Thursday, November 26, 2020

National Treasure: Book of Secrets—Using Downtime to Customize Adventures


The PDF Treasure Hunter Adventures 4: Mercenaries & Magic discusses the idea of Downtime, the time between adventures when the members of a party pursue their own activities, goals and dreams. Building on that, this article examines how the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets uses details from the characters' Downtime to add customized details and complications to an adventure scenario. Here are a few examples.

  • At the start of the film, Ben Gates and his dad learn that their ancestor, Thomas, is accused of being a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This contradicts their tradition that he tried to expose the Knights of the Golden Circle, and creates a stain on their family's honor that they must work to expunge.

  • We also learn that Riley published a book, but still has run into financial difficulties. As he says, his accountant set up a “corporation” on an island that doesn't exist, because “that's what rich people do.” Somehow he has been penalized for more than he earned from the discovery in the previous adventure, and now is in debt. Also, he wants to establish his reputation.

  • It turns out that Ben and Abigail are having difficulties in their relationship, which adds a wrinkle to their interactions. Just how this affects the party depends on whether Abigail was a hero or NPC during the previous adventure(s). What is more, even thought this conflict does not seem to last long, it informs the roleplaying during this scenario. It also introduces a hopeful new boyfriend for her, who becomes important later.

  • In this case, the GM also uses NPCs from the previous adventure. Peter Sadusky and his FBI agents have been keeping tabs on Gates, and recognize that Mitch Wilkinson is a bad man with bad intentions, so they become active in the background. In this way, they provide a means for the GM to steer the heroes by revealing additional information when needed.

  • Like father, like son—Patrick Gates also has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife. They certainly respect each other, and of course have a long history as well as a connection because of their son. This again provides opportunities for roleplaying, and it's easy to imagine players earning bennies due to funny jibes or heartfelt moments.

  • Finally, there's a big plot hook introduced that sadly has not been explored—what is on page 47 of the President's secret book?

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