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Author Topic: How much do you plot in advance?  (Read 2981 times)

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Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

How much do you plot in advance?
« on: February 24, 2012, 04:16:15 AM »
Just how much of the events in a session do you know in advance are going to happen? There are at least two approaches on this ;).
Let me use a very simple example of a "plot" just for brevity's sake.
I'm starting with the ultra-plotted.
A man meets an woman in a bar. They talk, they make out, and agree on a one-night-stand. When they go to her hotel room, however, she's attacked by a squad of thugs, aiming to kill her for whatever reason. After she dispatches with them almost effortlessly, she tells the guy now they'd consider him a witness to be dealt with. Cue running from the Mastermind, falling in love on the way, and him successfully dispatching the mastermind after she gets hurt.
Now, the less plotted.
A man and a woman meet in a bar. Both are attractive and horny, and it seems likely that they'd go for a one-night stand. She's got enemies he doesn't know about, and superior combat skills. He's got, well, natural aptitude, but isn't a pro in violence. If they go to her place, they get attacked, nobody bothers to follow them and risk getting discovered. If they go elsewhere, she'll be followed, and although it's a professional surveillance, it can be spotted.
Her enemies will attack whether he's there or not, but if he is, he'd become "disposable witness". What do you do?
I'm sure you can spot a few places where things might very well go in an unforeseen direction, and make the plot less predictable and less like anything you've seen one too many times ;).

Just wandering which one people on E. would prefer.

Offline HairyHeretic

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Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2012, 06:40:58 AM »
I may have a general idea of how things could progress, but I rarely plot them out that far in advance .. not in specific detail at least, unless it's necessary to kick a story off.

Stories have a habit of going an entirely different direction than you thought they would when you started, in my experience :)

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 09:56:23 AM »
I find that my stories, either written alone or with a partner, tend to take on a life of their own.  I may start with a beginning, middle and a general conclusion but between my partner and I we mostly make it up as we go along.  I've had stories that began with little to no discussion and others that took a long time to plot out because of a setting or the nature of the characters. 

Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 09:18:05 PM »
So far, it seems we're in perfect agreement. Wonder whether someone would voice a dissenting opinion.

Also, maybe I should have added a poll.

Online Beatrice Black

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2012, 11:04:46 AM »
A bit. My stories tend to have particular beats my partner and I want to hit, and while we could start with them already in place, getting there is half the fun.

Offline sleepingferret

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Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2012, 03:19:35 PM »
For one on one plots, discussion with your partner is key and will help guide the story....if you and your partner find it necessary (or desirable).

For group sessions, as a GM, I find planning ahead as tool to merely keep the story in the direction of any key plot elements; otherwise, I let things play out and see where they lead.  While this may lead to having to creating side stories, or having to create a plot for the group to still reach what you envisioned as your story's ending, as a GM I find it as part of the fun of "sitting behind the screen".

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2012, 03:00:35 PM »
I have one friend in particular on E who insists on planning every part of our one-on-one stories in great detail, which for her is actually part of the fun. I have no objection to this, especially as she is always open to amendments in the plan.

And then I have the stories where I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next and I'm making it up as I go and my RP partner is as much in the dark as I am.

Those are one-on-ones. (Oh and it is just as possible to GM a one-on-one game as it is a group!)

Group games, I have never managed to come up with one that lasted long enough to see whether I prefer planning it in advance or allowing things to develop freely. And yes, I've tried both!

Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2012, 03:25:44 PM »
I agree, for whatever reason, group games on E. tend to have a relatively short lifespan. But IME, they're not different from one on ones in what regards planning.
As for the reason about group games not lasting long, I'm pretty sure it deserves its own thread!

Offline Muse

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Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2012, 06:32:44 PM »
  Some of my best stories, group, solo, and one on one have benefited from a good bit of preparation. 

  While an outline--or dungeon module--can help a great deal, what's more important too me ahead of time is to have a good write up of the major characters under my control.  In solo writing, it's easy for me to forget that antagonists are just as important as protagonists, and when I remember that I do some of my best work. 

  Of course, one has to be flexible, both for cooperative writing and for characters who have their own ideas about how things should go! 

Offline Outlier

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2012, 10:31:27 PM »
For a group game I want to get going I have a basic story I wish to tell. There is a certain feeling I want to get with the game. Considering the detective story elements I wish to include I have plotted out a few of the victims and clues. A lot of the story is going to be based on what the detective characters do in the game. I understand that while I might have 8 pages of back story to pull from there is a good chance that the characters will never discover it. As my friend Qt pointed out the other night, players give you the best plot points. I find this especially true for finding ways to torture create a situation that makes the characters sweat.

