“Once upon a time…”
Somehow, we never truly grow tired of those opening words. They speak of an adventure yet to be told, history — real or imagined — about to be made. The challenge here, of course, is that there's more than one story being told. There is no one single character you can point to and say, "There goes the hero of the story." Not even your own. Because each character created on the grid is the protagonist of his or her own story.
Coming in fresh to a new environment, a new story that's already in progress, isn't easy. So, this is where we start you from the beginning.
Once upon a time, in the Tri-Cities…
The Story So Far…
Earth-626 isn't an easy place to live. Not for some people, anyway. For others, it's a walk in the park. It all depends on your point of view.
Throughout history, there have always been stories of those greater than ordinary men — blessed by the gods or in league with devils. Take your pick. But, myth and legend are replete with tales of gods and demons, sorcerers and witches, heroes and villains, all of them larger than life. Superstition, modern thought claims, was the cause of all of that.
Except it wasn't. Not really.
Indeed, what began as speculative research early in the 20th century has been proven as hard fact early in the 21st. That there are super-humans walking the Earth is no longer in doubt. What their intentions may be, however, is.
The first publicly acknowledged super-hero was Captain Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, born out of a U.S. super-soldier program in World War 2. After that was the revelation of Atlantis. Over time, other heroes — and villains — stepped into the light of public scrutiny and governments scrambled to decide how to react.
The result was… mixed, at best. There are as many pictures of Presidents and politicians shaking the hands of super-human heroes in the history books as there are news reels of them decrying the super-humans' very existence. Thus, contemporary America — not to mention her allies, never mind many of her foes — is a hotbed of debate and action both in support of "affirmative super-human activities" and against the "super-human menace". The public, and many officials in government, make no distinction between metas or mutants or even aliens.1All they know is that most super-humans have powers and abilities that aren't just far beyond what the average human being can do, they're outright bizarre!
Shooting lasers out of your eyes? Flying at supersonic speeds with a thought? Reading other people's thoughts? Moving objects with your mind? These things are the things are supposed to be impossible.
But, they're not.
To this day, super-humans aren't common. But, they're out there. And they're common enough that everyone has an opinion about them. There are organizations in the America, in both the private and public sectors, that openly support super-human involvement in public affairs from law-enforcement to search-and-rescue, and many other fields. Or, at the very least, they don't oppose them. But, there are other agencies and departments, sometimes (indeed, often) within the same organizations that actively work on contingency plans and emergency response scenarios, in case super-humans cause too much trouble. Their whole raison-d'etre is to keep track of all the super-humans in the nation (and sometimes beyond) and work out how to kill them. It's that simple.
Despite that, it's not a binary choice. It is not either-or. It is a continuum of responses, seen on the streets as people react to the destruction of their homes and workplaces because two super-humans are brawling even while they attempt to protect the good citizens around them, or respond to the rescue of their loved ones because a super-human heard a cry for help and offered unasked-for aid. More importantly, it's seen in the legislation and municipal regulations showing up on the law books in states across the union and in the major cities where super-humans are so often found. Nowhere, however, is it more clearly seen than in the Tri-City Corridor spanning New York, NY, Gotham, NJ, and Metropolis, DE, straight down the garden state coastline.
Metropolis, at the bottom of the corridor in Delaware, with its soaring skyscrapers, peaceful citizens, and futuristic architecture is the city of tomorrow. Crime is on the decline and approval ratings for superheroes are climbing higher every day. For the people of Metropolis, things couldn't be any better. Indeed, home to the JLA and its team of civic-minded heroes, the city seems to beckon those who want a better life with promises of equality, security, and peace. Many villains find it difficult to gain a foot-hold there. But for some? Challenge accepted!
Gotham, across the bay from Metropolis, in New Jersey, couldn't be any more different. Dirty, dreary, and depressing, even the cityscape itself is stuck in the past, dominated as it is by gothic architecture and forbidding statuary. The streets are dangerous to walk even in the daylight, and only become worse as what little sun makes its way to Gotham slowly fades. Sadly, its decay is only hastened by the criminal element. There are some heroes that try to at least maintain the status-quo — a crime rate neither rising, nor, unfortunately, falling. But, if someone wishes to hide in plain sight, planning their villainy, Gotham City is the place to be. Here, too, is where super-humans displaying particularly strange or bizarre abilities find it hardest to fit in. If not met with outright hostility, the best they can expect is simmering distrust. In Gotham, some of the unbowed population (and many of the vigilante so-called heroes, too) may well take to the streets to drive off someone obviously not like them.
