Interludes sound cool, but many players, when faced with the need to invent a whole story out of basically nothing, might find themselves unsure how to even begin. “I need to create a tale of victory! Err…  …What now?”

Leading Questions

A good place to start is with a few questions that will get your imagination going. The interlude rules already have a few kick-starting questions. Most subjects can be further explored with questions along these lines:

Why did it happen? That is, what was the cause, or causes, that led to that event happening?

Example: I need to create a story about victory. Well, why did I win? Maybe that makes me start thinking about one of my cool powers: I can produce a flame nova. Maybe I won thanks to that. But my flame nova is reactive – it explodes only after I’m being hit, I can’t actually control it. So maybe I got a victory without intending to? It might be a funny story of how I won without noticing.

When did it happen? In relation to my character’s timeline. Was it during an event that we’ve already established, or was it something new? Generally speaking, it’s best to explore new periods only when I’m looking to expand the scope of my character; otherwise, it’s preferable to focus on known points in time and develop them further.

Example: I know my character participated in the fight against the Xindi Invasion, a huge event during which many superheroes fought the alien menace. This sounds like a fertile ground for stories about victories (as well as losses!), so I’ll start by taking a few of the things we already know about the Invasion and combine them. (see later)

Who was there? People are super-important, and relationships are the basis for some very interesting RP moments. Choose a person you’d like to know more about, and find out how they’re relevant to the story. Maybe it’s time to discover something new about them! Or perhaps they’re participating in exactly the role they always do.

Example: I want to involve the ghost of my father in my story of victory. He’s already part of my character’s story – my arch-nemesis is my mother, after all – and I want to keep reinforcing his influence on my character. So after the MetaTree defeated my team, I went on a journey of discovery and communicated with my dead superhero father, who gave me the resolve I needed to reform the team again. Victory!

Collect, Create and Combine

After asking a few questions and deciding on the details you’d like to focus on, it’s time to collect or create these details, and then combine them into a story.

Collecting details is the act of going through what we already know, and deciding which elements to use. This can include everything on any of our character sheets, and everything that happened in the game and around it (weekly questions, for example). There’s no need to go through everything, but some details will usually jump up at you.

If the question that most interests you was “Who was there”, and you think it’ll be cool if your fellow teammate Black Bird was there, then you probably should take a glimpse at her character sheet. Oh, hey, apparently she has a motorcycle, yeah, I forgot about that. Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if she appeared out of nowhere, jumping into the scene on her bike, while Cosmetic was ambushing me (like she always does, grrr!), and together we defeated the villainess? Teamwork victory! I ask the player if it’ll be okay, and I’m being told – sure, go for it.

Creating details is the act of inventing new things to fill in the gaps left after asking the questions from before. This should be something that is relevant to the established facts, at least somewhat; you probably shouldn’t add dragons to your sci-fi world, but if we already know there are lots of aliens hiding among us, Men in Black style, you can probably add a new species without disrupting the very fabric of your party’s agreed-upon consensus.

I want to have a story of a victory that ends with me jumping from an exploding Eiffel Tower,  because I saw a cool action movie a week ago, with a scene a lot like this one. We never said that the Eiffel Tower was destroyed during the Xindi Invasion, but I can just ask my GM if it’s okay (it’s okay). So I tell about how I defeated an Uber-Xindi on the top of the Tower, then jumped away just as it exploded – erm, the only problem is, I can’t fly. I do know a super who CAN fly, and we’ve always been in great terms, so instead of creating another new detail, I just use her instead, and tell about how she rescued me.

A good way to get to the details you need to collect or create is by asking further questions. After you answer your first question, keep going deeper to get more details, until you find the detail that seems most interesting to you (in regards to the subject of the story!).

Why did I win? Let’s say it was thanks to my flame nova, it’s a cool power and I like using it. So what’s unusual about my flame nova? Well, it’s reactive, for starters. Oh, that means that…

When did I win? During the Xindi Invasion. But during which specific event? The Battle of Luna City, it’s one of the most famous ones. What was I doing there? Erm… Oh, let’s say I have a family there, I was visiting before the fighting started. What did I actually do during the fighting? Hmmm… well, what does a Lunar colony needs to survive? Maybe one of these essential facilities was in danger of being destroyed by the Xindi…

Who was there when I won? My ghost dad. But wait, he never appears during actual fights, and I don’t want him to start doing that; he’s more of a spiritual guide. So maybe I didn’t win in a fight, maybe it was a victory of a different sort. Like what? Perhaps… overcoming grief and despair? Yeah, good old ghost dad can help me with that!

Combining details is the act of taking the specific elements that seem interesting to you – no more than 2-4 – and adding them together in a way that seems “right”. The basis, as simple as it sounds, is that every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and each element should be relevant in at least one of these segments. The story can be pretty short – as you’ll see in next week’s page, Lily’s story can be summed up in three sentences.

I need to tell a story about a victory. Let’s gather 2-4 elements that interest me.

First, I’d like to have Cosmetic involved, she’s my arch-nemesis. So that’s “who was there”, good. But actually, I feel like I might want another person in the group to be part of the story, as well – I want them to feel threatened by Cosmetic as well, I shouldn’t be the only one who cares about her. Give me your character sheets everyone, I’ll take a peek… ohh, Black Bird, you have a bike. When did it happen? Let’s say present day-ish, and during nighttime, because Black Bird is usually active after sunset, and I want her there.

Here are the elements I have: Cosemtic, who usually ambushes me; Black Bird on a bike; and rooftops on a cloudy night (I added rooftops just this moment; it’s the first thing I think of when combining nights and superheroes). I also want Black Bird to appear in the middle of the scene – which means I should be surprised by the ambush first, and by myself.

So let’s say I was on my way back to the Tower of Might, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, when one of the huge billboards came to life, attacking me – damn you, Cosmetic! I can see her standing on top of the billboard, giggling like crazy. I was trapped by the hair of the woman from the shampoo ad on the billboard when suddenly a bike jumps into the scene – yes, on the rooftop, Black Bird is that awesome – and my teammate started shooting her micro-guns at the villainess. That gave me enough time to concetrate and explode with fire, burning the hair, and togehter BB and I drove away Cosmetic, back into the night! Victory!

Finally, remember that while a solid structure and an imaginative concept is important for every good story, at least half of the enjoyment comes from the way it’s being told. Storytelling is as important as the story, but we’ll get to that some other time.