Plots and Spoilers
I'm sure the reasons why people go to events are varied, but I was wondering... how to deal with spoilers?
I want to run a scene that starts with the characters going to a barber shop, and that thanks to a cursed gilette one of the NPCs will end up spawning a Alien: Covenant-esque backbursting protomorph. If I put the warning in the event 'Warning: Extreme gore' it would ruin the surprise, and I might as well just open the scene with the alien bursting out of the poor sap's body. But if I don't put a warning I can have people going 'OOC Person says, 'Fuuuuuuck this scene'.'
Another example that isn't pertinent to people being disgusted or shocked: What if I want to kill a Touchstone? Not a specific one, but I want to make sure players know this foe is going after their loved ones? Use her as some sacrificial character for my Big Bad? If I advertise I am LF Sacrificial Lamb on public channels, the impact is lost, but doing it out of nowhere might be too much of a free loss?
How do you handle spoilers in plots, and how can you balance mystery and allowing players to make informed decisions?
I don't run scenes, because I suck at them, but from a player perspective I wouldn't mind knowing that there will be an 'ugly surprise'. I mean, you go to a horror movie because you won't be surprised that there's horror, but you don't know what, and you don't know when. That's not a spoiler.
I've run a lot of plots on Pern games, where people tend to have hyper-active "fluffy bunny syndrome," so I just got into the habit of putting a trigger warning on every scene I ran and on every plot I created.
If things did get dark (by Pern standards), I was covered without the worry of spoiling anything. If they didn't, then no harm, no foul.
Something along the lines of, "As always, this scene may involve violence, death, etc., so please consider your comfort level before joining."
@krmbm I really like this approach! Thank you!
One way I have done this with random sign ups is to disclose level/type of risk. (Keep in mind, I've never played on a place that did not ban rape, nor have I really met people who loved rape plots that I enjoyed playing with, and I myself don't particularly care for that in a plot so Surprise! Rape! was never in the cards.)
So, if there was risk of death/permanent harm, I would disclose that. If the pcs would be facing a situation where there was going to be tough choices (vs easily seen rah rah no harm done solution to find), I'd disclose that. If there was a fixed outcome (say, like participating in someone's becoming or a scene that was being done because the pcs had lost an asset, etc) then I would disclose the fixed outcome part (but always would incorporate other elements that would not.). If something involved kids I would disclose (even if the kids weren't going to be harmed) because child involvement I've found has a lot of reactionary elements to it (with people getting angry/irritated/worried about any child showing up in scene.)
Once I had my sign ups, I would disclose a little more prior to scene and invite people to ask questions they needed to ask or bring up any concerns. I always asked for graphic gore preferences (going with the most conservative comfort level), as well as whether or not as a group they were comfortable with group/scene set poses involving descriptions that certain pcs could see but others could not, or if they wanted all such info handled via page/permit. This was especially important in law scenes when a lot of the times a party can be divided during the scene.
I don't think you'd need to put "warning: aliens are going to pop out of people!" But probably it'd be a good idea to put "warning: graphic violence depictions including on-screen npc deaths that may be horror movie gory."
When it comes to fucking with things like touchstones (at least for vampires) that have a very heavy affect on the pc both mechanically and in how they are played (which can be very fun and a risk much desired!) I'm going to assume a certain level of intimacy and cooperation with your players (who would need to describe and give you that background for it). In that case I would just have a one on one with those folks about it, oocly, to find out their comfort level. Or if you are gathering a group, I would disclose that participating in this prp will mean that you are putting your +sheeted assets at risk for lasting, irreversible harm. Most players will not be bothered by that and will welcome it--if they trust they'll get a great story out of it. But people who say "no" to that at first may be willing to trust you with it later, once they see your storycraft and your interest in really hooking in to their pc and challenging them.
It is always a deep honor, imo, when you're trusted with that; but a lot of the time it has to be earned a little ooc first.
As far as sacrificial lambs--well. To be honest, the challenge will not be finding someone willing (you'll have people falling all over themselves) but finding someone who is willing to share the spotlight/work with other PCs to enhance everyone's enjoyment rather than assuming the scene will be all about the maiden/lad-in-distress.
re: Sacrificial lamb
Back on String Theory, our metaplot ran in "seasons", and within those seasons would be other plots. Before the beginning of each season, they would basically look for sacrificial lambs, but you would have no idea who was chosen and in which plot they'd be dying in, or when. So most of what it did was make death feel very real and plausible for every single character around us, rather than actually make us know when to expect it or be spoiled.
Also, re: warnings, kmbm really has a solid idea there. Just put a warning on all your plots, even the ones that don't have anything happen. Your plots can just have a general rating of "this kind of thing might happen in my plots", so it won't spoil anything at all because people won't really know when you're dropping some crazy shit, but they know enough to expect it -of- you to avoid your plots if that's something that bothers them.
Yeah. Unless I am running something for someone specifically, who has told me what they want, everyone gets the same warning from me: my plots can be dangerous, disgusting, and disturbing. Not always all three, almost always at least one of them, and I don't always know to what extent.
Basically it's like: can you sit through one of the more intense episodes of Game of Thrones or Spartacus or Black Sails? Then you're probably fine.
Most people who have very specific triggers are forthcoming with them.
Like some folks have said, I think a warning of 'There is the potential for gore or extreme visual horror in this plot' could work, or even as a general label on your plots would suit.
As mentioned, someone going to a horror film knows there are going to be jump scares. They don't know where or when, but they know they'll happen. It doesn't ruin the jump scares or the film in the least, so I don't think it will ruin your plot if people are aware that there's the possibility of those things occurring at some point in time. :)
It depends on the target audience, at least for me.
Publicly offered story arcs - stuff that basically begins with a new +event accepting all comers - are the easiest, I think, because usually I want them accessible to all comers and I don't have to motivate them too much. All I do is offer a general sense of what it's about ("social", "exploration", etc), the expected risk level, and maybe some very basic IC requirements for joining ("you need to be a Vampire or ghoul in good standing with the Praxis").
Stuff I run for my friends also don't need to include spoilers because I get to talk to these guys ahead of time; I tend to have a decent idea of where they're at, what their characters are about and what they want to do on an OOC level. The tricky part here is to not mold the story too much after those things or in a way they are then spoiling themselves; if they're talking a lot about wanting to go to the Hedge and acquire a magical sword, I need to be careful to either not do quite that, or to twist their expectations in some way.
Either way what's a larger risk - for MU* - is to make people feel like they're in control, nor the story. It's extremely common for STs to place PrPs on rails which is, after all, the ultimate spoiler if you can see where everything's going and you can't even have an effect on it other than to go through the motions. I feel that's the greater risk.
But as for the content... it's a tricky one. My publicly offered scenes tend to be relatively PG13, or at least with no more than one finds in a Hollywood film (that's my standard at least). Little of it applies to stuff I throw to more specific audiences though since they theoretically trust me, and I know them at least somewhat, so I can avoid pitfalls (or communication is open and they know they can tell me if something's heading into hot waters).