Matthew Colville filled us in with his thoughts on DM’s leading with a story – a series of plot points which the players must hit – versus an adventure – scenarios the players take part in, which may or may not lead onto another pre-prepared scenario. A story is Harry Potter, but the adventure is Albus Potter sitting in the Gryffindor common room retelling it to his friends.
I was taking another read through the adventure I’m writing to play with my family. Unfortunately (at least from Matt’s point of view), it reads a lot like a story. The players meet in a tavern, and then get sent off on a quest into the woods, where one thing happens, which leads them to another thing. Maybe they can do these things out of order, but there are still plot points they do need to stumble upon.
I wrote it this way because it chimes with how other adventures I’ve read have been set: describing the location, what the people there have to say, and where the next plot point is. I’d call this a story: a book you can read, but have no effect on the world other than artificial choices. By artificial choice I mean, like Matt mentioned, letting the players choose door A or door B. Eventually you’ll loop back and end up at the other door, so it doesn’t matter too much which they pick. I’m thinking here of (the short amount of) Out of the Abyss I’ve played, where I feel we’ll get through quite a few of the “choices” before progressing.
So I’m going to go ahead and call it: pre-written “adventures” are actually stories.
When playing Into the Quiet Forest with my family it definitely turned into a story though. My family went door to door in the town, something I didn’t expect. They drew our lots of the kidnapped girl’s backstory – found her secret boyfriend, who for some reason hoped to never see her again, learnt about her relationship with the towns people, and her father. What happened to her mother? None of this is in the story I’d written already. I had to make it up, on the spot. I had a partially drawn picture of the girl from the adventure’s text, but it was my job to on-the-fly colour her in.
It’s the DM’s job, but may even more so the player’s job, to turn an “adventure” into a real adventure.