In T13 we generally keep track of the various plots that are going on by imagining that there is an invisible architect of the Plot. This architect marshalls the narrative troops and drives the game forwards. We call these architects Plot Dæmons.
When you are playing the game you are normally not just following one narrative, but several simultaneous narratives of varying degrees of complexity.
The basic unit of the Narrative is a Story. In T13 we assign every story to a Story Dæmon, to look after it and make sure it happens right. By this device the Story tracks its own characters, locations, events, treasures, resources, everything. This means the you (as the Referee) don’t have to worry about every little detail, as just a quick glance at the Story Dæmon should provide the details you need to run the game.
Story Dæmons are the most basic Plot Dæmons, but they themselves are not the smallest Narrative Dæmons in the game, as Stories can be divided into Act Dæmons and Scene Dæmons. This allows you to focus in on the details of an Act or a Scene if you need to (perhaps a specific scene should take place in a special location that you do want to detail – well let the Scene worry about that detail, rather than the Story as a whole)
Story Dæmons always have at least one Central Conflict that they are tasked with examining. We’ll get to the details of Conflicts and what they actually mean a little further down.
Ranks of Plot Dæmons
Plot Dæmons come in a number of Ranks that have different purposes, narratively speaking, they also payout differently.
|To convey a single event or step of the plot
|Examine and Resolve a Conflict – A short story or an episode of a TV show.
|Examine 2 or more Conflicts simultaneously usually with one main Conflict or Plot and at least one Sub-Plot. A two-part special or mini-series, a Novella or a Movie.
|Yarn or Twists
|Examine 4 or more Conflicts, usually over the course of several Stories. A Season of a TV Show, a Novel or Movie Trilogy,
|Yarn or Twists
|Examine 8 or more Conflicts usually over several Volumes. A whole TV series, a Novel Trilogy or Movie Series.
|Yarn or Twists
|Examine 16 or more Conflicts over several Epics (or many Volumes). The whole series (including all the Novels, Novellas, the TV shows and the Movies), a Cycle of work (such as the Discworld, Dune, Forgotten Realm, or Middle-Earth books)
|Yarn and Twists
Each Plot Dæmon has its own Yarn score, this Yarn is accumulated in the Plot Dæmon and is granted to the Characters Hooked in the Plot during Gain Events and the Final Resolution.
A Scene Dæmon that occurs in a Frame Act may have 8 Yarn, that particular Scene doesn’t pay the Character any Yarn, but does record 8 Sway in the Act. If the Act comes to an end without paying out then the accumulated Payouts are carried over to the next Act (and the Act also pays up to the story).
When the Act (or Story) comes to a Gain Event the accumulated Sway is granted to the Characters in the form of Treasures, Training or Equipment (Descendants) or even just as Yin, Yang, Chi and Yarn. This occurs throughout the structure so if a Story is acting as a Scene in a Volume it will store some Yarn in the Ranks above it to increase the Gain Stories that occur in that Volume.
It should be noted that when a Gain finally occurs all Characters that were involved gain a Share of the Payout. You can keep individual track of each Character’s Payout Shares from the Scenes they are in for real accuracy, but it is easier to take a Share over all.
Linking Epics, Volumes, Arcs and Stories.
When building your Plots it is often worth defining from your largest Rank down to your smallest, but is not necessary. You can begin from a single scene, extending it first into an Act, then a Story (you learn the Conflict as it is revealed to the players) and finally, due to lack of true resolution (see Conflicts further down) into an Arc, and then treat that Arc as a Frame Act of a Volume…
However at any time you can benefit from taking a step back and looking at a bigger picture. It will give you more of an overview of where the plot is going, and let you construct some side-plots that explore interesting side Conflicts that may be emerging from the PCs actions.
If you are running a Campaign where the players are playing through a huge Cycle of 16+ Conflicts all relating to the Central Conflict you don’t necessarily include this plot in every single scene of the whole story. That would get too intense. Instead you may want to look at having only a single scene in any one story that pertains to the main Conflict, with an occasional Story that is more directly related, until the final Arc where it becomes the driving force of the whole Campaign.
