How to Twist Plots




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  1. #1
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    ° Ignore mmadsen

    How to Twist Plots

    In a recent discussion of Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering, ColonelHardisson suggested roleplayingtips.com for, well, roleplaying tips. I enjoyed this little tidbit from an archived issue:

    How To Twist Plots
    From: Max B.

    Hello Johnn,

    I have some "tricks of the trade", and I want to share these.

    My style of GMing isn't creating plots/stories from scratch, but taking existing ones and twisting and turning them ad nauseum.

    There are (in my experience) six methods of plot tweaking. Let's take a simple adventure outline ("evil wizard kidnaps a princess") and see what the application of those methods will give us.

    "As is"
    It's just a basic plot with cosmetic changes (e.g. names of the wizard and princess, method of kidnapping, place where the captive is held). Okay, it isn't a tweaking per se, but creative changing of details can make interesting adventures. Must be done with caution though -- it can become boring after several repetitions.


    "Upside down"
    One of the major plot elements is changed to its direct opposite. Maybe the evil princess somehow locked the wizard in his tower (and must be in the same tower to keep him locked); maybe the wizard didn't kidnap the princess, but instead rescued her from a terrible death, and so on.


    "HOW MANY of them are here, you said?"
    Too many, actually. For example, ten or so evil wizards compete with each other in an attempt to capture one princess; the evil wizard captured not one, but many princesses; last month there were multiple captures of princesses by evil wizards, but only one is Really Significant (tm).


    "Bait & switch"
    Imagine the wonder of the PCs when they discover that something is absent in the story: the wizard didn't kidnap the princess, he's just deluded that he did. Or the kidnapped girl isn't a princess, but her female bodyguard is (16th level fighter capable to escape on her own, by the way, and very bored and angry because she has orders not to); or (for a really complicated twist) both wizard and princess are impostors --she is a cleaning maid and he's a wizard's would-be pupil (and where on earth are REAL princess and wizard?).


    "Amateurs, damn amateurs!"
    Something's gone terribly wrong. The wizard's servants were so lame that they lost the princess soon after kidnapping. Now she's somewhere in the wilderness/city slums/Astral Plane, and nobody knows that!


    "For King, Country and sheer fun of it"
    Humourous story twists are good, if done properly. Probably this tweaking method isn't so great when used alone, but it is when used in conjunction with other ways... For example: what if the wizard kidnapped many girls and ancient custom dictates that the savior must marry one of those he saved, and only one PC is noble enough to be considered eligible for royal marriage?

 

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    ° Ignore Psion
    Yeah, that's a good one. It reminds me of one of my favorite 1e sessions. I was playing a swashbuckler type, and I was hired by a noble whose amour was kidnapped in order to save his love.

    So my character broke into the Noble's house with dashing and derring do, and dueled his way to the noble lady, and proclaimed that he was there to save her. She then informed that she was a willing guest at the Baron's estate, and the man who had hired Ivanhoe (my PC... cliche, I know, but I was 17) was something of an unwanted suitor.

    But she played along with his dashing escape. On the way back to her suitor, they hit it off.

    Upon returning to the suitor, he provided Ivanhoe with the promised payment for "saving" the girl... and then rode off into the sunset with the girl still on his horse, leaving her suitor with a baffled look on his face.

    Man, those where the days. And people wonder why I get so vehement when they say you can't role-play in D&D.
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    ° Ignore EricNoah
    My problem is usually how to untwist them -- as I often get in way over my head. I often have to go through my notes with the mantra "Simplify! Simplify!" going through my head...

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    ° Ignore mmadsen

    Re: How to Twist Plots

    "HOW MANY of them are here, you said?"
    Too many, actually. For example, ten or so evil wizards compete with each other in an attempt to capture one princess; the evil wizard captured not one, but many princesses; last month there were multiple captures of princesses by evil wizards, but only one is Really Significant (tm).
    Most of us use "As is" regularly, and one of the first tricks you learn is "Upside down", but "How many?" took me off guard. That's a funny twist.
    Last edited by mmadsen; Wednesday, 3rd April, 2002 at 04:20 AM.

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    ° Ignore mmadsen
    Has anyone twisted any plain vanilla plots for their own campaign? Got any examples you'd like to share?

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    ° Ignore Methinkus
    Put a mask on one of the Big Badies and as he battles one of the characters deep inside a city in the clouds announce that he is that characterĺs FATHER!! The very same father that the character had been told had been killed by the aforementioned masked bad man! Oh my goodness!
    I'll make it into heaven if I have to ride there on a river of blood

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    ° Ignore kolvar
    Not realy that twisting, but hurting the player (if it is a good one):

    Make them go stealing something important from a place, they know will be destroyed in a few days.
    When they arrive, show them old friends living in the place, who are going to day in the event of destruction.
    (the one forced in my case was a lawful good fighter, the friend someone he had trained and gone through hell with).

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    ° Ignore Slaachma'jur
    I had a good one. I had the main villian of the campaign turn up (via a lackey) at the hero's stronghold and tell them all about a second nasty villian (that the first guy wanted out of the way), and that 'cause they were the "great heroes", etc, they should really do something about it.

    Even though they knew it was a set up, they couldn't very well let villian #2 stomp around the countryside, so they took off after him, cursing the whole time and hating villian #1 more and more. It was great !

    Oh, nearly forgot, hi everybody!

    I've come to devour your souls and take back MY universe

  • #9
    I always listen to the ruminations of the players as they view the plot unfolding. Adding some of their thoughts makes them think they figured parts of it out; and sometimes their ideas make more sense than the original.
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    ° Ignore Christian
    Originally posted by Methinkus
    Put a mask on one of the Big Badies and as he battles one of the characters deep inside a city in the clouds announce that he is that characterĺs FATHER!! The very same father that the character had been told had been killed by the aforementioned masked bad man! Oh my goodness!
    Lame, lame, lame! Think about it-if someone put that in a movie, it would bomb pathetically, and people would be talking for years about what an idiot the writer/producer was!

    Geez.
    -Christian
    The psychic warrior's player, after watching my character disarm an opponent with a whip after blinding him with glitterdust: "That ... was the coolest thing I have ever seen a bard do."

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