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Plots

Discussion in 'Managing Your Board' started by rat, Apr 8, 2012.

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    rat Member

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    I’m currently working on a revamp for my site, and I want to make it more plot-based than it previously was. However, one of my concerns is that I don’t really know what this term means. I thought I did, but I guess I had this idea of plots as board-wide events and now I’m less certain of this. So, maybe some of you can help me!

    What do you consider ‘plot-driven’? How would you define it, by what criteria? As an admin, how much do you have planned, or how do you keep the game plotty?
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    Viz Member

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    Plot-driven? That's kind of a difficult thing for me to describe, but I think that's just because I've never sat down and tried before. It's such a strange feeling! Plot-driven boards have got a definite starting point and a direction(much like the initial point and angle of a ray in geometry) but it's up to the players to explore where it goes. Contrast that to a sandbox game where there is no overarching plot, which might be more like a blank Cartesian coordinate plane. The tiny little board I'm running now is anything but plot-driven- we just kind of do whatever seems fun at the moment and build from there, and at times I miss the plot part. On the other hand, the constant spontaneity is something I adore that's a bit harder to do when there's a plot theme you've got to stick to. Admittedly they've both got perks and downsides, but I enjoy both varieties in equal measure.

    On a previous forum, however, I tried to run a big plot on my own and failed just because the scope of the setting was so large that many players could just ignore the big goings-on I had planned. For months I planned out a handful of plot elements in a kind of flowchart to help give the board some direction for when thing [x] happened, but I learned the hard way that sometimes, it's hard to run wide-scale plots on your own and specificity is key. Introduce an element or two of conflict that will effect most characters on some level and bring those into the spotlight with nice big bold notices on the forum index or in a sidebar. If it doesn't make a difference to a part of the board(a neighboring city, perhaps?) then throw that section a bone too. In a plot-driven forum, nobody should feel left out!

    Be sure to leave an out of some kind, though. Not everybody enjoys participating in those kind of things.
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    Drae Member

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    The plot is the driving force behind the story, it is what makes the story after well-rounded consistent characters, but there can be many sub-plots - character's personal developments and their own goals not related to the overall story.

    My site is character-driven, with special events to help them out. Everything they do can affect the storyline, but they don't find out if they have until the consequences arrive. However, it is incredibly time-consuming - I have to spend a good few hours every night reading everyone's posts very carefully, picking and plucking strings and tying them together, sometimes snatching something from over a year ago for something a year later. I have to know the characters of my players well, preferably almost as well as they do. I have to know my players - what they like, and I have to experiment, and see what things fail. I have to be on the ball every day, all the time, every second of the week. It's... very tiring, but as you get better at it, very rewarding. Examining the site with the mindset like that of a novelist or the writer of a series of books helps immensely.

    By plot-driven, you want a 'bigger picture' in your storyline, something characters can choose to take part in, and something you should be encouraging them to take part in with the use of events, but know that some won't, even if they play for years. To encourage them, you have to make sure to encourage excitement in your players as the events near.

    As for how to do it, that's your area to experiment. Each site does it differently. :) Mine's worked well for me for three years, but that's because I'm the one behind the scene and it's my site. You need to find a way that will work for you and your board. And know that being plot-driven or character-driven, (which is slightly different) can lead to some very anti-climatic endings for events, as well as being like pulling teeth a lot of the time too.
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    RMWKaya Member

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    I would think of "plot driven" as a site where in addition to whatever personal inter-character plots the members invent (that usually affect a specific group of people) there is a clear plot on the site that affects all the characters involved in the role play.

    The biggest hitch to entire involvement I've seen with this is that new members (not new characters or people in the RP who just plain haven't heard the news for whatever reason) show up and haven't read into the recent happenings so when a character says to the new person's character, "Did you hear about XYZ that happened?" they tend to reply "No" or "It doesn't concern me" even when in all honesty it probably should.

    To fix this, I would recommend having a summary page even for the recent happenings and cliffhangers. Now, I think that's kind of hard because it's hard to write a catchy and hinty summary for everything that happens. A lot will be in flux during a plot, but if you don't summarize it somewhere then you get the above "I haven't heard" results with some characters.