Think about a TV show that introduces a ‘Big Bad’ in the Pilot. The whole first season the ‘Big Bad’ plots and plans behind the scenes, sending the occasional foot soldier to hassle the heroes, but they themselves don’t face the heroes until the final two-parter of the series, and even then the story is not truly resolved — ending with a Cliff-hanger into the next season.
Scene Dæmons are the most minor manifestation of the Plot Dæmons. They literally only care about the scene that they are presenting.
A Scene Dæmon has the following attributes, some of which they may inherit from their Act or Story Dæmon.
All Scenes must take place in at least one Location. The Scene is granted Yarn according to the Location available to it. For example a normal room grants 6 Yarn, a chase across a small city would grant 16 Yarn (assuming it isn’t owned by a Mercari or Solo, in which case, it would add more). That’s a +4 Yarn for a Location and +2 for a room or +12 for a city. See Sway and Locations
A Scene always consists of at least one Event, a narrative step or plot point that the Scene must make. A Scene may also have large backdrop events, such as a Civil War which are added just like a Chronolith. A future Chronolith will have a Yarn cost (work it out like a sidestep – see Sway). To see the types of events that the plot may have in any scene you can look at the Yarn cards page.
E.g. A Scene Dæmon early in the story might have an ‘Uncertainty: PCs Framed’ Event. The Scene Dæmon can therefore consist of a playthrough of the actual Framing (perhaps for a murder) so the police or some powerful witness believes they saw the PCs performing a Crime, or it could simply consist of the Police turning up to arrest the PCs for a Crime they did not commit.
Each Character involved in the Scene adds Yarn to the Scene (see Sway), this is regardless of whether the Character is a PC or NPC. So a scene with 3 Grunts and 3,000 Extras would grant (+2 [they are] Grunts +1 [number] <5 +1 [they are] Extras (Chorus) +8 [number] <4,000 = 12 Yarn).
Hooks work by targeting an aspect of the PC that grants them Sway (or Twists) and then stimulate that production through the Characters, Locations, Props and Events of the Scene. You generally only worry about Hooks as you are setting up the story in the Frame Act and Scenes, but they do inform all the later Scenes.
- Handicap — Anthony the gentleman thief who has a “Duty” Handicap “to the Crown” can be easily drawn into the plot by revealing that the Crown is at threat.
- Personality — Gregg the Combat Psychiatrist has a “Healer” personality, the Hook can draw him in by having someone talk to him and having NPCs that need help.
- I-Ching — Di the Ilupxix goddess of killing has hexagram 21 twice, the Hook creates obstacles for the goddess to “bite through” between her and the goal of the plot.
- Geometry — John the Conqueror gains Chi when he acts proud or plans, so the Hook creates Madeline the Sphinx, who will commend his actions whilst she works to liberate his conquests.
Sometimes the Character Hook for a scene doesn’t actually create anything but reveals information about something. This is done by creating a Descendant called a Lore.
Lores are created exactly like a Prop or other Descendant, but they add to the abilities of the Character, Location or Descendant the Lore is about, who will turn up later in the plot. Lores can be Skills, Talents, Powers or Super-Skills as required, but do cost the story Yarn (usually in the form of Chi) to create just like any normal Character’s costs.
A Scene often has various Descendants scattered about as set dressing and so on. If you go into an armoury in a castle you’d expect to find lots of armour and weapons. Generally speaking the Location handles the Set Dressing. If a plot is actually about Descendants, like that piece of jewelry that turns the wearer invisible and has to be thrown in a certain volcano, because it was made by a powerful Solo who was very naughty, well a plot like that gets extra Yarn for the Descendants.
E.g. That One Ring, is certainly an Artefact, and adds +6 Yarn, then of course there are the other 19 rings of power so that would be a total of +9 Yarn for all those Artefacts.
A Plot Dæmon such as a Story or Arc Dæmon may provide a scene with a Motif, a symbol or element that is normally a Proficiency. E.g. A Story may use a “Scorpion” Motif, which means the PCs will defeat a Giant Scorpion at some point, and the Cult they investigate use a Scorpion in their sigil design, they use a cover corporation called “Alacran Corporation” (Spanish for scorpion), and all the guards use Samopal vzor 61 machine pistols (yeah, Škorpions). You see how that works. A scene that uses a Motif gains a point of Yarn.
