Playing in Adventureless Mode
An In Dark Alleys article
by Brian St.Claire-King

In Brief: In adventureless mode there are no adventures, the PCs are free to do whatever they want in their quest to gain supernatural power understand the supernatural mysteries of the universe.

In normal mode, PCs are given mysteries or dangers that they must deal with. Disadvantages, either those taken as an optional bonus characteristic or those inherent in the PC's Day Job or Secret Life, are either plot-hooks or are obstacles to make the adventure harder. The majority of XP is awarded based on how well the PCs solve the mystery or escape the danger. The major advantage of this mode is that it gives PCs a shared goal and thus a reason to work together.

An alternative to this mode is Adventureless Mode. In Adventureless Mode, PCs are given free reign to work to solve the mysteries of their Secret Lives, overcome the danger inherent in their Secret Lives, seek supernatural power and knowledge of the true nature of the universe. PCs still face problems, mysteries and tasks external to their own lives, but these are thrown in at random just to make life more interesting, not to be the center of the plot. The major disadvantage to this mode of play is that players will be tempted to strike off on their own quests and leave other players with nothing to do. Before starting adventureless mode, it is important to make sure that all players think the PCs are good enough friends that they would spend free time together and seek out each other's unique knowledge and abilities to help them with their own personal quests.

Because there is no primary task as a source of XP, PCs should be awarded XP on the basis of personal experiences. Here are some sample things, in addition to those already listed in the Character Advancement section of IDA (p.122), that the PCs can do to earn XP in Adventureless Mode:

  • Supernatural Experience: PCs should get 5 XP any time they see something new: a new supernatural ability, a new type of monster, a new plane of existence, a new type of supernatural artifact, etc. PCs don't have to understand what they experience, they just have to experience it. XP should not be awarded for minor variations of things the PC has already seen (e.g. a seeing a different type of deserted city creature).
  • Universe Knowledge: PCs gain 10 XP any time they figure out something new about the nature of the universe. This should be something the PCs can put into words as a single sentence (e.g. "all marshmallows are intelligent and have psychic powers"). It shouldn't be a guess, it should be something the PCs are sure of. It should also be something none of the PCs knew before (e.g. not in the 'what you know' section for any of the PC's Secret Lives).
  • Gaining Power: PCs should gain 5 XP any time that PC gains supernatural power by buying or increasing a supernatural skill, or by gaining an item with supernatural powers.
  • Supernatural Contacts: PCs gain 5 XP every time they make a lasting connection to any NPCs with supernatural knowledge or abilities. This doesn't necessarily mean making a friend: the person could be a friend, someone who provides services for money, an enemy, or even just someone who knows the PCs have supernatural knowledge and visa versa. A relationship should be two way - the PC can't have a relationship with someone who doesn't know they exist or visa versa.
  • Overcoming Disadvantages: Any time the PC rids himself or herself of a disadvantage, the PC should gain 4 XP for each BP that advantage gave. So if a PC "gets rid of" a 20 BP addiction, the PC will gain 80 XP. Note than some disadvantages are easier to get rid of than others, and nearly all leave some sort of scar behind. A GM might rule that a PC has overcome an addiction if he or she is at a 1 month period between cravings and has high enough willpower to resist most cravings.
  • Overcoming Secret Life Danger: PCs should gain between 5-30 XP any time they move significantly closer to dealing with the danger inherent in their secret lives, e.g. a Survivor finds a way to destroy one of his Reapers, a Faustian finds a way to significantly weaken her Dance, etc.
  • Achieving Personal Goal: PCs should gain between 5-20 XP by achieving some pre-stated goal. The number of points awarded depends on the difficulty of the goal. This goal should not be trivial or arbitrary, it should be something that effects the daily life of the PC. Examples: changing Day Jobs, establishing a second (backup) identity, finding a long-term romantic partner who does not mind the PC's Secret Life, etc.
  • Overcoming Random Obstacles: PCs should get between 5 to 10 XP for overcoming random obstacles that the GM throws in to make adventureless play more difficult. These will mostly be random supernatural dangers that will pop up and menace the PCs.
  • Drama: PCs should gain 3 XP any time things change for them (not in one of the aforementioned ways). E.g. a PC tells his wife about his Secret Life, a PC looses her legs in a motorcycle accident, a PC becomes addicted to pain pills, etc. Any major change, good or bad, for which points have not already been awarded, should be given drama points.

    Adventureless Play Scoring Sheet
    Supernatural Experience: 5 XP     
    Universe Knowledge: 10 XP     
    Gaining Power: 5 XP     
    Supernatural Contacts: 5 XP     
    Overcoming Disadvantages: 4XP x BP     
    Overcoming Secret Life Danger: 5-30 XP     
    Achieving Personal Goal: 5-20 XP     
    Overcoming Random Obstacles: 5-10 XP     
    Drama: 3 XP     
    Making Friends: 5 XP     
    Scaring Players: 5 XP     
    Personal Growth: 5 XP     
    Good Roleplaying: 2 XP     
    Making The World A Better Place: 5-20 XP     
    Clever Plan: 4 XP     
    Worked Well as Group: 4 XP     
    Motivation Success: 5 XP     

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