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How do you guys go about pulling off your "twists"


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This is just a general curiosity question.


Twists are a spice of the narrative, they can be anywhere from long time coming to spur of the moment.


However, how do you guys go about making a "twist" that isn't seen as an "ass pull"


that is to say, how do you make it that when you are seemingly disarmed and you then pull a dagger out of your boot to retaliate and stay in the game, that it doesn't seem "cheap" or "god modding" or "unfair"


or say, your character has been plotting to betray your group of friends, every action calculated to gain trust and then POW! 


I'd love to hear of positive experiences of perpetrating or being the victim of a twist of these sort. How do you (or did they) drop hints that something is up without giving away what is about to happen?

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Do I need to explain to you what I suffered from you? haha

I think it's mostly a matter of keeping your OOC cards close and dropping subtle hints. Surprising enough...Ashe too loyal to betray his friends...

As for people like you...Yeah...OOC cards very very close.

Even though you know I'm plotting to try and murder Orrin >>

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1. Foreshadow. Drop hints that are subtle enough they won't give it away and ruin the surprise or be used as fuel for potential metagaming from other role-players, but are memorable enough that someone who's been paying attention can look back and go, "Ooooohhh."


2. Sensibility. Does it make sense that your character would have a dagger stashed in his/her boot?


3. Fairness. Your character bending down and grabbing a dagger from their boot would probably leave them open to attack for a moment.

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Like the post above me, foreshadowing is a huge thing for Mhaya's story! There's a story arc that I've been working on for over half a year that I soon plan to launch. There's been several hintings of it for those involved, so it's not going to seem like 'Oh, well, hello left field!'.

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Good foreshadowing is all of it. Subtle hints that tie things together and while on their own seem trivial, when brought into a bigger picture they make everything suddenly cohesive. My favorite are hints that can be interpreted many ways, and suddenly you cinch it another and people are truly flabbergasted.

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Depending on how severe the consequences are; I flat out tell people as soon heresy gets dropped in Virella's roleplay, she will be playing a snitch, and leave it up to them if they wish to continue. Besides that? Just go with the flow and see what happens! Just when it has dire effects on the other party involved, I will talk with them OOC as well.

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I'm with dropping hints and clues so at least people can look back and realise. Even better that they pick up the clues and change things so I have to adapt and respond. Nothing is better that the unknown dynamic in RP, which makes playing with others so much better than solo.


To do this you have to really play in a genourus way, and the more you give the better.

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Like Faye said, foreshadow, sensibility, and fairness.


I would also like to add that when you RP a character that is bound to have some twists, that you communicate with other RPers OOCily. Some RPers  love twists, others... Not so much. It's usually a good idea to try to gauge the other RPer's reaction so you don't hurt OOC feelings and such.

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I sometimes drop a crucial hint or bit of foreshadowing BEFORE the 'official' start of an arc -- something that many people tend to disregard. Then when things all come together, everyone looks back at it and realizes what they missed. At times it comes in the form of a character I roll, level and roleplay legitimately (Ah, Vindicator Bead...) who turns out to be involved in the turning point. Other times I lay a false trail, or downplay the more important part of the story so that people focus on the big and shiny distraction. 


As for spur of the moment twists, I only let those happen when the planets align just right. Things have to make sense in a way that I won't need to justify it with some convoluted bullshit -- when it happens, the other players are going to know, "Oh shit yeah!"


It's lots of fun, I've managed to pull off a good few in my time.

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1. Foreshadow. Drop hints that are subtle enough they won't give it away and ruin the surprise or be used as fuel for potential metagaming from other role-players, but are memorable enough that someone who's been paying attention can look back and go, "Ooooohhh."


2. Sensibility. Does it make sense that your character would have a dagger stashed in his/her boot?


3. Fairness. Your character bending down and grabbing a dagger from their boot would probably leave them open to attack for a moment.


^^ This.

