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Nerd King

The plot taking you in places you didn't expect?

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Just one of those topics for discussion really but have you ever, as a GM, found that the story you are writing (single game or ongoing campaign, goes in a direction you never anticipated - but it just *fits*?  I don't mean that you write plot a) but teh players actions divert it into plot b) what I'm referring to is that even before running the game the game you planned to write turns into something else as you are writing it?

It haappens to me on occasion - eesntially the story almost has a life of it's own - it's like it knows where it's going and I'm just transcribing the details (does that make sense?).  Let me give you a recent example;  Our group are mid-rank (3-5) and their Inquisitor, the monodominant Mordant Crimson (DotDG pg 180), has been reasonably "hands off" up until now.  However I was figuring that they've got to a point where he can't really ignore them and so is going to be a little bit more involved in their activities from now on.  As part of this increased monitoring he's going to appoint one of the cell to be the "prime" (IH pg 213). He has four regular cell memembers to choose from:

Vansire - the most experienced team member (the only original character still in teh group), the player knows the background really well and the PC is well repected and trusted by the rest of the group. The obvious choice.

Callaghan - An arbitrator and Warden of the Divisio Immoralis.  Very loyal (schola educated) and driven. Another possible choice, although not as experienced or as sociable as the Adeptus Mechanicus (yes, the AM has the highest Fel of the group....)

Severus - a fanatical Redemptionist Cleric. He froths, he foams, he flames. He was part of another cell and was the only survivour to be rescued by the others.  He's hung around ever since until he gets reassigned.  The team tend to use his enthusiatic zeal as a distraction while they execute whatever ill concieved plan they have come up with.

Vaegis - Newest team member, an Imperial Navy pilot assigned to the team.  Not yet an official acolyte so out of the running for the position of Prime.

OK - so I was busy writing the notes for the interview that the team will have with the Inquisitor, running througha series of bullet points of issues that need to be included (from his persprective) when I get to the matter of the Prime.  Now it seems *right* that Vansire gets the role (longest serving Acolyte, highest Xp total of the group, well liked in game, well played by the (very background-savvy) player etc) but the thing was it just didn't *fit*.  The story demanded someone else.  For a start Vansire is a devout tech-preist, he's started to tred the path of the Secutor and no matter how long he serves the Inquisition, his loyalties will always be divided.  Plus unbeknownst to the other player characters  (but known to the other players in game) he's never been 100% open and in some cases has been downright decietful (putting the Adeptus Mechanicus, and in one particular case a heretic who was an old colleague, first). The Inquisitor doesn't *know* all the details, he knows some bits and pieces and others he suspects but for his split loyalty alone I couldn't see him making Vansire the Prime.

If not hiim then who? Vaegis was excluded staright off, she was too new a character in the game and the Inquisitor has no real reason yet to trust her. Callaghan is faithful to the law and very dogmatic, but again, as a member of the Divisio Immoralis his loyalties are (to some degree) split.  That left me with possibly the least likely but narratively most logical choice.But the more I dwelt on it the more I thought; why would a puritan Inquisitor, who is a devout monodominant, *not* want a zealous, Emperor-fearing, side street preaching, hell-fire & warpstone cleric leading his acolytes? I can think of a few reasons but none which either outweigh the possible role-playing benefits of having him in charge or make any of the other candidates a better choice.

So hopefully you get what I mean - have you ever been led to a place in the story or plot where you never thought it would go but it just seems to click - it isn't what you intended and not what you planed - but it makes sense and you *know* it's the right choice to make, even if it wasn't the first choice you'd make?

 

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Happened to me in a  game I ran prior to Dark Heresy, but in the 40K setting...

The PCs were, unknowningly, investigating a powerful Chaos sorcerer who was controlling a small mining town. He sent a (fairly minor) daemonhost to get rid of them. The daemonhost's vessel was a fairly nice, sympathetic young woman. My idea, as GM, was to showcase how horrible the sorcerer was... here was a young girl from the slums who had been trying to make something of her life only to ultimately be destroyed and used as a vessel for a daemon. The PC's decided to rescue her. Suddenly, the entire campaign turned into an effort to first figure out what had happened the girl and ultimately to find a way to exorcise the daemon and save her.

It was great... an NPC I created as a one-off and was literally meant to be already dead when introduced became the central element of that campaign and one of my top 5 favorite NPCs of all time. And despite never actually being directly confronted, or actually even seen, by the PCs, the Chaos sorcerer became perhaps my #1 villain of all time... the one the players most personally hated and wanted to defeat.

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Depends on what the Prime would do in your game? If they're just the leader of the cell, I would definitely go with Vaegis. First of all, the Inquisitor could be testing all of them. How will they react? How will they work together? Will the team pull together or fall apart? Testing of your Acolytes seems to be a sick kinda of pastime for Inquisitors and also allows them to separate the wheat from the chaff. In fact, it's a perfect way to lure out any seditious sympathies from the Tech-Priest. If the Inquisitor has some doubts, s/he would put the Tech-Priest in a position where they're more inclined to show their treasonous ways. But metal must go through the crucible and all that...

