Scenario Design Resources

Michael Dorosh

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While doing some research in back issues of various magazines, I stumbled across a couple of great references on the subject of scenario design that I wish I would have had access to during the writing of my Scenario Designer's Handbook (see link in signature)

The Wargamer Vol. 2 No 9
The Long And Short of Scenario Design by Ted Bleck and Alan Freedman


This article takes a look at the conversion of some Squad Leader scenarios to ASL standard (there were 10, originally designed for COI; the rewrites were sprinkled through a few issues of The Wargamer beginning with Vol 2 No. 9).

The article talks about a number of good things, but in particular points out a perceived historical need to keep units homogenous - even to the point of not mixing squad types. A pretty firm reality argument. They also talk about playtesting and the impact of SW usage on scenarios. A really interesting article if one can lay hands on it. I'm not sure I agree that there is any pressing need to limit a scenario OOB to just one or two squad types solely for "historical" purposes.

Critical Hit Vol 7. No. 2
Scenario Design: Science or Art? by Steven Swann

A very good article, particularly in terms of organization. Steven lays out a precise method design (with an emphasis on research - again, the focus is on reality here) and a very good mention that this is what works for him and may not be for everyone. It's a great looking, methodical system however and he makes some really important definitions with regards to data and how to interpret it. There are some personal anecdotes on his publishing history which serve as a bit of a "how to get published" guide, and he has a detailed walk through of the research method he describes.

I'd like to hear from anyone who has tested the Swann method, taken exception to it, wants to endorse it, etc. My personal reaction to it is that it is intuitive and many of the things discussed may come naturally to many people - i.e. write down what you know about the actual event, read over the proposed card several times, etc. It's all great advice, and I think effectively codified. I'm not sure there is room for much individual variation to be honest - seems like stuff people would naturally do.

Incidentally, the question of creating a new subforum for scenario designers has been raised in this thread:

http://forums.gamesquad.com/showthread.php?t=76170
 
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wrongway149

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I'd like to hear from anyone who has tested the Swann method, taken exception to it, wants to endorse it, etc. My personal reaction to it is that it is intuitive and many of the things discussed may come naturally to many people - i.e. write down what you know about the actual event, read over the proposed card several times, etc. It's all great advice, and I think effectively codified. I'm not sure there is room for much individual variation to be honest - seems like stuff people would naturally do.

http://forums.gamesquad.com/showthread.php?t=76170
I have disagreed with Steve on one point (Although I think he brought it up in another article, not the one mentioned):

IIRC, he mentioned a preference for starting small and adding to the scenario as it comes along, whereas I prefer to start with everything that might be remotely relevant and develop downward, deleting SSRs and even Order of Battle components that don't seem to have much effect on play (as determined by playtest).

I have written and submitted to MMP my version of the scenario design 'how to' in six easy steps-- but I don't talk all that much about historical research.

I've been known to be a bit 'lazy' in that regard. :laugh:
 

Michael Dorosh

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I have disagreed with Steve on one point (Although I think he brought it up in another article, not the one mentioned):

IIRC, he mentioned a preference for starting small and adding to the scenario as it comes along, whereas I prefer to start with everything that might be remotely relevant and develop downward, deleting SSRs and even Order of Battle components that don't seem to have much effect on play (as determined by playtest).

I have written and submitted to MMP my version of the scenario design 'how to' in six easy steps-- but I don't talk all that much about historical research.

I've been known to be a bit 'lazy' in that regard. :laugh:
Your article sounds great, given that Steven's approach is so firmly historical based, as is the Bleck article I cited. I know you're not talking about this, but there should be room for "fictional" scenario design in the community too.

I'm really looking forward to reading your piece. Scenario design is about so much more than just the research. I think research and design are really two separate things in a lot of ways, and the design part gets overshadowed by the research. I'm glad your article will provide some focus on the other, equally important, aspects of the process.
 

sswann

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I have disagreed with Steve on one point (Although I think he brought it up in another article, not the one mentioned):

IIRC, he mentioned a preference for starting small and adding to the scenario as it comes along, whereas I prefer to start with everything that might be remotely relevant and develop downward, deleting SSRs and even Order of Battle components that don't seem to have much effect on play (as determined by playtest).

I have written and submitted to MMP my version of the scenario design 'how to' in six easy steps-- but I don't talk all that much about historical research.

I've been known to be a bit 'lazy' in that regard. :laugh:
Actually, I have changed my design methods somewhat since that article was written. After talking with Pete at ASLOK one year, I have also done a few designs using Pete's "top down" method. I enjoy both styles.
 

chris_olden

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Listen to ANYTHING/EVERYTHING Pete and Steve have to say.
It will make designing a scenario much easier!:D
co
 

sswann

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Thanks for the confidence Chris. Not really sure that I deserve the praise, but thank you anyway.

