Or it would be if I designed Adventures.
Wait...wasn't this a series of posts about Adventure Design?
Oh indeed it is but I believe you'll see that I go about things a bit differently than most.
The point of Fleshing Out the various regions of the game world (or universe or multiverse depending on the game) is so I know who and what is there as well as why they're there and what they would do if PCs decided to visit.
It is especially important to know, for example, that the port master of the unassuming fishing town a few miles North is in on a secret smuggling operation run by local pirates. He doesn't want to get caught and hasn't so far so I have notes as to why he's doing it and what he'll do to avoid being arrested. Is he the fight the PCs type or a cut them in for a deal type? This is vital because I have no idea whether or not the PCs will interact with him but if they do, I'll be ready. Regardless of what the PCs do I will be able to react appropriately based on the motivation and personality I've given him.
Hold on...you don't know if the PCs will meet up with this guy at all? Isn't he an Encounter? If that isn't where the Adventure in that town leads, why create so much information on him at all?
Ah, therein lies the crux of the matter. A Storybox game doesn't lead you anywhere. It follows you as you move through the setting.
When I run a Storybox game I include lots of (hopefully) curious characters, interesting concepts, and intriguing goings-on and see which of these things the PCs latch on to. Often some of these elements, scattered here and there throughout the setting, have a direct relation to one or more of the PCs, to their goals, or to the goals of the party as a whole.
I begin the campaign proper with either some [GM generated] event to get the ball rolling or drop a series of potential hooks, revealing some of the occurrences that I know are going on in the world/universe. These hooks will include a few that connect to the PCs' backstories as noted above. I then wait and see what the PCs want to do and which lead they want to follow.
Other times one of the players/PCs will say something like, "OK gang, we know we need to do/buy/obtain X in order to achieve this thing that we all care about. Maybe we should start out by traveling to Such-and-Such place." Basically, the PCs can generate plot by saying, "We want to do this thing" and then the campaign will pursue that thing until something else comes up.
What it's really all about is the choices the PCs make and the things that excite them are what generates 'Adventure' and determines the nature of the scenarios. Whoever and whatever the PCs decide to interact with then creates a domino effect of organic connections and logical consequences.
If the PCs learn of a stolen Magic Item and seek to retrieve it, they will likely cross paths with the other characters and organizations that I as Gamemaster know are also after the item. I know how the NPC from whom the item was stolen feels about the item and the PCs for trying to get it back for her. I know where it is or more accurately, where it is likely to be, but that could change based on the actions of the PCs and their antagonists.
While I am still the GM, the players very much choose their own adventure from a combination of possible options as well as new options they can generate themselves. Also, there is a tendency in these games to see both Big Adventure Goals and smaller personal goals. The PC Superheroes may want to track down all the members of the villainous Legion of Crime but that'll take a while. Between following leads and fighting bad guys Tomorrow Man and Intrepid want to upgrade the defenses of the team headquarters. Visitor and Spellbound visit with a new hero who helped them on their last mission to see if she wants to join the team. These latter subplots - upgrading the base and recruiting a new member - were the PCs'/players' ideas, not mine.
How do you plan encounters then?
How do you make sure there's enough treasure for the PCs efforts?
How do you manage the 'Challenge Rating' if a bunch of 'low level' PCs up and decide they want to take on an Ancient Dragon.
I don't. I see what happens.
Treasure isn't a big deal in my games as I've noted before. Wealth isn't the reward the PCs are hoping for in my campaigns more often than not. In the case where this is a monetary or physical reward of some kind that will be figured into whatever they're doing. Ridding the countryside of a terrible monster gains you are reward from the local Duke. Successfully smuggling vital Medical Droid parts to a Rebel Base in the Bontooine System gets you credits from the Rebel Alliance.
Meanwhile, saving the Earth from the menace of Dark Seid or Dr. Doom gets you thanks and praise from Humanity. That's it. It all works itself out by genre.
If a bunch of novice adventurers travel from their tiny, one-horse village to the Mountain of Endless Despair to battle Mourngoth, The Ebony Dragon of Sadness Over The Departed, then they'll likely die...but maybe not. An infinite number of things could happen along the way.
Next post I will do a mini-'Campaigns I Have Known' wherein I will recount a campaign a run with this approach and how it worked in play.