game design

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gnome death

The Trouble at Aisley Asylum


Assignment: Design a roleplaying pen & paper adventure, and DM it for three players. Predict their interest curve throughout the experience, and compare it with their actual interest curves. Your game must have a puzzle.


For this assignment, I wanted to create an adventure that started out as a simple infiltration into an asylum, to a gradual reveal of more twisted horrors.


Using a simplified rules system provided to us, we were given the chance to DM our classmates in an adventure we created.


We had to predict how much our adventure would keep our players' interest, and I was able to match my prediction fairly well (not least because of a grab-bag of various events/encounters I had prepared to spice up any lagging moment).


I did discover that I am very poor at estimating how long something will take. We were told to make our experience last about 3 hours. My adventure was about 30% done when we hit that time. I elected to stop the game, although the players still seemed interested (which I took to be a good sign).


DMing is always a great experience in improvisational acting. Being able to respond to just about anything the players throw at you can be great fun and incredibly draining.


Indirect control is a big part of it however. If your players can't seem to figure out what they need to do, chances are it's your fault, not their's.


Click on this to download the entire adventure, along with all the DM information,
a description of coming up with the adventure, character sheets, scans of documents, predicted interest curves, and actual interest curves, along with initial rules and playtest data.