I know it sucks from a gaming group standpoint. You should definitely reward the person who puts the most in... even the 'siding with mechanicus' stuff shows that the player is into the game and setting. It would definitely suck to just throw it to someone else.

 

So, to play it safe, the arbitrator seems to be the obvious choice. Loyal (ding-ding!) being the most important trait.

Perhaps the Inquisitor would let them pick? Or randomly assign the position each mission? One confusing thing I came up with was for the Inquisitor to ask each member of the group prior to a mission a completely random question... then, presumably based on the answers, choose that person for Prime. There would be no rhyme or reason as to which answer was better. Just another thing to mess with the Acolytes and wonder what the "secret perfect answer formula" is.

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I think he more means the "Oh hay...so while I was writing this, the story decided that HE wasn't going to be the main villain, but THIS ONE WILL BE, because it's interesting, and makes sense, and is not TOO convoluted." kind of stuff, 6k. I personally haven't written anything up, but I will be working on some stuff for a different system.

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Nerd King said:

So hopefully you get what I mean - have you ever been led to a place in the story or plot where you never thought it would go but it just seems to click - it isn't what you intended and not what you planed - but it makes sense and you *know* it's the right choice to make, even if it wasn't the first choice you'd make?

Well, it happens to me all the time. When I'm working on a new campaign or adventure, I tend to write down a lot of material (NPCs, scenes, locations, bits of plot) and most of it is left aside when I finally come with what will appear in the actual games. And then, as I read my notes just before the game, I swap elements in the last minute, because I like it better that way. But then again, I tend to improvise a lot, like running a murder investigation adventure without having decided who the murderer is.

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Happens all the time for me.  Plots start taking on a life of their own.  Minor little elements you threw in for flavour suddenly rear up and become a major plot point because one or more characters react more strongly or in a completely unexpected way to the little tidbit...   Part of the fun of running and playing a tabletop RPG is that stuff like this happens.  Once you have played KotOR as Lightside and Darkside there is really little more to do that is different (and that is a GOOD PC game!).  Every session of Dark Heresy could literally take your game in some new and unforseen direction.  I often end up writing new details into a planned adventure at the last minute or having to stat out a minor NPC into something more detailed due to player actions and decisions.  IMO it makes for a much more exciting game.

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Yeah, I know the feeling. I write scenarios from session to session, with each single one broadening perspective on the past events, even prestenting different or deceitful points of view, yet to be broadened further when Inquisitor's complex plots come into play. Yet, they evolve from one session to another, with events working together like the cogs - events from first sessions (very dream-like and full of strange visions) soon turn out to be something more than they were at the first glance (and different from what I planned for the future at the beginning). Acolytes may believe certain claims that everything they met was not real, yet there are some clues that is not true. With each session they get broader perspective on the past events - the story actually evolves with them. At the same time, however, they still fully participate in ongoing investigations or machinations of different forces - just another thing to be explained later through future events that refer to the past ones. The whole web of plot becomes bigger and bigger, encompassing past, present and future. One of my players actually complained that she really feels like a pawn on the big chessboard as she couldn't see how all events match each other as they seemed totally disconnected on the surface and also because all happened without really much explanation given by their supervisors. Yet, they have their own minds, they make their own decisions that all actually affect world around them. As they are currently reaching Rank 4, they will get to know all events in more detail and complexity, but there is still so much to hide. And all this because players start to play bigger roles in all events and they deserve to know at least a bit of truth. They have to acknowledge some connections and links between event, just not to get lost in machinations.

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 It sort of happened to my group in the last game I ran.

We are a very small group to begin with, and one of the players was missing, so I decided I was going to run a mini-scenario.

A simple 4 hour investigation taking place in a small 1920's-ish settlement, a case of people going missing and a woman going insane out of the blue. The only cavet was that they only had 3 days to find out before their pilot left them.

However, when they first landed, they got horrible drive rolls on the "p.o.s." truck that was left for them and it kept stalling out. This wound up with a little side quest of searching for a new vehicle. (Which turned out to be in even worse condition.)

Then, out of every single place they could have explored, they went to the only one where they HAD to be dressed nicely. (Not wearing bloody bedraggled clothing..) So they wound up going from tailor to tailor, until they found suits that would fit without having to wait several days for them to be altered. Then a simple slip of the tongue wound up with them deciding they didn't have the right kind of money on the planet. So one character decided to rob the suit shop, while the other went grave robbing.

This, coupled with a struggle in the sanitarium due to some failed stealth, a shootout with the local arbites, and pissing off the local ad mech cult, wound up with them being hunted by the entire city.

My 4 hour mini-scenario turned into a 14 hour monster.

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