Witchcraft and Wizardry fully endorses and encourages plots run by players. In essence, you are all storytellers, and your stories will help shape the mood and feel of this game.
That said, there are obviously limits on just what types of plots do and do not require staff approval. We hope these guidelines will give you an idea of what those are.
Player-run Plots Policy
The actual policy is restated here:
There are only two rules:
- Keep it within our theme/plausibility. Plots that make you say: "Inconceivable!" are really not what we're looking for here. If in doubt, just ask.
- Don't make drastic changes to the world or to other players' stuff without asking first. For example: Having a plot involving a fire is fine. Burning down someone else's place or the whole block? Ask first.
Player-run Plot Guidelines
Here are some guidelines to follow when formulating your player-run plots. Very little here is set in stone. When in doubt, contact staff (a +request is the best method for this).
Make it known that you are the plot-runner
We aim for transparency here on Witchcraft and Wizardry. This doesn't mean you have to reveal the big mystery to your plot. But if you're planting the seeds for a story, make sure people know who to contact when they want to investigate it. Otherwise, staff gets strange +requests and pages about something we likely know nothing about.
Get Staff approval if the events of your plot…
- …involve the creation or existence of a new spell, magical device/artifact, or magical creature.
- …involve the use of any established NPCs not specifically noted as community NPCs.
- …involve werewolves. Lycanthropy is a tricky beast and requires staff oversight.
Those are the only three rules that are inviolate. Beyond those, the rest is just good advice.
Some things to keep in mind when designing a plot:
While the following suggestions are merely that, suggestions, they are all tried and true methods for running strong plots that avoid classic pitfalls.
Plots should involve others
That means giving people something to actually do. Don't just put on a show for others to watch.
Spotlight someone else
Similar to the above point, running a plot is about putting on something fun for others to do. While it can be convenient to use your own character to push the plot forward, don't put your own character in a feature role. Try putting someone else (or even better, several someones) in the spotlight. Which leads us to…
Avoid "Victim RP"
When you have your own character kidnapped, disappear, maimed, threatened, etc., you are essentially forcing everyone that knows about it (who doesn't want to seem like a callous jerk) to put all of their RP on hold to come rescue you. It gets old very fast.
Don't railroad your players
Railroading is when you orchestrate events so that the players have no choice but to follow the course you'd like to see them take. Be prepared to wing it if/when the players do something unexpected that you didn't account for.
Avoid scripted endings
If nothing the players do can possibly affect the outcome of the scene, you've just castrated everyone involved. If your players haven't agreed to a scripted ending OOC, don't do it. Seriously, players do not respond well to this, with good reason. Also, be careful to avoid an outcome appearing to be scripted, even if it isn't. Always make sure players can plainly see that they had a chance to alter the course of events.
Try not to hinge your plot on specific characters
It's one of the most common reasons for a plot to evaporate: the central character disappears. Players have real lives that can swallow them up at a moment's notice. If your plot cannot continue without a certain character present (or worse, several characters), you're just tempting fate. It's one thing to run a plotline specifically for just one or two people. If those those people disappear, they're the only ones affected. But for larger stories that affect more people, it can create some real problems when the one star character vanishes.
Plots don't have to be dangerous scenarios
There is great fun to be had in stories that involve social mishaps, misunderstandings, puzzles, mysteries, treasure hunts, etc. Not every plot needs to be a fight or a threatening situation.
Not everything needs to be decided by dice
Rolling tends to slow things down. The recommendation is to only turn to the dice when: (A) the outcome of the intended action is in question, and (B) the results are significant. If either of these is untrue, don't throw a speedbump into the scene with dice rolls. If you want people to stay interested, keep things moving.
Always include leads.
It is essential to understand the difference between leads and clues. You can run an entire plot without clues (though it isn't recommended), but you cannot have one without leads.
- Clues are fun little tidbits to help uncover a mystery and see behind the curtain to know what is really going on. However, clues should never be vital for the plot to continue, because if your players were miss such a clue, your plot would grind to a halt.
- Leads are those elements that tell the players where to go next. These must be obvious, and require no roll to acquire. They are essential to keeping a story moving forward. Leads are things like the Vera's Saloon matchbook with a meeting time written on it, or the map in the villain's lair with specific locations marked on it. A lead can even be as simple as literally spotting a known villain running away from a suspicious scene. Leads don't tell you what's going on, but they tell you where (and maybe when) the plot will continue.
Keep it within theme
Plots that introduce new elements to the theme, or that violate established theme, should be left to staff to run (or have staff's explicit permission to include in your plot). In fact, this one is an actual rule (see above). This includes things like creating new magical creatures and powerful artifacts. Even when introducing seemingly innocuous spells or potions, consider carefully the impact it will have on the setting itself. For example, a spell or item that allows an instant message to be sent by magic over long distances might seem harmless, but the existence of such magic alters the way wizards communicate, which would have a tremendous effect on their society. As always, if in doubt, check with staff.
Keep your scenes simple
It can be very tempting to create elaborate scenarios and cunningly devious mysteries. But remember how difficult it can be to communicate via text. Things like emphasis and body language are lost. Your ability to use props is limited to the occasional linked image. Too much information can overwhelm players who are trying to make sense of it all. If you keep your scenes fairly simple and straightforward, players can latch onto your hooks and run with them. A simple plot that maintains momentum trumps a stalled complex plot every time.
Plots don't have to be huge. Bigger plots are harder to keep track of. Worse still, they're harder to keep going. The sad truth is that the vast majority of player-run plots fizzle out before their conclusion. Real life gets in the way. Players drift away from the game. The plot-runner just loses interest. These are just a few of the reasons why a plot dies. If the plot wasn't huge to begin with, it can resolve relatively quickly without leaving players hanging. Generally, we advise designing your plot to last 1 to 3 sessions. If you've got more ideas, you can always run sequels.
How to Promote Your Plot
Use the In-Game Tools
The +rp and +events tools are invaluable for attracting attention to your scenes.
The +events tool is best used when planning a scene in advance, such as a special festival, or a plot you have planned. It gives people time to plan ahead, often days in advance.
The +rp tool is a great way to advertise a scene that is presently active. It tells people what is going on and where, serving as an open invitation to join in the fun.
Whether you're trying to attract people to your own event, or looking for events your character can be involved in, using +events and +rp can greatly expand your opportunities. For more details on using these tools, see +help +events and +help +rp in game.
We generally recommend logging and posting your scenes no matter what. But this is especially important when running a plot. Logs provide an archive of your story so far. They are a research tool, as well as a means of attracting attention from other players that might want to get involves in your plot. Also, post those logs promptly, so people can see that the plot is ongoing and relevant.
Make A Plot Page
If you expect your plot to extend through several scenes, or if it grows into a long-term plotline, feel free to make a Plot page for it.
A Plot page is a great way for you to keep track of your plot, as well as for others to catch up easily on things they may have missed. It also makes the existence and progress of player-run plots more evident to staff, which helps them when determining Cookie rewards for the player(s) running the plot.