The Handbook of Heroes is an empire built on tropesmanship. Thief is greedy. Paladin is lawful stupid. Druid protects her forest. But you’ve got to remember that this is a comedy webcomic. And as you might have noticed from today’s scroll-over text, princess-rescuing is generally relegated to the realm of the tongue-in-cheek. While I have no doubt that I’m overlooking counterexamples, my larger point is that certain plots demand a plot twist.

“But wait!” says the straw golem. “Subverting the trope is just as much a trope as the trope itself!”

Good call, straw golem. And that’s generally true. What we’re really talking about here is the problem of originality. As creative people, GMs want to feel as if their plots are exploring heretofore unknown territory. OK, but what if the the princess rescues herself? What if the angels are really the bad guys this time? What if these so-called heroes are the real monstersOf course it’s all been done before. And when I was a younger writer, that mess caused me all manner of literary anxiety.

My go-to strategy in these cases is to stop worrying and get on with the campaign. Once you accept that chasing originality is a fool’s game, you can begin to settle back and enjoy your own idiosyncratic sense of style. In my experience, the particular presentation (the how) is more interesting than broad-strokes plot (the what).

But even there, playing certain storylines straight is tantamount to inviting an eye-roll. Rescuing the princess, meeting your evil twin, and finding out that it was all a dream are primary offenders. These tropes are played out, which is why they wind up serving as the butts of jokes like today’s comic.

So as an exercise in good tropesmanship, what do you say we figure out how to do this mess properly? In today’s comments, give us an example of a “played out trope,” and then let’s see if we can’t brainstorm some ways to make it work in-game. All clear? Alright! See you down in the discussion section.


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