    Also I think said plot should have Stimulus/Response steps planned in. The one(s) running the plot cause something to happen (Stimulus) but then let everyone give a Response. Then move on to the next Stimulus.

    Also, be flexible. Know where you want a plot to go, but also be willing to explore new paths your members or your thoughts may reveal to you.
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    Ruffian Beast of All Saints

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    I tend to prefer larger but not board-wide plots over board-wide ones -- simply because board-wide ones tend to get stalled because of people being busy/whatever. I like plots that involve a good number of people but don't require everyone's attention at all times... that way if I'm busy I can just be like "Thanks guys, skip me for that one."

    I consider a plot-driven board to be a board where the admins/mods have a particular destination in mind by the time the story comes to a close. What's the ending?

    A non-plot-driven board would be one that's completely open-ended -- character driven. The players decide what happens and where. Typically for me, I see this manifested in school/real life/city roleplayers where it's just people out living their lives doing whatever. Whereas in most fantasy roleplays, I would consider them plot-driven because... IDK, there's some sort of unrest (political or otherwise) and it's pretty clear that over the course of the threads this unrest is going to come to some sort of conclusion, as opposed to just providing a weird static background of unrest forever.
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    Misha Starlight Queen of Directory

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    I tend to think of plot-driven sites as ones in which the characters exist to serve a broad, overarching plot, and character-driven sites as ones in which the plots exist to serve the characters.

    I realize this is incredibly oversimplified. In order for an RP to be any good at all, both the characters and the plots need to be as fleshed out as possible. But in a plot-driven RP, most of your characters have roles in the plot to fill: the hero, the sidekick, the villain. Not every character needs to be part of the over-arching plot, but most should be. Further, most threads should exist to advance the over-arching plot. There can certainly be side-plots focused on only one or two characters (romance plots, etc.). After all any good book has more than one plot going on at once. But the side-plots should not become the sole focus of the board or the characters, unless they also interweave with the main plot. Plot-driven RPs generally have a beginning and an end, just like a story (though of course, there are also TV shows and series that have more episodic plots that go on and on forever). The end may be planned out in advance (if so, this is usually done by the admins), but it doesn't have to be.

    I enjoy plot-driven RPs, but they take a lot more cooperation on the part of the members. Because nearly every character plays an important part in the overarching plot, members who disappear, or who are slow, make it difficult for everyone else to be able to move forward (my busyness these days is one of the reasons in which I don't do plot-driven RPs anymore). It can also be difficult for new members to join plot-driven sites, as it is more important for them to know what has happened before. Finally, on larger boards, admins have to play a larger role in guiding the plot so that everyone stays on the same page, because members may not keep track of where the plot should be going. On smaller boards, the admins can generally take a more backseat role in plotting, because there are less threads to keep track of.

    Character-driven sites are sandboxes. There may be important stuff happening in the background (and occassionally special "events" may be directly played out), but the focus of the board is on the day-to-day lives of the characters.

    For example, a plot-driven site focused on the days before the American Revolution should generally have Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and other "movers and shakers" played. You would play out the key events (Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, etc.), and push the plot along through your RP threads. On a sandbox site, you may have some key players played, but most of the characters would be ordinary colonists, soldiers, etc., and the focus would be on their daily lives and how they're affected by everything going on around them. The character may refer to or even take part in one of the key events, but not every key event may actually be played out. Of course, there are also sandboxes with more static backgrounds, where there aren't even major events happening in the background, much less the foreground. But that example shows how the setting itself doesn't determine whether a site is plot-driven or character-driven.
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    cypherrae I’m like a rare ass pokemon.

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    I admit, the phrase 'plot driven' scares the crap out of me. I've seen boards where you weren't allowed to do anything without admin approval. If like, this guy and that girl wanted to date, they had to get admin approval because the plot driven aspect of the board wouldn't allow for it. I was also on a board that would force members to take part in the site wide plot, whether they wanted to or not. Basically, they'd have staff as NPC's just dive into an already established thread and round up all the mutants. Half the time we weren't even allowed to have our character able to fight back or escape. Which meant most of us were stuck in prison. It wasn't a prison board by the way.

