp." The weird fact here is "there is treasure in an otherwise empty room with cracks in the floor." I abduced that "if the treasure belonged to adventurers who had fallen into the cracks in the floor, this would make sense." And, presto! The cracks in the floor became large, menacing cracks which must have broken under the feet of some hapless hero, whose precious wealth lingers there still.

A second method of generating "weird facts" is through adaptation - porting content from other sources into your campaign setting. For instance, in the Auran Empire, I've made use of old D&D modules such as Isle of Dread, Against the Giants, and City of the Gods, each of which came from a different campaign setting (Mystara, Greyhawk, and Blackmoor respectively). You can do the same with articles from Dragon and Dungeon magazine or various internet sources; modules from other game systems; ideas stolen from your favorite TV shows, movies, and books. My ettin from earlier is a great example of this.

A third method of generating "weird facts" is to rely on your players, who are (assuredly) an endless source of weird. For instance, at some point, in our Classic D&D campaign, one of our players - who runs Zeodarë, a cleric of Ianna, goddess of love and war - decided her character's retainer was also her lesbian lover. I had previously determined that clerics in the campaign world were celibate, which meant that either (a) the player was playing wrong (i.e. her cleric could not take a lesbian lover), (b) her character was breaking the vows of her order, or (c) there was a reasonable explanation to be abduced. I abduced that Ianna did demand celibacy with regard to marriage between man and woman, but permitted her clerics to take a lover of the same sex. This interestingly made the campaign more interesting...

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