A Plot Invention Method

The Lee Jones HeroesMUSH Plot Invention Method

"Billy Mays here for the Lee Jones HeroesMUSH Plot Invention Method."

"Now you might think that you need a staffer to come up with your plotlines. But that's not true. You don't need a cabinet full of cleaners, I mean staffers, this method will show you everything you need to create and run dramatic, comedic plots on HeroesMUSH."

Step 1 - Collect a group of people who are going to be in your plot and divvy them up into primary and support characters.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Sometimes a group of people is already established in the setting. The Sanders family of D.L., Niki and Micah is one example. The Company is another.

Another way is by connecting common interests - two criminals might team up for a big score, two students at Brubaker could team up to escape a bully. Several characters might target someone who has wronged them for revenge.

One thing that's great about the Heroes setting is that there's plenty of nonsense about destiny and fate around - if there's a character you think is interesting but your character has no connection with them, why not give them a destiny in common and talk to one of our friendly neighborhood precognitives (or time travellers) about getting your plot rolling with a bizarre vision or visit from the future. You don't have to have anything in common in this setting to be drawn into a plot with each other, and that's one of the great things about Heroes - unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated characters.

Support characters are also fun and challenging to play. The role of a support character is to facilitate the plot. If a character is conflicted and angsty, the best way to get that across without acres of OOC narration is by having them express it in a scene with a support character. Support characters can also convince reluctant Heroes to jump into situations they really shouldn't, or offer nasty critiques of people for comedic effect (hint hint). But if you're a support character, your challenge is not determining "how would my character react to this situation", your challenge is "what justifies my character acting in this way to move the plot along". That's a fun change-up from normal RP.

  • Example: Let's use three characters for this example. Klaus, an Evolved bookworm with enhanced memory powers, Violet, a non-Evolved inventor and Sunny, an Evolved teenager with unbreakable bones and teeth. They decide they want to do a plot together, determining that a common interest they have is that they are all enemies of Olaf, an Evolved (NPC) shapeshifter.

Step 2 - Talk OOCly to the primary characters and select one character trait from each of them.

A character trait can be anything - a power, a personality trait, a strength, a flaw, a piece of property they own or control, a desire, something that definitively belongs to the character. The trait should be one that the player wants to show off, test, strain, change, give up, have broken or otherwise emphasize in the plot.

The support characters' role in this is to suggest how their characters relate to the character traits of the primary characters, and how what they do and say can enhance or challenge those traits.

  • Example: Klaus decides the trait he wants to highlight is his loyalty. Violet wants to highlight her inventing skills. Sunny wants to highlight her power.

Step 3 - Generate the story arc

A - Plot.

A lot of people think that making up plots is hard. But if you got past Step 2, your plot is already done. Why? For this reason:

The conflict of the plot is entirely based around the selected character traits from your primary characters.

If the character trait is "generosity", then someone tries to take advantage of the character's generosity, or some problem can only be solved by generosity, or their generosity is tested to the breaking point, or their generosity fails at a crucial moment. If the character trait is a power, then your power is needed at a crucial moment, or it fails, or it disappears, or it grows out of control, or it is discovered by someone, or it is concealed by someone.

Don't be too super-specific and don't concern yourself too much with details. The TV show doesn't. No TV show ever did. Just a very broad outline of "the problem is a nosy newspaper reporter and the fact that they're being controlled by a former Company agent, their plan is to do 1, 2, then 3" is enough for most plots. Remember, once you and your fellow players are turned loose on your plot you will take it in unexpected directions!

Now, when you get done doing this, there might be a couple of holes. Go ahead and fill in those holes with other events and ideas - but make sure those events or ideas are connected to character traits of the antagonists. Nothing whatsoever matters in your plot unless it is connected to one of the characters. Let me say that again. Nothing whatsoever matters in your plot unless it is connected to one of the characters. If you want to fight intolerance, you need someone in the plot who is being intolerant. If you want to support loyalty, you need some person in the plot who is being loyal.

  • Example: The three things we're building the plot out of are: loyalty, inventing skills and the power of unbreakable bones. Clearly Olaf is planning on stealing one of Violet's inventions and using it to bribe one of Klaus' friends into tricking Sunny into being run over by a bus. OR Violet invents something that accidentally causes Sunny to temporarily lose her abilities - will Klaus' loyalty be enough to protect the group against Olaf while Violet works on a cure? OR Sunny tries to take on Olaf alone, but her unbreakable bones aren't enough. Klaus must recruit Viola to invent something to spring Sunny from the deadly deathtrap she's been left in.

B - Scale

Obviously if you have a lot of primary characters your plot will be very large. If you only have one or two, it will be smaller. But you need to do 3 scenes with every character trait you are showcasing in the plot: 1 - introduce them, 2 - introduce the situation connected to them, and 3 - resolve them. Sometimes you can combine these - for example, you could introduce both your central character trait and another character's in the same scene.

In between these scenes you of course should go around and RP with characters not involved in your plot. Show how the plot so far has affected your character, complain to them if your character is oppressed, brag if your character is awesome. Expose that central character trait for all it is worth. This way the plotty goodness you and your fellow players have come up with is spread even beyond the bounds of the plot.

  • Example: Let's say we decide that the plot is: "Olaf is planning on stealing one of Violet's inventions and using it to bribe one of Klaus' friends into tricking Sunny into being run over by a bus." Here are the scenes we must have: 1 - something introducing Violet's inventing and her invention, 2 - Olaf steals the invention, the cad, 3 - we introduce Klaus' loyalty to his friend, 4 - his friend betrays him, the cad, 5 - Sunny's unbreakable bones are introduced, 6 - Sunny is tricked, or not tricked as the case may be, 7 - the final fate of Violet's invention is revealed, 8 - the final fate of Klaus' friend is revealed, 9 - the final outcome of Sunny's power use is revealed. Now, many of these 9 scenes can be played together. We check with everyone's schedules and work out that: 1 and 2 can be combined, 6 and 9 can be combined, and 7 and 8 can be combined. This gives us a plan for the plot arc!

C - Tone

Will your plot be silly or grim? Heroes is a show that pretends to realism in many ways, so you don't want to go over-the-top in either direction, but some guidance for the people involved in the plot is really important. You don't want people cracking jokes during your big dramatic teary scene, and you don't want people being a buzzkill when you're driving away in a fast car. "You can't just shoot someone, you have to say something cool first!"

  • Example: We decide we want the tone of this to be goofy but real, in other words, the characters can say goofy things and certainly the plot is a bit over-the-top, but in general we want to characters to react to their strange situation realistically. People are allowed and encouraged to point out how goony things are getting.

D - RESOLUTION - this one is in caps because it is super-important.

Something will go wrong in your plot and someone will disappear, or won't be able to be on, or they will decide they are bored, or a new person will enter the scene, or something more interesting will happen. Make up some way to resolve the plot quickly and satisfactorily and unleash it before everyone gets bored. Hopefully you will have resolved all of the plot hooks you introduced for each of the character traits, but if you didn't, don't hang around waiting for it to be resolved if you would rather move on. Close the chapter and go - you can always come back and address it again later.

  • Example: If it turns out things aren't going well or people just aren't interested, Violet's invention can suddenly break down, the friend loses interest, and the plan just dissolves on its own. We can eject from this plot at any time.

Step 4 - Run the plot by staff and make sure it's cool.

Step 5 - Run the plot!

Step 6 - You are great.

If you need help brainstorming your plot, staff is a great resource, or page Lee on the MUSH. I'll keep updating this with details and examples. Hope this helps. Thanks for reading and happy plottage!

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