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» GM'ing aid idea: Plot Cards
Greg
 Posted: Jan 13 2011, 04:01 PM
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Dingo and I were talking on the way from the games and discussion night at Jimbo's yesterday, and I brought up an idea I had to allow for more player involvement in developing the plot.

And it goes something a-like-a this-a.

Our group once did an interesting thing one night where we would all write an RPG scenario on a little piece of card-paper, and put it in a hat. The designated GM would then pull one of the ideas out at random, and we would quickly make some characters using RISUS, and play through the scenario.

My idea is that a similar idea could be used for ideas in a campaign that is already running. Instead of whole setting and scenario ideas, the players would simply write down a plot hook or event that they would like to encounter over the course of the campaign, and the GM would draw one of said cards at his discretion when in need of an plot idea.

For Example, say a player wants to play a character who is secretly an android of some sort, but would rather have it reveal as a part of the plot. So instead of getting all the players in on it (thus spoiling the surprise), or talking to the GM about it (which players are often loathe to do), the player would write down, "It is revealed that [character name] is secretly an android!", and put the note in the hat/pile/whatever. Then when the GM is in need of an idea, either while planning a session, or simply when the players plow through his plot much sooner than he had planned, he can simply pull out one of the ideas from the hat, and insert the idea into the game.

Here is a list of some more examples (note, they are not necessarily good ones).

The party needs to attend a formal ball, where they need to pose as guests in order to kidnap a specific individual for questioning.

We should totally fight a Rancor

[character name] encounters her long lost father who she believed was dead.

One of the characters should get an annoying talking weapon.

We should really have another encounter with that one bad guy who got away several sessions ago

The party is teleported to another plane and needs to find their way back.

[Character Name] has a heroic death by going one-on-one with a big bad while giving the others a chance to escape.

Reavers attack!
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dingo
 Posted: Jan 15 2011, 11:46 PM
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Hey Greg, sorry for leaving this so long.

I think this could be an interesting experiment. It does, however, have a couple requirements for it to work as you've presented.

One is simply that the player group is cool with it. While the cards themselves may well be merely suggestions at the GM's disposal, all the players need to be comfortable with another player (even if it's completely fair) have that kind direct influence over the story.

Another is that the GM's style, as well as the campaign in question, allows for it. In Urban Arcana, I personally would find it useful, and a good channel for meta-game discussion. Others, I imagine, would find it really messes with their mojo.

If I were to use this idea, I'd probably wait until a few session into the campaign to allow everyone to learn what to expect, what they want, and what is appropriate. A stack of plot ideas that all come right out of noplace may be fun, but not particularly helpful.

As a player, I'm not sure that I'd know what to do with a plot card.
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kallman1206
 Posted: Jan 19 2011, 11:23 PM
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I've toyed with a few games with a rotating GM structure (build up a whole catalog of characters, and then whenever someone has an idea for a story that could happen proposes it and in fact runs the session if there's general approval (though again, the concept will be like "A mysterious pregnant stranger has come to the castle walls, seeking asylum." or "A visitnig Knight has accused a local girl of being a witch"))

Now, if you have pre-existing character traits/ seedy backstory already negotiated with the GM, things like "Ramon's past returns to haunt him" and the like could be interesting, so long as everyone gets their turn to drive the subplot bus.

Don't know if random is 100% the best plan, but if they've been pre-screened that's fine (don't want it to be a total surprise to the GM as well, is what I'm saying)
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Jan 20 2011, 02:13 AM
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Yeah, not totally random is good. Also I think I'd be hesitant to go this direction if I had much invested in my character as a player. Sometimes we grow really attached to them, and random stuff really can mess things up. If the campaign was relatively easygoing to begin with then it could be a blast. Like if we assembled a team of mutant goblin superheros and they dealt with random situations every few sessions.
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dingo
 Posted: Jan 20 2011, 11:27 PM
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I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding here. The way I read the idea is that the plot cards are tools for the GM, not obligations. Take another look at the original post...

