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Running Roleplay and Intrigue Adventures

by Mike on 8 April 2024

This article is one in a series where we look at types of adventures and examine

These articles include:

Your own adventure types and how you run them may differ from mine. That's totally fine. There are many right ways to enjoy this game.

Robin Laws's book Adventure Crucible – Building Stronger Scenarios for any RPG inspired my thoughts on this topic.

Understanding Roleplay and Intrigue Adventures

In adventures focused on roleplaying and intrigue, the characters primarily talk to NPCs to accomplish goals or learn information. Intrigue adventures often overlap with Investigations and Mysteries with less of a focus on location-based clues and expanding the goals beyond uncovering mysteries.

Example goals in roleplay and intrigue adventures might include

Roleplay and intrigue adventures are often built around a set of linear or networked scenes. In these scenes, the characters talk to one or more NPCs learning something or attaining a goal that leads them to the next scene.

Preparing Roleplay and Intrigue Adventures

During preparation for roleplay and intrigue adventures, GMs can focus on

Running Roleplay and Intrigue Adventures

Roleplay and intrigue adventures can begin with a strong start to bring the players into the game, clarify the goals of the adventure, set the stage, and let the players begin interacting with NPCs.

During play, the GM thinks as the NPCs would think given their backgrounds and goals as they interact with the players. As the conversation goes on, the GM may decide how NPCs react based on what the players say or they may have players roll ability checks if there's a meaningful chance for failure that doesn't end the adventure in a brick wall.

GMs can use ability checks to determine how easily or how difficult it is to acquire information from an NPC or shift the NPCs attitude without shutting off entire paths if the adventure on a single bad check.

Other elements from typical adventures may come up in these sessions including exploring locations or getting into a fight, even if the overall focus is on talking to NPCs.

Pitfalls of Roleplay and Intrigue Adventures

Roleplay and intrigue adventures might suffer from the following pitfalls:

Avoiding Pitfalls

GMs can avoid or mitigate these pitfalls by

A Common Sub-Adventure Type

Roleplay and intrigue adventures might often slide into or be shuffled into other larger adventures. As one of the core pillars of roleplaying games, roleplay and intrigue scenes appear often throughout campaigns and can drive the story forward as much, or more so, than other adventure types.

Clarifying the goal, building rich reactive NPCs, creating interesting paths forward regardless of the outcome, and delivering the other elements of gameplay can make roleplay and intrigue adventures as exciting as the most explosive combat encounters.

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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