Standard disclaimer: this is meant to supplement the “Stargate SG-1 Roleplaying Game” put out by the Alderac Entertainment Group; no challenge to copyright or trademark is intended.
Special copyright addendum/alteration for this article: in this case, you should feel free to pass around the .doc and .pdf versions of the outline as much as you want. Put them up on other websites or forums or whatever as long as you attribute them to us and, if possible, link to the main site page or RPG section. If you change the outline substantially, please slip in a note that the original version came from here. You can also put the bare outline straight up on a web page, or put up mission write-ups using it — just don’t reproduce the actual article with its notes, please.
This is the mission template I use when creating missions using the “Stargate SG-1” roleplaying game. It serves two purposes: it makes sure that I include all of the information I’m likely to need during game in a format I’m familiar with (and thus can find my way around quickly), and it reminds me of the things I need to think about when designing a mission. The version below includes plenty of notes about how I use the template and build missions. You can also download a bare outline in MS Word or PDF; the format should be partially adaptable to other mission-based games.
Undoubtedly some of the ways in which this is structured reflect my personal roleplaying preferences. Alter the template to fit your preferences, or use it to inspire your own, totally different template. In cases where a list template might be used more than once (such as NPC stats), I only put in one listing. Just copy the empty listing as many times as necessary for each mission and fill in each copy.
Mission Number and/or Name
- Weather upon arrival: (re-roll from weather chart every 24 hours)
- Geosphere/tectonic activity:
- Biosphere/climate-based terrain:
- Anthrosphere/civil rights:
- Origin/culture age:
- Origin/culture roots:
- Racial disposition modifiers:
Many missions feature one planet and race primarily, although there are exceptions as always. Since I often start out by designing those, I put them first. If you wish to create the mission parameters first, then move the planet and race information to post-“Mission Parameters”. The actual parameters above, of course, come from the mission and world creation tables in the main rulebook. See that book to fill these in.
Summary list of projected mission steps or goals:
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
- Step 4
- Step 5
- Step 6
Keep in mind at all times that this list and the following bits are projected mission parameters — players can and will deviate from them. That’s just fine; the information you have here will help you adapt to what they do. This section is often the one that I fill out to help me piece the plot together, and then I come back and edit it to reflect the changes I’ve made as I’ve gone along. Usually each of the following steps gets a paragraph or three, and the more detailed material comes later.
Assigned mission (if any):
The mission assigned to the team by Stargate Command at the start of the episode. Sometimes an episode will lack this element and go straight to the introduced plot.
Introduced plot (if any):
This is an additional plot that gets introduced early on. Usually this gets included when the team’s mission consists only of “scout this world” or “guard this camp” or something similarly simplistic. When the original mission is already exciting, such as “storm this base,” there might be no introduced plot (although sometimes there is, such as finding out that in order to storm the base, first the team must obtain the plans to it from a different enemy).
Plot twists, complications, or obstacles:
These are the difficulties or surprises that appear to make things more difficult, often popping up after the first half of the story, just when the characters think they’re well on their way to success.
B plot (if any):
This is the sub-plot that can parallel, supplement, arise out of, or complement the main plot. Many such plots are personal plots and arise from the backgrounds of the player characters (PCs), their compatriots, and the people they meet during their missions. Some “B plots” come about naturally, while others require a bit of planning. Sometimes the plot twist, complication, or obstacle is, causes, or arises out of the B plot. B plots tend to be used less often in roleplaying than in TV, but they’re very useful tools for drawing people in. They give the PCs a personal stake in things and/or make things more exciting and interesting. Sometimes the B plot will be larger in scope and there will be a more personal “C plot”, but depending on your skills as a game master (GM) and the playing style of your group, this can be too much to handle all at once.
Arc plot advancement (if any):
If you have a long-running plot going on in the background, this is where you summarize the ways in which this particular mission will advance that plot. Not all missions are likely to advance your arc plot, and sometimes the advancement consists of only a small detail here or there. Other missions might revolve entirely around your arc-plot.
You don’t even remotely have to use the act-based format I have below. It’s just my way of reminding myself of some of the steps I have to take into consideration, and it gets altered as the needs of the plot demand. Eliminate it or alter it as you please.
