Rasher’s Scenario Design Series

Chapter 3: The Important Element

What is the most important element in a scenario or campaign? What is the main thing that separates a good campaign from a great one? The debate rages on, and there is no real answer. All facets of a campaign are dependent upon the others. For example, there is no way to have good playability without good balance. There is no one element of a campaign that is more important than the others.

However, there is one facet of a scenario that all the other parts are dependent on. Without this one facet, a campaign will flop. The part that I am speaking of is this: Creativity. More than all other elements, your creativity influences every part of your scenario. From Map Design to Playability to Story/Instructions, creativity will play a major part. As such, it is important that you learn to develop it in your campaigns and scenarios. Read on to find out how.

Developing Creativity
As I have already said, your creativity effects all aspect of your campaign or scenario. Thus, you need to make sure to do a good job in this aspect. When making my campaigns, I probably spend much more time brainstorming than I do actually creating the scenario. Many times I can get ideas in the strangest places, whether it be for a whole scenario, or for a small part of one. For example, I got the idea for my scenario “Like a Thief in the Night” while playing a Nintendo game. (I forget which one.)

Many times I will come up with good ideas while fooling around with the Scenario Editor. If fact, I have spent many long hours just playing around with it, and it is amazing what you can discover. Whether it be a new Map Design trick, a cool puzzle, a unique idea for a battle, or even a characteristic for your Hero, all you have to do is give it time. Indeed, that is the main thing you will need when developing creativity — time, as well as a good imagination.

Creativity cannot be taught; it must be developed by each individual person. Because of this, there is not a lot more I can say on this subject. I only urge you to use your imagination. Now, on to Victory Conditions

Victory Conditions
Have you ever played a well-crafted scenario, nicely balanced and fun to play, only to be disappointed by such boring Victory Conditions as “Kill Player x”? Have you ever noticed how after seeing such a thing, much of the fun goes out of an otherwise good scenario? If you have, you are not alone. I had a bit of trouble deciding where to put the section on Victory Conditions, but it seemed most appropriate to go in with Creativity.

As a reviewer, one of the main things I notice is that many people do not seem to put a lot of thought into their Victory Conditions. This is somewhat understandable, as it seems to be such a small part of a scenario. However, this “small part” can have a major influence on the final outcome of you campaign. Look at almost any great campaign, and you will almost never see VCs such as “Kill Player x.” In fact, some of these top campaigns have OVER A PAGE of VCs. I am not saying you need to go this far, but it definitely would pay off to at least put a little thought into them.

Probably the two most useful, (and most used) Victory Conditions are the “Destroy Specific Object” and the “Bring Object to Area” conditions. Using these two conditions alone, you can come up with almost endless combinations. Add to this dozens more conditions, and it is impossible to run out of ideas. All you need to do is give it a little thought.

For example, instead of having to kill Player 2, how about having to assassinate their leader, raze the Government Center, and bring the War Chest back to your town to symbolize your great victory? (I know this is a much-used example, but I am merely trying to give a feel of what you can accomplish with VCs.) You can come up with a huge number of combinations to give your VCs a unique feel. In fact, you can even come close in some ways to parts of the trigger system in AoK. For example, using the “Destroy Specific Object” condition and the “Bring Object to Area” condition, you can make it so that you cannot win until you have destroyed a certain unit or building, THEN bring a hero or unit to an area.

You can expand on this even more by using conditions similar to what I used in my scenario “Merlin’s Destiny”, from the campaign “Magnus#4 — Merlin’s Destiny”. What the human player had to was defeat the main enemy (a Heavy Horse Archer). Before he could defeat the main enemy, however, he had to first kill six units (Brown) spread out across the map. If he killed the main enemy before the others were defeated, he would lose.

To make this work, I set the VC for Brown (the six units to be killed first) to “Destroy Specific Object”, and set the main enemy (the Heavy Horse Archer), as the object. This makes it so that if Brown has not been defeated when the main enemy is killed, they will win. Only when Brown is defeated is their Victory Condition canceled out, thus making it safe to kill the Heavy Horse Archer. This may seem complicated, but if you look closely you will see that it is quite simple.

Another thing you can do is to use Victory Conditions as a “timer”. In my scenario “Destiny”, from the campaign “Genghis Khan – The Way of a Ruler”, I use this trick. What the human player must do is destroy an enemy Government Center within a certain amount of time. To accomplish this, the Government Center that was to be destroyed was the only object that Player 8 owned. This trick will only work if the object(s) that you wish to be destroyed within the time limit are the only object(s) owned by that player. (Unless you give them other objects or units that you are sure will be destroyed beforehand). What I did now was place an Armored Elephant (Brown) in a secluded corner of the map, surrounded by trees, within range of a Slinger.

I then set the VC for Player 8 (The government Center) to “Destroy Specific Object”, and set the Armored Elephant as the object. That is all there is to it.

It works like this: When the Armored Elephant is killed, Player 8 wins due to his Victory Condition (Kill the Armored Elephant). However, if the Government Center is destroyed BEFORE the Armored Elephant is killed, then Player 8 is defeated, which nullifies the “Kill Armored Elephant” condition, and play continues as normal. Again, this may seem complicated, but if you read it carefully you will see that it is quite simple. If you are still not quite sure of this subject, download my campaign “Genghis Khan – The Way of a Ruler”, and play the scenario “Destiny” with Reveal Map and No Fog on to see what I mean.

I have barely even scratched the surface of what can be accomplished with Victory Conditions. As I have already mentioned, the possibilities are endless. Whether you use them as out-and-out Victory Conditions, or use them more subtly as “triggers”, they will add a much-needed boost to your scenarios. All you need to do is use your imagination.

A Few Closing Thoughts
This may sound odd, but one of my main source of ideas are… other people’s work. Yes, I know this sounds strange, but I did not say that I COPY other people’s work; I merely get ideas from them. Many times when playing a campaign or scenario I think, “Hey! That would be a good idea for my scenario if I change this, or add this part, etc..”

The main thing to remember, though, is this: If I may quote Ingo van Thiel, “Don’t imitate, innovate.” That basically sums it all up. Even if I get ideas from other people, I turn them into MY IDEAS. They are always changed, many times so that they do not even resemble the source they were gotten from. That is way it should be: not to copy ideas, but to use them as an aid to develop your own.

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