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Chronicle: Actions, Plots, and Rumors

For most games, the action doesn’t stop between sessions. The characters fill the intervening time with preparations, scheming and training. The secretive forces behind the plot continue to grow and evolve. As a Storyteller, your job is to coordinate all these complex factors to present a dynamic game world. Grapevine offers chronicle tools to help you achieve this goal.

How to Do Downtime

To use the chronicle tools, you’ll build the events between game sessions using a three-part framework:

  • Actions. Actions are the characters’ activities between sessions. Many Storytellers gather this information through written or e-mailed reports. Actions can affect and be affected by other actions and plots, and can generate rumors. They also generate immediate results for the character.
  • Plots. Plots are the background goings-on of the game world. They can affect and be affected by other plots and actions, and can also generate rumors. Plots are unconnected to any particular character and tend to persist for a certain period of time.
  • Rumors. Rumors are the tidbits of information that characters learn through their usual routines,  gathered from sources such as Influences, supernatural informants, and the nightly news. In Grapevine, plots and actions generate the rumors characters hear.

The following sections describe how to go through this process for your game.

The Chronicle Sequence in Brief

The following sequence of steps is the recommended means to complete your downtime chronicle work as efficiently as possible. More detailed explanations of working with Actions, Plots and Rumors follow.

  • Add the upcoming Game Session to the calendar. If you haven’t done so already, choose “Dates” from the Game menu and click on the date of the upcoming game to make it available to the chronicle functions.
  • Create the standard Rumors — but don’t write them yet. You can do this quickly by selecting the date of the next game and clicking the “Add Standard Rumors” button in the Rumors window.
  • Begin developing all the active Plots in the game. Make sure that all the plotlines in your game have at least been created in Grapevine and given a brief outline. Then click “Develop Active Plots” from the Plots window. This will add a plot development with the upcoming game date to every active plot. Visit these plot developments to describe what’s going to happen at the next session. If any of these plot developments affect the rumors characters will hear, now you can begin writing those rumors as well.
  • Add Actions as players send in their activities. Now you sit back and wait for the e-mails and phone calls to start pouring in. As you learn what each character is doing in his downtime, create an action for him. Fill in what the character is doing and what results he gets. If the character’s actions affect other actions, plots or rumors, revise what you’ve written for those as well.
  • Finish developing the active Plots. After all the characters’ actions have been submitted, you have a clear picture of all the factors affecting the game’s plot developments. If those factors change the plot’s effects on other actions or rumors, make those revisions now.
  • Finish writing the Rumors. In this last step, you have a clear picture of all the factors contributing to the rumors for the upcoming game. Finish writing them all to your satisfaction.

The Data Exchange features of Grapevine can help divide this work among the staff. Send copies of the game file to the Narrators, while dividing responsibilities for different players, plots and rumors among them.  Try not to let these responsibilities overlap. The Narrators can send their work to the head Storyteller in the form of Grapevine Exchange files. The Head Storyteller can then comb through their work to iron out the details of any complex interactions.

Example

Leading into the game of April 4, 2003, your game’s changelings intend to thwart the school board’s proposed dress code policy. Here’s how you’d use Grapevine to help plan this session.

  • Create a game date for April. Click April 4, 2003.
  • Create the standard Rumors. From the rumors window, you select April 4 and click “Add Standard Rumors.”  It occurs to you that you’ll need a special rumor for the childlings in the plot, because they all go to school:  You create a custom-made “Schoolchildren” rumor for them. You don’t begin writing any of the rumors yet.
  • Develop the “Dress Code” plot. You already created and outlined “Dress Code” prior to the last game. You go to the Plots window and click “Develop Active Plots.”  A plot development for April 4 is added to the plot. You click “Show Plot” and write under April 4 that the new dress code policy passes the school board and drives up the school’s Banality by two points.
  • A Sluagh player e-mails you a blackmail attempt. Sally Sluagh uses herContacts to try to dig up some dirt on a school board member. If she finds anything, she wants to deliver a blackmail letter. You create an action for Sally Sluagh on April 4. You describe her actions and alter the Dress Code plot accordingly. You decide one of her contacts was indiscreet, so you also leak a rumor about it.
  • A Sidhe player e-mails you a Media action. Gary ap Gwydion is the darling of the local news scene, and he’s covering the story with some serious editorial bias. You create an April 4 action for him and use it to revise the Dress Code plot, theMedia rumors and the University rumors.
  • You complete the April 4 development for the Dress Code plot. Now that all the actions are in, you decide that the school board postpones the decision on the new policy. That affects the University Influence rumor and the Schoolchildren rumor. The board member being blackmailed sheepishly contacts the police, which you decide will create a high-level Police Influence rumor. And another member of the school board has pull of her own in the local media, so you take aim at Gary ap Gwydion and write in his action results that his bosses are giving him heat.
  • You finish writing Rumors. Now you review all the rumors and add finishing touches with an eye toward the actions and plots that affect them.
  • You’ll see this example developed in more detail as you learn more about actions, plots and rumors.