Thickening Agents

I alluded to my roleplaying days briefly in my previous post, but haven’t gone into much detail about it as yet. It took place on a type of server known as a MUSH, which in essence is a chat server where you adopt a character, and move around a series of rooms interacting with other players and whatever coded systems happen to be there.

Okay, so it’s a little more like a multiplayer Zork. I ran what’d be considered a guild in today’s MMO terms at one point, but where an MMO might focus on raids or pvp, this was all about roleplaying a story. I’d come up with a scenario, like exploring a crashed spaceship, or visiting an exotic planet and being present for an unexpected coup. As you might imagine, the ideas didn’t always present themselves so neatly.

I wrote a little tool at the time, that given a bunch of different options, would generate a theoretical planet – it’d have tech level, climate, population, government, and so forth. Usually something like “Space level tech, Arctic, High, Corporate.” Often that would be the basis for an idea of the setting, which on its own would present a few possible plot ideas. That wasn’t enough. I started thinking about ways to develop something to throw random elements together, and see what sort of rough outlines could be generated. I had it split to pick out adjectives/nouns/verbs from predefined list, but in a random way. Sometimes what it did come up with was usable, and at other times, it was comical at best.

insane hunter damage friendly ruins

old pirate hijack tainted payment

broken shop pay happy madman

Some of those could work, but not as they are. Friendly Ruins could be interpreted as the ruins of a benevolent society – one potential use for that could be the characters intending to excavate a ruin, only to have someone hunting them down by destroying it. Tainted Payment could refer to it being tainted morally, or tainted physically along the lines of a dye pack or counterfeit. Broken shop and happy madman, though? Hah, anyone’s guess. I continued using that little tool for as long as the MUSH stayed active, but eventually I needed it when it no longer existed, so I did what any normal person would do – wrote words from the random lists onto paper, cut them all up, and put them in a bag so I could pick them out randomly.

Then someone told me about an iOS application called The Brainstormer. By default, it’s a simple brainstormer, giving you an overall theme, with a particular setting, character or object. Where I found it really shone, was in the ability to construct custom wheels. It took a little while to configure, but when I did, I had the same type of tool that I’d written years before. The best way to set the wheels up (for me), was to have the 1st wheel for adjectives, the second for nouns, and the third for verbs, conjunctions, prepositions and punctuation. A few random spins and you have a sentence not unlike the ones above, except hopefully usable.

By the way, it’s conveniently free until January 12th 2013! If you have an iOS device, there’s no reason why you should grab it.

The other tool I’ve found to be useful for coming up with small plot ideas/touches was something my wife bought for me; Rory’s Story Cubes. They require a little more ingenuity when turning them into a story, but they’re definitely useful. I’ll let you come up with an interpretation of your own for these.

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