The Thirty Six Basic Plots in Text Adventures
First of all, _The 36 Basic Plots_ by Georges Polti is the work that this is
based on. I would also like to thank Loren J. Miller who published an
article in a local gaming magazine. Her article inspired this interpretation
of Polti's work. So, without further ado, here are the 36 Basic Plots....
Replete with ideas for using them. Enjoy, and if you find this useful,
send me some mail and let me know. Oh, and if you disagree about these
plots, you'll just have to talk to Polti. :-)
1. Supplication: A persecutor and a supplicant take a grievance before a
power in authority. This can be any sort of court case or any
variation on that theme. Personally, this strikes me as a better
subplot than a full plot, at least in a text adventure. I mean, sure,
Perry Mason is great for TV, but I wouldn't want to play it.
2. Deliverance: An unfortunate or group of unfortunates is delivered from
a threatener by a Rescuer. This is one of the classic folklore plots.
Perfect for text adventures in my opinion, if you use a little
creativity. Let's look at the various characters. The unfortunates can
be the player, the player's spouse, a friend, a distraught village, or
even the population of an entire world, or universe. The threatener can
be animate or inanimate. A force of nature is sometimes more
threatening than a sinister villain. A whole series of Jaws movies will
back me up on this one. You could have a dragon, an army, a robot,
an earthquake, a volcano, a hurricane, or a breakdown in the laws of
nature. The rescuer is most likely to be the player, otherwise they
might feel a little left out of the game. But then, you might think of
a nice plot twist and give that role to another character.
3. Revenge: An avenger and a criminal duke it out. I really won't dwell on
this plot because there are a thousand different ways to use it, and a
thousand motives for revenge. Look at any of a zillion cornball action
movies for ideas, or better yet, don't. I can't stand those movies.
4. Vengeance by family upon family: I'm not sure exactly why Mr. Polti feels
that this plot is so different from #3, but I suppose he had his
reasons, like maybe a grudge against his uncle or something.
5. Pursuit: Fugitive from punishment is pursued by a pursuer. This plot has
promise. _The Fugitive_ immediately springs to mind. Also I could
see a game of human hunting, in the tradition of all those stories.
_The Running Man_ has a similar plot (the book, not the movie.).
A nice gimmick for a game would be to allow the player to try it from
6. Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune: This involves unfortunates and a Master
or Unlucky person. I assume that it refers to a slave master here, but
I wouldn't write about slavery. It disgusts me. But then, an ulnucky
person meeting with misfortune isn't too bad an idea. _Bureaucracy_ was
centered around that theme. Maybe the main character is cursed by bad
luck wherever they go. Or maybe it's just an isolated incident of
spectacularly bad fortune. Whatever the case, the point is that there's
no real villain in this plot, just victims.
7. Disaster: This one says Vanquished power, and a victorious power or
messenger. It seems to me that I'm not looking at this the same way.
I didn't think there were any victors in a disaster, although I guess
that Polti is referring to the disaster itself, or some sort of
metaphorical Nature. Famine, storms, floods, planets being demolished
to make way for galactic bypasses...good stuff. Make the player a
firefighter, or a rescue pilot, or even a super hero. Then, give them
some people to save, or a way to avert the whole disaster.
8. Revolt: For this, you need a Tyrant, and some conspirators. Stir in some
peasants, evil guards, and shake well. Or maybe the middle class has
finally had enough of our bureaucratic government, and the player is a
cop protecting the system that he doesn't even believe in anymore. And
who says that a text adventure has to be set around a human? Maybe the
player is an alien, trying to overthrow our government? All sorts of
9. Daring Enterprise: This involves a Bold Leader (tm), a Goal, and an
Adversary. I would say that this plot has a lot of potential for text
adventures. Pick your setting at will. The goal? Nearly anything.
I could see the player as the captain of a colonizing ship bound for
Mars with a traitor on board, and a meteor storm ahead. This one has
the added bonus of having a built-in sequel. :)
10. Abduction: An abductee, abductor, and someone who is responsible for the
abductee (maybe the abductee themself). This plot would suggest a
rescue or an escape. Personally though, I would find a game from the
viewpoint of a kidnapper in poor taste. So, I would set it from the
abductee or guardian's viewpoint. Watch yourselves if you use this
plot. There's a lot of censorship floating around these days.
(Thanks Tipper. :P )
11. Enigma: You need an interrogator, a seeker, and a problem. Two words,
_The Prisoner_. This was the greatest example I've ever seen of this
plot, even though I only saw one or two episodes. (I hope to rectify
this someday and see the whole thing.) _Amnesia_ was the text adventure
version of this plot. However. Everything I've heard suggests that
this plot is bad form for a game. Look at _Hacker_. No instructions,
and just that stupid login prompt. This plot starts too slowly. Maybe
you can develop into this plot, but don't start with it.
12. Obtaining: There are two or more opposing parties, a sought-after object,
and an optional arbitrator. Gee. Here's an original plot. Go fetch
the ring, Bilbo. Bring back the holy Salmon, Mortimer. We need the
_______ of Unearthly might, Fred, can you get it for us? Tried and true
on one hand, overused on the other.
< V R I O Software. We bring words to life! | ~~\ >
< T | /~\ | >
<_WATCH for Avalon in early '94!____wh...@uclink.berkeley.edu_|_\__/__>