As all good things do, this book starts with a story.

It’s the story of a Game Master (let’s call her Alice), who spent weeks preparing a campaign for her players. Maybe the Players’s Characters were to be a company of heroes, who would save the land from a dragon. Or maybe they were students in magics, who were expected to find the sinister secrets of the Sorcerous Highschool. Or maybe they were survivors of a zombie apocalypse, who were to spend each of their days hiding from hordes of shambling undead.

But they didn’t.

Instead of questing for the Magical Dragonsword, the company of heroes actually made a treaty with the dragon, or organized a coup and had the king send all his men to look after the item. Instead of looking for the secret passage that would lead them to the Layer of the Monster Under the School, they decided to test the laws of magic, until they blew up the school, or they ran to the teacher, telling her all she needed to know to fix the problem without putting children in harm’s way. Instead of waiting for the zombies to come at them, they grabbed a ship, and started a new pirate republic of the seas, or perhaps they decided to go for Cape Kennedy and try to launch their own expedition to the distant Moon Colony.

Hey, Alice, I sympathize, we all do. All of us GMs have been here. And I also have good news for you: that’s where the story really starts. Because now you are going to be able to build something even better, without the fear of railroading your players and without the stress of expecting that everything has to be prepared perfectly. Just as importantly, this is an opportunity for everybody to build the campaign together.

It’s also the story of a Player (let’s call him Bob), who had no idea what kind of character he wanted to play. Alice had told him that this game was about vampires, or knights, or space smugglers, but he didn’t really think of any reason to pick a story rather than another one, or a specific class, or set of skills. So Bob didn’t really have a good time during character creation, and since his character didn’t have a reason to be, he didn’t have much fun around the table.

Hi, Bob, nice to meet you. Yeah, getting in a setting is tricky and getting in a character is basically impossible if you don’t know what you should be in that setting. So this book is for you, too.

It’ also the story of a Writer, or a Storyteller (let’s call her Charlene), who had gotten her story started, but didn’t have fresh ideas for this antagonist, or that epic fight scene, or simply for finding out what laid behind the door that the hero had finally managed to open.

Hi Alice, hi Bob, hi Charlene. Welcome to The Plotonomicon. In this book, we’ll talk about getting ideas quickly and using them immediately, through techniques of improv. Some of these ideas will come from other players, others will come from the companion Space·Time Deck, and in many cases, you will realize that these are ideas that you already had.

Throughout this book, we will describe situations that assume the existence of several players, each playing one character (or PC), and one Game Master (or GM), playing the rest of the world, in particular the Non-Player Characters (or NPCs). Role-players will recognize the standard configuration of most Tabletop Role-Playing Games. However, this book is designed to be useful in more situations than just standard Tabletop Role-Playing Games. If you are interested in other forms of storytelling, whether traditional (one storyteller in front of an audience), collaborative (several storytellers, weaving a story together, for each other or for an audience), or written (one writer or more, no audience), you should be able to adapt without difficulty most of the techniques described here to your favorite format.

Oh, and one last thing: if you are looking for a ruleset for role-playing games, you won’t find any in this book, but don’t worry: the sister book, The N-Dimensional Tourists has you covered – it contains a dedicated ruleset for role-playing with only the Space·Time Deck!