View Full Version : Plot Mechanic Help

Defiant Element
2008-04-17, 09:05 AM
I'm in the process of planning the first session of a Starwars d20 game. I'm by no means a new DM, but I'm attempting to make my game 100% dynamic (or as close as is possible), and I've got something of a mental block when it comes to devising a plot mechanic that will actually turn my disparate group of adventurers into a cohesive group. As things stand now, I've got a sentient AI, an Ewok Fringer, a variant Shipjack/Outlaw Tech, all of whom have been together for a while (the AI is the ship -- it's kinda confusing -- the Ewok's the pilot, and the Shipjack is the "captain") as well as a Jedi Wanderer along with (possibly) a Noble and a Soldier all of whom are passengers on the ship (pretty disparate, huh?).

As I said, I'm gonna make this game essentially free-form, and I'd prefer not to use hackneyed plot mechanics, but I do need some way to keep them somewhat cohesive (since the passengers have no real "incentive" to remain with the crewmembers once they arrive at their destinations which may or may not be the same).

So, does anyone have any thoughts on a plot device that I could use which, while it wouldn't completely shape the course of the game (since I want to leave that pretty much up to my characters), would at least keep them together?

Meat Shield
2008-04-17, 10:28 AM
Well, the easiest thing to do is make them all hunted by the Empire. The reason is why. That depends on the players. Were they all part of an embezzlement scheme and got found out? Were they a smuggling ring? Did they all try to rescue a bunch of civilians from some nefarious action by the Empire. The reason they are being pursued can be good or evil, but make it clear that if they do not hang together, they will most assuredly hang separately.

2008-04-17, 11:23 AM
the AI is the ship

a la Andromeda? nifty.

Go Firefly, I think. Someone could be a refugee that no one's character, or at least a few people's character, can bring themselves to give up. Maybe the soldier is a deserter? The Noble is being hunted by an assassin? Easiest way to bring them together is a common enemy, or at least a shared struggle. Still, it's hard to start with that kind of dynamic, it gets built through RP.

2008-04-17, 11:41 AM
The process is going to take a couple of steps. First, you need to put them into a position where they don't mind working together, and then you need to throw in something that makes it advantageous for them to keep working together rather than just splitting up.

For starters, perhaps you could put them into a really sticky situation that's going to take everyone's help to get them out of. Maybe the ship goes down on a hostile planet, so your shippies have to fix the machine up while the soldier and Jedi keep them safe and the noble tries to talk the vicious locals into trading for the parts they desperately need. Hopefully during this they'll form relationships which, whether friendly or not, are at least productive.

Now you need to give them a common goal that will keep them together once they're out of the initial predicament. You can go with them all ending up on the run from the Empire/the Hutts/whatever, but it still takes a bit of a challenge to work out why they'd stay together in that situation. Something I've seen done quite effectively is to infect all the characters with the deadly Plot Virus which they must work together to find the cure for.

Alternatively, instead of making it dangerous for them to split up, make it advantageous for them to stay together. Traditionally, they can be hired as a group, or just begin to form a reputation together that is greater than the sum of its parts. You could go a step further and give them a Plot Bonus that only functions between members of the group: short range telepathy, a subcutaneous implant that lets them detect each other's presence, whatever. For added group togetherness points, don't tell them how they got this Bonus and add figuring that out into the main story as a sub plot.

Defiant Element
2008-04-17, 01:54 PM
Ok. Thanks for your replies, I think I've got a working scenario. My idea is this:

Tenet 1: During the Mandalorian Wars, a battalian of ships gained sentience and defected. My sentient AI character is a member of that battalian.

Tenet 2: The Jedi Wanderer became disillusioned after his Padawan (along with another Jedi and another Padawan) were killed under... suspicious circumstances (i.e. it appeared that another person was involved). For reasons that I need to figure out later, he comes to believe that the Sith were involved.

Tenet 3: The year is 33 BBY, just one year prior to the events of Episode One.


The ship and its captain are contacted by someone claiming to be a member of the Federation (based on how the game goes, it may turn out that he is in fact one of the Sith). He reveals that the Sith are looking for the ship (because they want to know the location of the lost battalian -- I think the Sith wouldn't mind an entire battalian of sentient ships). Furthermore, he reveals that he himself (as well as the Federation) is aware of the location of the ship (the Federation probably doesn't love the notion of a battalian of rogue, sentient ship), and proceeds to blackmailing the crewmembers into working for the Federation (specifically, finding information about the Sith -- not to mention acting as bait).

Thus, the players have a couple of choices:

They can go rogue and attempt to avoid both factions, they can choose to work with the Federation, or, they could theoretically decide to work with the Sith.

The ship's "surival" depends on either working with or avoiding one of the factions. The captain, who may see potential profit in working with either faction, wants to keep the ship intact. The soldier is a hired gun, and thus he wants to remain with his employees. The pilot, who's an Ewok (Endor hasn't been discovered yet) wants to remain with the ship -- he also kinda worships the AI. The Jedi, regardless of the decision that the crew makes wants to remain with them in order to come into contact with the Sith. The Noble... well... I haven't decided what his stake is yet...

Regardless, I like the fact that the characters have a number of courses of action and whichever choice they make, they can go about it pretty much however they like (it's also not something which they're gonna complete in a short span of time), and the events of the Clone War may very well shape their quest.

Any thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

2008-04-17, 02:11 PM
The Mandalorian Wars took place before KotoR. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't KotoR way before the prequel triology?

Side note: The existence of the Sith is a closely-guarded secret by the time the prequel trilogy kicks off. The Trade Federation knows about it, but that's because Sidious has chosen to reveal himself to them. He wouldn't be particularly happy if they opted to spill his secrets to a group of random adventurers. Unless, of course, you're either in some Star Trek Wars crossover, or you've confused the Federation with the Republic.

