Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How To Plan An Arc - Fleshing Out A Main Character

On Monday we talked about the first step in planning an arc. I suggested you start with defining three main characters for the arc. The idea here is three well defined characters keep events moving, and keeps the focus on people - which means your characters interacting with them can drastically shape and change things.

Today I want to talk about what you want to define for each of those three characters, so you can get going with the rest of the arc planning.

Three Key Things
There are three key things you want to have defined from the get go:

  1. What the character wants
  2. Why the character couldn't do it until now
  3. How far is the character willing to go to accomplish their goal?
You might need some variation for things like murder plots. But that is mostly just changing #3 to "what will they do to get it" to "what will they do to get away with it."

What The Character Wants
This one is obvious, but if you don't know what the character wants you don't know what they're going to do - or work towards - which is what is going to cause the adventure to happen. Conflict, drama, and tension happens when two or more agents have goals that are at cross purposes with each other. You need that for these characters.

Why Couldn't They Do It Until Now
All goals have obstacles. What obstacles stopped the character from going for their goal until now? Why are they now free to move towards their goal? Or are they not free but are finally taking steps to attain that freedom?

This is more than just setting the stage for what is going on. It also creates seeds for the background to help players figure out what is going on, and what the motivations are for each of the characters.

How Far Are They Willing To Go?
Knowing how far the NPCs are willing to go is not super important for the setup of the arc. However, since no plan survives contact with the PCs, it is an important thing to know going forward. Knowing how far an NPC will go tells you when they will throw in the towel, when they will escalate, and whether or not they'll die before giving up on the plan. Odds are the PCs will be out for blood anyhow, but that doesn't mean the NPC has to agree. Sometimes having an enemy disengage and backoff before things get to that point can make them all the more interesting. Also, it means you can use them again later.

Our Three Example Characters
We made three characters for a murder mystery on Monday, so lets flesh them out a bit here to show some of what I mean here.

Kakita Kazeneko
What does she want: Revenge for her sister's death 5 years ago.
Why now: Until now Kazeneko was not assigned to the same province as . She has only recently been able to manipulate events to have them both at the same castle for Winter Court.
How Far Will She Go: Kazeneko is willing to go to any length, including her own death, to keep the blame for the murder from falling on the Crane clan.

Ikoma Masanobu
What does he want: Masanobu wants a name that will be remembered through the ages.
Why now: Masanobu has been working towards this goal his entire adult life, but his brash attitude has kept his superiors from having the kind of faith in him he needs to make a name in a court setting.
How Far Will He Go: Masanobu wants a heroic name. He will do many things, but he will not dishonor himself, his family, or his school. Nor will he allow insult to fall on them, even if that means his death.

Bayushi Taka
What does they want: Political influence within the Crane Clan, Military influence within the Lion, and whatever else they can get.
Why now: Taka was assigned to this court as a test of their skills. This is their first chance to prove to their masters how valuable they can be.
How Far Will They Go: Taka is willing to do alot, but will not put the Scorpion at risk. They are more than happy to leave the Lion and Crane in cinders and ash if it gets them their goal.

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