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Old 12-05-2014, 09:45 PM   #1
lachimba
 
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Default Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literature

Im just thinking about plot elements that work or dont work in RPGs versus film, television or literature. Ideally with some ideas on how to change them enough to use them.

My thoughts are that many ideas in fiction just dont work in RPGs often enough because scripts are redrafted and edited dozens of timeswhile a homebrew adventure is often enough not even playtested before use.

GURPS Mysteries went through a lot of Mystery plots that work in RPGs versus other stories. Is there anything similar for other genres?
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Old 12-10-2014, 12:11 AM   #2
simply Nathan
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

Any plot element that relies on the protagonists being stupid. Each PC is being controlled by a player who, in all likelihood, is as clever as the GM; collectively, the mental resources of a party of player characters are greater than those of the Game Master.

Any plot element relying on the protagonists knowing what to do without being prompted. Players might be smart, but the majority of them aren't psychic. If the game master has a single specific solution in mind for a puzzle the chances are basically nonexistant that the players will figure it out, even if the GM goes out of his way to leave blatant clues.

I personally don't think anything relying on a plot twist or carefully scripted events planned for its future would work very well, not without robbing the players and their characters of investment in the narrative.
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Old 12-10-2014, 08:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

It's difficult to dramatize a caper plot. I've run such scenarios, and they were tricky.

On one hand, a caper involves intricate planning and preparation that is known to the heroes. But it all takes place offstage, so it's not known to the audience till they see the plan being carried out.

But on the other hand, the players are the audience, but they're also the planners. If they don't do the planning ahead of time, there is no plan. If they do the planning ahead of time, and it goes off without a hitch, playing out the caper is an anticlimax; it's hard to have any tension. If it runs into major snags and creates tension, it undermines the sense that the heroes are really good at what they do.

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Old 12-10-2014, 09:33 AM   #4
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
... the players are the audience, but they're also the planners. If they don't do the planning ahead of time, there is no plan. If they do the planning ahead of time, and it goes off without a hitch, playing out the caper is an anticlimax; it's hard to have any tension. If it runs into major snags and creates tension, it undermines the sense that the heroes are really good at what they do.
I once managed to square that circle by having a really good plan that was executed offstage, while the play session was the distraction for the opponents. It's not a general solution, because it needs the players to know the world very well and make both a plan and a cover, but it worked well when we did it.
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Old 12-10-2014, 10:45 AM   #5
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
It's difficult to dramatize a caper plot. I've run such scenarios, and they were tricky.

On one hand, a caper involves intricate planning and preparation that is known to the heroes. But it all takes place offstage, so it's not known to the audience till they see the plan being carried out.
I have some ideas for how to handle that based on character skill rather than player skill, and which can potentially surprise the players, useable for both heists and for long cons (the two main "flavours" of capers), but only time will tell if they're actually particularly good.
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Old 12-13-2014, 12:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans View Post
Any plot element that relies on the protagonists being stupid.
And as an extension to that, any plot element that relies on the PCs holding to a specific genre convention that goes against common sense, without a damn good reason. The typical sentai trope of the heroes summoning their fighting machines, then combining them into the super machine, then summoning their ultimate weapon, in response to each villain threat increase is an example. Without some kind of justification, PCs will most likely skip straight to Blazing Sword the moment the monster of the week shows up.
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Old 12-17-2014, 12:24 AM   #7
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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And as an extension to that, any plot element that relies on the PCs holding to a specific genre convention that goes against common sense, without a damn good reason. The typical sentai trope of the heroes summoning their fighting machines, then combining them into the super machine, then summoning their ultimate weapon, in response to each villain threat increase is an example. Without some kind of justification, PCs will most likely skip straight to Blazing Sword the moment the monster of the week shows up.
Remember too that PC motives can change without much warning, right in the middle of ongoing events, in ways that don't usually happen in formula fiction. You probably don't have to worry, for ex, about Riker really deciding to backstab Picard at a critical moment (as opposed to pretending too as part of their plans).

But a certain sort of PC might do it just for the heck of it. Or something else equally irrational and inexplicable at a key moment, like suddenly firing his gun in the air for no obvious reason.
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Old 12-17-2014, 12:31 AM   #8
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Remember too that PC motives can change without much warning, right in the middle of ongoing events, in ways that don't usually happen in formula fiction. You probably don't have to worry, for ex, about Riker really deciding to backstab Picard at a critical moment (as opposed to pretending too as part of their plans).

But a certain sort of PC might do it just for the heck of it. Or something else equally irrational and inexplicable at a key moment, like suddenly firing his gun in the air for no obvious reason.
The former could well be sanctioned with a massive XP penalty to Riker's player, for threatening the "immersion" of the other players by having his character perform an action solely for metagame reasons (in this case, for the lulz, but it's equally wrong if it's because Riker's player has developped a sudden hatred towards Picard's player).
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
It's difficult to dramatize a caper plot. I've run such scenarios, and they were tricky.
As far as I can see there are two canonical answers to this.

One is to have an abstract preparation system (of which there are two in Pyramid #3/53) which lets players retroactively have prepared for the unexpected. Which can break role-playing a bit.

The other is to say "all right, you successfully prepared for the stuff you knew about: the patrols, the moving laser beams, the safe. And that's all dealt with, no further rolls required. But now here are unexpected challenges, and let's see how you deal with them".
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:49 PM   #10
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Default Re: Is there a good article/post on story ideas that work in RPGs versus film/literat

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If they do the planning ahead of time, and it goes off without a hitch, playing out the caper is an anticlimax; it's hard to have any tension.
Which may or may not be a problem, depending on your players. My group likes it when a plan comes together . . . it's a bit like "winning," and the payoff for all the tension in the planning stages. And it's entirely possible for planning to be very, very tense indeed. If you have to carry out a bunch of thefts and black-market deals to procure the necessary gear, send the face character into the lion's den in disguise to acquire some passwords, clean up evidence that you're planning something, maybe even silence an inconveniently nosy NPC, then you have dozens of chances to compromise the plan, no one of which is immediately fatal to the adventure. But then the actual caper can be smooth, proving the heroes are as good as they claim to be.

Again, that does depend on the players. Some people believe that tension is needed in every sub-plot and game session; some people do not. I happen to game with the latter kind of people, so they actually have more fun when all their characters' hard work actually has a picture-perfect result.
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