The Wrong End of the Telescope

As part of our “plot involvement” season, Wren Robson shares some thoughts about shared illusions.

I decided to have a go at putting some thoughts to words on plot, and Empire, and playing, nominally under the banner of “getting involved with plot”.

I want to provide a bit of context, so this doesn’t look like some authority from on high. My name’s Wren: I used to play Empire, played for a couple of years. Had a really great time with it, but wanted a change – and I loved the world. So I inquired about plot writing – and really the only thing you need to do to write plot for Empire is, well, write a plot, and get it approved. Flash forward nearly two years, I’ve been doing it for a bit of time. So I wanted to talk first of all about why I write – and that will let me talk about what I think the point of it is.

I write “plot”, a nebulous, meaningless word, because what I actually enjoy is worlds. The world of Empire is well-crafted, I think – it’s certainly very deep, in the sense that there’s a lot of bloody content that’s been written for it. What I enjoy doing as a writer is thinking of some element of the world that I feel could be examined more or brought to light, and shining a spotlight on it. I want to take that idea, concept, people – and let players interact with it and let them make it part of their worlds.

In the end it takes two people to make a world. LRP is a shared illusion, but the emphasis is on shared. What it gives us as roleplayers is a chance to live inside a different selfhood, to experience a different world in maybe a different way to how we’re used to experience. But it only really works when people more or less agree on the details of the illusion. This is in the end why people write fic, write IC letters, why they play and run player events, why they define personal headcanons betweem themselves. When we do that, worlds are created.

Now, as a plot writer I can act to add new elements into the world, new factors that hadn’t been considered. We can help create events that cause your character to have experiences they wouldn’t have had – and that’s true even if you don’t think you get involved with “plot” formally at all. I don’t think you need to – once something is out in the world, it exists, it causes player interaction and discussion (and sometimes antagonism!) This is what we tend to call, at Empire “leverage”. It’s the idea that the best plots are the ones which let us stand in the right place, and, like the proverbial butterfly, a small bit of effort by us can, comparatively, spiral out into becoming part of the shared narrative of many people.

So if you want to get “involved with plot” - well, look, I totally understand that feeling. It’s how I feel a lot of the time. But genuinely I believe that if you try to enjoy the experience, play your character in ways that make sense for them and are fun for you, then plot might drop in your lap – or it won’t – but either way I think you’ll probably have a good time of it. There’s a certain level of trust that, when you’re playing, you put in your fellow players – that they will live within the world, and so will you, and act with authenticity and with regard to one another. Without that trust, LRP cannot be seen; illusions fall to illusions, and we are just nerds in a field. But with that trust, it becomes something more.

In the end, writing plot is about helping that trust to happen in one small way by making the world real, and responsive; by making it shine. By helping convince yourself that you are in Anvil, in Casinea, at the heart of the Empire that sits on the Bay of Catazar, surrounded on all sides by enemies without and within – that you live within a world.

And whatever you do that builds that world: that’s real, that’s valid, and that’s good.


Photo is from Beth Dooner and looks a lot like a player event. I want to say Pledge Ball?

We’ve got another post this afternoon about Egregores so stay tuned


Adding the correction that appeared on facebook, the photo is from the Dawnish player event, Fields of the cloth of Gold

Because the Dawnish have culture too. :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

Thanks for that catch!