As I’ve mentioned before, I want to run a one-shot in the world of James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault. Now, almost any generic superhero plot will work,, but I want to use the unique features of the setting. (Which might be a good rule of thumb for setting adventures in any specific universe.)
Let’s say we have a dynasty of Darklings. They might be up to almost anything—a Darkling dynasty is probably the same as a LexCorp or a Kingpin, with evil things that have plausible deniability and nothing that will hold up in court. The heroes can’t get at them directly, so the question is, how do the players hear of it?
No game starts until the players get involved, whether it’s the time-honoured technique of the bad guys trying to take them out pre-emptively, or a discovery of some clue, or a remit from a mysterious figure in an inn. So you might have a spiffy plot but if the players never find out about it (or they don’t find out about it until too later), then you don’t have an adventure.
Now, I have a gimmick in mind that uses features of the universe (which I haven’t discussed with Jim, so there might be hidden details in the universe that invalidates it). I speak no more of it.
Anyway, the gimmick will result in the murder of several Darklings, so I think that a new Darkling, embraces by the shadow as a response to the murders, will approach the heroes about this: the murders have confounded the police and the Darklings’ own Dark Guard. (The PCs are not demonstrably not involved.) The bad guy who’s killing is probably a Spark or a Darkling (though an unusual group of mortals can’t be ruled out).
In my brain, it’s a story like (but simpler than) The Big Sleep, with family and business problems. Now, the reason for these twists is only to provide motivation, not to create a logic puzzle. I plan for this adventure to be a superhero adventure, not a mystery.
As upholders of the law and the weak, the heroes have to find out who is killing Darklings.
It wouldn’t be proper if the Darkling dynasty weren’t up to no good, so the dynasty is planning on doing something that’s probably a little more exciting than rigging zoning by-laws (though that might be interesting—something that looks innocuous on the surface but as a side effect would make superhero bases illegal—but I digress. The question is, can I come up with a dynasty plot that triggers the killer to start, and somehow gives a personal connection to the PCs and give us two or three knock-down drag-out battles?
Obviously the petitioning newbie-Darkling (Dusker? Dusker who, if you like wordplay on obscure rock bands) has to approach the PCs at some event where the heroes are known to be, which means that there might also be other overt antagonists there. That would give us a chance to start in media res.
Think think think.
Fortunately, the Darklings can be from anyplace; it’s the heroes who are constrained in space. Although Jim’s book covers Waterloo and a bit north, I could set my adventure in nearby Kitchener (because I was born here and currently live here), in nearby Cambridge—still part of the Region of Waterloo, which replaced Waterloo County—or I could go farther afield. I’ll probably stay in Canada; except for Kitchener, the cities I have lived in are claimed in the book.
I could go for London, Ontario; for Calgary or Edmonton, in Alberta; or for either Victoria or Vancouver in BC.
Or—oddball choice—Owen Sound, Ontario, in the Bruce Peninsula. That has a number of good qualities, actually: there are vacation homes near, though not as many as the Muskokas; there’s a chance for some angst if there’s a young hero(es) who want to move away but declaring yourself a protector locks you into the location (though I suspect not permanently). Muskoka would be a better choice demographically—more of a history of vacation homes for the wealthy—but I know (sections of) the Bruce Peninsula better.
(Aren’t you glad that you now know some of the waffling that goes on in my mind?)