Compulsory Plot Points question

So I’ve got a WIP story that spans multiple arcs, and each arc deals with something different, culminating in a final, apocalyptic type arc.

I’ve got like, a key plot point that I feel like I need to railroad the story through… the discovery and use of something (not specifying what that something is just in case readers of my WIP stumble on this thread), that is a game-changer for the setting.

However, I have discovered I have accidentally written myself into a worldbuilding hole. Because of the culture I’ve world-built, some people roleplaying as a particular type of character in this universe might not choose to discover and use the thing, because it doesn’t fit their character and loyalties and internal beliefs.

But the discovery and use of this thing is central to a plotline in a later arc! in fact, it is pivotal enough that I don’t know if one of the later arcs can exist without it???

T____T

this is what happens when you pants a story and build as you go, I suppose…

does anyone have any suggestions lol

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Can you find multiple different motivations for finding / using the thing? This is what I’ve done when I’ve found myself having to make things happen. Think of all the possible character types that your players might make, and come up with a really good motivation for each of them. So a character with low Selfishness might find and use the object because they think that it will help people, whereas a character with high Selfishness might be motivated to find the object because they think that they could sell it for a lot of money, for example.

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Another idea is to have these types of characters find and use something that produces the same results but fit their world-building needs…

A warrior-type of character might find a relic that inspires armies to conquer, rape and pillage, causing all sorts of destruction in their army’s path.

A healer-type of character might accidentally unleash a plague upon the world that causes all sorts of destruction in its wake …

One person’s motivation is war, the other healing … the results being the same; one person using the discovery wittingly, the other unwittingly … each person different, but both reaching the same plot nexus.

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To be perfectly honest, I think that, sometimes, you do need to give the player character a little push in order to make the plot happen. While a few readers might take issue with this, I think it’ll be for the best, long term. As the alternative is usually for the MC to be kidnapped or something, which can embitter the reader even more.

That said, I don’t know the plot of your story, but there are ways of having the MC inadvertently get involved in the plot. Can they stumble across this thing accidentally? Can they be tricked into going there at the promise of something else? Is there any reason they could be chased into wherever this thing is? All those things could be used for MC’s that might not want to find whatever this is.

If the MC must consciously choose to make this discovery, then I would just railroad them, have the MC agree to do whatever it is that causes them to make the discovery, and let the reader pick what’s motivating them to do so. Like I said, a few might take issue with this, but at the end of the day, I think they’d be a lot more annoyed if the plot didn’t happen because of the way they were playing their character.

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If the discoverable is as far-reaching as you say, I would guess there would be different and/or later opportunities to discover it. E.g. sexaholic termites are breeding too fast and will soon devour all trees/termite brothels. Conscientious characters might find out early. But absorbed ones might still find out when there’s no shade and the price of toothpicks goes up.

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Jesus Christ, how horrifying.

But anyhow, I’ve mentioned in the past that a big gripe of mine is when my character is forced at the edge of a sword to do something that goes completely against who they are as a person, so I understand the concern about trying to rope the plot point in in such a way that everybody walks into it naturally and you don’t have to risk alienating readers by railroading it. Sadly, well, as can be implied from @SamsonJBodney 's comment, you really can’t please everyone, so the only real correct answer here is to be prepared for some readers to be irritated, no matter what you end up doing.

That said, I do think that what people have been saying about trying to tie it in naturally with every character type’s logical plot progression (within reason - there’s no accounting for folks like me, who like to play to extremes that the code really wasn’t written to counter) is the best way to navigate an ultimately unwinnable situation - not everybody will like it, but at least it’ll make sense for them to stumble across the thing, even if it pisses them off, rather than have some almighty God-wizard show up out of nowhere, snap their fingers and mind control a character into doing the thing, whether they like it or not (this is not any specific case, I’m just making up an example, here).

Understandably, this solution means a lot more paths to write, a lot more coding to be done, and a lot more time spent getting everybody to the plot point in question, but that’s another sacrifice you have to consider making, here: is it worth it to risk annoying everyone by blatantly railroading, even if it’s a 50/50 chance that everybody will understand why you did it and get over it, and it gets the story moving faster? Or is it worth spending more hours writing up more code for more branching story paths to ensure that players come to the plot point naturally, regardless of the type of character they play, and maybe risk annoying the extreme fringes (you know, like I tend to be - the author of When Twilight Strikes could tell you all about how they discovered just how low relationship meters could go as a result of my character’s extreme contrariness), but ultimately the story will flow more to people’s liking, even if it takes a little more time to get there?

TL;DR - Writing sucks, but I love it

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Does it have to be the MC who uses the thing? What if the antagonist or someone else in the story uses the thing should the MC choose not to?

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I would probably just make it clear in the game description that a big part of the game is finding and using the Widget of Power.

Personally, I have always felt that it’s the responsibility of the player to roleplay a character that fits into the story being told. This applies to every game with storytelling elements. Interactive fiction, D&D, CRPGs like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, whatever.

All forms of cooperative storytelling require that people are willing to engage with the central tenet of the story. When you play a Vampire game, you create a character that’s willing to exist as a vampire. When you play Creme de la Creme, you play as a character who would be willing to go to some high-powered finishing school. When you play Dragon Age Origins your play as a character who’s willing to join the Wardens. And, apparently, when you play your game you play it as somebody who is willing to activate the mysterious Widget of Power.

There’s nothing wrong with that, you just need to make it clear from the start that it’s necessary so that people can design a character who would do it.

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If it’s central to the plot, don’t make it a choice. Give the player a reason why they have to have it and work it into the story. Nothing worse than invalidated choices (ie: you decide not to take object, but on second thoughts you pick it up anyway.) or game overs because 5 chapters back you made a single “wrong” choice. These are gameBOOKS. Some degree of railroading will always have to be there. Just try to have it make sense when you write it in.

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Thank you for all the different perspectives!!

I definitely think I can make the player character discover/encounter the thing by accident… so to some extent I can write multiple branches to get the player character to that point.

But actually using the thing requires conscious, deliberate, extended effort.

Maybe I need to write the plot in such a way that even players with religious (heh) qualms are essentially forced into using it, as the consequences otherwise would be too dire…

I could have other characters use it as well, as suggested, but it would be a different story if they did.

Thanks for all the feedback, I will think on it some more!! Pls continue shooting your suggestions through if you have them, they were really useful :slight_smile:

I’ll think about it some more.

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Third parties or accidents.

  1. Someone else tells the MC about it
  2. MC finds out by accident
  3. Everyone is talking about it and the MC catches on.
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I don’t have any suggestions that haven’t already been mentioned here, but this is an extremely wonderful thread that I feel should be recommended reading for many potential cyoa writers. I am definitely bookmarking it, and thanks for starting the topic.

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I’m glad the thread helped you and that I’m not the only one thinking of these questions!!

Really well said. Put in big bold letters at the start of the game what the non-negotiables are.

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Another option: Make the player realize that using the widget serves the greater good (or greater bad) even if it comes at the expense of their own personal qualms. Like, sure, they might object to using the thing because of their religion, but does it further go against their religion to not use it and potentially let the effects of not using it harm tons of other people? (Just an example since I don’t know what your story is about.)

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It’s hard to be specific without knowing what this is about, so I will invent an example (with some mild borrowing from dragon age).

Let’s say your world has religious views about the use of blood magic, and one of the standpoints is that blood magic is evil and shall never be used. Most player characters won’t be such hardliners, but since the narrative exists in the world, some will be, especially if they have been shown bad users of blood magic.

Now, let’s say that later in the book, you realize that what might have been a side plot mcguffin, has suddenly become important and cool. That mcguffin is a magical item powered by people’s blood. Your story suddenly hinges on the fact that the protagonist uses this mcguffin, it will be so much better if they do! For most, no issues. The advantages of using the mcguffin will make most players use it, but for the ones thinking blood magic is evil, they would not.

Opps. So how to solve this without changing the world? There are a few ways.

1: Establish early on that the protagonist is not a hardliner. Yes, that might mean going back and adjusting text and choices. They can still be against blood magic, because it is easy to be abuse, but make sure to write in some leeway and doubts in the choices and dialog. Take a moment to figure out why the character would hate blood magic, and make sure that’s not in a way that gets in the way of using the mcguffin. Maybe blood magic is evil because it allows for controlling people, or using their blood for your ends. The mcguffin uses the wielder’s blood, and doesn’t control people. This might give you an opening for some internal thoughts why it would be okay to use for the hesitant.

2: The greater evil. Establish something worse than blood magic. Maybe a massive arch demon is taking over the world, and can only be stopped by the mcguffin. Just make sure that you give the sacrifice of the character’s morals the weight it deserves. Not a choice made lightly.

3: Flexible morals. Allow people to justify their decisions in the game. People do this all the time in real life. As long as it’s internally consistent, you can get away with a lot.

No matter what tactic you pick, the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to NOT give a choice whether to use the mcguffin or not. The choice you give is how you justify using it, and for people who might be against it, you need to make sure that the seeds for those motivations are planted through the story.

Hope that helps.

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Use an NPC. Say that your hardliner is also honorable and has swore to protect a suposedly inocent person. It just happens that the protected person is not so inocent and is looking for the relic. And then when that person goes in the way of danger while pusuing the artifact, you might want to choose between being the one using the artifact or such artifact being controlled by, I don’t know, a demon. And such demon would kill your protege and everyone else. It kind of adds to the drama.

Force a choice between blood magic and something even worse. And make sure that before the choice, they know what would happen if they don’t use blood magic. Personally, I would still allow to pick “no”, suffer the end-game consequences and add a little loop to the moment the choice was made. But that is me.

Or you could go the hard route and erode the religious beliefs by letting the character see the hypocresy and contradictions of such beliefs. As in subtle make them rethink their stance. It is your world, you control everything but the player.

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