Friday, October 9, 2020

Don't Skip Opportunities To Show What Is Going On

 When watching a movie or otherwise enjoying a story, it is easy for the work to cut away and show what is going on with the villain. We can get a grand reveal of the villain's whole plan as they are preparing it. This can even be used to set up tension if we know the villain is laying a trap, but don't know when the trap will spring on the hero - who we want to win.

In a RPG though it is harder to do this. Sure you can do a cutscene showing what is going on with the villain, but a lot of GMs feel silly playing with themselves (phrasing!) in that way. And sometimes players don't keep up or catch on. More often, the PCs are only getting half the story - the story they are present for - which means they don't get to see the nuance to the villains plans. This also means that sometimes a plot needs to be kept simpler because without the foreknowledge of seeing the setup, the twist feels silly and off - coming out of left field to to say - or worse, as a cheap trick to screw over the players.

Because of this it can pay to take the opportunities you do get in order to show glimpses of what is going on away from the PCs. You want to sprinkle these out. The idea is not to drop an info dump on the table, but to take natural chances to show some of what is going on, set stakes, lay the groundwork for twists, and even give a sneak peek at what may be coming.

How you do this will depend on your game. In Star Wars nothing could be more in universe than a Force Sensitive character having a dream hinting at some big tumultuous thing coming up. In D&D anyone with a Warlock or Deity can be blessed with a vision. You can have NPCs the PCs fight survive and share some of what they know. You can have the PCs walk up on NPCs talking about what is going on videogame style.

Give them a quick taste. Show them part of a plan for a giant mecha-godzilla. Talk about the squabbling happening in the villains inner circle of trusted advisors. Use whatever tricks you can to show the PCs what is going on with the villains and members of the opposition. Bonus points if you can show some of how the villains are flustered or annoyed at the PCs for disrupting their plans.

And as you do this, remember: a player figuring out what is going on is not a problem. That means you are dropping the right hints. Once they have the basics down you can always add layers and twists to keep things going. Heck, you can convolute things to the point they doubt their early assessment only for it to be ultimately right again. Just so long as everyone is having fun and understands what is going on.

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