Every Scene of a story should move the story forward, or it doesn’t belong in that story. In T13 we embody the conflict in every Scene somehow to insure that the scene has purpose within the story as a whole. More than one Conflict may be embodied in a scene (and the same conflict in more than one way). Check further down for details on Conflict embodiment.
So that’s what a Scene Dæmon requires, Act Dæmons are pretty similar.
They tie together a few Scenes, but are not a Story in their own right. Act Dæmons are the next largest form of Plot Dæmon, they begin to add structure to what would otherwise be a random collection of stuff that occurs to the Characters.
Acts are exactly like the Acts in a play, they break the structure of the story into parts. When playing you should try to get through a Story in a Session of play, but if that’s not possible the end of an Act will be a perfectly satisfying break point.
We use a fairly simple and robust 3 Act model for narrative plots in T13 (you can extend these acts repeating the second act structure if you wish, but more complex plots occur from combining a number of stories anyway).
The Acts represent the tussle between the two sides of the Conflict (see below). The three acts are are follows.
- Frame Dæmons, frame the plot. They hook the characters, describe the situation (or even the world in Fantasy or Science-Fiction stories) , reveal the central Conflict (or a reasonable feint) and generally occur near the beginning of a story (although not always). Frames often set the Tone of the whole story (often to a Facet related to the Central Conflict). Frame Dæmons usually have at least one scene per Character Hooked, and can have the following types of events as scenes, Beginnings (obviously), Gains (inherited that Ring, did we?), Losses (for all sorts of reasons), Ordeals (a lot of shows open an episode with a sudden, explosive cliff-hanger) or Revelations (the old tell them the plot ploy). During the Frame the Central Conflict is in its initial position, with one side dominant and the other side repressed.
- Loom Dæmons, usually describe pairs of scenes, Warp and Weft, which can occur in either order. The Loom represents the working of the plot. The Central Conflict being worked through by the Plot Dæmon. A story generally has a minimum of one Loom Dæmon that has at least one Warp or Weft Scene, but Looms normally have 2-8 Scenes, alternating between Warp and Weft – it should be remembered though that if you are running multiple simultaneous stories that you may end up with Warps following Warps and not Wefts occasionally (or vice versa) as the stories interact and interleave. A story can also have more than one Loom Dæmon if you desire (you don’t have to use a 3 Act model).
- Warp Scenes, these can include Uncertainty, Unbalanced, Ordeal (Test/Motion/Obstacle/Fight) and Loss events. Something happens based on the Conflict during the Warp. The Dominant side of the Conflict usually gains ground on the repressed side of the Conflict. Basically something good happens to the Dominant side or something bad happens to the repressed side.
- Weft Scenes, these can include Uncertainty, Rest, Balanced, Gain or Revelation events. Something is revealed about the Conflict or the Characters are “rewarded” by the plot or just given time to rebuild, heal or recover. During Weft scenes the Repressed side of the Conflict will gain at least a little ground on the Dominant side. Basically something good should happen to the depressed side or something bad happen to the dominant side.
- Zenith Dæmons, the final conclusion of a story is tied up in the Zenith. It generally involves at least one Scene that resolves the Central Conflict (read on for Conflicts). This Scene is generally of one of the following types: The Final…
- Ordeal (be it a Fight, a Test, a Motion or an Obstacle). In which the Conflict characters are tested, often against each other.
- Revelation, a classic of who-dunnits where the Detective reveals the Killer and how they did it. The Conflict is often actually unaffected by the Final Revelation (see below)
- Battle – not to be confused with the Final Ordeal which features only a limited Fight, the Final Battle involves armies, or at least minions as well as direct battle between the Embodiments of the Conflict.
The Zenith Dæmon then goes on to a Completion Event (with some Conflict Resolution [see below]) and a Gain Event as well.