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Faye's advice is pretty solid. Let me add the following. Spoilers for various stories that are well past the spoiler statute of limitations to follow:


1. If the the twist is going to undermine the assumed premises of the plot, you will have to put in much more work. Sixth Sense has a twist that works because it works within what the story establishes as being true about the world: Bruce Willis being dead all along works because the film establishes the ability of the dead to communicate with Haley Joel Osmont as true. By contrast, The Village has a twist that doesn't work because it relies explicitly on undermining the premise of the setting - 19th century village menaced by monsters. The monsters turning out to be faked does not undermine the premise much, but the village not being in the 19th century at all undermines it completely, and in a way that the film does not foreshadow.


2. As a corollary to the above, placement of a twist within an arc's structure can give more or less leeway in terms of what you can get away with. If a twist is part of establishing the premise of the setting - think The Matrix, in which the reality of the setting is presented as a twist in and of itself - then audiences and presumably players will be more willing to accept it. A twist presented near the end of an arc can cause all sorts of problems if you have not laid appropriate groundwork for it.


3. Distinguish between twists and plot complications to avoid confusing the two. I don't actually consider "Surprise he had a backup weapon" in the circumstances described to be a twist, because it's just continuing a sequence that had already occurred: characters were fighting, one was thought to be disarmed but wasn't, fight continues. It's a complication - a thing that made a previously expected course of action more difficult.


A twist is something that would unexpectedly change the way the audience of a plot viewed everything that came before or could come after. Rather than hewing to expectations, it alters them. These can be very small actions like pulling out a dagger, or noticing that everything in the room around you has a name your suspect used in telling his story, or saying "I did it thirty-five minutes ago" as you reveal your evil plan, but if it doesn't then dramatically shift perception of the narrative, it's a very slight twist at best.


4. Recognize that after several decades' worth of various forms of fiction abusing sudden twists, often badly, that we are all quite used to them and expect them as a matter of course. Playing a problem straight can often be more unexpected to your audience than trying to "surprise" them with a revelation they already expect.

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When I was in City of Heroes I played as an unpowered archer named Sharona.  Over the course of our Super Group's story, Sharona was established as the "Batman" of the story.  She was severe, tactical, dedicated and never stopped working.  She had a plan for everything.


In contrast, our leader was a guy named Shadeknight, who, if you couldn't tell from the name, was quite edgelordy.  He was all magic, swords, demons and unimaginable power.  He ran our major plot, got possessed by a demon, etc.


As Shade's plotline progressed, everyone became super aware that he was going to turn evil, the writing was on the wall.  It was a plot twist everyone expected, both OOC and IC.  OOC everyone knew there was going to be this possessed by a demon evil arc, followed by him being forgiven because nothing was his fault and we continue on.  The twist wasn't going to be very good, and everyone knew it was coming, so I twisted the twist.


Sharona started undermining his authority in front of everyone, calling him out directly on the way he was acting.  Before he could do his arc, she was demanding he take responsibility for being reckless and stupid.  She demanded he step down after being possessed even if he "had it in control".


This created a story where what happened next had been foreshadowed and established.  Sharona begins researching his weaknesses, and those of everyone else in case this demon possessed them too.  She starts testing base security.  When Shade reprimands her for breaking into the super secret vault of magic items, she turns it around on him.  Shade's unreliable, unpredictable, careless.  Instead of punished, she's made head of security to keep an eye on him.


I start throwing out multipage security plans and reports on the forums.  At the big group meetings I submit these IC, and they're voted on and implemented without being read because they're too damn long.  Sharona, like Batman, starts developing countermeasures for all the other players.


When Shade's twist finally hits, and he does his full evil turn, the council meets up and throws him out of leadership position with Sharona as head of the movement.  He's shocked, this was not the way the plot was supposed to go!


Twist Twisted.


At the same time, I'm running a minor sideplot about Sharona's brother, a psychiatrist and skeevy fellow, who is trying to ingratiate himself in with all the heroes.  He makes a few friends, but he's fairly generally unliked.  Then, twist, he steals all of Sharona's data on the weakness of the others and runs off with it.


The group goes to chase him down, corners him in an office building after fighting through a bunch of hired mercenaries, and they demand their info back.  Before he can explain himself, Sharona shoots him through the heart, teleports back to base, and activates all of those security protocols she put in place.


