Meta vs PrP vs Planning vs Impromptu

  • I am curious on player expectations going to a new game.

    I've seen it in a few threads. Some of the constructive comments are for staff of said place to run more plots and events for players. Others are that there is too much control and little for players to do on their own.

    Taking for granted there is no sweat spot between just enough staff run meta with just enough room players to run what they like ... what do folks look for at a new place when considering how much they want to invest in developing a character?

    I believe in a combination of both, meta that doesn't require a ton of player involvement from day to day, but that players can jump into at their leisure when they can be on. Meta that isn't so earth shattering that everyone has to stop their storylines to at least address how they would respond to the mu*-wide plot.

    As well, I believe players should have freedom to go out and do their own stories without jumping through too many hoops. This seems popular on supers places, practically a requirement. We can call it sandboxing if folks prefer, just I think the mu* should in part be the sandbox, not the TP rooms only; anything shy of changing the sandbox.

    I prefer on the fly impromptu over heavily planning the meta as well, so it can be influenced by the players and their decisions as it develops. I don't plan a series of events for them to participate in, I put up a few npcs (groups and individuals) and potential obstacles (other potential environmental concerns) and establish something is happening (murder plot, take over the underworld faction, strong arm someone, open the gates of hell portal, whatever), and let them go about it as they may after interacting with a group to learn something is happening.

    Just lately, there were a couple threads that suggest staff should be driving nearly everything but near the end of the Multiverse thread, one person noted the trend towards all the planning/time scheduling that is more and more common is sort of killing the impromptu nature that made it fun to begin with.

    TL;DR: What is better, staff controlled meta or player run driven plots, with impromptu being viable vs all the scheduling that seems to go into plots these days (as suggested and pointed out by many)?

    I'm honestly curious what folks tend to prefer and if I need to change my ways these days to try to account for what the trends might be.

  • I feel like the answer to this question is always, do the best you can to find the illusive happy medium, because both staff-run plots and the feeling that I can do shit if I want to do shit are necessary for me to invest in a game. What turns me off are the extremes. I'll leave a game where staff runs no story much faster, I guess, because I'm just not into the disconnected sandbox 'All PrP all the time' thing. It's just not a style I particularly jive with.

    I prefer scheduled scenes these days because otherwise I'm, realistically, going to miss most shit that happens, just because my time is somewhat limited and MU*ing is a thing I fit in (and I'm not nearly as limited as a lot of other players, even with that). Doesn't mean I h8 the idea of impromptu scenes, just that I'm probably not going to be able to get in on stuff if all scenes are totally rando. I also think STs should have the freedom to do unpredictable shit if they want, though. Like the above, I think it's a balance.

    I've also, honestly, never thought of 'PrP' as 'do something vaguely more interesting than meet-and-greet coffee shop RP'. I think of them as actual plots, however long they last, that are a bit more involved than random one-off scenes you decide to do off the cuff one night. I come from cultures where if I want to run a random bar fight, or do little riffs with an NPC in the background of a scene, that's just regular RP and I've never had anybody get weird about it with me. I get that this isn't the case everywhere, though, and this is one of those conversations that seems to come down to 'how are we defining this word' as much as what people want out of PrPs and game rules surrounding them.

  • Banned

    I've always been partial to player-driven plots. So when I was ST on these Chats (very similar to MU*'s, but they're not over Telnet, basically), I would always put in outright wet noodles in these high administrative positions. Just so a PC could kick their ass out with some power play.

    But it never happened. I think players were all worried that I'd ban them or something for fucking with mai STPCz, even though they were deliberately made to be kind of limp wristed and lame.

  • Pitcrew

    I can honestly say the best answer is both. I do think there need to be some staff run meta-plot to keep the game together instead of becoming dozens of little sandboxes. However on any decently sized game that can't be the only plot, too few staffers and well they need to be able to have some plotty fun to so allow Players to run things in the gaps in the meta plot.
    Ideally staff would set aside certain aspects for the meta plot and let the players have the rest to play with.
    An off the cuff example, lets say you are running a Forsaken game, if you have a meta plot that is planned to use the Beshilu prominently make an announcement or +news file stating they are not for PrP use but let the player runner freely use all the various other antagonists.
    Note my preferrred policy on PrPs is to have set policy in advance detailing what is and is not allowed then trusting the players to follow them rather then have individual plots approved.

  • Admin

    I expect three things from any game. If I can't find any of those I walk away.

    1. Overall sanity from staff. If they give me bad vibes I'm gone.

    2. The trains to run on time. If I spend too long in CGen, if +jobs (especially time sensitive ones) take weeks to get an answer, I'm gone.

