I understand Wizard’s pain. As an author, I want to surprise and delight my audience with unexpected twists and turns. When the response is an eye-roll and a muttered, “Well that was obvious,” it’s easy to feel like I’ve failed in my job. I think the lady doth protest too much though.

Take a look back at Intra-Party Romance. There I drew a line between two different kinds of PVP: cloak and dagger PVP (in which players have hidden agendas) and metagame PVP (in which players know other PCs’ secrets). The pleasure of metagame PVP lies in dramatic irony, the delicious feeling of knowing more than the characters. It’s hard to achieve that effect when you’re the only one aware of the plot.

Do you guys remember that study from a few years back about movie spoilers? The bottom line that people like to quote is that, according to the experiment, people tended to enjoy stories more when they were spoiled. I have no doubt that many of you feel differently. For my purposes though, the most significant bit is the explanation:

If you know the ending as you watch it, you can understand what the filmmaker is doing. You get to see this broader view, and essentially understand the story more fluently. There’s lots of evidence that this sort of fluent processing of information is pleasurable; that is, some familiarity with a work of art enables you to enjoy it more.

I think there’s a reason that TPRGs tend to rely on stock plots and genre tropes. Originality is a big deal in literary fiction, but the pleasures of formula done well are central in fantasy, science-fiction, and adventure genres. Get the plot out of the way and suddenly you’re free to revel in the other elements: special effects, character development, costuming, artistry…. What happens when we translate that to the tabletop? Well try this on for size: Plot tends to be the GM’s department. When the GM’s plot gets out of the way, the players’ contributions are better able to take center stage. You’d think Wizard would be happy about that.

So what do you think? Do you strive for originality and surprise when you GM? Or are you content to let your “what” take a back seat to the players’ “how”? Tell us all about your favorite plot twists down in the comments! What worked, what failed, and how do you do a “big reveal” well?

 

REQUEST A SKETCH! So you know how we’ve got a sketch feed on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon? By default it’s full of Laurel’s warm up sketches, illustrations not posted elsewhere, design concepts for current and new characters, and the occasional pin-up shot. But inspiration is hard sometimes. That’s why we love it when patrons come to us with requests. So hit us up on the other side of the Patreon wall and tell us what you want to see!