Plotting adventures (part five)

24 10 2009

A little known secret about plotting is the use of the MICE quotient

Understanding the MICE quotient

Many writers will tell you that all stories contain four key elements:

  1. Milieu
  2. Idea
  3. Character and
  4. Event

All should be present in an effective adventure, but most writers tend to focus on one to be predominant.

Sometimes the adventure writer has a favourite and will always allow it to dominate. In truth, the one that is most relevant to the story ought to lead the way.

Using milieu from the MICE quotient

This is just a fancy word for the world the story is set in. Some writers start an adventure just because they have created a city and want to set an adventure in it.

For others, the setting is key to the story. It may be the weather or the society.

Often the main NPC is secondary to the setting. Typically the setting in some way changes the characters and this is the growth and transformation that the adventure is about.

And don’t think this is an area exclusive to the landscape or creatures present in a science fiction or fantasy adventure. Class, religion or culture are equally appropriate subject matter for milieu led stories.

Using idea from the MICE quotient

Here the characters find out information that raises a question. Solving the question is the climax of the story.

Mystery or detective style adventures are typical idea stories. Finding out who committed the murder, or why, is the whole crux of the story.

A question is raised – the question is investigated – the question is answered.

Using character from the MICE quotient

Although all adventures have characters and most have a main NPC (the antagonist), the story is not about the characters as much as about them interacting with the world.

A character adventure is one where the transformation of the PCs is exactly what the adventure is about.

Action and adventure may go on, but the issue to be resolved is actually how the characters develop.  Do they change alignment or class or their beliefs?

 Using event from the MICE quotient

In an event story, something is fundamentally wrong with the world. This could be the arrival of a monster or a corrupt government.  A large proportion of simple adventures follow this route.

The solution is that the monster is killed or a new government is formed. The adventure does not have to begin with the monster arriving or the government being corrupt. Rather it starts when the PCs become involved with the event.  The rest is just back-story.

Typically the characters aren’t aware of the monster or corrupt government until they interact.

Some guidance in making your choice

1.  As a fledgling adventure writer, pick one and stick to it.

Trying to incorporate two or more main elements is going to end up messy.

Having said that, don’t forget that all stories carry an element of all four – but one is the driver.  You must make sure you are consistent.

2.  Follow the simple rules outlined above and make sure you deliver what you set out in the opening of the adventure.

You should ideally choose the one that’s most reflective of the story you want to tell. Again, by considering the simple explanations above, you should know which fits your idea best.

Next time out, I’ll cover all the plots you could possibly have for an adventure.

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