    3. Relative freedom in plot-running. I'm happy to report and document but if there are too many hoops in my way, I walk.

    Those are the deal-breakers, the bare minimums... but what matters is the execution, not the theory.

    The implementation is where most MU* which fail do - they have good ideas but they don't execute them. They say they want to run one thing but in practice it's another. So for instance they'll claim they are all about plots but they become so overwhelmed just keeping up with +jobs they can't run anything. Then they realize people who promised they'd run plot don't, or only do very few, and since a few sporadic PrPs can't support the playerbase (or some fade out) it all falls apart at the seams.

    Games aren't magic, 90% of it is work. You can't just come up with a good idea, make a nice looking wiki and be off to the races - unfortunately.

  • The responses suggest a mix, enough meta to make the game coherent and the shared experience really shared, with room to actually develop personal stories and plots at players leisure.

    As everyone seems to think a bit of staff meta is needed, how much staff meta is needed to keep the verisimilitude as opposed to how much draws the line at staff control too much? I understand it will completely very based on theme and scale/scope of the game.

    The difference I'm looking at is Mu-wide, everyone should be involved versus occasional ongoing meta plots that will affect the 'global' scale of the particular game but there is no requirement for players to have to feel a need to participate? I like the wet noodle analogy, but is an unstrung group of wet noodles for the player base to beat up on not enough to keep some interest in the game; ie 'No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again.'

    All opinion, but so far, I'm considering looking a little differently from top down from the few answers here, thanks for the responses.

  • I feel like some metaplot from staff is critical if only because without the framing story most PrPs are going to be wandering in the dark. But flexibility from staff and availability for PrPs to happen is also necessary because it's critical that player initiative not be stifled for a game to chug along at a healthy intensity.

  • @saosmash I agree.

    The staff need to set the game up so there are stories to tell in order for PrP's to work, there needs to be meat and potatoes to get the imagination going and for people to be able to find direction out of what is presented in order to forge their own stories.

    Without that metaplot people will soon lose interest, especially if the game isn't alive and the players have zero agency and effect on the world itself through their actions, or inactions.

  • Pitcrew

    This thread has given me ideas. I need to mull them over before I start spewing words, though.

  • @saosmash & @Lithium

    That's perfect. That's the part I was curious about, and yes aside from that theme has to be an appeal in and of itself, but the enough meat and potatoes to show something is happening, with enough room for player PrP, plots and divergence is great. Its inspiring too, but I'll say no more, I'm curious to see what @Sunny has before I get to writing. I will say this is encouraging to help focus on some meta I've had going at my place, give it a better refinement to fit into the meat and potatoes section.

  • I don't feel like all game-wide plots staff run have to be saving the world, either. They can sometimes, but I like larger-scale stuff that isn't Mega Destruction, but still reinforces major aspects of the setting, or introduces smaller changes to the status quo.

  • Admin

    @Three-Eyed-Crow said in Meta vs PrP vs Planning vs Impromptu:

    I don't feel like all game-wide plots staff run have to be saving the world, either. They can sometimes, but I like larger-scale stuff that isn't Mega Destruction, but still reinforces major aspects of the setting, or introduces smaller changes to the status quo.

    Two issues I've had with world-saving plots:

    1. They cheapen risk. You can't escalate up, and after the tenth time the damn planet is saved it's not really a global emergency this time, it's just Tuesday.

    2. It's hard to keep it straight when a ST drops off the side of the planet (i.e. it's Wednesday) and the plot is orphaned; no one saved us, so why are we still here?

    As for the status quo, changing it through plot is by far - and I mean by very far the hardest thing for a game to implement. Not saying it's not doable or worth it, but although it sounds doable or even obvious the logistics involved make it really hard unless you design the MU* around it.

  • I really liked @tragedyjones's approach to this on Reno, which is what I personally plan to steal forever after.

    Nothing world-ending, but plots roughly structured like a season of a television show: the events are large and transformative, but not 'solve the riddle or everyone dies'. 6 months or so of something led by staff that has the potential to involve the majority of the grid if they wish to participate, and is primarily a spur to get things moving in broad strokes rather than a micro-managed true metaplot.

    One season ends, there's some downtime, and then another begins with a different focus, ideally allowing others to become involved with a different specific interest.

  • We've been using a season structure for our metaplot on one of my games and I'm really enjoying it. It translates so well to this medium and leaves a lot of room for flexibility while still providing direction. I mean, mileage may vary -- I'm staffing the game so I don't know what the PrP opinion is -- but I think it's been a really successful experiment in terms of structure. A lot better than stuff I've tried to do in the past with broad sweeping arcs.

