The Dark Art of Plot Twists

The Dark Art of Plot Twists

An element of devious artistry is required to create a good plot twist.

“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”

- Severus Snape, The Half-Blood Prince

Players are expected to set their 'real world' knowledge aside and act in character. Like dark wizards, the GM has no such constraints.

Quick update before I continue: Plot twists are the life-blood of a great adventure. Each of the 33 plot templates that come with Adventure Builder have multiple plot twists to choose from.

You can play to your players as much as to the characters they play because inevitably the two are linked.

Listening to out of character (OOC) chat around the table offers insight into how the game is going.  It's wicked. But wicked fun to blindside your players.

Plot twists can escalate over time.  Both players and PCs learn from previous experiences and so creating an unexpected reveal becomes increasingly difficult the more you run for a particular group.

A few tips to help things along:

1). Play the Long Game.  If a character is going to offer misinformation, try to establish a pre-existing trust between them and the party.

Create at least two occasions, ahead of the misinformation, where their interaction was perfectly honest.

2). Obvious Misdirection. Present the players with something subtle, but not quite subtle enough.

This allows them to spot it and avoid being duped.  Human nature is such that they will confidently take an alternative option as a result.  This can lead to a miscalculation and an entertaining plot twist!

3). Preconceptions.  Combining in-character preconceptions with the players' own previous in-game experiences gives you a fairly good idea of how players will react to a given scenario.

Players can travel what seems like an entertaining but unsurprising route only to arrive at an unexpected destination! Show your players what they expect - then surprise them later.

4) No Plot Twist. If you want to really throw your players off, have the occasional plot with no plot twist at all! Throughout the next adventure, they'll constantly be expecting something bad to happen. Some NPC ally from the previous adventure to backstab them. But it will never come.

When planning a plot it can be helpful to think about several end scenarios instead of just one. Of these, try selecting the least obvious for an instant plot twist.

Have fun and keep your players guessing! They'll be glad you did.
-Stolph (Ed)

Check out the many plot twists that come with Adventure Builder.

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