Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Personal Subplots

You are reading Treasure Tables every day, right? If you aren't, you probably should be. It's not always earth-shaking, but it is chock full of good advice for GMs of just about any game system.

Today, in the comments of a post about avoiding boring your players with "chores", WeaveWarden says:

Two words: Personal Subplots.

Pay attention to making certain that every session, or at least every story arc, ties into some aspect of each character personally. This may come at the expense of a little plausibility if you overdo it, but generally speaking, if there’s a little something extra going on for every player to consider their angle on in relation to the main plot, they have something to burn that excess mental energy on when things are slow. Naturally, these subplots shouldn’t be time-consuming, or the momentum of the central story may be lost.

With personal subplots, the players know that if sit back and stack dice, no-one else is particularly incentivized to pick up the slack for them, so they’d better stay involved to get the most benefit (and fun) for their character.

Subplots are a great way to make the game personal for your players. They focus the attention, and make the game feel more responsive to player actions. The importance of this cannot be understated; the one area where table-top gaming still whips computer gaming of all sorts hollow is in how the game can respond, react, and adapt to the actions of the PCs, and the desires of the players.

If you’re a player, you can seize the initiative here not by just providing your GM with possible hooks when you create your character, but also by building relationships between your PC and your fellow players’ PCs. There’s no rule that says you can’t collaborate with another player during character creation. One question you can answer while you make your characters together is why these particular heroes will have each others backs through thick and thin. Are they blood brothers? Did they save each others lives at the Battle of Serenity? Are they siblings, like Caramon and Raistlin? Lovers? Under a curse that threatens to kill them both if they should ever be separated by any distance greater than a mile? Have fun, let your imagination run wild, bounce ideas off each other, and see what you can come up with. If your GM approves it, you don’t have to wait for her or him to create subplots for you. You and the other player can riff off each other, based on this pre-existing relationship you have. And you can drag the other PCs into it as well. Can the cleric break the curse? Was the pilot on the other side during the war? Maybe it looks like the paladin is spending a bit too much time with your little sister. ‘bout time you and he had a talk, huh?

And while you're surfing the web, you might check out Myth-Weavers, linked from WeaveWarden's name. If you're interested in play-by-post, that might be the place to find a good game. If you try it out, and want to right a review of the place, I'd be happy to post it on Trollsmyth.

No comments: