Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters is a 314-page book from the authors of Gnome Stew which does pretty much what the title would lead you to expect; it provides 501 adventure plots for you to use or adapt.
Setting aside the introduction, foreword, credits, and contributor biographies, the book consists of five chapters; Game Mastering Advice, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, and Indices.
The plots are evenly divided between Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror, and subdivided by Georges Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations, which Polti proposed were the 36 different plots driving all human stories and which are frequently referenced by all manner of writers and students.
(Tolstoy said there were only two; "Go on a quest" and "A stranger comes to town". But I digress.)
GAME MASTERING ADVICE
This chapter is about how to use the book, and is optional. It explains the underlying structure of the plots, how to expand them into adventures and adapt them to your campaign.
The book is rules-agnostic, but the plots rarely turn on a specific skill or spell, so if you have a handful of stock NPCs in your campaign file you’re good to go. (If you don’t, I recommend you change that.)
Most of the plots require no foreshadowing, and can be run in a single session, which will involve 3-5 encounters or scenes and perhaps 4 hours of playing time.
THE PLOTS: FANTASY, SCI-FI AND HORROR
On to the meat of the book; the plots themselves, each of which has a half-page or so of writeup and various tags.
Not wanting to give away the details of the plots, I thought I’d do roughly a 10% sample of each section (the first 15 plots) and divide them by how enthused I am about running them. This is entirely subjective and your mileage may vary. Out of the 60, we have:
- OMG I have to run this: 2.
- Hey, that’s cool: 4.
- I can do something with this: 25.
- Meh: 14.
- Not in a million years: 0.
Assuming those are representative, there are about 20 scenarios in the "OMG" category, which would keep me going for a couple of years at my current session frequency by themselves, and about two-thirds of the plots will be usable in some form. 340 plots will keep me going until well after retirement age at that pace.
I found that the Sci-Fi plots were generally weaker than the Fantasy or Horror ones, but that could be a sampling fault or just my personal prejudices.
As mentioned above, the plots are divided into Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Horror. These are the umbrella genres and chapter headings, but the plots are also tagged by one or more of 19 subgenres ("Swashbuckling", for example); this is where the index by genre comes in, as you can quickly filter out only the plots which fit (say) a Steampunk game. Not to say that the others won’t. just that they’ll need more adaptation.
The index by tags allows you to filter for all combat-heavy scenarios, all intrigue scenarios, or whatever. I found myself wanting a pivot table which could select, for example, all Steampunk scenarios with religious overtones. I could know up a spreadsheet for that in a few hours, though, if I wanted to, and I’m not sure how you would do it in dead tree or PDF format.
This is a useful addition to my GM’s Shelf of Wonders, which I can turn to when other inspiration fails so long as I have an hour or two’s warning of a game session. The main value for me will be breaking me out of a rut by providing new ideas; the main disadvantage of the product is the time it will take me to sift through for the perfect scenario – this is what the indices are intended to handle, to be fair, and they may do so.
Marks are straight down the middle; it’s not going to take over this aspect of my gaming life, but I don’t regret buying it and will probably use it from time to time.