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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Basic Plots: Independence

It's technically a day late, but that's because this is Tuesday. I figured that it was only appropriate to make a post about Independence, seeing as that's what me and a bunch of my American friends are celebrating today. So, then, how does an Independence plot work?

Independence: Overthrowing the Paradigm
If you've read my Plotting and Paradigm articles, you'll find this concept familiar. If not, well, here it goes. Every rebellion takes place against a paradigm: "the way things are". Usually, this paradigm is a government, but sometimes it can be as abstract as a cultural state. The civil rights struggles of the 60s are a great example of an Independence story.

Over the course of the story, the protagonists clash with the paradigm, and eventually attempt to overthrow it. In many stories, this will be successful, although it can fail miserably in the case of a tragedy.

First Act: We meet the protagonists, and generally a group of people associated with them, a cause to stand out. Sure, you can have a single rebel, but that's more of a character study than it is the charting of an actual rebellion, a bid for independence. This group should have a reason to rebel, a reason why the paradigm is bad for them. This should also be sympathetic in some way. Even if they're not totally justified in this (Code Geass jumps to mind as a story where the rebels were treated with some level of ambiguity, as well as V for Vendetta), there should be a level of sympathy for the cause. This usually means demonstrating that the paradigm hurts people in some way, some tangible way.

The first turning point comes when separate characters come together, and start fighting the paradigm in an organized way, start trying to bring it down, instead of merely lashing back in reflex or dodging the law.

Second Act: Now that the rebellion is in place, it's time for things to develop. It isn't enough simply to band up and fight the paradigm; you have to organize your attacks if you want a chance at success. In effect, you're creating a paradigm of your own, to combat the other paradigm. This stage in the game features a lot of skirmishing, with conflicts revolving around objectives that are important to one or both sides. Often, the idea of civilian casualties is explored, as innocents are harmed in the crossfire.

The problem begins to complicate as the paradigm arrests and punishes rebels for their fight against it, and things can start getting pretty bad for them. It soon becomes apparent, perhaps, that the solution demands severity. Perhaps it's time to completely overthrow the paradigm itself. The Second Doorway comes when everyone makes the decision to commit to the overthrow of the paradigm, after a victory or opportunity arises that makes such an overthrow possible.

Act III: The fight's been started, and in Act III, we focus on the rebels' all-out offensive, aiming to bring the paradigm down once and for all. This is when blood is shed, rivals square off, and things start to really happen. At the end of the fight, there should be only one paradigm standing. Whichever paradigm that is will vary according to the type of story (drama or tragedy), but something has certainly changed. At any rate, the paradigm has been challenged, and that's something too. If the rebellion failed...perhaps it's time for a follow-up story: a new group of rebels in the first group's footsteps.

Summing Up
Something cool about the independence plot is that it's all about making abstract ideas into concrete reality. For all the talk which people make about liberty and equality, this plot makes those into things that characters fight and die for. It's chock-full of opportunities for character heroism, especially if they're some of the movers and shakers behind the rebellion. It's a great scope for epic drama that spans a good number of years; be prepared to "cut out" long spans of time if you're hoping to run a shorter campaign. Most importantly, it's a way for players to truly carve out a legacy.

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