It’s important to remember that this is the projected structure of the mission. Again, the actions of the PCs will alter it. I feel comfortable using this format with a mission-based, highly-structured game like “Stargate SG-1” because the nature of the game makes it easier to predict or determine what will happen during the game. However, I also use it as an opportunity to note plenty of information behind the events that are happening, as well as alternate outcomes of encounters, in order to make improvisation easier.
These sections are where I note the nitty-gritty details of the plot–possible scenes, snippets of description, NPC plans, expected encounters, etc. If you try to write up scenes, conversation, or description, also put a bullet list of the most important pieces of information in them right underneath the more full write-up. So, if your players ask you questions about an area that derail the manner in which you wrote the description for it, you have an easy-reference list to help you improvise.
This is the brief, memorable moment that sets up the story with a punch. Not every story has one, but it can be an effective way to set the mood and tone for the episode. Think of it as the short “teaser” that’s played before the opening credits on a TV show. The prologue is usually used to shock, adrenalize, confound, or amuse the viewer (or to provide necessary background information to the plot), drawing him in and keeping his interest. The same technique can work in roleplaying games.
Act I (Reconnaissance):
If the episode starts with a mission, then this section of the story probably contains a mission briefing near the beginning, followed by the team’s departure through the gate. This is the part of the episode where the team looks around and takes in their surroundings, figuring out where they are and what their situation is. For instance, if they’re scouting a new world and come across another offshoot of humanity, this is typically the time when they meet that race and try to get to know them.
Act I, Alternate (Introduction):
Sometimes a new and unexpected plot gets introduced early on. For instance, the team departs to peacefully scout a world and ends up getting embroiled in a war between two cultures. This has some elements of the reconnaissance act as the characters are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on. However, they’re also immediately introduced into a new and unexpected plot, which often spurs some early action that might not occur during a fully recon-oriented act.
Act II (Mission):
If still on track after Act I, the team attempts to carry out their mission and/or B plot. If Act I has derailed them from that mission, then the team probably attempts to piece together their new mission.
Act III (Learning/Complication/The Twist):
This act consists of figuring out what’s really going on, and/or planning a new part of the mission in order to overcome an unexpected obstacle. If the plot is straightforward it might mean getting information necessary to complete the mission, either assigned or introduced. Otherwise, this is probably where a plot complication or twist (or several!) rears its ugly head. Even if the major plot twist comes earlier, you should consider throwing some sort of unexpected difficulty into the mix here to liven things up — after all, it’s in the latter part of the episode that the tension and action should rise dramatically.
Act IV (Acting):
This is hopefully where the team attempts to achieve their mission, and either fails or succeeds. It’s hardest to predict what will happen here, because by now there have probably been many opportunities for your players to surprise you and derail one or more details of the plot. In this section it’s particularly helpful to note alternate possible endings to the episode and how you’d handle them. You can attempt to write up some sort of cool ending scene if it’s important to you; just be ready to toss it out the window if it becomes obsolete. Don’t let it dictate the ending!
Some stories also have an epilogue in which further ramifications resulting from the characters’ actions get explored a little. However, in the “Stargate SG-1” show this often doesn’t happen–the story ends on a high note (in terms of drama) and you’re left with an understanding of what probably happens next rather than the details of it. If those ramifications get explored, it usually happens in one of two ways:
- They get touched on briefly during or at the beginning of the next episode, or perhaps the one after that.
- They become the genesis for a whole new plot later in the same season or, more rarely, a later season.
Of course, in a roleplaying game the decision as to whether to hang around and talk about things is a personal preference that has to be determined by each group (some people love it; some aren’t interested). However, you can still use details through the two above techniques to help you create a sense of continuity in the game.
If any team members are non-player charcters (NPCs), or NPCs will be accompanying the team, note their allowed bundles, gear picks, and resource points here. When you write up the mission, include expected NPC gear pick/bundle expenditures for the mission as well as a list of possible resources you think the team might buy with resource point costs. Include stats for anything in the bundles that you might normally expect to look up during game, so you have the information right in front of you — this tends to speed up game-play considerably. Also note the mission bundle the team will be given, as well as any other special mission resources.
