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Author Topic: Soap Opera Test Session  (Read 8369 times)
John Kim
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Posts: 1805


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« on: April 18, 2003, 03:23:59 PM »

WARNING:  Liz or any of my players -- DON'T READ THIS.  

OK, I was intrigued by Chris Lehrich's http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6014">thread on soap opera structure, and going to go over my current campaign a bit and look at how I might do the upcoming session where I will try to put this soap opera stuff into practice.  You can read all sorts of junk about my campaign http://www.darkshire.org/~jhkim/rpg/vinland/">here.

There are five PCs in my game.  Here's an outline of them and their current plotlines:

Thorgerd is a young woman who was raised in exile who returned disguised as her brother in order to take revenge on those who got her parents exiled on the charge of malicious witchcraft.  She has now married, and just last session the spirit of her dead mother contacted her in a dream and told her that she was pregnant with a son -- and that she must use her two swords to defend the men in her life, naming them the sword of vengeance (i.e. the one she used when she took her revenge disguised as a man), and the sword of necessity (i.e. the one given to her as a token in marriage from her husband Arnor).  

Her current plotlines should continue the thread of her pregnancy and the nature of her swords.  I have background on the curse/blessing on each (already known to Heather who plays the shaman), but I'm not sure how this revelation might lead to a strong cut scene or choice.  Maybe she should have to kill someone?  

Poul is a powerful noble (sort of) of the Brygjafael clan, known as a skilled smith.  He was married to a Lagakin (native) woman named Amagansa and had a son Maushop.  However, Amagansa went back to her tribe with their son, and their village was sacked in a Redaxe (Iroquois) raid.  Last year (game-time) he re-captured his 12-year-old son from the Onondaga chieftan Hiawatha.  Maushop has since had a hard time re-adjusting after living for years as a Redaxe.  Last session Poul discovered that Maushop was trying to make deals with horned serpents (spirit monsters from Iroquois mythology) in an effort to contact his dead mother.  They had a close call fighting the serpents, and Poul may have been cursed by the touch of their blood.  This is a curse which happened to Kjartan (see below) that drove him to greater violence and evil.  

Poul's current plot will certainly revolve around relations with his son and the effects of the serpent's blood.  

Kjartan is a young man and a skilled poet, the nephew of Poul, who had suffered under a curse from the bite of a horned serpent.  He went beserk with violence for a bit and nearly killed Poul's son, but recovered with the help of Silksif.  Since then he has tried to promote peace, and has fallen in love with Silksif and they carried on an affair.  However, last summer he was betrothed to a woman of higher status at the behest of his grandmother Aud the Deep-Minded.  

His current plot will probably revolve around his upcoming marriage and his relations with Silksif.  On the other hand, as Poul's nephew and a former victim of the horned serpent's curse, he will probably also be involved in Poul's plot.  He also will probably be involved in Silksif's plot (or vice-versa).

Silksif is a 26-year old woman and a gydja -- a shaman and unofficial priestess of the Viking tradition.  She has been trying to guide her family out of the shadow which it has been living under from the dominance of Gest Steinsson (aka Killer-Gest), who practiced black magic with his horses and was beheaded by Thorgerd in her revenge.  However, her methods have been rather questionable.  While she did not deliberately intend it, she has set her greedy in-laws against each other which resulted in the death of two and the exile of another.  She also has been working with Poul and others, and has had an on-and-off affair with Kjartan.  However, Kjartan is now engaged to marry another, and the session before last she was courted by Melnir -- a powerful man from Raudarbank (aka present-day Redbank, New Jersey).  The patriarch of her family is an elderly man named Ivar who is suffering long-term from a wound last autumn by Skallagrim (see below).  

Her plotline will undoubtably be about Melnir and Kjartan, though the context of her family will.  

Skallagrim is a 30 year-old man and veteran soldier, formerly a huscarl of Poul's household who now owns his own farm.  He has married a high-status widow, Borgny the Sharp-Tongued, and brought in his brother Eldgrim to help with the farm.  He is continuing to struggle to raise himself from his former status as huscarl into a prominent citizen.  Aud the Deep-Minded (Poul's mother) has secret hopes that he will be the first general of the Vinland Commonwealth.  

