Planning and Running a Tiny Plot
Published originaly as "You Too can TP!" in the Redwall Rag newsletter, 2001.
Yes, you! You, the plain, ordinary player! There's really nothing to stop you from planning and running your own TPs...
What do you mean you don't know how?
To be honest, I used to get the "how do you do a TP" question a lot more than I do now. Could be any number of reasons for that but I know it's probably not because you know already. So, the topic for this article is how to run one. Keep in mind that there is absolutely no surefire formula...everything below is just based on the thought process I've been through time and time again to get TPs off the ground, combined with those of a few other people and the many, many mistakes and mishaps.
The One, Great, Irrevocable Law
Yes, there are a few rules concerning TPs that seem to hold true for almost any situation I've ever seen. And every single time, I've run into one great, irrevocable, all-powerful law...
It never fails. Heck, I've even got the thing on a plaque hanging on the wall by the computer. "Nothing is as easy as it looks, everything takes longer than you expect and if anything can go wrong, it will...at the worst possible moment." It never fails, so you need to learn to expect it and live with this so called "Optimist's Creed". You can plan all you want, no TP I've ever done has ever gone exactly "according to plan".
Keep this in mind all through the planning and execution, and we'll move on to the TP itself.
"Tiny Plot". Plot requires conflict of some sort. Fun events like feasts, weddings and festivals are all fine and dandy, but those alone don't always make a TP. Conflict doesn't necessarily mean fighting either though your TP may very well have fighting in it. Keep in mind the three types of conflict...beast vs. beast, beast vs. environment and beast vs. self. Beast vs. self is good for character development but not really a firm basis for a TP, so focus more on the other two.
How does one get an idea for a plot? Think about potential conflicts you can create, or existing ones you can draw from. Rivalry between two or more groups is a popular and effective basis...the upcoming Great North War MP has no less than seven groups currently on the bandwagon. Basing a plot around some natural event like a storm has also been done well before.
Another common basis for TPs is starting with something you want to happen as a direct result of it, like a change in leaders, a shift in power or some revolutionary event like that. The TP itself becomes the means of getting from point A to point B.
But be forewarned. Working with this kind of situation, you run the risk of plotting events much too tightly. This has been where some of my biggest mistakes have been made so far. Not only does a fully scripted TP restrict freedom and flexibility, you're laying yourself open to Murphy's Law even wider than normal. If one thing goes significantly wrong here, all the rest of your best-laid plans can be laid topsy-turvy. Besides, you risk loosing any element of surprise.
And surprises can be especially fun. A certain fighting tournament in Thornshire comes to mind...Murphy's Law ran rampant that night and among the dozens of other mishaps we had, people were disconnecting right before they were due up to fight. We needed a winner and were left with needing to do some split second improvisation...and `even I was surprised by the end result! More importantly though, everyone had a blast, meaning that it had served it's purpose.
That TP taught another lesson too...if you absolutely need something specific to happen, have at least a plan B available to you, or be able to come up with one at the spur of the moment.
Putting it Together
Got a plot? Great! Now you've got to make it work.
If you're guessing that this is the hard part, you're right.
Plan as far ahead as you can. Sure, it's possible to throw smaller events together in the space of a week and have it run well but anything larger might take upward of a month to get from start to finish.
You're going nowhere without people. Plots that can potentially involve a large variety of people have the potential for being the most effective. Do you need players to fill certain key roles? Find players that you can work well with, that are competent Rpers and that can make a commitment to be there when they're needed. But for the sake of simplicity, keep key roles to a minimum if you can. I'll explain why in a minute.
If you need to gather a large number of people for a horde or something similar, now is the time to get them together. You'll need to advertise...post on the forums or write a MOTD and ask a HV to post it on the MUCK wide list. You'll be doing a lot of other advertising as well...the more people, the merrier.
Check with the owner of the region you plan to hold the TP in, especially if it will dynamically affect the place and it's not your own. Some regions have their own guidelines surrounding TPs...Redwall, for example, is very picky about letting hordes attack, the place would be under constant siege otherwise. Stuff with a MUCK wide effect such as weather ought to be cleared with a wiz, but there's likely no reason that they won't be more than happy to help you.
Set definite dates for events and stick to them. This also involves making sure all the needed key players can be there and having your plan B readily available. I stressed keeping key characters to a minimum earlier because the more people you absolutely need to make it run, the more you increase the chance of one or more of them not being able to make the certain date and time. That can make picking a date harder, even impossible. If you absolutely can't avoid scheduling problems, go to plan B or work around those people. Once you've announced a finalized date, rescheduling should be an absolute last resort. Not only is it even more hassle than trying to get it right the first time, date hopping will confuse people, make people impatient and/or make people loose interest.
Advertise some more. Work on plans C and D if you're incredibly nervous. Make sure everyone involved knows and understands the plot, don't wait until half an hour before the start time to explain. If you need anything special built, have that done way ahead of time as well. If your TP group has never RPed together as a group before, encourage them to get in as much preTP RP as possible so they can actually work as a group. Make sure to have at least one person on hand who can make executive decisions when Murphy's Law strikes. Keep in mind that you'll be dealing with people in more than 4 US time zones, potentially overseas, and time it accordingly. Give everyone one more reminder of the date and time a day or two beforehand.
Pause here a moment to catch your breath. Don't panic! It's almost showtime and the show must go on!
Arrive early if possible; if Murphy's Law is going to strike, one of the "worst possible moments" is the hour or so right before you're supposed to start. Usually in the form of someone not showing up. Don't obsess about starting on time...you can try, and it will be great if you can, but on average, TPs tend to start about an hour later than scheduled. Once it looks like things are really able to get off the ground, pin a H/V or Wiz down and ask them to do a MUCK wide shout saying you'll be starting in a few minutes.
Remind yourself one last time that Murphy's Law in inevitable and you're not ruined if things don't go according to plan...take one more deep breath...and start!