Posted by: Sean | April 16, 2009

Coping with unexpected changes

Ugh. I was afraid of this. Inevitable, I know, but even so. Somehow in my little naive mind, I hoped cheerfully that the situation I was in would continue forever. But nothing lasts forever, of course, not even bus schedules.

Yes, faithful readers. My wonderful bendy-bus, with the Awesome Blogging Seat™, has now been assigned to a different time and route. Now we just have an ordinary bus with a new driver, and that means there is no Awesome Blogging Seat™ at all.

Oh, sure. I worked out contingency plans. The front seat of one model of bus can be turned into a decent enough blogging seat by using a backpack, wedged in between the glass divider in front of it and my stomach. (That’s the solution I’m using now.) Another model has a seat that has a surprisingly large amount of space in front of it, making it a good choice as long as you can keep a tight grip on your laptop.

But none of them are as good as my Awesome Blogging Seat™.

So what happens when you lose your Awesome Blogging Seat™ in World of Warcraft? Oh, sure. Maybe it doesn’t look like a seat. Maybe it looks like your guild leader who just got his account cancelled. (Anyone know what happens to a guild if its guild-master loses his account? I can’t find that information.) Or maybe it looks more like a crucial person in your plot, and they’ve announced they’re being sent to Antarctica to wage war on penguins. (One hopes it’s the player, not the character, being sent to Antarctica. In Warcraft one goes to Northrend to wage war on penguins.). It could even look like a major zone vanishing that was kind of a key point in an ongoing plot for your group. (We at Blogatelle do feel sorry for the “Dalaran Scions” RP Battleground Twinking guild.)

No matter what it looks like, we ask again: So what happens when you lose your Awesome Blogging Seat™ in World of Warcraft?

First off, take up your copy of the Guide and follow the central advice thereon: Don’t Panic. Any plot can be worked around.

Second, take some time to sit down and, with good old pen & paper (or maybe in a word document) look over the game plot you’ve been working on and work out what part everyone plays in it. It may look like this.

Katafray: Main ally of the players. Exposition character, designed to feed information to players and keep plot moving.
Argatensy: Plot point, ambiguously good character. Basically a red herring for the players to suspect and get lost on while missing the true threat.
Emessem: True villain. Obvious from the word go.
Players: Your role-play guild. The investigators of the plot. Their role will be what they make it.

Alright. Let’s say you lost Katafray in this situation. Without her, you have no ability to convey the plot to the players and thus there is no story. But Argatensy is similarly positioned. In fact, she could provide that sort of information without even sacrificing her role as the ambiguous anti-hero/villain. Give her extra points for kidnapping Katafray, explaining Katafray’s disappearance. Talk to her player and see if you can’t find a way to bring up her role in your kickass RP guild plot.

But let’s say she drops out. Katafray could step into her role, but since she’s been the main ally of the players from the word go, she’s probably going to be a bit jarring if she becomes more ambiguous. Instead, the better solution may be to play up Emessem’s role, giving them a big part in a scene you may have had planned with Argatensy – Maybe Emessem killed Argatensy because she got ‘too close’ to the truth. That will excite the players, if nothing else. Meanwhile, if you want a fun twist, reveal at the end that Katafray was really running things behind the scenes. Remember, if nothing else, you can always work out the whys after the fact.

But what if Emessem vanishes? He’s your main villain! How can you run a story without a villain? Simple. Here, Argatensy emerges as genuinely the villain. After running a scene in which your players discover that Emessem is now dead, Argatensy cackles and shows her true colours.

I know this is all a bit abstract and tricky to think without being in a scenario. And I apologize for that. But the basic point remains: Anyone, anything, can be worked around. Plan a leave of absence. Kill a character. (And bring them back later.) Work around problems.

Besides, you can’t blame me if I’m a bit vague today. I have, after all, lost my Awesome Blogging Seat™.

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