- The scenario must be wholly based in the ‘real’ world or play on tropes and settings that are so clearly established in film or fiction that my audience will have NO issues adjusting regardless of their prior knowledge.
- The scenario must feature pre-generated characters with enough ‘issues’ and interpersonal relationships that they can adequately fill down-time and lulls between actions. Issues must be sufficiently dramatic that characters can demonstrate their ‘roleplaying abilities’ getting to grips with them.
- The scenario must contain a mix of build-up scenes and action scenes of sufficient intensity and length that they fit within a 3 hour time constraint, regardless of player actions.
- The scenario must contain the prospect for success and failure, clearly established, in a way that can be examined and analysed by players in the wrap-up.
- The scenario must use a system which can be learnt by ANYONE in less than 5 minutes, or be able to be abridged to this level.
Nowadays I’d probably expect more from a scenario, but for the last decade or so, I struggled to find published scenarios that fit this description without significant editing. So, mostly I invented my own and borrowed elements from here and there. Sometimes I’d use a scene from a good adventure, othertimes most of the adventure, but I’d have to make the pre-generated characters, which was a whole lot of work in itself.
I generally steered way from investigation based scenarios, as these could easily lead to players not finding the clue in the available time, taking up a false lead, or ultimately, to me having to fudge providing the clues.
However, I’ve noticed in recent years that there are not just a few, but many, published scenarios, which would now meet my old criteria. Notably “My Little Sister Wants You To Suffer” from Cthulhu Britannica, which I’ve now run 7 times, and which is IMHO probably one of the best ‘con scenarios out there. There are others, like Terrors From Beyond, or the Curse of the Yellow Sign series by John Wick. In addition the Gumshoe system has now put investigation scenarios back on the table for me in this format. And there are many more…
I’m not saying that everyone should run a published scenario at a 'con; just that I’m very glad that the market now seems to be delivering works which are better suited to the sorts of ‘con games that I, for one, like to run and play in.