Offline Deva

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2012, 11:59:11 AM »
After getting to know what my partner would want.. I prepare nothing but a rough goal.  I hate not taking ideas as they hit me. Granted I make notes when I have random good ideas.. as good ideas as 'levitating psychic boobies next time!!' are.

Though it depends on the people I play with.. some -need- moar railroading.


Online AndyZ

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2012, 03:46:03 PM »
A week or two ago, I finished running a VtM 20A game where I had the beginning planned and the ending planned, but the middle was mostly mush.  The players all had various goals that they wanted to accomplish, and I had to attempt to make sure that everyone got those goals fully done around the same time.  Although everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, I'm not sure that plan worked perfectly.

The rough part with ending a story is that it ends.  A lot of people don't like that.  They want the story to keep on going, develop new quirks, find snags and continue on.  For a GM, this can be difficult because you do eventually run out of ideas and you want the game to end on a memorable climax.

The really difficult part, as far as GMing when compared to solo games, is that it's much easier for the two people involved to be in agreement during a solo game.  In a solo game, people will talk beforehand and come up with plans, but in a group game, especially a system game, people want to be surprised and don't want the entire story laid out before them.  This means that if you want to "nudge" players into a course of action, you have to be exceptionally talented at it in order to avoid the feeling of railroading.

((If you ever absolutely have to railroad, convince the players that they got one over on you.  If you can succeed, it'll feel much less contrived because they'll figure that they did what was obvious.))

Thus, a group game is likely to go very off course as it continues along.  The players aren't going to want to drop the Seven-Sided Star into the Bottomless Vortex.  One of them will want to keep it in her tower, another will attempt to siphon off its power, a third will attempt to eat it, and only one will say, "Hey, guys, this thing is pure evil, so we need to...guys?"

I suggest preparing up to the limit of what you're able to foresee, but allowing for changes.  This is how I'm doing my second novel, after with my first one, I just started writing from scratch, then rewrote the thing and started tying everything together.  Of course, that's not entirely true, because I did have the basic plans of each "Act" for the first one which I followed out...I think.  It's been a while, so can't 100% remember.

When running a group game, I know a guy who writes up the PC-less story.  If the PCs don't intervene, the Evil Overlord will claim the Ring of Fire, all of Gorgotosh will be destroyed, and the few remaining elves will be hunted down like wabbits.  This can work in theory because the players will be sent along that path, but we all too often ended up getting delayed, side-tracked on things and such, and would end up running out the clock before it was too late to act.  Then, we're suddenly in a less fun situation where the entire High Castle is engulfed in flame and impossible to breach, and we're fighting for our lives against superior numbers in a losing battle, while he tries to figure out what went wrong.

If you can convince the players that they always arrive just in time, awesome.  Like a video game, it can get too contrived if the players know that there's no time limit, and like a video game, they'll want to wander off and do every single side quest before the end.  It breaks the feeling of being rushed and imminent danger when they know that the BBEG's machine won't hit the five minute mark until they bash in the door, but that doesn't mean you can have them show up too late, either, unless you're fully planned and prepped to make such a story fun.

I really got to rambling on this post.  Sorry about that.

I'm going to say, there are active players and there are passive players.  Active players, in a sandbox situation, will have little difficulty in finding their own tasks, making friends, putting things together and so on.  A GM doesn't have to worry about inventing a story, but only has to worry about dealing with the NPCs, having everything work out, and inventing the occasional wrench for the plans of an active player.

A passive player, by contrast, will just show up and follow along for the ride.  A passive player is used to simply being told the story, having the town sage point them in the right direction and marching down the path.  You can railroad a passive player with a linear plot straight out of a video game, and they won't care as long as it's interesting.  Their characters won't question the king's motives, so they won't ever consider that maybe the king can't be trusted with the Staff of Ultimate Power, unlike active players who will want to either destroy it or keep it for themselves and start their own kingdom.

These aren't absolute either.  I'm probably 1/3 Active, 2/3 Passive.  Most likely there's some triggers for what makes people active or passive, but I don't know what it is.

On Elliquiy, you have such a vast number of players that you can pick and choose to some degree, sticking with the kind that you like.  If you love huge stories that you invent beforehand, passive players are ideal.  If you just want to be spontaneous and run for people with plans, then active players are for you.

Okay, that's probably enough.  Sorry for rambling.

Offline ThatRPGuy

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2012, 02:44:54 PM »
I'm kinda new here, so I hope no one minds me weighing in with an opinion.