Conflicts take place between two things. In T13 we model these things as two Facets, which gives huge scope for developing stories from Randomly selecting the Facets (see table below), but more normally a Conflict is actually based upon the Player Characters (or an NPC) themselves. You might note that Jim the Thief is a Reaper (Burden) Personality and has a Vulnerable (Chancey) Handicap, this could lead you to consider a story that pits the positive aspects of Burden (Wealth, Earth, Durability) against the Negative aspects (Vulnerability, Slowness, Physicality), but again when it comes to selecting other Conflicts for a sub-plot you can compare Burden as a whole with a randomly selected Facet or perhaps with Jim’s Core or Incarna Facet.
The Conflict is always between two Facets, but may embody in the story in a number of ways, and can embody in a different way in each Scene if you want. It is also worth remembering that you may want multiple Conflicts to embody in a single scene, as a Volume, Arc and Story all intersect in a single scene (use sparingly or you will burn through your plots). It is normal to consider one side of the Conflict to be Dominant and the other Depressed by the situation. It’s normal to consider the first Facet in the Conflict to be Dominant and the secondary Depressed/Suppressed/Repressed (or just pressed I suppose). So in a Key vs Gossamer Central Conflict plot we could have the Jocks fight their way out from the oppression of a Nerd run school.
Embodying the Conflict
A Conflict becomes part of the story by being embodied within it. In each Scene you can Embody the Conflict in the following ways. It is normal to only embody the Conflict one or two ways in the story, but there is no reason why you have to restrict yourself. If you are running multiple simultaneous Conflicts you can embody those in multiple ways throughout the Story, so that each conflict is present in every Scene somehow.
- Tension: An unresolved Conflict often hides as Tension, as a Tension the Conflict hides both sides of itself within two Characters (usually a PC Protagonist and a NPC Antagonist, or 2 NPCs or even 2 PCs!). Each side receives one of the Facets of the Conflict for a pertinent reason (Jim could receive either aspect of Burden and therefore his counter-part could either have a vulnerability or be another Reaper, (or perhaps just to keep him guessing be a Wielder Core instead).
- Internal: An internal Conflict takes place entirely within a single character, normally this is an NPC. It is usual to think of the two sides of the Conflict as two contrary emotions felt by a single Character. In the case of Jim the Thief, the Ref and Jim’s player could arrange to have Jim playout the internal Conflict, but this would work better if Jim sees an extreme example playout in a different character in the Framing Act. So we could have a scene where a Werewolf with a vulnerability to Silver is slain while trying to steal a chicken.
- External: An External Conflict embodies one side of the Conflict within one of the PCs (or occasionally an NPC) and the other side in Obstacles, Tests, Locations, Descendants or as a Quest. For Jim’s tale this might be a Location like a Cave or a Vault, or as an ‘Obtain’ Quest.
- Rational: This is a Tension that has snapped into action (usually following a catalysing event such as a Loss event). Rational Conflicts embody in the same way as a Tension (two characters), but now the Conflict can embody as a Monster rather than just a Character – Monsters have special abilities and bring interesting fantastical elements to the story. That other Reaper could perhaps be the owner of an object imbued with life, or perhaps an Artefact such as Death’s Scythe.
The goal of any Plot Dæmon is to resolve their conflict. Conflicts can be resolved in a number of different ways (some more final than others).
- Revolution: A revolution does not really resolve the Conflict, but instead reverses the fortunes of the two sides. The Dominant side experiences a Tragic fall, the Depressed side experiences a Comedic rise. The original Conflict is technically resolved, but a new reversed Conflict is created. The Plot Dæmon can come back later in the game at the same Rank, but with the Conflict reversed. This is a resolution often played for by the Plot Dæmon.
- Revelation: Not truly a resolution at all, but it ends a phase of Conflict. The “Villain” is exposed, their plans thwarted, but the actual Conflict is actually still present (and will simply select a new “Villain” and try again). The “Good”/ “Lawful” vs “Evil”/”Criminal” Conflict presented in many Detective novels is an example. The Killer is caught, but society is unaltered by the resolution, the Plot Dæmon can easily be recycled again with only a slight change to the dressing. Again a Plot Dæmon can often try for this style of resolution.
- Rejection: One or both sides avoids the Conflict. There is no resolution and the Plot Dæmon will be promoted one Rank and will spawn at least one new plot, additional sub-plots about the rejection are possible. Rejections do not pay out to the Characters. If your players refuse to deal with the issue of a local Baron who is enslaving his populace and ride out into the larger world instead, they will return later to discover the Baron is now Emperor having conquered all of his neighbours with his huge slave army. No self-respecting Plot Dæmon will go for this resolution, it should only be used if the Players decide on the resolution.
