There are some great suggestions for plot lines for Role Playing Games (RPG) on the web. Notable amongst them are The 36 Plots by Loren J. Miller. Loren lists actors and elements for each plot and gives a narrative example from a fantasy setting.
To make The 36 Plots easier to transfer to a non-fantasy setting I’ve reproduced some of them here but with a generic description that includes the actors as part of the narrative. That means I can lose the fantasy setting.
PC as Supplicant seeks aid from the Authority to deal with the Threat.
PC as Rescuer saves the Victim from the Threat.
PC as Avenger takes revenge on Guilty Party on behalf of Victim
LJM-4 Vengeance by Family upon Family
PC as Avenger takes revenge on Guilty Kinsman on behalf of Victim Kinsman. The guilt may or may not be real.
PC offers sanctuary to the Fugitive. Some time later a Pursuer(s) arrives, to kill or apprehend the Fugitive for heinous crimes.
LJM-6 Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune
PC as Avenger or Rescuer protects Unfortunate against Indifferent or Cruel Master
The Victorious Power has invaded and defeated the Vanquished Power. The Messenger of the Vanquished Power seeks the PCs for help.
A Conspirator enlists the PCs to assist in a plot to overthrow the local Ruler. The revolt may be to rectify injustice or overcome tyranny. But just as likely to be because the Conspirator wants to usurp the Ruler’s.
LJM-9 Daring Enterprise
Without starting a war, the PCs must retrieve an Desirable Object from a Foreign Power and return it to its rightful owner, the Local Ruler.
The PCs help the Abductor liberate/kidnap the Love Interest from the Guardian without killing anybody and thus rousing the implacable forces of justice.
LJM-11 Mystery or Enigma
The PCs help the Seeker to solve the Problem set by the Puzzler. Failure means something horrible happens the Seeker.
Several Opposed Groups seek to obtain the Goal. Their efforts are assessed by the Judge or Referee, often somebody who has previous attained the Goal.
LJM-13 Familial Hatred
PC is closely connected to Vengeful Relative who wants revenge for real or imagined slights by the Hated Relative. There is a good chance the hatred is mutual. Vengeful Relative admits nefarious intent to PC.
LJM-14 Familial Rivalry
Two relatives – the Preferred Relative and Rejected Relative compete for a Desirable Object.
LJM-15 Murderous Adultery
PCs know an couple in a love triangle. The Betrayed Spouse disappears, probably murdered. From that point there are variations:
- The Adulterer’s Lover killed the Betrayed Spouse in secret and the Adulterer, with the help of the PCs, must avoid getting framed for, or even implicated in, the murder.
- The Adulterer is in the know and the lovers must avoid being caught for the murder. Perhaps they frame the PCs.
- The Betrayed Spouse returns, alive or as a ghost, and asks the PCs’s help to seek justice.
A seemingly normal person starts acting strangely and ultimately becomes the Madman. Outraged Observers are concerned about the behaviour particularly if there is a clear Victim. The PCs are engaged to put things right.
LJM-17 Fatal Imprudence
An Imprudent Person (preferably a family member) borrowed a Famous Object without the Owner (a PC) realising. The Famous Object is discovered at the scene of a horrifying crime, the Imprudent Person is missing or incapacitated, and the Owner is now the main suspect.
LJM-18 Involuntary Crimes of Love
The Two Lovers are very happy. The Revealer exposes the Two Lovers, unknown to them, as brother and sister. Works best if a PC is one of the Two Lovers and the Revealer introduced them in the first place.
LJM-20 Self Sacrifice for an Ideal
A PC is related to the Self-Sacrificer who in turn is part of a group that espouses the Ideal. The Self-Sacrificer declares that only through sacrifice will the Ideal be achieved, then leads by example and publicly commits suicide. The PC watches their relative die for their belief. Meanwhile the authorities, ignorant of the suicide, dispatch troops to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders. Will the PC become the Hero representing the Ideal.
LJM-21 Self Sacrifice for Kindred
The PCs are friends or relatives of a Misfit-Genius. Superb in their own field the Misfit-Genius doesn’t fit the accepted archetype of the Family. To make the Family happy the Misfit-Genius attempts to prove themselves in the family business. The PCs must save the Misfit-Genius from self-destruction and preferably ensure a positive outcome. Examples:
- Misfit-Genius is an artist, entertainer or a short-breathed, wimpy, genius
- Family archetype is “war hero”, “entrepreneur” or “politician”.
LJM-22 All Sacrificed for Passion
The Hero will make a big Sacrifice to obtain his Object of Passion. The Object of Passion may have a different agenda to the Hero thus making it a bit of a tragedy.
Culprit, being hounded by Avenger or just guilt, feels remorse. While still being hunted he begins to make some amends to his Victims. PCs help the Culprit redeem themselves.
LJM-35 Recovery of a Loved One
Seeker discovers Missing or Unknown Relative is alive and goes looking for them. PCs help them.