10 comments on “Plot – How not to sour your game before it starts

  1. So, to get some discussion going, for a game like Shadowrun or Alpha Omega, where part of your plot and story line is for heists or assassinations or kidnappings, wouldn’t you want to have the individual encounters that they will be offered laid out ahead of time, so you as an ST can answer questions about the building/area where the encounter takes place? And won’t you want to have some sort of plan in place as to the fallout for succeeding or failing the encounter? And if you have several of these planned out for a certain plot or story line arc (including all the twists and turns), why wouldn’t you want to have the encounters planned out? I mean the worst that can happen is that they ignore your plot and then create their own, but you can always then turn around and use that "area" for the new plot that the PCs created.

  2. First of all, the main thrust of my post above is that planning a story before you are acquainted with the main characters (the Players/PCs) of that story is a bad thing. Once your the basis/content of your game/meal have been defined, planning ahead is a good idea. However, my advice would be to never plan something that could be made useless if the Players/PCs were to suddenly change their minds about where they were going because, trust me, they will do that.For example, suppose the PCs talk about wanting to pull a heist and so after session you go home and plot out something to steal, maps for where it’s kept, guards that are watching it, security measures in addition to the guards, little sub-plots going on near by, etc. You prepare, in short, for every conceivable question the PCs could ask when planning their heist. Then you get to next session and while you were making lists and checking them twice, one Player spoke to the others and convinced them that a heist was a boring idea and that an assassination is the way to go. Now what?I’ll tell you what. With all that time and energy you put into planning the heist and nothing at all planned for an assassination you will feel pressured to use what you’ve come up with even though it is clearly not what your players want anymore. You should have been more general in your preparations. Read up on security systems. Print off a few generic guard/security NPCs (probably from the back of the book) a reference. 30 minutes tops. Now you can come to session ready to mold those two things around whatever the PCs decide to go for. That’s how you make a habit out of expecting the unexpected.What are they stealing or who are they killing? What does the exact building look like? Who cares? Give them several options with various benefits and penalties spelled out to them in advance and let them choose who/what to go after. If possible, pull from the PCs’ own character histories. That’s always a good idea. Keep some graph paper on you and draw some crude sketches of a building layout once they make their decision. Their imaginations will do the rest. Trust me. They’re gamers. There are a lot of areas in which most gamers are lacking, but imagination isn’t one of them.

  3. In my opinion it all depends on what kind of game you are going to run, and what kind of gaming group you have. If your gaming group is the type that expects to play a DnD style line course game then having a well planned out take the dog by the leash and run them through the well planned out course, then plan ahead all you want because that is what they expect, and you will give them an enjoyable story that they can "participate" in watching, like a choose your own adventure book…..But if your group is the type that can come up with their own plot, like spelling out Hello World in the city lights during a "power outage" then the method D3F1L3 above is the way to go.But for example, i started running a brand new game, Alpha Omega, which I hadn’t run before, and the PC’s hadn’t played before. So I came up with a couple of "introductory" jobs for them to do, which had preconceived "you will get this for me" type instructions, with x amount of generic NPC’s and a boss type character at the end. I don’t see this as a bad thing as doing this served a purpose as to teach me and the PC’s how the mechanics worked. I do admit i spent some time planning out the what is going to happen, but again I see that as a "learning how the game ticks" for the GM, so you can mitigate the story. But when the learning was done and they had a few victories under their belt, i did what you describe, let their backgrounds and/or what the outcome the pre-gened jobs generated…. in this case they caused the "enemy sorcerer" to botch his summoning, and ended up summoning a greater demon instead of a lesser demon….

  4. In my opinion it all depends on what kind of game you are going to run, and what kind of gaming group you have. If your gaming group is the type that expects to play a DnD style line course game then having a well planned out take the dog by the leash and run them through the well planned out course, then plan ahead all you want because that is what they expect, and you will give them an enjoyable story that they can "participate" in watching, like a choose your own adventure book…..But if your group is the type that can come up with their own plot, like spelling out Hello World in the city lights during a "power outage" then the method D3F1L3 above is the way to go.But for example, i started running a brand new game, Alpha Omega, which I hadn’t run before, and the PC’s hadn’t played before. So I came up with a couple of "introductory" jobs for them to do, which had preconceived "you will get this for me" type instructions, with x amount of generic NPC’s and a boss type character at the end. I don’t see this as a bad thing as doing this served a purpose as to teach me and the PC’s how the mechanics worked. I do admit i spent some time planning out the what is going to happen, but again I see that as a "learning how the game ticks" for the GM, so you can mitigate the story. But when the learning was done and they had a few victories under their belt, i did what you describe, let their backgrounds and/or what the outcome the pre-gened jobs generated…. in this case they caused the "enemy sorcerer" to botch his summoning, and ended up summoning a greater demon instead of a lesser demon….

  5. I can see leading your group through a scripted story for a specific purpose like learning a system, but then I wouldn’t call it ‘role-playing.’ Just like I wouldn’t call a choose-your-own-adventure book ‘role-playing’. I also don’t think it’s a question of whether or not players can "come up with their own plot." Put that way it sounds like you think I’m asking the GM to do nothing. The PCs, when role-playing with each other, will naturally talk about what they want and are looking to do. Then it is the GMs job to write things like that down and look for ways to give it to them. Or if they don’t say anything like that, it is the GM’s job to tease it out of them or to ask them bluntly. Then it’s back to looking for ways to give it to them hopefully while twining it with the things the other PCs want as well as with costs and descriptions and dialogue. The Players aren’t creating their own plot, the GM is listening to his/her PCs and molding the story around them. I tried long and hard when I wrote this think of a way to call the scripted form of gaming ‘role-playing’ for the sake of being politically correct, but I couldn’t do it. I stand by my earlier statement: To those of you who have a fantastic idea with fleshed out characters and a trail of plot bread crumbs and turns and twists and mysteries and everything detailed out in some closet full of binders: Write a book.

  6. First point slightly debatable, but I will save that for an IRL discussion…..I disagree with your 2nd point. How is is that "PCs will naturally talk about what they want and are looking to do" not the same as generating plot? In this case all you are doing as the GM is just fleshing out and combining their wants(Plot) into the story. Hence the ideas were not your own, but the PCs, and therefore you have done nothing but take their idea and ran with it. And again will save this argument for an IRL discussion…..

  7. I know the first point is debatable. Many have tried to debate it with me 😉 I am confident of my position though.How are they different? Easy. The difference is in the GM’s reaction to what their PCs say.Many GMs (the ones referred to above, for example) would respond to a PC’s opinion on where they’d like to take the story with a "That’s nice" and a continued adherence to their set-in-stone plot. Or perhaps with a slight addition to the story in progress as a meager nod to PC individuality.In my opinion there is no choice to make. A good game is generally more like a reality TV show than a scripted series; the cameras follow the main characters not vice versa. The main characters *are* the focus. Any stories/plot that surrounds them should serve to highlight the characters or it is just a pointless vanity on the GM’s part. It is the GM’s job to spin characters and setting into story, not to write a story and then lead whatever characters happen to be at hand by the nose through it.By the way, I’m posting this online for the purpose of having these discussions here 🙂

  8. I am satisified with that answer. And I had i wanted this to be a private discussion i wouldn’t have posted my reply on here the first go round :)And the only further comment I have to add is that I think every GM, including you, is guilty of set-in-stone plot lines, and that only with time and experimentation, and a good gaming group, can you evolve your games to the ones you have described.

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