I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about National Plot. I’ve come up something tentatively called the Local Impact Model. It might be a more efficient way of running large-scale plot for a big game like NERO.
There are 40+ chapters of NERO which all exist in the same world. Each chapter has its own plot team. There is also a “national” plot team which theoretically manages the overall setting and some plot lines which take place in multiple chapters at once.
In the past, this has been somewhat inefficient. It requires national staff members to travel all over the country to run plot, and it requires that local chapters be receptive to it. These are both problematic. We’ve tried a number of ways to make it smoother, but running plot in more than one chapter, let alone 40 chapters, is always a logistical nightmare.
For example, I recently found out that there was a drought in the year 609. The plane of water was damaged by something that happened during a national plot line, and it had consequences all over Avalon. But I wasn’t playing at one of the chapters that featured this plot, so I had no idea. I think there’s probably a better way to present a world event!
So let’s step back a bit and take a look at what National Plot should do…
- National plot lines should create shared experiences in all participating chapters. This heightens a sense of common culture. Certain current events should affect everybody in the world, and this will theoretically add to the sense that our world is a real place. A player from Pennsylvania should be able to talk to a player from Ohio and say “Remember the earthquake of 612?” and the other player will say, “Yeah, one of our barons died in that earthquake.” They have unique experiences connected by a common event.
- National plotlines should make the actions of players outside of your chapter directly relevant to you. As is, there is little reason to gossip about things that happen outside of your chapter. People may slay a dragon in Atlanta, but we won’t hear about it in the northeast unless somebody was actually there. I think that a well organized National plotline should make you care about how players in other chapters have solved their problems. If you travel to other chapters running the plotline, you will be able to impact things on a really large scale.
I’ve come up with a model for National Plot which addresses these things. In one sentence, the Local Impact Model of plot involves distributing a standard module which can be run in any NERO chapter and allows players to vote on the plotline’s outcome. I am posting about here to initiate a discussion about it. I’d love to hear your constructive feedback.
More below the break…
The Local Impact Model of plot works like this:
- The National Plot Team creates (or approves) a module script. This script generally involves a current event to which the adventurers at each chapter must respond. At the end of the module, the players must choose between one of several distinct options.
- The module script is sent to every chapter. They are asked to keep it secret. Each chapter may choose to “opt-in” to the plot line, but there are no penalties for not participating. If they opt-in, they must have a staff member who is willing to run the module and the eventual follow-up plot. This staff member will act as a contact point between the chapter and the National Plot Team.
- Each participating chapter runs the module a number of times. Players make a choice. The results of that choice are sent to the National Plot Team.
- After a certain amount of time (3 months for a short plot, 1 year for a long plot), The National Plot Team tabulates all the choices made by players all over the country. They then create a follow-up script in which players must deals with the results of those decisions. This is then run in every participating chapter.
Here’s a really basic example of how this might work.
- The plotline deals with a giant elemental storm which is about to hit Tyrra. Augurs have prophecized that the storm is coming in the year 612. When the storm hits, it will have taken one of four flavors: fire, stone, ice, or lightning.
- Elemental nodes have appeared all over Avalon, guarded by hostile creatures. People can visit these nodes and, through concentration, attune them to one of the four elements. After a node is attuned, it will remain locked into that state until the storm hits. About three nodes appear in each chapter.
- Each node is like a vote for the final flavor of the storm. Each chapter gets three votes (module instances). At the end of the year 611, all the votes are counted up, and the National Plot Team will announce (through their augur NPCs) which flavor of elemental storm is about to ravage Tyrra.
- The National Plot Team sends out a follow-up script which describes a module in which adventurers have to defend <something chosen by the local plot team> from elemental creatures. The monsters or challenges faced on that module are related to the choices made all over the country during the decision phase.
What I like best about this model is that it makes everybody in the country’s decisions important to everybody else. Let’s say that Greyhorn is dealing with a powerful fire elemental right now – so the adventurers of Greyhorn would really prefer that the coming storm was NOT a fire storm. They all vote for Ice. But meanwhile, in Tyrangel, they are kind of hoping that it’s a fire storm because they have a huge number of ice-based scrolls and will be well prepared. So they all vote for Fire. The players of these chapters are in competition even though they are thousands of miles apart and may never actually meet. They have a reason to communicate and gossip about each other. They have something to talk about when they visit.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be all about national plot, it can easily be used regionally to create current events and plotlines specific to each part of the country. For example, Tyrangel, Sutherland and Therendry are all a part of the principality of Southwatch. Those chapters might come up with a Southwatch plotline that determines the outcome of a current event in that region.
What do you think?