Monday, October 09, 2006

A world of Overused Plots (An Iron Larper Challenge)

So. I started a thread over on in their Larp forum, but it didn't really take off. So i'm going to repost some of that here and see what it generates:

The Challenge:
1) Name a plot device that is done to death.
2) Figure out a way to turn that plot device on it's ear.
3) Profit!
4) Additionally, you may offer new twists to other over done plots too.

A) Kill the Prince!

The gaff: Some dude in charge needs to be croaked. Damn the man! Fight the power!

The twist: Set it up so that when they go to gank him. a couple of things could happen.
1) They kill the prince disturbingly easily. Only to go to court and find him there and smiling. He seems to have no interest in discussing things nor is he interested in killing the characters. That'll bake their noodes good and proper as they try to figure out what the fuck is going on.
2) They kill the prince only to have the city completely fall apart because of the way the prince put the place together. City infrastructure flies to pieces and each week therafter some vampire or other flips out in some pre-programmed fashion.
3) They get there only to dscover that he's already been destroyed (Possibly faked) and that the local vampire law enforcement shows up just in time to catch the Would-Be Perps. A masterful frame job.

Plot: The Bad guys are coming

The gaff: It's almost ten thirty and the Sabbat/Brood/Seven/Sancitified Zealots come riding over the hill passing out some hot buttered Holocaust. Grab your ankles.

This kind of game can be played only one of a few ways.
1) Steamroller Style (I.E. all of the city's and elysiums elaborate defense catastrophically fail at once and the bad guys walk right in and throw down without even a witty speech. Kiss me at least if you're going to fuck me.)
2) Battleship Style (The bad guys are out there doing bad things and they gotta be stopped, but nobody knows where they are or how to catch them and trying to locate them is like playing a game of battleship...Except the bad guys always seem more prepared and have a better idea of where YOU are. You never seem to bump into them flat footed.
3) Dorothy's Shoes style (Yes, that's right. the bad guys were here all along. and have picked now to attack at the cities moment of greatest weekness. Of course, unless you are deaf as a post, you already know who all the bad guys are OOC. but somehow it's still supposed to be a surprise. Doesn't matter how it unfolds really, it seems anti-climactic most of the time.

Hey 10 O'clock monster happens, but there may be ways to handle the problem and the predictability.

The Twists:
1) Fuck 10 O'clock! Monsters NOW!
Occasionally, it's a good idea to change up the rythyms of things. Have the monster/invasion happen at the tip top of the game and then you have the whole rest of the session to deal with and expand on the aftermath of such a thing. It certainly crabs that whole problem of things taking the first hour and a half of play to get rolling.

2) "Hey that was easy!"
It should have been. It was a feint. It was a test of defenses. Or perhaps a diversion while something far more heinous goes on. They certainly didn't send their "A" players.

3) Who's side is it anyway!
The bad guys show up in force. Only to have the players discover that maybe they don't really understand what's going on at all. Perhaps the bad guys are here to settle the hash of some other threat that the players don't even know is about to go nuclear in their own back yard. Perhaps the Bad guys are on the run from something worse and are looking for a truce in order to get help stopping it/him/her/them.
Maybe, the bad guys are on a completely unrelated errand and if left unmolested will withdraw without making trouble. Of course, nobody believes that. Heh.

More overdone plots as i come up with them.


At 8:53 PM, Blogger Gryftir said...

Plot: The Prince is Dead

Yes a tired old chestnut.

Twist 1: He's still around. Maybe his body was destroyed while he was in a ghoul. Maybe she was astral projecting. The point is they are around, but not for long. Do you try to force them to give up their power now? Work with the Tremere/Giovanni to bring them back or create a new body for them?

Twist 2: Prince Who? There's a new Prince, but the NPCs pretend like the current Prince has always been Prince, even under Auspex questioning. The Players suspect dominate, but maybe it's them that have had their mind altered, not the NPCs.

Twist 3: Play it again Sam. A player see the Prince killed. The Seneschal/loyal opposition takes over. But the Prince turns up in a few weeks. Apparently he was killed
while in a ghoul, and awoke from Torpor. Does the city go back to him? Do the PCs back the Prince, the seneschal, or split on the issue?

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Everett said...

Sometimes oldies really are the best.

Groundhog Day
Maybe the prince has a powerful fetish that allows him to repeat the night he was killed, maybe the PCs are stuck in a Mage-style quiet where they continuously repeat the night they killed the prince (because someone thinks they need the practice?). For whatever the reason, every night when the characters awaken they repeat the night before; even getting themselves killed doesn't seem to break the cycle. As the Storyteller it's up to you to decide exactly what the PCs have to do to end the cycle, but the best plot probably involves completing several near-impossible tasks in the one night. Plots that delve into the nature of the vampire's beast stick most closely with the theme of the movie.

