Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep It Simple, Stupid - Part 2

Whoopsie, I forgot to put this post up into the queue for today, which is why it is going up late. A short post, sure, but I wanted to continue yesterday's drunken ramblings on KISS and this time show it for the GMs. So, without further ado, let's go.

What Do You Get Out Of It?
My first question that I've asked a lot of GMs when they've mentioned the plotlines they're doing is what are they getting out of it? In other words, what does adding all that complexity to things add to the plot or the experience of it? A lot of times it is complexity for complexity's sake. Sometimes it is complexity just to keep the player's from guessing who the real villain is or from reading the plot. I'm not sure why that matters to some people. Unless you're running a mystery, odds are your players will figure out what is going on. In fact, it's better when they figure it out before you have to tell them.

Also, even if you are running a mystery and the players figure it out, they still have to prove it. Proving it can be hard, and watching how the players react when they are sure of something, but don't know it can be fun and rewarding in and of itself. Sometimes the PCs will even do rash and silly actions to try and shake some evidence loose. WHo am I kidding, they'll frequently do that.

Straightforward Does Not Mean Bad
This is a concept that crept up somewhere in life and I wish it hadn't. Straightforward does not mean that a plot is bad, it just means that it is straight forward. Look at a lot of the classic tales and then look at the plot. Person A wants the throne so he raises an army and takes it. Wizard's apprentice wants more power so he makes a pact with a demon. Demon wants the world, so he has the wizard open a gate and bring in a demon army to take it. These are very straight forward and can be used as simply as that for a decent plot. The details still need to be there, but you don't need to convolute everything.

Simple Makes Twists Hit Harder
The best part about KISS'ing with your plots is it will make the twists you do use hit a lot harder. WHy? because they're more spread out. There isn't a twist or plot shift every five feet, so the PCs aren't expecting one every five feet. This means that you can set up the king as the villain, then pull a classic switch at the end with having it be the evil wizard. Sure, predictable, but you get the idea on that one right? Just as simple but more unexpected? The actions the "villain" is doing are to save the world, or to prepare it for the end times. 

Your Thoughts?
Any other advice you'd give to folks needing to Keep It Simple? Sound off in the comments. 


  1. I was just reminded by the librarian at my daughter's school about the basic elements of a story. (I posted a bit about it on my blog). You're right, I think. Players will formulate plans based on what they observe. The GMs job is to place complications in their path. The story happens when they try to overcome the complications.

    That's pretty entertaining for everyone right there. Convolutions can add depth, but I like to listen to my players and, if they're expecting certain things, "borrow" their ideas (or some of them anyway). Of course, being a GM, I twist their ideas around a little bit, but we GMs are a twisted lot by nature. Heh.

  2. I'm DEFINITELY with you on the listen to your players. They have some amazing - and some insane - ideas on how everything links together. Once had a player, through some madness of conspiracy theory, link every little thing in the game into one grand plot...including his cat going missing one day when he didn't lock the front door.

    But your players can give you lots of ideas for plot twists and other fun things. Listen to them, steal from them, and then twist it into a shape of your own devising.