Thursday, October 22, 2015

Stir it till it's gumbo

I'm going to give each and every one of you GM's a tip. I've always said that it's much better to have 10 little plots out there running around rather than one big plot.
There's a reason for this. Not all plots resonate with all people. If you've got one great big giant plot that is dominating play, then the people it doesn't resonate with are going to feel left out in the cold. Also, and I can tell you from personal experience, if your plot doesn't do a thing for me, DON'T fucking try to shoehorn me into it.
Look, If I'm playing an occult investigator type, I'm not necessarily going to be interested or motivated to deal with a big plot that revolves around politics or influence. If i'm playing a social manipulator, i'm not going to respond well to being harassed and chivvied into trying to decode sumerian rituals while methuselah vampires run about. My points are simply not stacked that way. I've been approached by Storytellers in the past who are angry at my non-participation in certain plots that they had running and been forced to say, "Sorry. I was having fun doing something else. And besides, I don't have a single fucking dot of occult. I'm sorry if your plan was, "All the vampires pull together to defeat the Thing", but a statistically significant number of us aren't interested in attractive forms of suicide."
OK. That sounded a little bitter.
Not every player NEEDS to have the ST come around and either hand them plot, or jack up their shit. I have always been more than capable of getting into trouble and making enemies all by myself. In most cases, i am the sort of player who has his own idea of what his character wants to do and I'm able to identify my goals and pursue them at my own pace. And I know i'm not alone.
This is why it is better to have any kind of uber-powerful plot WAY out on the periphery of what is going in your game. People who want it, will seek it out. Better to have dozens of small things going on at any given time. Small plot can always grow in size and complexity. Big plots don't have the option to size down or get simple. Some will gravitate to social warfare. Others will get involved in romance, or horror plotlines, I, personally am a fan of empire building. Not every plot is going to ring everyone's bell, but you don't have to. A well run chat with decent plot(s) is like a buffet table, whereas if you stick with one big plot, then it's like going to dinner only to be told that all we're serving is Yams.
What if you don't like yams? What if you had yams for lunch? Maybe you even like yams, but you'd also enjoy some squash. Is it really right to harass and subject your diners to peer pressure simply because they aren't digging the yams? What the fuck?
One of the problems of running a chat game like a table top game is that some of the assumptions about how the game is going to operate have to change. In a tabletop game, a storyteller often has to be ALL of the antagonists. As a result, they may be stuck in thinking that they have to supply all of the heat, shit, and pain that a Chat game requires in order to keep it's plots running.
You don't. In a chat or a lap setting, i find it's often best to allow a good 85% of your characters problems to come from the other players. I know, that often the very best games i've played have come out of matching wits with my fellow players. Which is not to say that an ST plot can't be engrossing and fun.  But honestly, the other players are a resource. LEAN on them.
On the other side of the coin is the understanding that Players cannot lean back and be passive. You can do that stuff in a tabletop game. You can be more engrossed in your phone or Ipad and only check in once in a while to see if anything is grooving you. Granted, it's fucking rude, but you can do it. The GM, for his part can always huck something plot-wise in your direction if he sees that you're bored.
But in a Chat, you've got maybe 10 times the number of players. Some will be vocal and the squeaky wheel tends to get the grease. There are players that will CONSTANTLY be joggling the ST's elbow to get their attention. "Hey, did you read my FPM's today?" (I once had a player who would send me at least 3 per day. I appreciated her enthusiasm, but DAMN!)
You can't just hang around, playing "Moody Loner" and expect the GM to wander by and hand you some bullshit "Lone Samurai" plot. The GM has other things to do.
Not only do you have to figure out your own goals, and determine who you're going to need to partner with or crush in order to accomplish them, but you're going to have to get proactive about going out and finding things to do, and meeting people and taking their measure.
Actors say, "Make active choices."
What does that mean? It means stuff like. "Find something", or "Find Somebody", or "Kill all the bad things", or "carve out a kingdom", or anything that means your character has not only something to do, but a whole fucking LIST of things to do. Don't make passive choices like "stay out of everyone's way" or "Protect someone who isn't usually in danger", or "wait until they come to me and then…"
If you're a player in a chat, you need to be on the prod. Sooner or later an NPC is going to realize you're a threat to her or him and they may take steps. Or one of the jerks in the game will step to you and you'll want to unlimber the SWORD OF JUSTICE on that asshole. Or one of the cyber-bunnies will garner enough points to gain a new combat power and they'll want to wander out of the boudoir and test that shit on the nearest person who looks at them. This has happened a sickening number of times in my direct experience.
You want to be ready.
If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.


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