PC becomes prince
A twist on "city falls apart after prince is killed" is to put the PCs in charge of the city after the old prince is killed. Maybe the primogen "know" but can't prove the PCs did it and the elders are trying to make a point about why you don't just kill princes (even bad ones). Perhaps the coup failed but rather than just kill them, the prince says "if you think I'm doing such a bad job, -you- see if you can do better." Maybe the PCs are just getting their karmic due when the new prince appoints them as his seneschal, keeper of Elysium and sheriff (etc.). However it happens, the PCs end up with the burden of bureaucracy in the city. Then just throw details at them and watch the city begin to fall apart. The Giovanni and Followers of Set both want solitary control of the docks, the treaty with the werewolves breaks down when one PC mispronounces their leader's name, the bad guys start a major offensive, and the harpies can't agree on what color to paint Elysium Hall. The key here is to both demonstrate that maybe the guy they disposed of wasn't doing such a bad job after all, and to make them hate the responsibilities that come with power. The final straw would probably be when the anarchs decide to off the PCs because they're doing so badly.

Worse prince
Relatively self explanatory; the bumbling incompetent they managed to kill is replaced by Attila the Hun's evil vampire twin.

After the prince is killed, the powers that be (primogen, Camarilla council, FBI, etc.) decide to launch an investigation into his death. Just how well did the coterie cover their tracks? Just how many people know the truth, and how long will they stay silent under mixed threats and rewards? Think of movies like "Heat" with De Niro, Pacino and Kilmer for inspiration. Adding Auspex to the mortal forensic tools available just makes it more fun.

As the prince dies, he says "the curse is now passed on to you." Maybe the poor dead guy was haunted by the ghosts of his victims, maybe the local Sabbat pack had diablerie plans that the PCs spoiled one night early, maybe he angered an old gypsy who whispered "Thinner" or maybe his immortal body was the lynchpin of a spell that held an ancient evil in check. You guessed it, that curse is now passed on to the PCs who have only the vaguest idea why every, single damn traffic light turns red right as they come up to it or why there are suddenly ninjas coming out of the woodwork.

The insanely powerful prince ends up dead because of a stupid accident that only the PCs are lucky enough to see; and someone sees the PCs standing over the prince's corpse and gets the wrong idea. Of course, no-one believes that the PCs didn't do it. The anarchs are jubilant and are now their best friends, the elders can't prove a thing (but the coterie is obviously a more serious threat than first thought if they were so easily able dispatch the PRINCE), and of course, there other "sharks" that their new friends think the PCs need to "take care of" and someone out there who wants revenge on those losers who killed a great man...

The other side
This story is probably better for an elder's game. Maybe they've have mutually equitable business dealing in the past, maybe he's helped them out and vice-versa, or maybe he's really a nice, likable guy. Maybe (for a neonate game) the PCs were assigned/hired to protect him. For whatever reason, the PCs are the prince's friends and some sap goes and kills him. Now that the prince isn't there to stop it, the city falls apart (of course). The other elders are taking chunks out of the PCs resources, the anarchs are breaking the Masquerade left-and-right, and the PCs have been red-listed for failure to protect their charge. To make it worse no-one really seems to care that somebody killed Kenny; no-one but the PCs that is. The point of this game is to play up the other point of view - what happens to the prince's friends when he falls?

The Prince and the Pauper
Maybe it's as a result of a Dominate possession gone horribly wrong. Maybe it's a combination of Visscitude and a primogen council who are trying to appear strong before the neighboring Sabbat. Maybe the prince just wanted a vacation. However it happened, one of the PCs now looks like the prince, and the real prince has disappeared.

One neat side-effect of all these plots is that if it's done right, you can basically guarantee your players will -never- try to assassinate the prince in any other game, ever.

At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Everett said...

It's time for the "Monster of the Week" - because you haven't been picked up for season two yet...

Bad guys want peace
For reasons beyond the player's ken, your enemies want peace. Maybe they have new leadership (it worked for Lyndon Johnson), maybe they can't compete any more (it worked for Regan), maybe they found Jesus, maybe they aren't all that bad when you really get to know them. Of course, there will be the first few stumbling steps where you accidentally kill their diplomatic envoy thinking it's another trick and the dissidents on both sides who will sacrifice anything to keep fighting to the death because they are afraid of a future without the war. The main idea is that for whatever reason a (former?) enemy really, truly wants to end the fighting.
The point of this type of game is what makes a "bad guy" bad? Is he evil incarnate, or are you just acting out the stereotyped "orcs are chaotic evil" knee-jerk reaction? What if all those rumors about the Sabbat burying their newly embraced are just so much Camarilla propaganda? (Note here that meta-gamers should be stepped on - it's your game, change it so the Sabbat aren't rabid.) Is this entire fight a result of one methuselah's pet dog biting another methuselah's pet childer? Why are the character's really fighting the bad guys?

