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Workshop: The Plot Thickens

Here’s one of the two workshops I presented at Lucca. It was prompted by two short videos I posted here in the past few months: The role of the roll and Emergent plot techniques, which have led me to a generally larger argument.

The main point is that, there are two primary ways to play so that plots emerge via the events of the session, which also happen to be incompatible: intuitive continuity vs. Bangs.

  • The former minimizes or abandons preparation but maintains plot control
  • The latter abandons plot control but relies on a form of preparation best termed readiness

The supporting point is that much of the explicit range of play techniques is independent of this distinction. I break the audience into five groups to examine five topics, each with its own range of techniques, to convey this via active learning.

The final point is that the current subcultural divisions of the hobby obscure this point, as many designated “story games” and “old school” games alike veer strongly toward intuitive continuity. Furthermore, these terms and related groups of terms are a mass of unspeakable lying bullshit.

The ensuing discussion included a description of the Drunkard’s Walk, which is relevant in that intuitive continuity prevents it, buffering a preferred plot outcome from being “ruined,” whereas Bang-driven play encourages it, obviating the entire concept of a preferred plot outcome.

The most important point in the ensuing discussion concerns as well that intuitive continuity fits well with genre play, in which plot outcomes are narrowly constrained and generally expected to conform, whereas Bang-driven play fits well with idiom play, in which plot outcomes vary greatly (historically, before the genre is constructed by fans and critics).

I’ve attached the PowerPoint that I used during the presentation, as well as transcriptions of the cards I passed out to the groups.