The group freaks out, OOC and IC.  They demand to know how she has full control of security measures.  I link them to the multipage reports they voted on a month prior.  Each person gets hit with things that directly target their weaknesses, things willingly shared with Sharona in the past in idle conversation, things she openly built and showed to them.


She breaks into the same vault she broke into months before as a "security test" and steals everything.  No one can do anything about it.  Everyone clicks at the same time.  There was a thirty person simultaneous "Oh Shit!"


Six months of foreshadowing and planning.  Subverting leadership, gaining trust, becoming their most trusted friend, making them betray themselves.  All for a single moment where the ball drops to the sound of shocked silence.




Verad is right.  You have to work with what's already established as plausible, and Faye is right in that you have to foreshadow, but more important than that, work with the player's expectations.


Players expect turns, so work with that in the narrative.  Give them a twist, but not the twist they expect.  Don't just throw it out there like some inevitable moment, work with the players to establish the legitimacy of the twist, even if they have no idea they're helping.


Make sure that if you're doing a twist that it doesn't effect the plot, but rather each character in the plot individually.  Find out where the most subtle change can have the most narrative impact.  Subvert expectation, not established reality.


Tomato in The Mirror works not because of the tomato, but because of the mirror.

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I think timing is often more important than the twist itself. A plot twist that seems really mundane/overused/trope-y/whatever on paper can be turned into something really interesting and dramatic if you can time it well. Which.. typically means you need to be really tuned-in to the moods and pacing of those who you're RPing with.




Those who have been playing with me for a long time know that I like to play a long game when it comes to a lot of my twists. I'll drop something cryptic for foreshadowing, and then... do nothing about it for about a year. And I won't discuss it plainly OOCly, and just sit back and smile as people speculate, draw the wrong conclusions, and just respond to all predictions with a "We'll see".

For example, I have "Mirror" and "Farseer", who are characters in another game, and they are probably my biggest plot-twist devices ever. Even their names are meant to be foreshadowing. I introduced them... right around four years ago, at this point. They've had a few minor twists (the first came, like, nine months after Mirror was introduced and Farseer's came after two and a half years), but their big one that I've been dropping occasional hints about still isn't even on the horizon.

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One thing that's been pretty heavily implied in previous posts but not directly stated is the importance of misdirection. Setting up a twist isn't just about foreshadowing something and leaving everything in the dark for a reveal, it's about compelling the audience to first establish their own reasonable conclusion, and then directly subverting them.


To put it in a metaphor, it's the difference between gradually turning on the lights in a dark room (a mystery but not a twist), and letting the your friend turn on the lights in his room without him knowing that you replaced actually all the bulbs with blacklights (twist).


The reason why the twist in the Sixth Sense is compelling is because the audience is, based on information given to them on the movie, given reasonable grounds to firmly believe the premise that Bruce Willis is alive, and the audience has no overtly obvious reason to believe that this premise is untrue, even though it is hinted at.


That said, misdirection is a thing that is very easy to mishandle and can cause complete clunkiness in narrative flow. As stated before, it is very difficult to have a twist work when it so blatantly undermines the premise of the plot a la The Village, as opposed to one that uses the established premise in an unexpected but plausible way a la The Sixth Sense.


Let's use another metaphor.


The premise is "Bob eats a fruit". The fruit is revealed to be a banana. This is no twist, because the audience has no reason to firmly believe that the fruit in question isn't a banana.


The premise is "Bob eats an orange-coloured fruit," The fruit is revealed to be a strawberry. This is a terrible use of misdirection because the reveal makes no sense in relation to the conclusion that the audience will logically reach (i.e. that Bob is eating an orange).


The premise is "Bob eats an orange-coloured fruit." The fruit is revealed to be a tomato. This is a "twist" because the audience reaches a logical, fairly straightforward conclusion (that the fruit is an orange) and have no reason to believe that it isn't true (it is described as orange-coloured and as a fruit), but the conclusion (tomatoes are fruits and can be orange coloured) is reasonable within the established premise.


Silly metaphors aside, essentially when you foreshadow, it has to have two sides. One for misdirection, and the other for the actual twist.

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