New York City. If Metropolis is the City of Tomorrow, and Gotham is the City of Yesterday, New York is the City of Today. Towering, gleaming examples of modern architecture everywhere you turn, the days are bright and relatively safe, while the nights are dark and dangerous. Smack in the middle of the continuum of attitudes towards super-humans, the citizens of New York know life is better in Metropolis, but can see how lucky they are when they look at Gotham. Positioned at the top of the Tri-City Corridor, the city is truly a melting pot of both culture and of heroes… and villains. There, you will see things, perhaps, that Metropolis and Gotham never even dreamed of… and perhaps will be spared that which the other two must inevitably experience. Because the city council? They're ambivalent at best to the plight of the super-humans within their city bounds — until, of course, those super-humans make a name for themselves. Then?
All bets are off.
That is the world of CoMUX: An attempt to recreate the complex reality of popular drama against the backdrop of classic comic-book action. We want to allow players a wide range of RP opportunities within a cohesive, persistent world where the actions of their characters will make a real difference. Can Gotham ever be redeemed? Is Metropolis actually, unwittingly doomed? Will New York still be so willing to live-and-let-live if half the city is levelled tomorrow?
The answers to all these questions are found in the actions of the characters that live, work, and fight within each of these great cities.
The actions of your character.
These logs are ones that specifically relate to the tinyplots on the go. You may want to right-click on the titles and select 'open in new window' — otherwise you'll leave this page.
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Plot Thots Blog
The Plot Thots Blog features periodic musings from the TP team on plots that are happening, or other issues and tangents somehow tied in to creating and running TPs on CoMUX. There's no set schedule for updates. We update as the mood strikes.
Below are the most current posts:
19 Feb 2014 07:57 — Plotfish think plot thots...
- A strange, pseudo-mythological creature whose sole purpose for existence is to act as bait for authors, storytellers, and roleplayers everywhere.
It's an odd term, plotfish is. And more than once, I've heard a confused onlooker wonder just what the hell it means. I can't tell you where I found it — Hell, I might've just made it up one day. (But, really, I don't think it's my creation… I'm almost positive someone else said it first.) But, I have found it an incredibly useful and uniquely awesome term.
I mean, think about it: Plotfish. Say the word aloud. "Plotfish!"
It just sounds fun — like an onomatopoeia that took a weird left turn somewhere near the Secret Garden, and ended up at the bottom of Mother Goose's basket.
We on the TP team swear by plotfish. (We do. Honest. As in: "Frak! It's another plotfish!") We toss 'em about like confetti, when we can. We hide 'em like Easter eggs, tucked snugly in behind a casual scene or under an errant pose. They're all over the place, if you really look.
Of course, you have to be careful. Sometimes red-herrings will disguise themselves as plotfish. But, unlike their deceptive cousins, plotfish always deliver on their promises — even when they, in turn, disguise themselves as red-herrings. (Gotta watch out for those slippery fish!)
Are you getting the picture, yet?
Plotfish. We has 'em. You wants 'em. Trust me on this one.
PS: For those that are wondering just what the hell I've been drinking tonight, it's an award-winning 2004 Vidal. Thanks for asking. :)
(post: tpblog:20140219-1 | tags: tpblog)
A Word About Tinyplots
(A.k.a. Our Tinyplot Policy)
We call the various stories happening on the game at any one time tinyplots. The word originates from a time when a lot of MU's were built on TinyMU* servers. Just like tinysex became a synonym for cybersex on a MU*, so tinyplot (or TP) became a synonym for story plot on a MU*.
Generally, there are three types of TPs you'll see on a game like CoMUX. These are:
These are the primary stories of the game. They invariably affect the whole grid to some degree or another, and are usually run by the staff and open to all comers. Typically, they're large, wide-ranging affairs that may take weeks or months to complete… and almost inevitably lead to further plots down the road.
These are secondary stories on the game. They may or may not affect the whole grid, but they certainly encompass more than just one or two players working on private bits of character development. Often, they deal with one particular faction, or a faction and its rival or another adversary. Usually, these are plots created and run by players, with staff blessing.
These are the background stories on the game. This doesn't make them less important than the other sorts of plots out there — they're very important to the people playing them. It simply makes them less involved. Generally, these are the small character-development plots that take place organically between characters; their day-to-day lives, so to speak. Providing they don't impact the larger grid significantly, they don't require any sort of staff intervention at all and can be created or abandoned with impunity.
The basic rule of thumb to help you differentiate between macro-, micro- and miniplots is found in the answer to the question:
How much of the city will this story affect?
