Forums Gaming Chat Roleplaying A Twist Too Far

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  • #559265
    Daniel
    • Posts : 2850
    • Succubus

    400px-Lost_main_title.svg.png

     

    Anybody who has listened to some of earlier Pants Camper’s (aka Pantsless Gamers & Gate Campers) recordings will know that as a group we value, above all things, a game’s story.  Characterisation and the development of personality rank highly as well, but it is a game’s storyline that acts as the glue that binds all other things together.  You might, for example, have a fantastic center piece battle against the ‘Dark’ Lord of Lost Socks, but without an underlying narrative your players have no reason, whatsoever, to give two hoots about the ‘Dark’ Lord or his socks.  Your narrative acts as the vehicle whereby your players are given reason to care, to be involved, to feel that their adventure is important and a worthwhile expenditure of their valuable free time.

     

    There are a great many schools of thought as to how to write a good story, I should know, I’ve tried most of them in the years I’ve been running games and frankly I fallen foul of just as many slip-ups.  That is the nature of game mastery, however, every game is another lesson.  Today we shall concentrate on just one narrative pit-fall.  Not because it is more important than any other, but because it is an issue I have seen appear not just in gaming, but in professional writing too — such is the size and slippy rim of this particular pit.

     

    When writing a game’s narrative it is very tempting to add the all important twist.  Twists are fantastic when used properly, they really give the players a shock and build investment like you would not believe.  Therefore, it is with good reason that we try and include them.  However, the improvisational nature of games mastery leaves a lot of opportunity for what I like to call the Ambush Twist.  An ambush twist is one that appears mid-game, when the games master is high on candy, soda and (sweet, sweet) pizza.  It is the twist, or plot hook that gets the player’s juices flowing, but comes at a price:  these twists have not been well thought through, balanced against the narrative and often the games master will not even know where the twist will lead.  The games master is in the middle of an orgy of purest improvisation and as a result the game is in grave danger (*Dramatic Look*)!

     

    Lets move away from gaming, for a moment, to better illustrate why this is such a problem.  A few years the western world was swept away by a show that left a shockwave of interest in its wake.  That show was called Lost.  Lost had become infamous for its twists, turns and general intrigue.  Dedicated viewers would cover their walls in conspiracy-theorist styled boards where they collected the show’s various hints, twists and potential turns.  Viewers loved to talk about their own pet theories as much as they did watch the show.  On one hand, it could be argued that this demonstrates the success of the Plot Twist’s power.  However, a contentious view argues that this was also the show’s greatest weakness.

     

    Watching the show, recently, it very quickly becomes obvious that at some point around seasons two or three the writers allowed themselves to get drawn into the mystery and plot twists — much like a games master may fall prey to an Ambush Twist.  From that point onwards the show’s narrative becomes more and more convoluted and difficult to follow.  In my experience it is generally around this point that some viewers start to lose interest.  Rather than building the narrative towards the conclusion of each plot strand (or story arc) they instead filled this void with more twists; until the plot of Lost closely resembled a bowl of delicious spaghetti (can you tell I’m hungry yet?).  With plot lines twisting this way and that it became more and more difficult for the writing team to actually bring any of their story arcs to a close; more and more difficult to bring satisfactory resolution.  In the end, when the show ended on a anti-climatic (my opinion) note it was shown just how impossible it was to generate any kind of comprehensive closure.  Even today, years after the show’s conclusion there are questions still unanswered, plots still unaccounted for.

     

    This is the very real danger a games master puts himself in when he submits to the siren call of an ambush twist.  The games master is setting themselves up for a huge headache as they try to bring their plot spaghetti to a head.  So next time you feel the urge to throw in a brutal twist and throw your player’s a curve ball ask these three questions:

     

    1) What benefit to the story is this going to provide?

    2) Have I thought this twist through enough; do I know where it is going?

    and most importantly…

    3) Does this twist need to be there?  Is there another narrative device that would serve me better?

     

    At the end of the day, remember, we are not only playing games we are forging memories in the minds of our players.  Make sure they remember your game for the right reasons. 🙂

     
    Daniel.

    #642063
    Anonymous
    • Posts : 1113
    • Owlbear

    I am very pleased to have this web service.

    #642064
    Albacksen
    • Posts : 133
    • Orc

    M.night Shamalan comes to mind when I read this. He had one success using a twist in The Sixth Sense. Everything else he has done since has been a poor attempt at reproducing the same result.

    #642065
    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    Lets move away from gaming, for a moment, to better illustrate why this is such a problem. A few years the western world was swept away by a show that left a shockwave of interest in its wake. That show was called Lost. Lost had become infamous for its twists, turns and general intrigue. Dedicated viewers would cover their walls in conspiracy-theorist styled boards where they collected the show’s various hints, twists and potential turns. Viewers loved to talk about their own pet theories as much as they did watch the show. On one hand, it could be argued that this demonstrates the success of the Plot Twist’s power. However, a contentious view argues that this was also the show’s greatest weakness.

    Watching the show, recently, it very quickly becomes obvious that at some point around seasons two or three the writers allowed themselves to get drawn into the mystery and plot twists — much like a games master may fall prey to an Ambush Twist. From that point onwards the show’s narrative becomes more and more convoluted and difficult to follow. In my experience it is generally around this point that some viewers start to lose interest. Rather than building the narrative towards the conclusion of each plot strand (or story arc) they instead filled this void with more twists; until the plot of Lost closely resembled a bowl of delicious spaghetti (can you tell I’m hungry yet?). With plot lines twisting this way and that it became more and more difficult for the writing team to actually bring any of their story arcs to a close; more and more difficult to bring satisfactory resolution. In the end, when the show ended on a anti-climatic (my opinion) note it was shown just how impossible it was to generate any kind of comprehensive closure. Even today, years after the show’s conclusion there are questions still unanswered, plots still unaccounted for.

    215554151_Hxmba-L-2.jpg

    #642066
    Twyst
    • Posts : 86
    • Bullywug

    Why do you hate me?

    #642067
    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    Why do you hate me?

     

    Well, if Patrick’s got a grudge against you, it’s probably founded in the unfavorable comparison you made between him and someone’s kidney stone. 😉

     

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