  • @Three-Eyed-Crow said in Meta vs PrP vs Planning vs Impromptu:

    I don't feel like all game-wide plots staff run have to be saving the world, either. They can sometimes, but I like larger-scale stuff that isn't Mega Destruction, but still reinforces major aspects of the setting, or introduces smaller changes to the status quo.

    On Haunted Memories, we Changelings once had a sphere wide plot of figuring out how Hedge Sharks got in our swimming hole. It was extremely short but man was it fun.

    Killing a train: Fun. Going to war: Fun. Also keep in mind that a game-wide plot often doesn't involve the entire game.

  • Pitcrew


    Oh, don't wait for me. I mull things over for forever. Just considering how the community could do more of a hybrid between OTT games and your typical persistent-world mush.

  • @Sunny said in Meta vs PrP vs Planning vs Impromptu:


    Oh, don't wait for me. I mull things over for forever. Just considering how the community could do more of a hybrid between OTT games and your typical persistent-world mush.

    I'm completely on board ....

    @Lotherio said in Kinds of Mu*s Wanted:

    I would like to see an OTT/multi game/genre Mu* that uses a home brew version of the recent'ish 6d6 system ( that is balanced towards a mu* environment. Because I might want a western one day and Hong Kong Action the next.

    System not withstanding, I think one mu and its system could and should be utilized for a few games. Instead of folks swapping a mu when it suits there fancy (western to kung fu), they can just pick up a character in that campaign for a few scenes, or join the meta, or just run some of their own PrP stuff.

    In fact, I remember when it was almost a thing last year. You might of seen me idling/rp'ing there under the name Demos (the same few months last year I was giving KD a go and trying a little with Somerville).

    Edit: spelling

  • I don't like saving the world plots because there's only more saving the world. Oh I suppose you could go up to saving the galaxy, or the universe, or whatever but... it's a scale that would just get redundant.

    I believe large arcs should be more than just saving the planet, there should be the chance to fundamentally /alter/ some aspect or aspects of the game world, to have a definite impact and a good meta plot/arc has the ability to end in a variety of fashions. Like, if there was say twenty different major plots in the arc. the players resolved 10 one way, 3 another, 2 another and failed 5, but out of the 5 failed 3 were failed one way and 2 another.

    You have to be able to write out the results in a way that make sense as to those individual resolutions in addition to the overall story resolution.

    Also: Win or Lose, plot/arc resolutions need to lead to /more/ stories. Don't pain yourself into a corner.

  • Pitcrew

    One of the best ways to avoid stagnation via plot is to make the plot a change one way or the other.

    You start off with the Status Quo and then you give people a choice: You can let the "bad guys" get away witht heir plan (i.e. you fail) and you get Crapsack World or you can do what's necessary to stop them and get New Status Quo.

    But the important bit is to make Status Quo and New Status Quo fundamentally different, that way it doesn't feel like beating the bad guys is just a return to how things were; and if the PCs fail, it's still a change.

    This is what I was gonna do on Eldritch 'fore I burned out.

  • That's awesome stuff @Lithium & @Coin.

    That sounds like the heart of it right there. Coupled with other responses, I'm seeing a good basis for staff vs player control in moving things forward. Or the heart of it, which has always been what makes a place good ... staff and player unison of control in moving a mu* forward.

    1. Know your theme genre, this doesn't change (simply to be stated).

      • Vampire are vampires, fundamentals keep consistency. Physics always work the same.
    2. Know the scale of your Mu as relates to theme; this affects what change (and help set scope of plots).

      • The biggest picture isn't changing depending on scale.
      • Thus, elements or parts of the whole can and should change based on player involvement and not staff dictation of changes that players have no control over.
      • Staff should offer the potential for this change, leaving it up to player hands for how they interact with the potential change.
    3. Give players freedom within the scope of theme scale.

      • Anything that doesn't outright change elements or parts of the theme scale should be open for players to do within that scale. Remove hoops; if it doesn't affect the grand scale of that theme and won't affect the other players outside of personal plots and stories, players should have freedom.

    I used theme scale, because some it changes and is more meant to reflect whatever it is that has the players grouped together to play on the mu* to begin with. The core of that theme scale shouldn't change. If you're playing dragonlance, there should be dragons (mostly, depends on when the time is set). If you're playing star wars, you're always in that galaxy (the far far away one), it doesn't stop existing (but could be invaded as the books have done). If you're focus is on one city, the city should always be there, even if parts change, blow up, are rebuilt or politics change, and control of parts change, the city is always there.

    A lot of it is the echo of years of mu*ing, but I'm with @Sunny, this is inspiring to read the thoughts here.

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