QUOTE (Greg @ Jan 13 2011, 04:01 PM)
My idea is that a similar idea could be used for ideas in a campaign that is already running.  Instead of whole setting and scenario ideas, the players would simply write down a plot hook or event that they would like to encounter over the course of the campaign, and the GM would draw one of said cards at his discretion when in need of an plot idea.


Randomness has nothing to do with it, and there's no risk of messing up a PC's affairs (unless he already has in mind to do so, in which case the point is moot). It's just a way for the players to contribute to the direction of the game in a more meta-type way. The GM still decides which ideas to use, but some of those ideas can come directly from the players.
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kallman1206
 Posted: Jan 20 2011, 11:47 PM
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Ah, totally wasn't paying close enough attention.

If they're just suggestions to the GM though, why the Pomp and Circumstance (and heck Cloak and Dagger) of making them these secret affairs?

Well, halves of index cards are hardly a big deal I suppose - dunno where I got the romance of it being a Big Deal.
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Jimbo Cactaur
 Posted: Jan 21 2011, 12:57 AM
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Right, I got sidetracked by kallmans post.
But still, everyone would have to be on the same page with this going in. I wouldn't want to have some 'random' thing another player submitted to mess up my goals. I think the best way is for the GM to approach the players and inquire about their goals and things they'd like to see happen (as since Greg pointed out, players are loathe to approach the GM with this stuff). If the GM did this every session to a different player on a rotation he would get a feel for where everyone wanted the party/campaign to go. Some players of course would have nothing to say, so the most in-game action would go to the creative ones, at least aside from the main plot, and imho the main plot shouldn't usually be one-character-specific.

This idea does save the GM that kind of work.
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dingo
 Posted: Jan 21 2011, 10:01 AM
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QUOTE (Jimbo Cactaur @ Jan 21 2011, 12:57 AM)
Right, I got sidetracked by kallmans post.
But still, everyone would have to be on the same page with this going in. I wouldn't want to have some 'random' thing another player submitted to mess up my goals. I think the best way is for the GM to approach the players and inquire about their goals and things they'd like to see happen (as since Greg pointed out, players are loathe to approach the GM with this stuff). If the GM did this every session to a different player on a rotation he would get a feel for where everyone wanted the party/campaign to go. Some players of course would have nothing to say, so the most in-game action would go to the creative ones, at least aside from the main plot, and imho the main plot shouldn't usually be one-character-specific.

This idea does save the GM that kind of work.


What, asking players for suggestions? Ha! :lol:

I remember trying to do this a lot during the first Urban Arcana campaign, and it's true that people tend to be shy about this kind of thing. I think it has a lot to do with the concerns voiced here about messing with the GM's plans or the other players' desires.

The plot card concept, I think, helps to get around these concerns a bit by nature of its pomp and circumstance, as well as its cloak and daggeriness. It's a bit of a mind-game played on the players by the GM, but in the opposite way from normal: instead of giving the illusion of control and choice, the plot card puts the individual players in control, without putting pressure on them. While there is a sort of formality to the thing, a plot card is a very casual thing, in a sense.

Think of it this way. In-character actions are the normal and generally preferred way for a player to influence and contribute to the plot, however they do carry a lot of weight with them. If a player does something really dumb in character that affects the plot, he kinda just has to go with it. A plot card, on the other hand, is something he can make, hand in to the GM, and, to a certain degree, forget. If it's a dumb idea, the GM (hopefully) won't use it. If it's a great idea, the GM will try to make it work.

The plot card is limitless in its potential power, yet it's also disposable. If the GM is respectful, any bad ideas never have to see the light of day, and the good ideas can be used to make the game better.
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Greg
 Posted: Jan 21 2011, 10:16 AM
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Often, even when a player does come to the GM with their request, the GM will agree to their request, but hold off for SEVERAL sessions because "the timing isn't right". (This happened in a campaign I ran waaaaaay in the past.)

What this card based mechanic should do, is have the player put forward the idea, and the GM , upon drawing the card, will (as long as it doesn't completely mess with the suspension of disbelief) try to incorporate the event into the next session.
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