The Scenario Adaptation Balancing Act

I’m reading an alternate history story, Zhirinovsky’s Russian Empire, a dystopian tale where the death of Boris Yeltsin during the failed 1991 coup in the USSR leads to the titular extremist becoming that country’s head, and thus leading the world into over a decade of not-so-cold war.

There are some parts of it where I go “that would make an interesting enough Command scenario.” So I load up the scenario editor, start to put the Moldovan and Russian units, and then-lose enthusiasm.

This has happened to me many times before. Each time I read/watch some work of fiction that is theoretically adaptable to Command, each time I get the idea to try an adaptation, and each time the scenario ends up stalling in the editor, never getting anywhere beyond a rough draft.

Now, there are plenty of original scenarios that have never progressed beyond “make the log folder even more cluttered”, but that none of my attempted adaptations made it anywhere made me think there was something beyond issues with the specific scenarios.

There’s of course the possibility, however small, of the original author taking issue with the adaptation This would almost certainly not be the case with ZRE’s author, but for the rather thin-skinned writers who I’d considered adapting under the codename “Operation Silk Purse” (to make a bad story into a good scenario, hence the name), that cannot be counted out. But that would only apply to restrictions on releasing the scenario, not on making it.

Then, in the chat, I found the words for what I’d meant “Writing a story is a lot more fun than adapting one.”

With any existing work of fiction, there are some restrictions. With an original story, there are none. Want to write a straight-from-the-declassified CIA document tale of second-line subs rushing into the Atlantic? Sure. Want to do a silly plot where Argentina bombs badly named Uruguayan banks? Go right ahead. Want to do a generally faithful reenactment of an early, ferociously difficult Red Flag exercise? All right.

That being said, there are some instances where a scenario should be precisely researched (if one is looking for an exact reenactment of a specific battle, or just desires great attention to detail). And that’s when I found what I thought the problems with adaptations were-they have the weaknesses of both freeform and strict scenarios, but not the strengths.

What that amounts to is this-you’re stuck in the confines of the existing work, sometimes rigidly so. However, you still have a lot of blanks to fill (Ok, look at the surplus Soviet bases in the area to see what the Union of Independent States would have, now see how many of the fighters on them would be operational, etc..), as only the most dull and literalist work of fiction would spell everything on both sides out in exact detail.

So I found there was a balancing act that didn’t exist in original scenarios, even those based off of nonfiction historical references (since I used such ones as inspirations rather than situations I would attempted to duplicate exactly.) This act made making them less enjoyable

Making an adaptation scenario is not impossible. Other adaptations have appeared, most notably several based on the novel The War that Never Was. That book is somewhat anomalous in that the extreme detail and matter-of-fact tone make it good as a scenario-inspiration book (and to me, very bad as an actual novel). The inspiration to complete an adaptation scenario may very well come to me as well, ending my long “losing streak” of proposals.

But I still find it a lot more fun to write a story than adapt one.