Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Plotting 101: Types of Story

I apologize. This post should have come earlier in this mini-series. The idea here is to identify the handful of types of stories that can show up in your game every session. Being able to identify these will help you prepare for each game, because by knowing which ones you want to show movement in you know which stories need table time. Today, let's talk about that.

The Meta Story
This is the big story. This is the reason you wanted to run the game. If you're running a robotech game it might be like "the first robotech war." If you were running 7th Sea it might be something like "The Adventures of this Group of Adventurers." In fact, that last one works for any game without a set story in mind at the beginning of the game.

Meta stories don't need to move every session. They are more drawn out and take place over the whole game. Sometimes they end or change and that's fine. The point is, you'll see this in the background as much as the foreground depending on how strong of a story you want it to be.

The GM Story
Honestly, this is called the GM story because I don't have a better name for it. The GM Story is like the metastory - it's part of why the game is being run - but it's not the whole deal. However, it is also not a character story or another type of story. If you were running a D&D game where the metastory was stopping the lichlord Arennox from taking over the world, and there was a story inside that metastory where the PCs fought a vampire lord, the Vampire Lord arc would be a "GM Story."

GM Stories end all the time. They involve all the PCs and should - over the course of the game - do so more or less evenly. These are the larger arcs of specific adventures the PCs end up on. These should also be getting some movement almost every session.

Side Stories
Side Stories are small stories that don't necessarily relate to the Meta or GM story that's going on. This could be as simple as a trip to the market to buy new gear for the next adventure, or as long as the PCs going off on a small adventure to save a farm from goblins in the middle of their story about stopping a lichlord or vampire.

Side stories don't necessarily focus on all the PCs. Instead they tend to build the world and add depth. Use these to show the impact of events from the metaplot, GM stories, or Character stories. These should be small enough you can sprinkle them around across the sessions. A side story should never take more than a session or two of focus to resolve. If that is the case, it's best to turn it into a...

Character Stories
We already talked about these some. Character Stories are like side stories but instead of developing the world their intent is to develop and reveal more of a character. Every PC should have a story going on, and every PC should be getting equal time to develop their character through these stories. Character Stories don't have to come up every session, but they should come up often enough to show the player that their PC is getting focus and attention while being challenged to develop.

Character stories should have room for all the PCs but only focus on one - or a small group of PCs in some situations - for the most part. I'd recommend rotating through character stories every session as best you can so that you're regularly making progress on one arc or another.

None of these are mutually exclusive. A story can be a GM Story and a Character story provided it both furthers the plot and develops the character. The meta story should shine through all of these as the core story of the game. Don't think just because you're working on a Character story it can't do more for you. Just be aware of what your goals are with each one.

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