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Serialized Pacing

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 166
With serialized pacing, a large number of events quickly flow into one another. Sometimes the structure of events is immediately altered due to the consequences of previous events. Other times, consequences determine the events that the PCs participate in next. Use serialized pacing when social conflict is the main thrust of a campaign or a campaign arc. Running social conflicts with a serialized structure is more difficult because events must be modified or generated on the fly with more frequency due to PC actions.

To illustrate serialized pacing, let’s imagine the PCs discover a strange troublemaker has been instigating orc raids on the borders of a duchy. Soon after, the PCs encounter a mob intent on taking revenge on a local halforc couple in a misguided attempt to enact retribution for the raids. Stepping in and saving the couple, the PCs soon find themselves in conflict with the supporters of a silver-tongued new vizier in the duke’s court who has been advising the ruler to rid himself of troublesome non-humans, as well as advocating other policies of human supremacy.

Circumstances point to a connection between this new vizier and the strange troublemaker on the frontier, and they might even be the same person. This leads the PCs to all manner of events, balls, and political meetings to gain more information about the vizier, her history, and how she gained her current support. During the course of these investigations, they run afoul of more of the vizier’s supporters. With each conflict and bit of information, they uncover the vizier’s true connection to the raids and their purpose. She aims to discredit the local barons, centralize control over the duchy, and dominate the duke. Eventually, the PCs have the chance to expose the vizier’s secret agenda to the populace during a final showdown: a verbal duel wherein the vizier attempts to discredit the PCs’ evidence.

In this example of serialized pacing, nearly the entire story revolves around the social conflict at hand, with each event leading to another in a complex web of intrigue.