I thought it might be helpful to put up an excerpt of a Scenario from The Calypso Compendium.
There are six Scenarios in TCC; Citywatch (superhero), Darkness Falls (paranormal investigation), Fantastic Journey (fantasy), Secrets & Shadows (paranormal romance), Starfarer (science fiction), and The Sword & The Rose (romantic fantasy).
Let’s go over the Scenario Darkness Falls. It’s paranormal investigation with a hero who is more than they seem, essentially The Shadow meets The X-Files and Haven.
Each Scenario opens with a short flavor statement with a multiple choice element, designed to give you an immediate idea of the setting.
The sleepy town of Darkness Falls hides
violence • mystery • horror • demons • murder • answers
So right away you know you’re in a small town with a sinister name, and something is going on behind the scenes. The answer you roll or choose subtly directs the game – is it horror? A murder mystery?
Then there’s some high level stuff, starting with an Agenda; the things you should do in play to work towards a fun game in this setting and genre.
Challenge yourself; ask difficult questions.
Fill the hero’s life with darkness to throw the light into relief.
Play to find out what happens.
Next up is Principles; what to keep in mind while playing to keep the story moving, to provide atmosphere and to make the game the genre it is.
Juxtapose the normal and the horrific, the mundane and the uneasily other.
Be a fan of the main character, but make him prove he deserves the role.
Nobody has plot immunity; nothing is safe.
Build the world and mythos as you go.
Be honest, even when it hurts; follow the fiction where it leads.
Now for the more specific stuff! The next section establishes the hero, her stats, and her issues. Some of it is backstory and some of it tailors the system to the genre.
I am looking for answers • in a downward spiral • underestimated • fighting the good fight • already dead • a ticking bomb.
Choose four Traits and 16 Tags split between those Traits.
Choose two Keys that show what I value.
I have the Secret of Sanity, in addition to my other two Secrets.
Choose three ingrained Conditions that hamper or otherwise define me. Choose from one of the Ingrained Conditions charts or pick something you find interesting.
I start out terrified • angry • blind • hungry • tempted • wounded.
The final line also establishes the hero’s current Condition, which leads into the “The Beginning”. This is a checklist of statements to run down, either right before play or as the initial scene, whatever appeals to you.
I arrive in town after an accident • a long drive • an anonymous tip • a pleading letter • a strange taxi ride • an odd encounter in the woods.
I’m here looking for a missing person • a lost item • an old friend • a criminal • help • treasure.
Something Odd happens, and Person is hurt.
I could run, but I’m here for a reason, and Person – maybe the whole town – needs my help.
Then an Odd Dramatic Move changes the stakes – can I survive it?
Italicized text has a matching chart to roll on; for this Scenario that’s one of oddities and one of people. There’s also a chart of coping conditions for the Secret of Sanity all starting characters get and one of ingrained Conditions tailored to the genre and mood.
Each step of The Beginning is designed to establish something about the current scene; to get you through the initial hurdle of getting the ball rolling. It’s a very effective method, especially when combined with scene Keywords (in the General Rules chapter) and a game Structure (in the chapter on Structure).
The rest of a Scenario is character options; a selection of Traits, Secrets, and Keys that evoke the genre, theme, and Principles.
You could port this to another system very easily, if you wanted, or just use as a writing prompt or something. As always, use the parts that work for you!