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10 August 2008 @ 07:43 pm
Understanding Athelind's Argot: "Penguin Plotting".  
In the 1965 Batman tale, "Partners in Plunder" (Batman #169, February 1965), the Caped Crusader had to deal with that Felonious Fowl, The Penguin, in the second Silver Age Appearance of said scurrilous scofflaw.

The Dishonorable Mister Cobblepott, you see, had just been released from prison... again... and had the villain's equivalent of writer's block. He simply could not come up with a sufficiently flamboyant plot to be worthy of his attention -- and that of the Dynamic Duo.

What? Go straight? and give up the game?? Nonsense!!

Instead, in a flash of Genre Savvy inspiration, he came up with a plan to have Batman and Robin plan his next caper for him. He set up a seemingly-honest front selling his trademark umbrellas, and then pulled entirely random umbrella-related stunts around Gotham City: exploding umbrellas, giant, radio-controlled umbrellas, and more.

At one point, Batman and Robin show up in the umbrella shop to warn him that they're onto him, but, of course, they have no real proof. After they leave, Robin notes in puzzlement that Cobblepott was wearing his monocle on the wrong eye.

He plants a radio transmitter in one of the errant bumbershoots, and, when Batman and Robin have it in their hands, he cheerfully listens in as they piece together the "clues" he's left, figure out the "target" he plans to steal, and thoroughly detail the way they think he's going to pull it off.

He chortles, and goes through with exactly that crime, exactly the way they described it. He does tweak a few things, but to no avail; he winds up in their clutches anyway.

He doesn't care, though. Why not? Well, for one, the World's Greatest Detectives never figure out that they planned the job for him.

For another... they're still scratching their heads over the significance of the monocle.

And he reveals, to the reader alone... there was no significance. He put it in the wrong eye just to fuck with them.

This was later adapted into Burgess Meredith's two-part debut as The Penguin in the Adam West Batman TV show: "Fine Feathered Finks"/"The Penguin's a Jinx".

Reading this tale a few months back pretty much cemented Oswald's status as My Favorite Bat-Villain.

It also describes My GMing style -- or my most successful one, that is -- which is why it merits the Argot entry.

As a Game Host, the approach that works best to me is to have a general framework in mind, but be willing to change things on the fly -- and to be willing to take good suggestions from the player, whether they intended them as suggestions or not.

(The obvious extension of this, of course, is the Monocle Mystery: Always leave a loose end or two to mess with their heads.)

As an example:

In the first big adventure of the legacy2020 game, Robin rattled off this entirely reasonable chain of "villain profiling" logic that ended with, "so, obviously, Squid's hideout must be HERE."

I stopped, blinked, and realized that what Robin's player had come up with was far better than anything I'd thought of myself. So... there it was. Penguin Plotting prevailed!

eggshellhammer contrasts this with pixelbitching, "Like in the old adventure games, where you had to click just... the right... pixel... And it looked like every... other... pixel..."


 
 
I feel: geekygeeky
 
 
 
doc_mysterydoc_mystery on August 11th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
In my ancient essay "The Pulp Avengers", check out the final paragraph in section V: Bizarre Mystery and Crime (you need to scroll down as the embedded link doesn't work). http://www.fantasylibrary.com/lounge/pulpavengers.htm


There may be occasions when you are absolutely, positively stuck for an idea for making a pulp mystery for your players. One handy trick a GM can use to create mysteries on the fly is to simply throw out random clues like crazy, and then listen carefully as your players try to make some sense of all these different clues and suspects. When your players first come up with solution that seems to fit all the random clues you have provided, and also implicates a certain NPC as the villain, give that NPC suspect an alibi. Later in the adventure you can pass on information to the PCs that invalidates this alibi. Not only will your players feel smug that they have solved the mystery and defeated the villain, but they'll have written much of the plot and have done much of the work of creating the mystery for you as well!

I didn't know it was called "Penguin Plotting"!

::B::
Your Obedient Serpent: big ideasathelind on August 11th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
It wasn't, until today!