Looking for tips on designing role-play scenarios

May 21, 2012

When developing a storyboard for role-play scenarios, I spend a LOT of time with a blank sheet. Can anyone share tips on designing a relevant plot, characters and interactions?

Where does one look for inspiration? What is the ideal process from content to storyboarding? How does a rapid e-learning pro come up with relevant and engaging scenarios in days instead of weeks?

7 Replies
Jenny Wang

A good scenario includes all good elements in story-telling.

1. Decide your learning objective, characters, and style (fun, or serious)

2. Start with an interesting hook, e..g a question. Or, it can be just a simple introduction on the character.

3. Develop a conflict/problem.

4. Develop the plot to solve the conflict/problem.

Just want to share some thoughts on my mind. Look forward to hearing other people's input.

shafi shaikh

Jenny has given some good suggestions.. Thumbs UP

I am just giving you a general suggestion , hope that it might help.

When we want to create something , we wont get proper ideas at that time, like  as you told you are spending a lot of time with a blank sheet. It happens to many intellectuals.

To overcome this problem, take a break and do some activities which you like,and while doing this activities think about your storyboards. You will get some ideas in your mind ,then come back and note down the ideas on your blank sheet.

This is called Playing With Your Subconscious mind.

Most of the creative ideas are hidden in our Subconscious mind, if you can shake it then ideas will fall in your conscious mind. Like the fruits falls on the ground when you shake the branch .

If you have some more time to tolerate my suggestions :D ,then read the below article on Brainstorming.

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We have stated ourproblem and are ready to brainstorm! At least we will be, once

we have properlyprepared. Sleep is crucial to the process of idea generation —

a good designer uses thetremendous power of sleep to its maximum advantage. No

one explains this better,I think, than surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The following

(Dali’s Secret #3) isan excerpt from his book Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship.

In order to make use ofthe slumber with a key you must seat yourself in a

bony armchair,preferably of Spanish style, with your head tilted back and rest-

ing on the stretchedleather back. Your two hands must hang beyond the arms

of the chair, to whichyour own must be soldered in a supineness of complete


In this posture, youmust hold a heavy key which you will keep suspended,

delicately pressedbetween the extremities of the thumb and forefinger of your

left hand. Under thekey you will previously have placed a plate upside down

on the floor. Havingmade these preparations, you will have merely to let your-

self be progressivelyinvaded by a sense of serene afternoon sleep, like the spir-

itual drop of anisetteof your soul rising in the cube of sugar of your body. The

moment the key dropsfrom your fingers, you may be sure that the noise of its

fall on theupside-down plate will awaken you, and you may be equally sure

that this fugitivemoment during which you cannot be assured of having really

slept is totallysufficient, inasmuch as not a second more is needed for your

whole physical andpsychic being to be revivified by just the necessary amount

of repose.


Your Silent Partner

Is Dali crazy? Thebenefits of a good night’s sleep are easy to believe — but what

possible benefit couldthere be in a nap that lasts only a fraction of a second? The

answer becomes clear onlywhen you consider where your ideas come from. Most

of our good, clever,creative ideas are not arrived at through a process of logical,

reasoned argument. No,the really good ideas just seem to pop up out of nowhere;

that is, they come fromsomewhere below the surface of our consciousness —

a place we call thesubconscious. The subconscious mind is not well understood,

but it is a source oftremendous, and possibly all, creative power.

Article taken from the book "Art of Game Design" by Jesse Schell.

And i am sorry if i bored you :P.

Natalia Mueller

Hi Kamran,

I start with the end. What do ultimately want the learner to get out of the scenario? If it's technical, it requires close collaboration with a SME so it's as realistic as possible. Once I know what I want them to ultimately get out of it  I can start brainstorming the different topics that could lead them to that experience. 

In general terms, I start with all of the biggest pieces and work backwards

Ultimate goal > topics that lead to the goal > specific examples that support the topics

Once I have the basic skeleton of the scenario, then I take passes back through and add details like feedback for the various choices, character/traits and humor (when possible).

There are several tools out there for designing branched scenarios but my favorite thing to use is good ol' post it notes, preferably on a white board. For me, I find that I'm too inclined to get lost in the "gadget" when I really just need to lay out my ideas and have a visual way to collaborate with someone else. 

I'm not saying this is the best approach by any means. It's just what works well for me and keeps me from staring at a blank screen or piece of paper for too long. 

As for getting the ideas, SME's and managers/supervisors are a great resource. I frequently ask "what is a common mistake here" followed by "what is a realistic consequence if someone makes that mistake".  

If you have anything specific you want help with, this community is a fantastic idea generator. Throw us some specifics and you'll get all kinds of ideas back.

Bruce Graham

One other thing that I often point out to people is that, in "real life", scenarios seldom have one "right" and other "wrong" answers.

Very often, what I might design is, for example, an interaction that has 3 choices, all of which have elements that are are correct, and incorrect.

The next slide will ask them to think about the reasons for this, and introduce the idea of other factors that will help them come to a decision, such as experience, trust and risk factors.

Scenarios and outcomes in the "real world" are seldom black and white. You may need to discuss the need for "Plan B", or "ways in which you can adapt if somethng changes.

People need to be able to justify and defend a chosen position, and this skill is often forgotten when building scenarios.


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