Plot Issue Questions
The following is a list of questions for both GM and players,
probing some common issues about how you prefer to deal with
issues of plotting in an RPG campaign. It was compiled from
discussion on rec.games.frp.advocacy, notably from
posts by David A. Bonar and Mary Kuhner:
- Do I have a specific story I want to tell, a set of possible
stories, or do I want to just explore a setting and genre?
- How strongly will dramatic elements enter into my planning
of events? Will everything be exactly tailored to the specific
characters or will things be more like they are in the real world?
- Will drama be used during action resolutions?
- Will the PCs receive any special bonus just for being PCs?
Will I modify timing, mechanics, or outcomes to ensure their success?
What about ensuring their continued existence?
- To what extent am I willing to adjust my setting on the fly?
Alternatively, these could be formulates as:
- When you are setting up a campaign or scenario, do you attempt to
provide a plot for the PCs to follow?
- Will you design elements of the background to fit with
i.e. I need an organization on about the same power
level as the PCs to act as a recurring antagonist, so
let's design one and place it in the setting.
- Will you change the world background in play to keep the
plot on track?
i.e. The PCs unwittingly destroyed the clue in
location A, so I will provide a similar clue in
- Will you adjucate the results of PC actions in such a
way as to further the plot?
i.e. If a PC doesn't notice this clue the group will
go off in a totally nonproductive direction, so I will
insure that he does notice it, rather than leaving it up
- Do you deliberately attempt to engage the motivations and inner
conflicts of the PCs?
- Will you design elements of the world background to do
i.e. This PC is designed to be loyal, so I will make
his superior wicked in order to force a conflict between
loyalty and morality.
- Will you change the world background in play to do so?
i.e. This character would react much more strongly to
the situation if the attackers were of his own religion,
not (as I originally thought) a different one.
- Will you adjucate the results of player actions in such
a way as to further engagement of PC motivations?
i.e. If the PC doesn't manage to save this NPC's life
she won't be as emotionally engaged with the situation,
so I will arrange for her to succeed.
- Do the PCs have special advantages, or disadvantages, relative
to NPCs of the same ability?
- Do you design the world background to specifically
advantage (disadvantage) the PCs?
i.e. I'd better set up some challenges which these
PCs are specifically able to tackle, such as ones
slanted at their particular powers.
- Will you change the world background in play to do so?
i.e. With the kinds of abilities these PCs have
they'll have trouble escaping from captivity, so I'd
better add a traitor among the enemy to make it
- Will you adjucate the results of PC actions to do so?
i.e. An NPC who took that damage would be killed, but
for a PC we'll allow medical intervention to save her
- What kinds of preparation do you do?
- Do you think about upcoming sequences of PC actions?
- Do you design setting elements independent of the PCs?
Questions for Players
- Which of the following are important to your enjoyment of playing?
How important? [This is the Fourfold Way, plus two.]
- socializing with friends (`socializing')
- solving problems and making plans (`wargaming')
- exploring places and meeting people (`sightseeing')
- developing a character's personality and background (`roleplaying')
- amassing and using power (`powergaming')
- crafting a story (`storytelling')
- Do you prefer to know a great deal about a character before you begin
to play him/her? Or would you rather develop the character in play?
- Are you willing to modify your character's actions:
- to keep the party together and functional?
- to save the character's life, if his/her natural course of action
would be fatal?
- to make a better story?
- to advance the (GM's or group's) intended plotline?
- Do you want the GM to protect you from:
- disaster due to chance?
- disaster due to sensible but wrong actions?
- disaster due to stupid actions?
- disaster due to deliberate malice on the part of another
- disaster due to the GM's intended plot?
- Is it acceptable to you if the GM modifies the outcome of events:
- to keep the plot progressing as desired?
- to make the game more exciting and dramatic?
- How important are the following to you:
- realism--things working as they do in the real world?
- stability--things working the same way every time?
- consistency--things fitting together and making logical sense?
These are some further questions about the game contract in
general, formulated by Mary Kuhner
Questions for campaign set-up time:
- How much advancement is expected in this game? How much
game-time is it likely to cover?
- How vulnerable are the characters expected to be? Should they
be tough, resilient hero-types or should they be susceptible to
fear, panic, and loss of morale?
- (for a group of PCs) What is each character's niche? Is
there enough room in it to keep the player happy? What other
characters potentially encroach on this character's niche, and
how can that be controlled?
- On a more general level: what are feasible character niches
for this game? (For example, a no-combat game cannot support
any combat specialists; a low-combat game can support one, but
may have trouble with more; a high-combat game can often have a
whole party of diversified combat specialists.)
- How powerful are the PCs going to be, compared to the run of
- How strictly are consequences of actions going to be enforced?
What is the law level? How much slack do the protagonists get?
John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sat Sep 7 00:58:01 2002