2008-04-17, 02:14 PM
The Mandalorian Wars took place before KotoR. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't KotoR way before the prequel triology?

4,000 years before.

2008-04-17, 02:49 PM
if you want it to be as freeform as possible, you're gonna have to get your players to pony up a bit more than just some character class combos. In fact, if you want this to be dynamic, then there's no time like the present. Ask them to supply with WHY they are on the ship, and why they would work together. Get them to have a discussion about their characters and why they are working together, all the while taking notes on their backgrounds and stories to look for hooks so that you can better tie them back into what's going on. After all, you could do all this work for say, the noble, and then end up having the player not like the arrangement you made. So just straight out ask them why they are on the ship. They don't need to explicitly talk about it IC, but that way, at least you'll all be on the same page.

2008-04-17, 03:22 PM
Of course, the ship could just be really old too. Deactivated for awhile, and then restarted. It could have been involved in any number of various adventures for the last few millennia and may in fact be the stuff of legends. Or it could have been drifting, for countless ages in some kind of hellish nightmare where nothing happens.

If you go for that last option, you could have something even better than a self aware computer. You'd have an insane one. (Make sure it's a kind of insane that can work with others naturally)

Another suggestion is that the computer should have a droid body it can inhabit. Depending on how things go, it could have some amount of autonomy in case the AI ever loses contact with it. Or you could leave that for the players to figure out on their own, when you set up a jamming field ^_^.

Blackmailing the characters is a bit heavy handed. If you do that, make sure you also have a plan where the characters can get back at them. The more horrible the better. Ideally, this will be something the characters themselves initiate. There could be part of a session where they start talking to each other about what horrible things they could do.

There are basically only two situations where blackmail is appropriate. The first is that you're in a bleak, dystopian setting where what you do is meaningless and your destined to die alone in obscurity. I don't recommend doing one of those unless you're a very experienced GM.

The other is when you're trying to get the PCs to do vicious things to someone.

I was originally going to suggest that they should instead just be "hired" to do the job. It might be that he wants all the PCs to do the job, or it could just be that he wanted some of them, the others just happened to be there and he doesn't care. However, I really like the idea of using this as a motivator to get the players to do unspeakably horrible things.

That a Jedi is there may cause some problems, but you could take a Pirates Code approach with the Jedi Code ^_^. Being Disillusioned makes that a bit easier too.

You also don't necessarily have to involve the Dark Side in everything either. Another thing is that the Sith aren't the only Dark Side users. There's a lot of Fallen Jedi around too which aren't the same thing. (Some Fallen Jedi became Sith, but some have fallen and didn't become Sith)

Hope that helped.

Defiant Element
2008-04-17, 05:59 PM
Mewtarthio: Regarding the existence of the Sith, yes, they don't resurface (i.e. people don't know that they're back) until slightly later, but using a bit of artistic license (particularly if it turns out that the person who contacts them is in fact a member of the Sith attempting to lure them somewhere), it's not entirely implausible that the adventurers could find out about them.

elliott20: 'Been doin' that from the start :)

Xuincherguixe: Regarding the ship, it floated around listlessly for a long time before crash landing on Endor (the AI's not very good at flying :P) -- and "he" is somewhat crazy. And he does in fact have a Droid, an R2, the implementation of his character was something we spent a good deal of time with. Regarding the blackmail, I already have most of it worked out, and regarding the Jedi, well... as you note, he's already disillusioned with the Jedi order. And I'm well aware that I don't have to involve Sith or even Force users, but I feel like setting them on a grander stage allows for more potential for them to be swept up by other events (to reduce possible stagnation).

2008-04-17, 06:16 PM
Darth Maul was very busy doing nasty things for Sidious in this period, including eliminating members of the Black Sun criminal organization. This included a Nightsister of Dathomir: possible choice for dark force users in this period.
Also, there is the Bpfasshi Dark Jedi Insurrection, though that might have been retconned to take place a little later, but first stages could start appearing.
There is the attempts to frame Chancellor Valorum for corruption.
And if you want Mandalorians, there were fights between them and a splinter group of them called the Death Watch, intent on being conquerers rather than mercenaries.
And Sifo-Dyas contacts the Kaminoans to place the order for a clone army: you could have precursors to this, maybe bring in Jango Fett.
I'm not sure when the Katana Fleet debacle took place, but not long before this. May have been retconned to after: bring up problems like deadly viruses.

2008-04-17, 07:06 PM
Regarding the blackmail, I already have most of it worked out

Yeah, of the myriad of commentary I wrote, I think that was probably the most important one. "Blackmailing the PCs" sets off a lot of warning bells to me. If by having worked it out it basically means that they "follow the plot" and "get screwed around a bunch and can't do anything", you're almost certainly doing it wrong. (That also includes some other NPC cheating them out of the opportunity to get their comeuppance too)

That may well not be what you're doing, but it's something that seems to be such a bad way of setting up plot that I feel I have to say something. If this is what you're doing, and it all works out anyways, that's great. But I bet it won't.

I get the impression you're not the rail roading type, which is a very good sign, so none of this may actually apply anyways.

In the end though, you've got to go with your own judgement, no need to listen to faceless internet denizens who may not even be real people. (I could just be someone's very elaborate persona!)

Defiant Element
2008-04-18, 10:09 AM
"Having it worked out" most assuredly does not mean having them follow a static plot (I'd also be very surprised -- knowing my players as I do -- if they didn't get their comeuppance), I merely meant that I'd thought it out in terms of: "does this plot mechanic allow my players to retain most of their freedom of action."

2008-04-18, 11:57 AM
Alright. Good good.