Thursday, 19 August 2021

Plot Monkeys


It was a pleasure to make an escape last weekend by way of a camping trip with some old friends and whilst I am not larper my fellow role-players were swapping outdoor stories of prosthetic ears, drunken zombies and plot monkeys. Now the term plot monkey is not one I have heard before and whilst I would only ever have a single disinterested pointy ear trained on a larping conversation I did actually pay attention on this one. Certainly I am aware of both the hard work and  workouts of larp GMs who have to run around a forest in the dim twilight resolving combats and turning plots but in this instance my colleague was talking about an escape room.

At the risk of sounding like Phileas Fogg, I noticed my first escape room whilst gazing out of an Oslo hotel - a rather incongruous purple building squatting amidst the more somber elevations of mostly grey facades. Whilst I enjoy the occasional puzzle game, anything larger than a Monopoly board just tends to feel like a waste of space and whilst puzzles can be fascinating, I wouldn't say they are immersive. However, as it became clear from an increasingly drunken conversation there are those for whom its also a roleplaying experience.

My camping colleague said it was now her turn to make the plot and the context was going to be a roaring 20s lock in mystery. Apparently each of the characters only  has access to skillsets related to their background and whilst clues are of course dotted around, they are colour coded such that only a specific character has access to them. This way not only do all characters get involved with a solution but its slightly easier for the author or 'plot monkey' to ensure events are progressing in good order. The plot monkey also takes part within the event as a latent GM to keep things moving and to steer any conversations if they either get too bogged down or veer to far. The idea of a GM taking part in a game is an interesting one and allows a much gentler hand than the tabletop interventions and I am wondering for the first time if this would be useful in the tabletop although I suppose perhaps NPCs provide this traditionally. Either way I now have an invite to a 1920s party with the possibility of being trapped there forever. I hope there is enough wine.

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