Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Plot Stress and the Metaplot

Now that I have finished with the effort of pretty much completing my conversion document, I can now turn my attention to some factors that actually have to do with playing.

While there are some people that might argue this point, the metaplot is one of Tribe 8's strong points. There is a treasure trove of pre-written adventure material, on a scale that is not common among most modern role playing games. I'm definitely aiming toward running a metaplot game myself.

 However, for some the execution of the metaplot is a sticking point. The quality from book to book varies, as does the level of railroading. From various discussions over the years it seems like the prevailing opinion is that the early metaplot books (such as Children of Lilith) are very well done, while later ones suffer from various issues, ranging from narrow assumptions about what choices the players made previously, to extremely contrived railroading, to continuity errors and rushed editing (plus in one of the later books extremely poor art choices - I'm referring to several Z'bri that simply look silly). Even without these problems, the metaplot has a lot of moving parts that can be difficult for even the best GM to keep track of.

Fortunately, both Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre have a concept I think would work well with Tribe 8's metaplot - Plot Stress. In its basic form the GM comes up with a list of plot events, arranged in order of importance, and assigns them stress boxes. Then the GM comes up with a list of actions that, when the players take them, inflict stress on the stress track. When enough boxes are checked off to cause a Consequence, the Consequence is the event. If, for some reason the event doesn't make sense, the GM continues checking off stress until the next Consequence. Legends of Anglerre specifies three types of plot stress: character, group and campaign. Once a Consequence is completed, everyone's FATE points are refreshed in anticipation of what's coming up next. This is a very elegant and simple way to help keep track of campaign timing. It isn't intended to be something that is absolutely rigid, fits well into the "FATE fractal", and begs to be customized for Tribe 8.

Tribe 8 can have multiple, interlocking stress tracks to represent the Cycle, Arc and Metaplot. The Arc would have events related to the completion of Cycle Consequences, with the same for the Metaplot with regard to Arc Consequences. Additional events can be added to them as well, decoupling them from a complete dependency on completing Consequences in the lower-level stress track. Depending on the complexity that the GM wishes, there might be more than one stress track within a Cycle or Arc either running in parallel or competing. Organization stress tracks can also be introduced to help with the timing of various goals that the organization has. In order to prevent the game from being a big bookkeeping exercise in marking off stress boxes, use of multiple plot stress tracks probably needs to be used sparingly.

For various reasons I will not be posting my own plot stress tracks for any of the published Tribe 8 metaplot, although I do plan on putting some original material up that is definitely going to feature them. Coupled with a few more ideas culled from other Fate implementations, the Tribe 8 metaplot can really shine.

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