Plot

meaning and definition

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    What is a plot?

    A plot in roleplaying games refers to the sequence of events and character-driven storylines that provide the framework for the game’s narrative.

    Plots can vary greatly in complexity and scale, ranging from simple quests to intricate networks of interwoven story arcs. They serve as a motivational and structural backbone, guiding player actions and decisions.

    Depending on the game, plots may be predefined by game administrators or storytellers, or dynamically crafted by the players themselves through their characters’ interactions and choices.

    The concept of a plot has been central to storytelling since ancient times, but its application in roleplaying games began with the advent of tabletop roleplaying games in the 1970s.

    Early RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons introduced players to the idea of using structured narratives to enhance interactive gameplay. Over time, the role of the plot has evolved, especially with the rise of text-based and online RPGs, where player agency in shaping the narrative has become a central feature.


    Plot FAQs

    How do plots differ in tabletop versus text-based RPGs?

    In tabletop RPGs, plots are often planned and directed by a game master (GM) who guides gameplay, while in text-based RPGs, plots might emerge more organically from player interactions. Text-based games typically offer players greater narrative control, allowing for more fluid and dynamic plot development.

    Can players create their own plots?

    Yes, players can create their own plots, especially in games that emphasize player agency and narrative flexibility. In such games, player-created plots allow for personalized storytelling and can lead to unique game experiences that reflect the players’ creative visions.

    What role do admins and storytellers play in developing plots?

    Admins and storytellers in RPGs often act as the architects of the game’s main narrative framework. They set up major plot points, conflicts, and story arcs that provide structure and continuity to the game world. Their role is crucial in maintaining narrative coherence and providing the initial impetus for player engagement.

    How can a plot impact player experience?

    A well-crafted plot can significantly enhance player experience by providing a compelling reason to explore the game world and interact with other characters. It adds depth and emotional resonance to player actions, making the gameplay more engaging and meaningful.

    What happens if players deviate from the main plot?

    When players deviate from the main plot, it can lead to the creation of subplots or entirely new narratives. This is often seen as a positive aspect of RPGs, as it allows for a dynamic and evolving game world that adapts to player choices, making the story uniquely tailored to the players involved.

    Myths about plots

    One common myth is that a more complex plot necessarily leads to a better game experience. In reality, the quality of a plot is not solely dependent on its complexity but on its execution and relevance to the players.

    Another misconception is that all RPGs must have a predefined plot. Not always. Many modern RPGs are designed to be open-ended, allowing the plot to develop organically based on player actions.

    Plot examples

    • In a tabletop game, players might follow a plot involving the recovery of a mystical artifact that requires traversing dangerous lands and solving ancient puzzles.
    • In a text-based RPG, a player-driven plot could revolve around political intrigue within a royal court, where players’ written interactions and alliances shape the progression of the story.
    • A collaborative plot in an online forum RPG might involve players responding to an emergent threat, like an invading monster horde, where each player’s contributions affect the collective outcome.

    See: How to use a character arc roadmap in RP.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."