Plot and Player Agency – What’s the Impact?

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to everyone about story given current discussions.  We’ve had a number of people write in on two parallel, but very different topics.  The first is “How do I get involved in plot?” – you see plot and story, but you’re not sure how to insert yourselves into the mix.  Since that is one of the primary aspects of a LARP, we want to offer you some ideas on what some of the easy avenues are to jump right in.  The second is “I don’t like this plot, it should go away!” – on this tangent, I’m going to briefly discuss this mentality and why it’s self-destructive, as well as how to address that concern.

Engaging Plot:
So, you have seen something that calls to you, and you want to jump in.  Perhaps you’ve never LARPed before, or this LARP is very different from others that you’ve participated in, and you’re not sure how to do that.  There are a few ways you can readily join the fray, and be as engaged as you feel you want to be.

  1. NPCs and the world around you: DR is a living world, which in short means that whatever you see or experience is possibly an avenue into plot or something entirely new.  Since NPCs are sent out regularly, and the world exists continuously, this is a simple way to jump in when you’re ready to see what exists.  Have you asked an NPC about a problem you’ve been looking at for the last hour?  Perhaps they know of someone or something that leads to another step?
  2. Research: As a high technology area, with a focus on things your character may not know much about straight out of the gate, using research can be a huge boon to helping to get that edge on something you’re working on.  Research can be done by anyone that is Educated at a library.  Don’t have the Educated skill?  Team up with someone that does!  You can work with others to ensure proper research is done, even if you don’t have the skills yourself.
  3. Working with other PCs: Sometimes, certain plot hits smaller groups than the whole game.  If you want to see what else is out there that could use your character’s input, check around.  As a social game, DR thrives on player interaction.  Just because a plot didn’t start in your hands doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on it.
  4. Staff: As a last resort, you can always talk to the storytelling staff if you have story questions or need particular answers.  We highly recommend using the first 3 avenues if you haven’t tried them already, and you may be asked to use those options (particularly research) if you haven’t tried that already.  Sometimes, though, story needs input more directly.  That’s what we’re here for.

Whatever your method, engaging in plot is open-ended.  If you think you can’t impact a plot, or that what you can or can’t do is pre-established, you are likely in for a surprise.  Every plot that we’ve approved has player agency written in, no matter how big or how small that plot is.  Thinking you can’t impact a plot based on a pre-conceived notion may keep you from trying, and that is a guaranteed way to not achieve any impact!

Disengaging from Plot:
On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes you find plot that isn’t to your tastes.  There are two things to keep in mind here.  First, you don’t have to actively participate in any plot that exists in the world.  You have the choice to avoid or pass on plot that has engaged you, and telling the staff that it is not something you want in your game is viable.  You should not use this as an escape from negative repercussions, but if this story isn’t healthy for you, no one wants to ensure you have a bad time.  Second, lack of direct participation in plot doesn’t mean you’re not going to experience plot that hits the game as a whole.  Across the network, plots anywhere from nationally to locally happen that impact players both positively and negatively.  You should expect that will be no different from game to game, with the exception of how it is implemented.

Now, let’s look at this a different way.  If you think something is hard, or makes the game more difficult, you have the above ways to engage the plot and more.  If you’ve ever said “I didn’t like that particular thing”, did you try and fix it with any of the methods above, or even others of your own making?  Bad things happen in the DR world, and if you’re not interested in trying to help resolve those things, bad things tend to linger when unattended.  Downfall mechanics have played a huge part in a lot of chapters over the last few months, and a variety of negative impacts were explicitly and publicly called out.  These impacts and more are up to players to resolve (or not), which means by disengaging, you are effectively forcing others to solve problems for you without any input.

This is a game based around plot and story.  It’s also a game that values “playing to lose”, or valuing that plot, story, and the larger community above a single person or character.  This is not to say your character sheet is unimportant, but the ink should be only a small part of the experience.  If you approach plot with the attitude “I don’t like this”, and decide it is not important or shouldn’t exist because of that, you are effectively suggesting that all the other characters in the game mean less than your character, and their experience is less important than your own.

In short, if you’re feeling like story or plot is hopeless, and you haven’t looked into any of it or taken any action yourself, the best you’re likely to be able to offer the problem is hope that it gets better while others are trying to fix it.

If you have further questions, or this didn’t answer something you’ve asked, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to have further discussion.