I've never done a group RP in a forum setting, but I've DMed my fair share of tabletop campaigns, often with a group of friends who would gladly go well out of their way just to mess with my plans. I had an ultimate goal in mind for them, and usually would find some way to tempt them in the direction I was hoping they would go, but ultimately, I abandoned the idea of planning anything beyond major events after a while. I'm decent enough at thinking of the fly, so coming up with a new idea if they decided to take their adventure somewhere else was never too tricky.

For one on one RPs, I came to this board looking for people who were interested in a plot to go with their 'adult' RP. Personally, I prefer sex scenes in a good story than rushing into something. I usually like to have a goal or two in mind, and maybe the next plot twist I'm thinking of introducing in the back of my head, but not set everything in stone.

For example, (and I'll give you as short a version as I can instead of the page I originally drafted) I started an RP idea with someone recently that involved the CEO of an entertainment company inviting another person to beta test a VR world. He always personally tested the company products for quality before they hit the market, and this was no different. He knew people would be using his system for all manor play, and wanted to make sure the experience would live up to their expectations.

While in the game world, someone would go wrong that would trap them, forcing them to find, if not fight their way out. Beyond that, I tried to leave things open; the second character's relation to the CEO (I hate dictating what other people's character should be), for example, and the exact nature of the 'accident' that trapped them; could be a virus, a hacker, or someone who'se trying to kill the CEO and make it look like an accident that happened during his test, etc. That way things are more open, and even with my goals in place for the game, what's going to happen is still exciting. I'm always willing to go off the planned plot, as well.

The thing that bugged me about other boards I've tried are people that want to plan everything ahead of time, right down to my own character's details. I've seen PMs before along the lines of "Hey I have an RP idea. I want you to play my boss who brings me home from work, and when we get there you come inside and we have a scene with these specific kinks, then my boyfriend shows up unexpected and tries to attack us, but you fight him off and I realize how dominant you are then we have another scene with this other kink set before you take me back to the office the next day and it ends." I often wonder if they want something that specific, why not just write a story instead of telling someone exactly what they're going to be RPing?

So, in a very long-winded manor, I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't really like to plot too much in advance beyond a few major goals, twists, or ideas.

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2012, 06:11:21 PM »
Right... I currently have two groups running. One I'm doing sand-box with a sub plot that is sort-of planned, and the other is very much plot based.

Now, in the sandbox one - (Title is The Land Grab, but I usually refer to it as just "The Western"), I'm letting players do their own thing as much as they want, following the advice I've received in this GM's Corner on various threads, but I have a sketched out plot ready to come into play - in fact the first move has literally just happened with a PC gunning down one of my NPCs (She was well within her rights, the guy was a douche and was totally asking for it!) What happens next is largely up to the players, but there will suddenly be a whole passel of angry gunslingers in town. (And no, I don't mind spilling that here, because it's going to happen pretty soon anyway).

This is totally different from the way I had originally intended the story to go, but my original plan didn't involve the game being sandbox.

Now, the other one, Cluedo, is a closed game. I have a number of characters and I can't add more. If I loose any, I will have to take them on as NPCs.

In this game I do have my own Player Character, but as she's the victim of the murder, I think that's acceptable. I have planned in some detaile with the player who is the murderer exactly what is going to happen, what clues are going to be left, and how they come up with their alibi. (I'm not even saying he or she as that might be a clue).

I think these two examples show two totally different approaches to GMing.  And so far (touch wood) both games are still going.

Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2012, 11:49:35 AM »
These are indeed good examples of different approaches. And the point is, every style has its fans, so you just have to find out what the game has to offer and decide whether you want this style, or the other.
If it's not your style, you can always play something else, and it's not the end of the world ;D!

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2012, 02:35:07 PM »
For freeform RPs, I tend to end up somewhere in the middle of the two options - the initial story idea is vague, but once I have a writing partner for the RP, I like to work out the general outline of where the story's going to go and what's going to happen out to a certain point. Having that consensus means less unexpected surprises - what do you mean, the hotel suddenly explodes in a raging fireball? - and allows both sides to direct more focus into good writing for posts.

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2012, 02:42:51 PM »
what do you mean, the hotel suddenly explodes in a raging fireball? -

Well it's you're own fault, my character told yours there was a bomb in the basement. You're the one with the bomb disposal skills, why didn't you have him go and defuse it instead of ****ing that chambermaid?

LOL!

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2012, 02:47:22 PM »
Well it's you're own fault, my character told yours there was a bomb in the basement. You're the one with the bomb disposal skills, why didn't you have him go and defuse it instead of ****ing that chambermaid?

LOL!