Cause & Effect
Of course, a TP can affect the grid in a variety of ways. Generally, our rule of thumb is that players are more-or-less free to make up their own stories and plots, and share them with others through regular RP or +events without always having to check in with staff. But, if your plot involves something significant, like the assassination of the President of the United States, the state governor, or city mayor, we want to know about it. If it's going to change the grid significantly, by destroying a major landmark (e.g. the Statue of Liberty), we want to know about it. If it's going to change your character's powers in some way, we want to know about it.
Essentially, you need to be very much aware of cause-and-effect in your roleplay. The greater the number of people — PCs and NPCs alike — potentially involved and affected by your actions, the greater the likelihood of the story moving up the sliding scale of plotdom.
Now, that said… It's a frickin' game. We know that. We know that a TP is just as likely to be accidental fallout of a scene as it is a pre-mediated intention. In fact, in our experience, it's more likely to have been accidental than intentional. Yep. We get it.
We do that, too.
But, here's the thing… when you get to the point that you realize your simple little one-off scene is developing into a whole mini-epic worthy of a Avengers vs. X-Men or Crisis on Infinite Earths issue, or that it's turning into the B-plot of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or Arrow episode, well, it's time to drop the staff a line and say, "Hi."
The Art of Escalation
Escalating a plot from mini- to microplot status is pretty easy. All it takes is a brief note to the TP team — preferably by @mail *tp or via the +jobs board — that basically reads something like this:
So, Joe and I did this scene (the log's on the log page as "Our Nifty Scene"), and it was supposed to be this one-off thing. But it looks like it could be growing into something bigger, 'cause by now the cops (or whoever) woulda probably have noticed that Something's Up. So, we wanted to let you know.
We didn't really have anything big planned, but now it looks like this is happening, and we'd kinda like to see that happen, too.
What do you think? Can we do that?
It's a nice casual note that tells us:
- The history of the situation;
- Where to find the logs of it to date;
- Generally what's happening;
- And what you want to see happen.
Armed with this information, the TP team then has options. Among other things, we can:
- Ask for more information, if we think we need it;
- See if or how what you're doing might fit into other stuff we're working on, and thus feed you more (potentially bigger) stuff for you to play with, should you wish to;
- Suggest ways for you to redirect it, if what you're doing might conflict with something else we've got planned;
- Rewrite other stuff in the works to take advantage of or avoid what you're doing so that everything dovetails nicely;
- Send you a note back that says, "Sure. Go ahead. Just keep posting logs so we can see what's going on. And make sure you post rumours so that other people can get involved or spin off it, if they want."
Of course, if we decide what you're doing jumps not just from miniplot to microplot, but all the way up to macroplot, well, we'll let you know that, too — and start chatting with you about how you can get involved and how we might be able to help each other make it all work.
What you should notice, however, is that the staff isn't generally interested in taking over your tinyplots. Read that again, please:
Generally, the staff isn't interested in taking over your tinyplots.
This doesn't mean we're not interested in them at all. We are!
It means, we want you to have the autonomy to run them, whenever possible. No, it's not always possible, and in those sorts of situations, we'll be happy to work with you and explain why. But, it usually is, and we see no reason whatsoever why you can't keep doing what you're doing… as long as you keep us in the loop.
When Things Go Off the Rails
There is no more common TP in the world than the kind that takes an unexpected left turn, only to stumble headlong down a rabbit hole that leads toward a completely unexpected destination altogether. In all our years of storytelling (and, combined, we're looking at a couple of centuries), we've never seen any RP TP that ever went exactly as planned. It's just the nature of the beast.
The trick is all in the redirect.
When you're running a plot and things start going awry, that's when having a good TP outline is essential.. Look at where the tp is supposed to go; look at where the tp is apparently going. Figure out where the disconnect is. Can you bridge it by adding a scene or two to redirect the characters back to where they need to be? Can you just skip ahead to a different part of the plot that's more in line with what they're doing now? Or do you need to scrap the last half of the outline and rewrite it entirely? None of those possibilities are uncommon.
But, it's the main reason the TP team wants to be kept abreast of what's happening in your plot. It's why we're here. We can give you ideas on how to bring things back on track… or we can help you adapt to the new direction. Not every race off 'round the garden path is a bad one. In fact, some can be out-right serendipitous, opening up all sorts of possibilities for new and different play.
But, it's at these instances when it is crucial there be clear communication between the plot-runner and the TP team. None of us play in a vacuum. It may not seem that way, sometimes, if you find yourselves always confined to the same small group of players. But, it's true, nonetheless. A story is a living thing, and so is a roleplaying game. It's interactive. That implies clear communication.
So, that's what we need to do.