Following on with my nuts and bolts look at RPGing, there is one particular thing GMs struggle with (well, I know I do), and that’s the plot idea. This is clearly a universal problem – if you look at films coming out, you can’t fail to see they’re running out of ideas. Follow-ons, remakes, even more obscure comic and book tie-ins. And it’s the same for us GMs.
Obviously we can worry less about copyright infringements than your average studio exec, and so we can be inspired by film, book, TV or comic. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s fun to take a situation from some form of media or history, which may be well-known, and see if you can get to an alternative outcome. Role-playing manuals generally come with some ideas, and you can always purchase scenarios (although I’ve always reckoned if you can’t come up with your own, you’re in the wrong hobby). And, also as previously mentioned, you can tie the scenario to what sort of players you have. More or less thinking, more or less action.
The plotline is very important to everyone, and as a player, I have come away thinking, ‘fun session, but ludicrous plot’. You want your players to enjoy the session, not pick holes. But, another huge advantage you have over the film producer, is you can go wild. One of the most memorable games I’ve played was a few weeks as a corporate strike team, and then in the last session finding out you were playing a virtual game, you’ve all just been ejected, only you can’t remember who you are. Wandering around a city, piecing your identity from various clues. Brilliant, and especially enjoyable for me, as I turned out to be a mob boss who had the rest of the group killed, ‘just to be safe’. How the heck do you come up with an idea like that? (The game, not killing the rest of the group).
Another campaign thinking outside the box was a group of Roman soldiers, taken captive in battle (Cannae from memory), and forced to become gladiators in a foreign city arena. We’d got into that, learnt the various types of gladiator, when someone took a blow to the head; it turned out we were a marine strike team from the future, who’d been taken captive and brain-washed.
These games were brilliant to play, but clearly they can’t be all like that. Most of the time we just look at the 7 plots, and come up with something. And if you really can’t think of anything, and you’re out of time, stick the group in a large, busy pub. This is my fallback, and it usually works – your group are off getting drunk, fighting, spiking drinks etc, and as GM all you need to do is respond…