I recently read a short article or micro-blog post about the scale of evil in fantasy role-playing game adventures and sessions. The question was asked why is everything on such a large scale? A necromancer raises an army of the undead, an entire world is threatened by the opening of a portal into a hellish world, and such grand and epic storylines. No one is going to say that these are bad plots or undesirable situations for players and Game Masters alike. However, where are the smaller plots? Where is the mad alchemist bleeding a unicorn for his magic projects? Where is the boy with some evil thing living in his cupboard? Where is the woman chained to an altar awaiting the sea monster to take her as a sacrifice to leave the village's fishing boats alone? Where are the myriad of small personal horrors and injustices waiting to be dealt with?
The answer is they are wherever you want to come up with them and slot them into your game. That is if you are into that sort of thing. Not everyone wants to start from scratch. Not everyone needs to be a world builder. These intimate sorts of plots should crop up different places. Game designers that want to should get on this need. They can always be used as one shots, convention scenarios, side-stories, and whenever a diversion from the usual is needed. They can certainly come in handy for gaming groups to try out a new game. They would give a taste of what it is like without a lot of pre-preparation and actual game time to run through them. They can also be expanded; part of some larger storyline; or from the same game and author who constructed them so, strung together to form a complete storyline. So, if you design and author games and you are reading this, go make with the tippy-tap and garner yourself a wider audience.
Music: Music: P & V by Anthrax and Strange Encounter by Steel Prophet.
There are a number of benefits afforded to extended and long-term narratives. The benefit is felt more strongly in the written word than in movies as far as series tend to go, frequently because of a singular author. Of course moving from the page to the screen can pass on those benefits. I have discovered a really nice benefit while writing the posts for the On Dark Rhoads™ blog that I did not anticipate, as much as it makes sense. I can introduce concepts, characters, and any idea I might like to add into the narrative at any point, without getting straight to the point of why it is there. I can hint at its importance, or I can say nothing and just let it stand. Silence on the point can add its own mystique as well. Then I can come back to it when the time is right and the savvy readers will know they've seen it before and have the kind of aha moment that just wouldn't occur or be possible any other way.
This kind of foreshadowing is really appealing from this side of the process. It may not be quite so exciting for the reader, especially previous to the reveal. I just recently introduced a pretty important element to Josh's story in just such an offhand way. I'd like to think that it is mysterious too. People will read it and tell themselves that this simple, almost innocuously boring update has meaning that is not readily important, otherwise why is it there. The question then becomes can I, or any author in a similar situation, have superfluous posts? The answer must be yes. For starters, the idea of a red herring is reliant on giving information that is not actually important, at least to the true advancement of the story's main conflict, and to the characters beyond the time that it has proven false. By the way, the revelation was that Josh does vote for the hidden-evil political party.
Music: Street Justice by Twisted Sister and Top Jimmy by Van Halen.
August 10, 2011 Unnatural Understandings and the Disparate Minds
When you have a setting with ghosts, poltergeists, and other paranormal goings-on in that vein, the next logical addition to the setting is people who investigate and or deal with such manifestations of the supernatural. There are essentially two types of groups who undertake these endeavours, though there is always the potential for overlap. There are those that take a scientific approach and those that take the metapsychical approach. Beyond, or aside, from the overlap of these two methodologies, is the conflict between the two, which can be further complicated by the deniers and debunkers of both. This of course ends with a messy four-way conflict, but therein lays some fun of its own.
Since you are beginning with a reality base that includes the paranormal as witness-able fact there should be at least the beginning of a scientific basis for understanding it, even if the real hard science answers will not be found for many years to come. The science need not be clear, or widely accepted, or even very useful, but it should be there. Where there is a need for understanding, there will be people to pursue it. They will come up with answers that work for them, eventually. The same can actually be said of the metaphysical adherents too, they will find answers in the fashion that suits them. Since this is a fictional setting they can be just as correct and valid as the science-types, and often will be far ahead of the curve because they simply embrace the rules they see rather than trying to understand them at a level beyond utility. They also do not necessarily seek a rationale or explanation.
Most of the scientific types will have commonly held beliefs about how the paranormal works. There can be some dissension, even some where groups have wildly divergent theories, but I would guess it is minimal. That said it is minimal in comparison to the myriad of occult system beliefs. There is no feeling of consensus behind these groups because they do not believe so firmly that there is only one reality. As soon as they witness the success of a group with a different belief they must admit there is more than one approach, which is unless they fall into the same category as the debunkers. Even though the metaphysic groups can see more than one method they too can believe their way is superior, or more morally true, or what have you that causes from polite disagreements up to vicious rivalries amongst them.
Music: Music: Satellite 15...The Final Frontier by Iron Maiden and Not A Dry Eye In The House by Meat Loaf.