Article - Hey! What did you do that for?

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AuthorTopic: Article - Hey! What did you do that for?
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A lot of emphasis is placed on the role of story in scenario design these days. But for a story to be good, it has to make sense.

For a story to make sense, every event needs to have a clear cause. If Character A goes and kills Character B, he needs to have some reason to do it. And since the vast majority of story beats come from the decisions and actions of characters, that's what I'm going to focus on.

It is vitally important to carefully think through the actions of every character in your story. every action they make should not just be motivated - it should be the best reaction to that motivation for that character.

So, if Character B robs Character A's home, Character A now has a reason to kill Character B. But is that the best reaction to his motive? Why doesn't he call the guards or something instead? He's going to get in a bunch of trouble when a corpse is found in his home.

Well, maybe he's got a terrible temper, and doesn't think about that until too late. Maybe he's always hated Character B and now sees an opportunity to gat him with a clear conscience.

That's all good. But these simple questions MUST be answered for every action of every character for the scenario to make sense. It's truly amazing how many don't, even among the better works out there.

It's basic stuff, but I really feel the need to hammer this in.

1. Every action is a reaction to some event or situation. Every action needs a cause.

2. Every cause should naturally lead to it's effect, and that effect should be the cause of the next effect.

A story is a domino stack. When one action happens, that causes another, which causes another, and on and on it goes until the end of the scenario.

Let's try these principles out in practice. Let's apply them to, say, Echoes: Assault.

Cause: The Illithids attack your Fort.
Effect: You defend it.

Cause: You defend your Fort.
Effect: The Illithids send in bigger guns.

Cause: The Illithids send in bigger guns.
Effect: Your Fort is overrun.

Cause: Your Fort is overrun.
Effect: You retreat.

See? So far everything's going great. The dominos are toppling. And they continue to do so, until...

Cause: You escape the Illithids and reach Fort Sparrowshaft... and they won't let you in.
Effect: You blast the gates in, slaughter everyone in the fort, and set BOTH sides of the war against you.

Now, what we have here is a domino falling against a stone wall and knocking it over. The effect is far too big for the cause. It's pretty obvious that this isn't the most natural reaction to that cause. Trying to convince them to let you in or trying to find a place that would makes a lot more sense.

I HIGHLY recommend going through your story in the shoes of each character. Each time something happens to that character or each time his situation changes, think how that makes him feel, and think how he would react - keeping in mind that he doesn't know everything. If the answer isn't the same as what happens in your scenario, you have a problem.


I feel like there's something left to be said on the subject, but I'm not sure what.

[ Thursday, April 15, 2004 06:20: Message edited by: The Creator ]

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Posts: 1423 | Registered: Sunday, October 7 2001 07:00