    Personally? If I was going to do big plot things for my board [still new so nothing yet], I'd get member input as they are the ones that will or won't be playing. They are also the ones that make or break a plot. I'd usually put up a few ideas or have them come up with a few, and put them to a vote. Then allow for a sign up on people actually willing to let it happen or be apart of it, unless it was like a massive natural disaster.
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    Ruffian Beast of All Saints

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    I... that's not plot-driven, that's just some really weird fanfiction that the admin somehow roped more people into. WTF
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    killercoco Doesn't give a sausage

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    In a sense plot is everything, even if you create your board to be the setting and theme for the characters, quickly it becomes part of what your site is. Plot is the motivation of your characters, plot is what makes the story flow, plot is a treasure hunt in which the characters are participating in, the reward at the end is their story.

    And now I’m rambling.

    Basically if you have a site wide plot that means in short that it should affect every character on your board, rather than personal plots that may work between a smaller group of characters. While a site wide plot can be a good thing, I advise caution, if you tighten the plot to much it can make it hard for your members to move around with interpersonal plots or to thread without going against the grain of the already existing board plot. Try to keep them loose, and be ready to expect the unexpected as at times characters can throw spanners at the master plan.
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    Dun Dun

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    Plot-driven: A game that has an overarching plot line that progresses (perhaps toward some end goal).

    The amount of staff member pushing and introduction of new twists and turns would vary considerably, depending on how much involvement there is, what kind of involvement there is, and whether the players tend to be lazy/uninterested or not.

    I don't make games without some sort of plot these days. I just don't find it particularly satisfying to get into a game that doesn't have some plot into it that can connect all of the characters. I realize you can get a similar experience out of a game that doesn't have the same built-in unity, and that some people just don't care to have that framework, but I like the stability it can provide, and I really love it when staff members introduce new twists and turns to a built-in conflict that can impact everyone . . and work to facilitate a bunch of member-created events and whatnot within the framework. I like the surprises, the cohesiveness, and the way that things tend to keep moving forward and staying fresh.

    When I make games, I don't plan a lot out, though. I get a loose idea of what might go on in the near future and where things might be able to end. I do this to make sure that I'm not starting a project that I can't keep developing or that I'll beat into the ground by failing to recognize when the conflict is resolved. I try to come up with a collection of different ideas for things that could happen, but then I try to set non-staff players up to adjust what they're given and have some control over what actually occurs as things progress. When they get lazy or fail to take an interest in things here and there, I have ideas I can work with to get them to a more interesting/compelling place in the plot. It works out pretty well. . . but only because they can impact the story and I don't get bored due to a lack of surprises/spontaneity.
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    rat Member

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    That gives me a much clearer idea... thanks everyone!
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    daenelia Sky Pirate Captain with a Twisted Past

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    Chipping in...

    Plot driven should not mean you have to get approval of every turn your character wants to make. That is admin-overlording. Super controlling admin who wants your character to be a pawn in their dreamy world. Not advisaeble.

    Plot driven should not mean characters can ignrore events that happen because of the plot. It should affect characters who are reasonably going to be affected. A player who wont play, and decides that even though there is a huge battle going on, but they are still picking daisies to make a chain for their beloved cow, that character is going to get hurt.

    Plot driven should mean for me a starting point, an event that happens and that players have influence over through their characters' actions. The plot could then be used for character plots, and character building. Plot driven also means that as admin, you have to keep an eye on everything and weave things together so they make sense. Good players will write their own little bit of the bigger tapestry, the admin will make a coherent story out of it.

    For me a non-plot driven board is one where players can lock themselves up in their own threads, never having to read anything outside their own little world, isolating themselves from whatever story there could be. Yes, players have freedom that way, but that will probably become very stale or boring after a time.

    Also, plot driven demands more rigid time lines, keep that in mind as well.
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