So, you’ve got yourself a world, and now you want to lay out the basics of an adventure, defining the “plot”.
In this Entry we’ll talk about what a Plot is, and how the ideas from Novel writing can allow you to design a flowing adventure.
What is a plot?
A plot, put simply is a literary term for how the elements of a story come together in a sequence or pattern. This can be by “cause and effect” or by coincidence. In basic terms the Plot is the story.
Aristotle in 335BC believed that the plot or Mythos was the most important element of any drama, over the even character. He believed that a story must have a beginning a middle and an end. And that the elements must relate together, but not always be probable.
Fretag Considered things a little differently, he gave rise to the popular idea that a story, and hence the plot would start by setting the scene, introducing the characters, the action would rise, build up to a climax, then head back down again, until the book or the like had ended.
He had much better words for it:
Exposition: Introducing the Characters, setting the scene and basically introducing the reader to the action. Some would argue the whole of the Lord of the Rings up to the “Ring goes south” is the Exposition of the book, but Tolkien does it slowly, bit by bit.
Rising Action: The introduction of conflict (which will be described in greater detail next week) Conflict is basically the problem that gets a story going “Oh no we have this ring, and its evil….” After that well… Frodo loses a finger.
Climax: It’s the high point of the story, where all of the events tie together to reach the peak, usually the Climax features more conflict and struggle than the other scenes. Of course, there are also Anti-Climaxes, where the reader thinks this is going to reveal lots of secrets, only to find this isn’t the case.
Falling Action: The story after the Climax, the characters “coming down” after a big battle (The Field of Cormallen falls into this category).
The Resolution or Denounment: The conclusion to the story (They all live happily ever after). Conflicts get resolved, the characters get a sense of Catharsis (a release of tension and/or anxiety). Of course not every story has a resolution…
So what does this mean for my fantasy game?
Telling the story of a fantasy adventure is just like telling a well written novel (if you do it right) so there is no reason why you can’t follow the same structure:
Exposition: Introducing the PC’s, to each other and the World. (Try to do something other than “you go into this inn…”)
Rising Action: Introduce the problem (“Well they say the house is haunted”)
Climax: The battle (or the like) with the “obstacle”… (Only in many games this battle leads to another, or maybe they find that the battle they thought they were fighting was for the wrong reasons).
Falling Action: The story after the Climax, the characters get the “prize”, etc.
The Resolution or Denounment: The conclusion to the story (Or is it? In most games one problem leads rather nicely to another, and another…)
So there you have a rather basic description of a plot, and how it fits within your game.
Its a rather compelx subject one that needs time and attention to get it right.
Next week we’ll discuss the commonly used plots, how to “mix them up” so they players dont get complacent, and how not to fall into the same old routine.