Writing a pre-written story: planning

As I may have mentioned before, I’m involved in a Dresden Files RPG. Thanks to having read the Dresden Files (and so having quite a bit of world knowledge), being interested in the story, and being the sort of irritating person who tears plots to pieces, I’ve somehow ended up as a sort of co-GM…I’ve been doing a lot of the admin, letting the GM bounce ideas off me, adding my own suggestions, providing details and generally being evil.

It’s the first RPG game that I’ve really got myself involved in, and when the GM bullied me into doing some one-shots to see how I got on with GM’ing, I gave it a go…and I love it. I’ve run four now (not all of them ended in the same disasters as the first one, but they came close), and so when the GM suggested that I could potentially run a second campaign after his one, I jumped at it, and started plotting.

Originally, I was just collecting ideas. Some of them come from our current game; some of them are things we can’t use in the current game (like the baddies – we don’t want too many sets of bad guys running around as it gets a bit complicated, so I get to use one pretty cool set). And over the last few months, ideas that don’t necessarily fit into our current campaign have gone onto my list as things I can use: werewolves, evil Postmen, portals, curses, power sites, zombies…

But last week, I had another look at my notes, and everything suddenly came together in my head. It was one of those moments that you live for as a writer – the moment when you can see how things fit, and suddenly more bits slot in, and then the plot all just flows. I’ve spent the past week chuckling to myself as more bits slot themselves in; I’ve scribbled pages of notes and talked things over with Jon and done a stackload of research (although I know I still have a lot more to get through). And I have reached two conclusions:

I am exceptionally evil, and this campaign is going to be FUN.

It’s also been interesting from a plot perspective. I came across a piece of advice which I’ve really taken to for the RPG plots: “This is what will happen if the characters are not there to stop it”. This seems to work really well, and also fits in with my baddie’s motivations; it also means that I have a series of events only loosely connected to the characters, and it’s then their problem to run around and stop the various things. It puts less emphasis on the characters themselves (although obviously they are going to be the focus when we play) and also lets them make their own choices, which in a FATE-based RPG is pretty important – we’re telling a story, not doing a loot’n’killing dungeon crawl.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play the campaign with anyone, but it’s almost been worth it simply for the plotting experience. I can’t really go into any detail as I know at least one of our players reads this blog, and I am not giving him any clues about how evil I’m going to be (although he does know me…so he’s probably got a fair idea). But I’ve got ghosts, vampires, Faeries, fallen angels, double and triple crosses, multiple plot strands, and the capacity for a whole multitude of choices; let’s just say that I don’t do the traditional good v evil split!

But we’re only on Casefile 4 of our current campaign, and we’ve got ten to go…so it may be a while. Oh well. I’ll just keep writing and plotting!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and practise my evil laugh…

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.