If any of these NPCs are subordinates of PCs, it’s possible these picks could get overridden during the gear-up phase. That’s fine–just note the changes. Unless you find your players tend to override your picks frequently, you’re still saving yourself time. The more NPCs you have to gear up, the more time you’re saving.
You might also choose to note what resources the PCs have, so you can think about what they might bring along and try to take it into account. However, don’t let this turn into a trap where you rely too heavily on your assumptions regarding the resources they might have with them.
Mission bundle: name of bundle [contents of bundle]
Stats and special rules for equipment in the mission bundle.
- Type of bundle allowed: projected choice of bundle [contents of bundle]
- Number of gear picks
- Gear chosen
- Additional gear chosen
- Number of resource points
Stats and special rules for any equipment or resources the team possesses.
Total number of team resource points: .
- Possible resource within that total
- Possible resource 2 within that total
- Possible resource 3 within that total
- Resource they’ll probably choose within that total
- Anthrosphere/civil rights:
- Origin/culture age:
- Origin/culture roots:
- Racial disposition modifiers:
This is where you make notes about any other races the team is likely to encounter. If they won’t run into any other races, leave that list out.
If I’m working with a group of standard NPCs I often apply one set of stats to the group as a whole, briefly noting any variation within that group. If I’m working with special NPCs, I list each one’s information out separately. Include stats for any weapons, armor, etc. the NPCs have, as well as special racial traits. Under the basic stats, the parentheses are where you put the character’s stat bonus; put the actual stat just before that (example: str 16 (+3).
- Stats: str (); dex (); con (); int (); wis (); cha ()
- Feats: [include any relevant mechanics]
- Base attack: unarmed ; melee ; ranged
- Saves: Fortitude ; Reflex ; Will
- Defense: [Write out the formula so you can easily deduct armor or dexterity modifiers as necessary.]
- Weapon 1: [Include stats.]
- [Add additional lines for any other carried weapons.]
- Armor: [Include stats.]
- Special equipment/items: [Include stats.]
- Disposition modifier/personality:
Use the same template as above.
Use the same template as above.
This is the experience award for the mission. I usually list things out with experience per objective achieved (breaking the mission down into mini-objectives), sometimes impacted by how well that objective was achieved (for example, if they dealt with the enemy commander, did they kill him, or did they manage to capture him for questioning? Both are worth experience, but a GM might decide that one is worth more than the other). I also sometimes list things that might subtract from the experience award — for example, a team commander will probably lose points for coming home minus team members. Adjust the list below to suit your game.
Obviously you can follow the guidelines in the main rulebook and simply list one main experience award for the mission as a whole instead! This is simply the way I like to do it.
- Objective 1: Experience award
- Objective 2: Experience award
- Objective 3: Experience award
- Objective 3, Alternate outcome: Experience award
- Penalty per team member seriously injured: Penalty
- Penalty per team member killed: Penalty
- Penalty per expensive or rare piece of equipment destroyed: Penalty
I find it’s a good idea, after writing up this list, to total up your experience awards — both the maximum and expected awards for the mission. Then you can adjust the awards if either of those numbers seems excessively large or small. You can also work backwards instead, starting first with the amount of experience you think the mission is worth and then breaking it down into component parts.
Questions that remain unanswered
Here you can list out any questions that don’t get answered during the course of the mission. Just how did the Goa’uld find out about that secret SGC base, anyway? This can help you to find fodder for ongoing plot arcs and later missions. Fill out this section before the game, but adjust it afterward to account for anything that changed — additional questions your team is asking, questions they missed or think they’ve answered but haven’t, anything that you might have altered during the game, and any actions, events, or decisions that could have interesting ramifications in later episodes.
Well, that’s pretty much it! The only other thing I can think of is that some times, if encounters are going to be complex, I put them in their own sections down near the NPC stats. I haven’t included an outline for that because encounters can be so totally different from each other that I’m not going to try to come up with a one-size-fits-most template for them. Now here once again are the links to the download files: