I’m not entirely sure that’s the right thing to call this, and I don’t think he’s absolutely done, but the project is ready for testing. I think.
Basically, it likens story/plot development to character creation as in a tabletop RPG. As it was explained to me, you begin by determining the protagonist’s objective. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll actually begin by determining the protagonist. Not having one does preclude the other.
Julia Striker, of Striker and Pumpkinhead Investigations. The Land of Za is breeding ground for the strange and wonderful, but most of their investigations are into deaths, missing people, and what Julia likes to call, “divorce cases.” She can summon cold mists to help if things come to a fight.
To determine her objective, we get a d8 and then consult a table. I rolled a 4, which gives me three options, categorised as “Warrior,” “Scholar,” and “Rogue” type actions. They’re class terms, but they imply the type of action involved, rather than options limited to a character by class. Warrior options focus on direct action. Scholar options are cerebral or in the line of information-gathering. Rogue options are generally roundabout solutions to problems.
Julia is a PI, which is a bit rogue-like, so I’ll pick Rogue. That means her objective is “track.” Sounds perfect. It also suggests that the thing she is tracking should be a person. Now it’s up to me to take that and spin it out into story language.
Everything kind of works on the idea that the protagonist is, in a way, literally “versus” the plot. In RPG terms, there are rolls to take out the plot’s hit points, or if you like, plot points.
Anyway, step two is to determine the plot’s strategy. There are four strategies: Puzzle, Problem, Secret, and Mystery. These don’t really pin to a genre, despite the use of the word “mystery;” they’re more vague than that. Puzzles and Problems offer information upfront, and leave you to make decisions. Secrets and Mysteries must be dealt with, or there are consequences. Puzzles and Secrets have one right answer, easy to figure out but difficult to actually perform. Problems and Mysteries have open-ended solutions that you can determine as you go.
They have individual descriptions too, but I’ll just pick one. “A mystery gives you very little, leaving you to decide when it begins and ends.”
Now to figure out where the story starts. The generator has with it what I think of as the line of events in a Cthulhu story. The begin and end points of which are, Someone Screws Up – The World is Consumed. It also works for Godzilla movies. You roll 2 d6 to determine where on this progression of events the story starts.
Rolled 5, Polarisation. “People are choosing sides, and you just know it’s going to get ugly. Whether the sides make any sense at all, you can see they’re starting to form-up.” So there must be a greater thing going on. Julia is tracking someone down while some kind of conflict is forcing the people around her to take sides.
This could also drive home, with her and Hank finding themselves quarrelling over which side to choose, or even going so far as to choose different sides. Personally, since this would be the first story I’d write with them, I’d want them to stay on the same side, perhaps in spite of it being an unpopular one, or to try to create their own side by abstaining.
And really, personal judgement and skill in story-crafting are key here. This sort of generator is better than the others I’ve seen, because it has a greater understanding of what goes into a story than most. But you have to keep in mind when using any generator that it can’t actually tell you what to do.
Let me repeat that: It cannot tell you what to do. These are all a case of you using a tool. Not a Kelley Armstrong novel with a man telling a woman what to do. Because if that were the case, you would be following orders like a dog in a show. (really really HATING Bitten!)