3/14/2011-And then…and then…and then…and then

I have taken a look at the Master Mind Cliché as one of the first attempts to satisfy the GM’s dilemma of creating a story around a Big Bad Guy (BBG) without exposing them to the threat of being defeated by the heroes too soon.  Now I want to look at the next level GMing technique to satisfy this dilemma, the Daisy Chain Cliché. 

Daisy Chain Cliché:  This device is not used frequently in novels or movies anymore, but has become a staple within the video game media.  If a story is developed around a series of quests that lead to additional quests which all need to be finished before confronting the BBG, thus creating a series of “have to do” which are fairly indirect to each other and the main goal, then you are in a Daisy Chain Cliché.  It reminds me of the Labors of Hercules, the Horcuxes in Harry Potter, and any yarn where you have to gather shattered pieces of some magical important thing that broke so long ago that they are only valuable to powerful know-it-alls who simply don’t want to part with them-out of nostalgia.  This device has a wide range of versatility.  The BBG can be almost anything; however, they gravitate towards “impending bad stuff” and “ignorant of the heroes’ actions.”   This does not force the heroes into a significant underdog status; however, it does force the heroes to experience the setting. Multiple tasks means traveling to multiple lands where they have additional tasks that further define the lands that they are in.   Furthermore, the device generates an episodic feel, similar to television rather than a movie.

There are some drawbacks to this type of story; the biggest fall into two categories, feasibility and endurance.  Having a good Daisy Chain requires good buy-in by the players, which is all about feasibility.  If the each task’s purpose is only to raise the level of hero or just to prolong play within the game system, then most players will recognize it and not really invest themselves into any of the sub-stories.  The sub-stories really need to have some other correlation to heroes for full story arc to be successful.  In Harry Potter, he discovers that he has been destroying Voldemort’s Horcuxes all along throughout the previous novels; however, the last novels are about growth and understanding of relationships.  The success of this story is that we (the audience) are set out with the expectation that by satisfying task of destroying the remaining horcuxes by Harry, before confronting Lord Voldemort, would give Harry success in that confrontation; only to have them destroyed by secondary characters after Harry understands the greater significant of his own and others relationships.   Harry’s real need is to understand what the antagonist refuses to and cannot understand to actually become victorious; the more Harry understands these relationships, the less he needs to satisfy the tasks.  Although the Harry Potter story creates a Daisy Chain Cliché, the feasibility of “why” over shadows the typical tasks, thus creating a good story.  The second drawback is endurance, which is simply having too many tasks for the heroes to go through.  Some GMs do not want the fun to end and it is very tempting to set a large number of task, but this will get too repetitive and eventually everyone will want to get on to the end. 


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One Comment on “3/14/2011-And then…and then…and then…and then”

  1. boccobsblog Says:

    It helps sometimes if some of the chain is optional. For example in the Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in 3.5, the players have several optional side quests that will weaken the BBG if they complete them.

    This lets your players decide when to strike and allows them some agency in how rough the final fight will be.

    Good post.

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