No you didn't, you said we were going to stop at the gas station and get Doritos and Red Bull, and I have no idea how you confused 'amateur ham radio enthusiast' with 'professional EOD technician'. ;D

So yeah, I'm talking about scenarios where a scenario isn't heavily plotted - two people meet at a bar and decide to have a one-night stand - and one of the players decides, unilaterally, to add plot and take the story in a completely unexpected direction. Say, using TH's base plotline, but the whole secret agent girl/mastermind/assassins thing is never mentioned to the other person until it happens, who thought the RP was just about the two characters meeting up and screwing. If the game premise was 'take turns inventing crazy things to happen and then deal with it together', that could be very fun. One player just deciding to change the focus and story by adding secret hitmen and exploding hotels...not so much.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 02:48:56 PM by TheGlyphstone »

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2012, 03:21:35 PM »
Hmm... oddly, I've never had that happen to me. I guess it's because I prefer plot based with smut to smut based with plot. In other words, I very rarely do the "girl meets girl, they go to bed, do it like rabbits and live happily ever after" type story. Or if I do, it tends to be as a one-shot that lasts for two or three pages at most.

In that respect I always prefer to have some sort of plan for my one-on-ones.

That said, I recently started a story with a lady who warned me repeatedly that she drives her RP partners crazy with her style. I told her not to worry and that I'm game for pretty much anything, and so far she has taken my original idea and twisted it so far that I honestly barely recognise it.

And it's great!

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2012, 03:24:21 PM »
I had it happen once, and that was all it took to sour me against total spontaneity when it comes to stories. I like plot>smut too, but I need to have a vague idea of what that plot is going to be, or at least be given fair warning ahead of time for stuff like what you're talking about.

Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2012, 04:34:39 PM »
Hmm... oddly, I've never had that happen to me. I guess it's because I prefer plot based with smut to smut based with plot. In other words, I very rarely do the "girl meets girl, they go to bed, do it like rabbits and live happily ever after" type story. Or if I do, it tends to be as a one-shot that lasts for two or three pages at most.

In that respect I always prefer to have some sort of plan for my one-on-ones.

That said, I recently started a story with a lady who warned me repeatedly that she drives her RP partners crazy with her style. I told her not to worry and that I'm game for pretty much anything, and so far she has taken my original idea and twisted it so far that I honestly barely recognise it.

And it's great!

You expressed my feelings almost exactly :P!

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2012, 05:17:02 PM »
You expressed my feelings almost exactly :P!

It's funny, because the story was originally supposed to be a "role reversal" one where my character turned the tables on hers and ended up being the dominant one. But in all honesty, I'm enjoying the mind-games she's playing so much that I may just stay sub and enjoy it!

Offline ThatRPGuy

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2012, 06:52:00 PM »
Hmm... oddly, I've never had that happen to me. I guess it's because I prefer plot based with smut to smut based with plot. In other words, I very rarely do the "girl meets girl, they go to bed, do it like rabbits and live happily ever after" type story. Or if I do, it tends to be as a one-shot that lasts for two or three pages at most.

That's why I came to this board, honestly. I haven't RPed in a long time, but decided I really missed it a couple months ago. The first couple of boards I did find were all smut-only, for the most part, so I didn't stick around too long.

It's easy to add nice smut to a decent plot, but the reversal doesn't always work.

To be honest with you, smut is probably where my weakest writing lies, since most of my RP was entirely plot-based before. The best writers I knew back in my original RP days enjoyed vanilla things at best. That's something I'm hoping to improve while I'm here, but now I'm just rambling.

I never mind when my plots get hijacked, it's why I try to leave them open, like my earlier example. Usually when it happens I'm thrilled that other players like what I've done so far enough to want to make it their own.

Offline Chrystal

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2012, 02:59:51 PM »
*giggles*

I was just re-reading some of the above posts and they reminded me of a line from the film "Roxanne" (1987 - starring Steve Martin & Daryl Hannah).

Dixie: Hey, what about your boyfriend? What was his name?
Roxanne Kowalski: Richard.
Dixie: When's he coming?
Roxanne Kowalski: He's not. He's not coming.
Dixie: What happened?
Roxanne Kowalski: We just ran out of gas. I guess I mistook sex for love.
Sandy: Oh, I did that once. It was great.

Sorry, I just had to share that....

Offline Thufir HawatTopic starter

Re: How much do you plot in advance?
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2012, 04:40:24 PM »
It's funny, because the story was originally supposed to be a "role reversal" one where my character turned the tables on hers and ended up being the dominant one. But in all honesty, I'm enjoying the mind-games she's playing so much that I may just stay sub and enjoy it!
That's exactly my point, actually :P. Who's to say the initial idea would have been better than what has grown from the interaction of the characters? It seems to me that, quite the contrary, the latter would feel more natural for these PCs in this situation, but of course, that's just me ;)!