You toss a pebble into a pond and the ripples spread across the entire surface as eddies move beneath the surface. Plot is much like the movement of water in any body of water, it is a Tide. In the BLackSky Community the term I use for the movement of plot and its effects across the entire group is just that, the Tide. Its a general idea of how our guild is set up to work, and in some ways it can be both easy and difficult to accomplish.
The Easy Part
The easier part of the tide is simply creating a setting to begin with. Actually that in of itself is a difficult hard thing to do, but that is the simplest way to lay the ground work to create a Tide. To even have a tide you have to have water and for it to affect something you need people nearby. So thus by populating the pool of plot our setting can become a mixture of factions, individuals, plot elements, and other devices in the story. A good place of plot shouldn’t be a barely populated pond, but a sea of various fish and landmarks. Things need to have a “plot exosystem”. Again this is all easier said than done.
Getting Harder: The Plot Ecosystem
To create an ongoing shifting sea one has to produce a series of individuals, groups and elements that can interact with each other. In this case the NPCs of a story represent the staff, officer, or in general the guild leader controlled factors. In your typical tabletop game the NPCs represent the tools of the DM or the GM and are there to provide direction for the Player Characters (or ‘members’). Factions in of themselves are NPC entities that like a individual NPC has a series of goals and reactions. The Setting and waves of plot are created when the PCs acting as catalysts tip the favor, the desire, or power in a direction of a given NPC or Faction. Mapping this out is how plot is then created. A simple explanation for something quite difficult.
Keeping track of who does what or who favors who is the real struggle. For the tide to be effective a GM and staff need to understand how a group or a person would react to something. Then that needs to be noted. One reason our stories are episodic is it allows us to break up the narrative into parcels that in turn allow us to generate the foundation for how a faction reacts. If the Roarin Girroks (an antagonist MC to both the Sovereigns and the Malverines) decide to sell information then that will have an impact on both factions. Say however the Sovereigns decide to frame a Malverine for after killing a Girrok, that then creates a new level of drama.
So in reality, the Players are the Pebble
Most of the Tide is the result of players or the PCs creating an instance. A Sovereign frames a Malverine, a Malverine then deals with retaliation from a Girrok. Then when we involve outside guilds and non-guilded the story becomes quite self sustaining. Even though we favor a sense of episodic content, our general pool of NPCs and PCs is only a backdrop for the greater Roleplay community which we then leave open to player interaction. A bar scene occurs on a lazy night and results in myriad of situations. This to us is the very fodder from which we then draw our storyline. The one stipulation being that as a guild instead of entangling ourselves in the crossfire of what can then create community drama, we prefer to focus on smaller scale situations.
If someone wishes to release a plague across the story we’ll jump in and then insinuate it into our guild story. At the same time we then reserve the right to scale things back in case our guildies need a break from turmoil. There are only so many pebbles on the beach and if we toss them all in at once then we are left without anymore to use.
Sometimes you have to weather the tide
Not all drama is necessarily good in a story. If the Red Wedding happened every time in Game of Thrones then the shock and drama becomes nothing more than a cheap parlor trick. Dark RP in this regard often has a trend towards newer heights of travesty and grit, and even though I love myself some grit I do agree with Joss Whedon’s quote:
“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love a god, tell a joke!”
As we said in our discussion on the Grey Line, the Tide cannot become too light or too dark otherwise the story stops appealing to everyone. So now and then when a Malverine is on trial via Judge for murder we’ll encourage another member to create a standalone story. Perhaps like the kids in Naruto we’ll try to see what is under Kikashi-sensei’s mask, or maybe like in Bleach Kan Oji will come in and say “SPIRITS ALWYS WITH YOU!” These comical moments are times to refill the pool with light and get the dark a break for a time. Its a time to let the waters come so that the fish can shift and readjust to the stress of all the shifting currents they once dealt with.
The Tide in the End touches all shores
In the end when everything is said and done a story needs to effect everyone in some way. Mayhap a series of Prospects earned their colors for saving the life of the frame Malverine, or a new oath of vengeance was unleashed for the death of the framer (the Sovereign). Or in other cases perhaps everyone just walked away and had a cake party. Who knows, but as we write this story the Saga will record the changes that we as a group enact. It may be big, or a may be small, but in a sense the Tide that leaves a wake on the beach should then always be ready to snatch things up again; to move them along to the next story waiting around the corner.