Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eureka (and a review)

I don't normally do reviews of game books but I'm making an exception for this one. Yes, the book is titled Eureka. Perhaps it's the kind of book you think it is. Either way, on with the show.

I recently purchased myself Eureka - 501 adventure plots to inspire game masters. To sum up this book in a single sentence it is a compilation of generic plots that can be slotted into a wide variety of campaigns either wholesale or piecemeal, Long description. The team at Gnome Stew has put their heads together to come up with 501 adventure plots based off the 36 dramatic situations. They have split these plots between fantasy, science fiction, and horror themes. Each plot is approximately half a page in length and fully generic to allow you to drop them into your game with minimal modification. But enough overview. Incoming wall o' text.

The book starts with a short section explaining how to use Eureka, how to adapt the plots to your games, how the book is organized, and a description of the tags on plots. This section is a must read if you're going to use Eureka on a regular basis. Adapting a generic plot is much easier if you take the suggestions given in this initial part of Eureka as it explains the parts you need to nudge to adapt for specific styles of campaigns. It also gives ideas on reusing plot ideas and changing them to different genres and settings. This is the part of the book that really made it come alive for me. The reskinning section specifically put my brain in the right train of thought to use this for my campaigns. For Game masters who are adept at working modules into their campaigns the genre and tagging sections may be all you need to get started using Eureka.

On to the meat. The adventure plots start with fantasy, meander through science fiction, and finish off with horror. Each plot is about half a page long and contains a strong structural overview for you to place in your campaign. Each plot fits under a specific dramatic situation. Each plot is tagged with a list at the end which give you an idea of what themes, genres, and even play styles the plot contains. Personally I found the "Combat heavy" tag very useful since my group tends to feel nothing has been accomplished if there isn't a fight.

Finally the book rounds out with an index of plots. Plots are indexed not only by name, but by the tags as well. This is the most brilliant part of the book. Need a plot that goes well with intrigue and politics? Look in the index for plots tagged with those. Need a quick plot for an exploration session? There's a tag for that too. Got no ideas for where to go next? Pick a tag and pick a random page.

Thoughts: This is a very useful book. Once I fully wrapped my head around the reskinning concept and stopped thinking of the plots with generic placeholders for things like "king" "mayor" "mother" "father" I had many many ideas how to use them in my own games. One thing I found was that I didn't have to take a plot wholesale. Sometimes even half of a plot was enough to inspire me or drop into part of a campaign. The one downside I see is that many of the plots have an implied power scale. This doesn't have a huge impact as the power scale is very wide especially if you switch the generic items, but running an "epic" game will require much more work than a game in the "heroic mortals" range. IE plots will be much harder to adapt to games that are running high powered fantasy or high powered superheroes. I noticed that in reading the plots I was challenged to think about my game differently. I realized that there are certain ruts I've been getting into plotwise. Eureka pushed on me to break out of those ruts and provided plots twists and ideas I'd not thought of using. This will definitely improve my game mastering.

One more time with feeling: If you run RPGs you should buy this book.

Art is cover art for Eureka
LooneyDM out

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