Retard commanders
This one can be a lot of fun if done well, but it's really easy to flub it too; you've been warned. Basically, the prince (and primogen council?) is a retard. He has the power to kill or red-list the PCs if they don't follow his orders, but he can't seem to give a logical order. He just keeps sending the PCs on suicidal missions despite the mounting overwhelming evidence that his basic strategy is soundly wrong. Of course, questioning him is traitorous.
The key here is to make the players feel the despair and desperation of a soldier involved in an un-winnable war. There's no way out of the horror, yet they must keep on fighting or just give up on their characters. Demonstrate the strength of the human spirit through heroism, despite the situation. The ST has to balance creating the sensation of hopelessness without depressing your players into quitting (or committing suicide). Wraith suffered from taking this concept a little too far.

Need help
The PCs need something, be it a product or service, and they need it bad. Maybe they need the finger-bone of an ancient mummy, maybe the prince has called a blood-hunt on the PCs and they need sanctuary, maybe they just need someone "taken care of," the only problem is that whatever they need, only the bad guys can get/do it for them. Maybe this is a chance for the evil mastermind to lord it over the PCs (like Darkseid is so fond of doing to Superman), maybe this is a chance for the PCs to manipulate their enemies into doing them a good turn (please, briar fox, don't throw me into the briar patch!).

Perhaps it's part of running the plot-line above, maybe everyone's at a "peaceful" meeting on neutral ground, perhaps the powers-that-be have decided to work together to face a greater threat, or maybe the Brits and Krauts are just playing football on Christmas Eve. While this is going on the PCs will get the chance to see life from the other side; you know, evil masterminds have mothers too. Maybe Dr. Neutrino has a passion for classic cars (shared, of course, by one of the PCs). The average ninja foot-soldier is probably just a blue-collar Joe under that mask. Play it for all it's worth, because the sad thing is that everyone knows that once this enforced truce ends, they'll all have to go back to killing each other.

The BIG bad
The bad guys are coming in waves - each attack stronger than the one before, each one almost more than your coterie can handle. People that hated each other almost as much as they hated you are suddenly working together against you... and whispered on the wind are rumors that this is only the prelude, the beginning. It's going to get worse, a lot worse; because IT is coming, and when IT gets here, all bets are off.
The main idea here is that if the combined forces of the good guys don't start pulling themselves together now the big bad is going to walk all over them separately when it gets here. Of course, our heroes are the only ones who are placed right to pull it off. Convincing everyone to work together against a common evil, investigating the big bad, planning the grand strategy of how each group's strengths can be best used, and all the incidental chunks of combat as those plans come to fruition have something in it for every type of player.

Groundhog Day
If at first you don't succeed... A hundred years ago Ernest Dunlop Swinton wrote "The Defence of Duffer's Drift" [sic] about a green British Lieutenant reliving his first combat mission in a dream five times, and loosing badly five times, but learning a valuable tactical lesson each time, before waking up and doing it for real.

Terrorist/ Guerrilla War
What do you do when the bad guys just won't face you? They just keep mailing you bombs, sniping at you from hiding, and running away whenever you get close. What sort of "sacrifices" will the prince ask of everyone in the name of "safety?"
"Those who give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." -Benjamin Franklin

Causalities of war
A simple enough concept: focus on the poor bystanders who get hurt while the "good guys" and the "bad guys" fight it out. The young girl struck by a stray bullet, the Korean shop owner whose insurance doesn't cover damage done by C4, the widow and orphan of one of the big bad's storm-troopers.

Probably the best thing about Vampire is the concept of the Jyhad (or Danse Macabre, for you Requiem players) where everyone is being manipulated by someone else. Proof that the Antedeluvians (or whoever) are pushing the coterie and their enemies around like chess pieces is enough to get even Democrats and Republicans to work together.


At 12:34 AM, Blogger kinesys said...

You guys RAWK!
Have i mentioned that?

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Plot: I want you to take this box and...

Twist 1: Set the PC's aside to represent travel time. After a few hours they can come back in. Mission success.

Twist 2: Box is full of that ink shit that they put into "bags of money" that stains everything when opened. "What do you mean we weren't supposed to look?"

Twist 3: This plot fails after the first 5 minutes because Stopper has stabbed you, the storyteller, with a sharp object over 300 times for reasons unknown. He just keeps shouting, "I don't want the box. You can't make me take the box. Blood for the blood god, Skulls for the Skull Throne!!!!"


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