Erik Schmidt
Erik Schmidt



The action need not follow the tracks laid out in the book

Sometimes readers assume that because In Thy Blood, The Killing Game, and Black Atlantic are each written in a very linear fashion, they are intended to be run on rails, exactly as written. While it is true the adventures are written such that each can be read as an exciting narrative, that narrative only represents one of many potential sequences of events which might unfold at the table. It is up to the GM to decide which elements of the written narrative to add to, use as-is, change, or discard:

In any conflict, the various perspectives of the people involved are decisive in determining its future development. This also applies to the scenario BLACK ATLANTIC. As with any other campaign, the characters will eventually have to choose sides to survive the adventure that awaits them. As a game master, you have to decide which direction to steer the players making sure that the campaign unfolds in a way that does not seem contrived. The scenario outlined here serves solely as a guide and its development should be adapted to the players at the table. We offer you a framework of essential scenes, but it is up to you to decide how to use them and which significance they carry. Customize the campaign to the motivations and predilections of your players. Skip or change parts you cannot use and insert them elsewhere at your whim. Stay flexible and mind your players’ actions so you are able to give priority to specific scenes in order to make the story more dynamic. – Black Atlantic, page 130

If you’re coming from more traditional published tabletop RPG adventures with branching options and a looser node-based structure, this approach may seem jarring. Some gamemasters really dislike it and complain that the adventures railroad players.

I personally find the SMV approach helpful, because almost no published adventure I’ve ever found for any game could anticipate what direction my players will take. I almost always have to conduct a fair amount of prep before running a large-scale published adventure in order to tailor it to the PC group, their goals, what they’ve done in the campaign prior to the adventure, and so on.

I find a great deal of inspiration for scenes and NPC behavior in the narrative approach used in ITB, TKG, and BA. It also provides abundant insight into why the forces at play in the adventure are doing what they’re doing, which makes it easier for me to adapt and adjust to PC actions at the table.

That said, these adventures ask a lot of a GM. Even the smallest and least complicated of them, In Thy Blood, incorporates more story elements than adventures published for other games. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the SMV approach to adventure writing, if you’re contemplating running ITB, TKG, or BA, know that you’ll need to invest effort in adapting the adventure for use at your table.