- Reversion: The situation is unchanged at the end, usually this is because of a failure of the Depressed side of the Conflict to defeat the Dominant. In a detective story the Reversion will mean the detective doesn’t solve the crime, perhaps they convict the wrong man, in which case this Plot Dæmon will be promoted a Rank (a Story becomes an Arc) and return later. Reversions do not payout in the end. All good Plot Dæmons will seek this resolution and get themselves promoted, unless they are close to the top level of the Plot Hierarchy.
- Reconciliation: The Conflict is at least partially resolved by an accord between the two sides. The Dominant side grants conciliations to the Depressed side of the Conflict. A Reconciliation is usually a negotiated settlement, which means that it may not completely resolve the Conflict, it may return as a Sub-plot at some point (it is always reduced a Rank). Plot Dæmons don’t go for a reconciliation unless there is no other choice, they will prefer it to an actual Resolution though.
- Resolution: True resolution of the Conflict means that the Plot Dæmon is actually defeated. It will payout its maximum rewards. True resolution usually comes from the Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis pattern of Dialectic Logic. A sensible Resolution of Jim the Thief’s Burden-Burden Conflict would probably result in Jim gaining a Burden-Burden “Wealth” skill (or Descendant), it could pay off Jim’s Vulnerable Handicap possibly or even allow him access to the Wielder Core or Earth Incarna instead. The observant Referee may note what Skills and Descendants a particular character is after and design a Story Dæmon specifically to create the required Annex from a Resolved Conflict. While no self-respecting Plot Dæmon ever wants to resolve their Conflict this is the preferred resolution for the Players and the Conflict itself.
Spending Sway and Twists.
A Plot Dæmon can spend its Sway and Twists to modify anything that happens during its Conflict.
If we have 3 Stories, One a Virtue vs Sin Central Conflict with two sub-plots one a Virtue vs Awe Conflict and an Awe vs Nature Conflict we can define the Virtue-Sin Conflict as belonging to an Arc Daemon with the two Stories acting as sub-plots. If during one of the sub-plots scenes, the main Conflict is embodied as well as the sub-plot Conflict, then the Arc Dæmon may spend its Sway on the events (and will also receive Sway from that Scene) that are occurring so it may boost the number of cards the Villain draws in a Fight or reduce the wounds the Villain takes a level, but only to further the Plot.
The Plot Dæmon can spend Sway as any of the Characters it has Hooked or created (so basically anyone), and spend Twists only through suitable NPCs (such as Monsters, Goblins, and Demons).
Remember that the Plot Dæmons goals are separate to the Villain’s. The Plot Dæmon can be thought about as wanting to get promoted, it might help the Villain win, but it will not want the PCs destroyed – otherwise how can it get promoted. The Plot will always try guide the Story towards a Conflict resolution that is actually short of true Resolution.
The plot is always trying to preserve the Conflict, seeking any resolution but Rejection or true Resolution, but the Conflict itself should be seeking only True Resolution. That said there are other Goals a plot or Conflict can have.
- Handicap Infection – sometimes the Plot just wants to spread a particular Handicap (Plague Dæmons are a good example). They just want to make sure that lots of people pick up a particular Handicap, once that job is done then they tend not to care about final resolution.
- Annex / Descendant Creation – Invention Stories always seem to be about this. In a plot about the invention of a time-machine the Plot really wants that Time-machine made. Conflict resolution is not an issue for any item Creation plot.
- Character creation – sometimes a Plot just wants to create a certain character (often a Monster or Messiah of some sort). When this happens the Resolution of the Conflict is never important to the Plot, but will undoubtedly be important to the Story’s Arc, Volume, Epic or Cycle later.
Random Conflict Facet Generator
If you are stuck for a Central Conflict you can always grab some dice and generate a random Conflict from this table, or having already picked a Character (and one of the Facets) use this table to generate the other. You can also decide if this is a positive, negative or both aspects of the Facet.
|Loss of sense