His current plots are that he has just suffered financial setbacks to pay weregeld (legal damages) for a fight he was in where he killed someone.  However, he has two new huscarls for his farm: a Lagakin named Matunaaga, and a strange man named Hrapp.  None of these are particularly pressing, though.  

==========================================

OK, so I want to structure each of these to have a plot which comes to a crisis or revelation of some sort, over cutting back and forth.  I don't want to micromanage or plan too much about how I will cut back and forth.  However, my thought is that I will prepare at least one "shocker" for each plot or character -- a revelation or event which can suddenly come through.  

I have one of these already.  Melnir can propose to Silksif.  Exactly how he pitches it will be interesting as well.   I will also certainly continue the thread of Poul's strained relations with his son and his serpent-blood curse.  A possible shocker there is for him to uncontrollably commit some act of violence with his cursed hand.  I need more for the others, though.  

One thing that might help is a list of examples or categories.  What are standard sorts of crises which bring soap opera plots to a head?
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- John
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2003, 04:04:14 PM »

Hi John,

I'll take a quick stab, using general plot complicator ideas:

- Mistaken identity, especially if it leads to an unjust consequence
- Sudden externally driven survival crisis forces characters who do not like each other to cooperate in order to survive - crises include storms, blizzards, hunting parties, wild animals, etc.
- Fever-caused revelation of intimate feelings, motives, or other secrets
- Forbidden love or another taboo breach becomes public
- A loves B, D loves B, but B loves C, and C is in a coma or otherwise unavailable, so B turns variously to A and D for comfort, creating a romantic rivalry
- Scheming bitch/bastard seeks to attain power by pitting characters against each other
- Dickweed or old enemy suddenly returns with newfound wealth, changing the relationship map radically with respect to his/her status
- Old enemy/victim thought dead returns with unexpected revelation about characters
- Pregnant character put into physically or emotionally strenuous crisis, risking miscarriage and/or premature delivery

These are just a few.  I don't have time right now to map these to your excellent characters and already existing relationships and storylines.  Hope it's of help.

Best,

Blake
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John Kim
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2003, 04:25:16 PM »

Quote from: Blake Hutchins
I'll take a quick stab, using general plot complicator ideas:
...
These are just a few.  I don't have time right now to map these to your excellent characters and already existing relationships and storylines.  Hope it's of help.

Hmm.  Some of these are good, but many of these are ideas for new plots to introduce (i.e. old enemy returns with newfound wealth).  What I am looking for more specifically is how to have a good "shocker" point for an existing plot.  For example, a romantic triangle/polygon is an old standard, and one of them is definitely here with Silksif and Kjartan (and Kjartan's fiancee Thjohild and Melnir who is interested in Silksif).  However, the fact that this relationship exists doesn't inherently tell me what the scenes should be or what shocker to drop before cutting away.  In this case, I think Melnir proposing would be a good shocker.  

Some of these such as "fever induced revelation of inner feelings" (also possible with alchohol or somesuch) is a good example.  Thorgerd is early in pregnancy currently, but maybe threat of miscarriage could be a possibility.  I'm not seeing it at the moment, though.
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- John
Ian Charvill
Member

Posts: 377


« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2003, 01:12:25 AM »

Quote from: John Kim

Thorgerd...   Maybe she should have to kill someone?


An obvious, and cheerfully melodramatic, twist to this would be having her have to decide whether or not to kill another pregnant woman (perhaps because she's using some kind of Frankish witchcraft to beguile Arnor).  Alternatively have another pregnant woman show up - perhaps a native woman - and claim that it's Arnor's baby.

Quote
One thing that might help is a list of examples or categories.  What are standard sorts of crises which bring soap opera plots to a head?


Most plots in soaps serve to complicate the personal relationships of the characters, and the thing about soaps is that everyone has a personal relationship with everyone else.

Kjarten is Poul's nephew - both are blood relatives of Aud the Deep-Minded.  Aud the Deep-Minded also has a personal relationship with Skallagrim - through a secret... perhaps the 15-year-old Ogmund is kidnapped and Aud goes to Skallagrim for help rather than one of her relatives, perhaps for him to lead the search party?
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Ian Charvill
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