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Fictionalised setting and scenario development process ← Back to Blog index

‘Fictionalised’ means basing the setting (note 1) and scenario(s) (note 2) on the real world but changing reality to suit the wargame requirements. This has pros and cons. I won’t go into these here other than to say that the principal benefit is that you can control the complexity in an educational wargame and so not overwhelm the Training Audience (TA). In our case it was appropriate to fictionalise the setting and scenarios. We held a whiteboard session to determine the process. This took about 30 minutes. With only minor tweaks, the process we developed has been the basis for all subsequent setting and scenario development. For interest, the whiteboard session resulted in the photo below.

The resulting process is:


1.   Confirm the exercise aims and learning objectives
2.   Derive the major themes, domains and geo spatial aspects
3.   Confirm any sensitivities
4.   Derive the protagonists
5.   Derive the factions, actors and associated Human Terrain
6.   Derive the casus  belli
7.   Derive the adversary(ies) objectives and plans
8.   Determine protagonists’ and regional/international actors’ capabilities, including UN and other Powers
9.   Determine outline ORBATs and capabilities to required level of detail
10. Determine required infrastructure detail (for example if Stability Operations are to feature)
11. Identify real-world examples to use as a basis for fictionalisation
12. Determine International Community actors, stances, positions and reactions, including IOs/NGOs
13. Brainstorm any future exercise requirements and identify ‘hooks’ for subsequent development


14. Determine the Road to Crisis
15. Produce a Summary of Recent Events and/or INTSUM covering the necessary period
16. Confirm the JOA

Startex and Execution Documents:

17. Storyboard the likely execution events (effectively a synch matrix for Excon use only)
18. Determine any Decisive Conditions to be met
19. Start producing the MEL/MIL (Excon use only)
20. Confirm the correct balance of forces and ORBATs in detail (possibly by manual wargaming)
21. Confirm Startex laydowns
22. Produce Operational Staff Work

As a basis for the development of a fictionalised setting and scenario(s) in the context of an educational or training wargame I would recommend it. It is not necessarily suitable for determining real-world setting and scenarios. Please let me know any feedback and ideas that might improve it further.

Note 1. Setting: A geographic and strategic situation designed to provide all the conditions required to support the achievement of high level exercise aims and objectives.  The setting, which can be real world, fictionalised or synthetic, is the framework on which the scenario can be developed.
Note 2. Scenario: The background story that describes the historical, political, military, economic, cultural, humanitarian and legal events and circumstances that have led to the specific current exercise crisis or conflict.  The scenario is designed to support exercise and training objectives and, like the setting, can be real, fictionalised or synthetic as is appropriate.

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2 Responses to “ Fictionalised setting and scenario development process ”

Tom Mouat December 3rd, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Tom Mouat said:

As an addendum to this, while in the ARRC we developed a “shorthand” to aid with fictitious scenarios. One of the problems is associating personalities with the different actors, Friendly, Enemy, Aid Agencies, etc. In a real setting, people have more time to read into the situation and know that Mr Saddam Hussein is the bad guy and Mr Ban Ki-Moon represents the UN.
To that end we developed lists of names that were generically linked to ‘sides’; for example anyone with names of “fish” were from the UN (Mr Kipper, Mr Herring, etc.), friendly politicians were given ‘hard’ names (Mr Iron, Mr Rock, etc.). This helped users a lot with really random scenarios.
When it is important to have ethnic sounding names (and avoid embarrassment by accidentally using a real name) a useful site is Behind The Name ( or for more background use: