n Mind’s Eye Theatre, the Storyteller and Narrators have only limited control over what occurs in the story. While you can often predict human behavior to know where a story might lead, things never work out as planned. Players have a tendency to ignore old goals, creating new ones without a second thought. While such situations can be disconcerting, it’s not always a bad thing.
Unforeseen plot turns are, in fact, what Mind’s Eye Theatre is all about. No other game is so open or free. No other game is so full of possibilities and surprises. No other game lets players be as creative or have as much control. The trick is to use what the players give you, instead of fighting with them.
If players generate new plots, you can continue them in the next story, providing that you use them with new material upon which to build. If you let players run with what they come up with, your story may go on for some time. While the story may go off on a tangent, headed toward no foreseeable conclusion, you can usually apply finesse to work things out. The hardest part is knowing when to say “no” and when to stop destructive subplots in their tracks. The rule of thumb is, if a new direction adds depth to the story, entertains people, and doesn’t get in the way, let it run its course. As with all things, though, people can go too far. The following are some signs indicating that events might be getting out of control:
Try to avoid halting the story altogether. Work within the story to put things right. Once a player puts a plan into motion, you can add elements to his plan, which cause it to fail. Only when things look bleak, and you have tried in vain to fix story problems, should you introduce the deus ex machina ending. Essentially a plot hammer, the D.E.M. should be reserved for those moments when the chronicle needs to be manhandled back into some semblance of playability. Use a plot hammer too often, and players will feel that they’re being controlled too tightly. Use it to seldom, and characters can run amuck.
- Characters begin attacking everything that moves for no obvious reason.
- There is excessive character “death” during a game.
- A key antagonist is killed, disabled, captured, or otherwise prevented from becoming a key figure in the story.
- Important items or clues are destroyed, discarded, or stolen.
- Gangs of Renegades numbering a dozen or more start hanging out in the Citadel and dictating Hierarchy policy.
- The moral center of the game (i.e., the struggle against Oblivion) is discarded.
Good uses of the plot hammer include killing off problem characters, introducing a powerful outsider who’ll force characters to cease pointless internal squabbling, bringing in an overwhelming threat that dictates that everyone work together to stop it, or, in a last resort, stopping the game until you’ve had time to regroup and your players have had a chance to calm down. Also, the downtime will allow you to introduce plot elements via e-mail or conversations with players that will serve to prevent recurrences of trouble situations.
Laying Down the Law
It’s your responsibility to ensure that players are not a hazard to others, including people who are not involved in the game. It is mandatory that the normal rules of social interaction be adhered to strictly. Most players will probably work with you in this regard. However, from time to time, there are those who prove disruptive to other players and the environment where the game is being played.
Many times this disruption occurs by accident. However, there may be instances when players get out of hand on purpose. If such a situation presents itself, it’s not considered bad taste to remove the offender from your game. The integrity of your game should be preserved for the enjoyment of other players. The integrity of the game should also be upheld in the minds of those who do not play or understand Mind’s Eye Theatre.