Reading through the April ’09 issue of Wired, I came across this quote from James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron):
But the beauty of [adventures] is that they don’t have to be logical. They just have to have plausibility. If there’s a visceral, cinematic thing happening that [your players like], they don’t care if it goes against what’s likely.
That’s more or less how I read it, too — I finished the last sentence, and immediately thought how well what he’d said applied to gaming. Here’s the original quote so you can see what I changed:
But the beauty of movies is that they don’t have to be logical. They just have to have plausibility. If there’s a visceral, cinematic thing happening that the audience likes, they don’t care if it goes against what’s likely.
While this maxim — make it plausible (even if only barely) and fun, and it’ll work out just fine — won’t mesh with every player’s particular tastes, I’d say it applies 95% of the time, and to 95% of groups.
And it’s one of those gaming truisms that took me a loooooong time to figure out. I’m prone to overthinking things, and adventure prep is no exception. The times I’ve been able to deliver the most fun scenarios to my players are generally also the times when I’ve followed Cameron’s advice.
A core of plausibility — or in the case of settings and genres that are wildly implausible by nature, a core that’s internally consistent with the world/genre — surrounded by a fresh, juicy ball of fun is a powerful thing.