Steve
 

chris_olden

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hey Steve,
You do deserve it!
You've been very generous with your knowledge/suggestions/advice.
It's much appreciated!
co
 

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Hmmm...I'm now thinking of getting "Critical Hit Vol 7. No. 2" because of the article that Steven Swann wrote, I like what I'm hearing so far. How big is the article, is it worth it to get the magazine just for the article that Steven wrote? Could it be used for creation of small ASL scenarios? (of course I realize that getting data about a specific battle would be a separate work)

Playing historical scenarios is fun as well as CG scenarios but sometimes I would like to play a DYO scenario based on rules and I'm wondering if simply following DYO rules is enough or if there is something better out there that works.

Thanks!
 
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Eagle4ty

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I have written and submitted to MMP my version of the scenario design 'how to' in six easy steps-- but I don't talk all that much about historical research.
:D :supper::thumup: This is some really great stuff. I would certainly hope MMP would follow up on this in their Journals. Here in this thread you have 3 people I respect as scenario designers replying in sequence. It would be VERY interesting if MMP could do a series of articles "picking your brains" as it were. Perhaps even a "point, counter-point" concept, your immagination would be your only limit to the approach. There are other designers that I would like to hear from also of course, and I find a better understanding of the fundamentals of most any undertaking can be found when referencing two or more differing concepts.

Keep up the great works guys, I'm totally enjoying this and related threads.:crosseye::D:D
 

Michael Dorosh

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For the record, and to answer the question, Steven's article is four full pages, and has a detailed how-to sequence followed by a detailed walk-through example. I don't know if that is worth an entire magazine in order to obtain, that's up to any one individual, but it's definitely not a throwaway. It's a substantial piece that stands alone as far as the subject of scenario design. Also some background on his past experience in submitting designs.
 

chris_olden

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hey gang,
I think one of the most difficult(if not THE most) aspect of scenario
design to discuss is the "creative" process; the "art" aspect
of scenario design.
While I don't want to get artsy-fartsy about it, there is a creative/
artistic part of scenario design that's tough to put into words.
Maybe Pete and/or Steve could wax philosophical about that part of
the design process?:D
co
 
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Michael Dorosh

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hey gang,
I think one of the most difficult(if not THE most) aspect of scenario
design to discuss is the "creative" process; the "art" aspect
of scenario design.
While I don't want to get artsy-fartsy about it, there is a creative/
artistic part of scenario design that's tough to put into words.
Maybe Pete and/or Steve could wax philosophically about that part of
the design process?:D
co
Apparently not.

I think some people are under the impression you can't "teach art". Of course you can. Bob Ross made a living at it.

What you can't do is teach people how to see the world or interpret it in order to properly portray it through your art. Bob Ross couldn't tell you how to see the beauty in a sunset any more than Steven Swann can tell you how to interpret the phrase "heavy casualties" in an after-action report.
 

chris_olden

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yeah...well.:(
just thought I'd seek the sage advice from those two.
never hurts to ask.
but it doesn't mean you'll get an answer.
co
 

Michael Dorosh

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yeah...well.:(
just thought I'd seek the sage advice from those two.
never hurts to ask.
but it doesn't mean you'll get an answer.
co
It might help if you framed your question in more specific terms; I won't quibble with your definition of scenario design as having "art" (as opposed to "science") elements, but just because something is artful, it doesn't mean it totally eludes description...

Think of something specific and it might be easier for them to respond. I'm not sure it is as esoteric as you might be imagining. I think an experienced designer can, say, definitely have a handle on things like balance issues just by looking at a board and set of counters and knowing from experience how they are likely to interact in a game setting. If that's what you mean by "art" then I agree it isn't something that can be taught and is rather intangible. But I don't accept that as being a necessary part of the design process, either. Some people study for weeks for final exams, others read the text book on the bus on the way to school on exam day. If they both get a B, what is the difference?
 

sswann

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Sorry for the delay Chris. "wax philosophically" what is that? I will attempt to design a scenario on anything that I read that grabs my attention. But it must either have a situation or a vehicle use that attracts me at first. Regretfully it does not always result in a usable scenario. I will rarely go looking for a scenario with a predetermined situation. Once or twice I have 'looked' for scenarios that would represent a chronological order of a specific unit, but in that case I found that the research can be very boring.
 

chris_olden

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hey Steve,
That's what I was after;
sort of the "how I initiate the scenario design process".
I was/am curious how people go from the seed of an
idea for a scenario to the first playtest iteration of
the scenario.
co
 
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