Using Trello

Trello is our clearinghouse of ideas, plots, lore, and other elements in development. It is important to know how to use / read it. Things being developed in Trello are posted to cards and these cards move from one Trello lane to another as they move through the development process. Access to the Trello boards are restricted to invite only, anyone can be invited but restricting access removes issues of spam and vandalism. Simply ask myself or a staff member for an invitation.

Our Trello boards are divided up into lanes:

  • Ideas
  • Brainstorming
  • Outlining
  • Drafting
  • Ready
  • Done

Ideas

All new plots and elements should get posted to the ideas area first. This is a kind of pre-development area. New plot ideas go here, new plot elements that haven’t started development, and ideas for lore that have not started development also go here. Ideas should be specific and to the point, not just “Attack on Nimbus”, there are a lot of ways an attack on Nimbus can happen so before posting consider composing a few sentences at least for a description as well as a title for the plot.

An idea title should be posted with a title of just 2-4 words, something easy to read. Posts on the forum, WordPress, or multiple cards on Trello will likely be tagged with the title of a plot.

The idea description is not required, but are helpful. They should be a kind of elevator pitch about the idea. This is short maybe only a sentence or two, but no more than a short paragraph. If more room is needed it may require better refining before posting.

What is a plot element?

A plot element is anything / everything that is required to make a plot work. This includes; characters, NPCs, required lore / background, and setting elements (such as planets, buildings, businesses, vehicles, etc.). A new Trello card should be created for each plot element that is in development, particularly characters, NPCs, and lore. Plot elements that are already done / developed fully do not need to get posted to Trello.

Brainstorming

No one is required to develop a plot they post, they can simply add an idea to Trello and see if anyone wants to develop it. That being said, it is strongly suggested that if you want a plot to happen, you make that plot happen. We are a collaborative writing / role playing group – no one wants to run plot all the time and it gets tiring and wears out a persons creativity. Brainstorming can occur on Discord or on the forum. Really, brainstorming can occur anywhere but it is strongly suggested that a person find a place to brainstorm that can be linked to Trello so others can use it. If a plot gets abandoned by the creator the idea is that another person can look at Trello and find everything they need to know to continue developing / running the plot.

Assuming a person wants to develop their idea, they would decide how they are going to proceed. Brainstorming / asking for input from others is not required but it is helpful. For the purposes of this document, we will assume one wishes to get public feedback. If one does not wish to get public feedback, they can simply move their plot card through the lanes as they see fit.

Posting to the Forum

A new forum post requesting for input is called an RFC (Request for Comments) and should be placed in the Phoenix Nebula section of the forum and tagged with the setting it will take place in and the rfc tag. If it is a plot it should be tagged plot and a character (NPC or not) should be tagged with characters. Other kinds of elements should get tagged according to what they are.

An RFC post should give the basic plot description as a starting point. It can be as short as needed, but the more detail the better to help other players understand what a person has in mind. Once posted to the forum, that post should be linked to the Trello card by adding an attachment. It’s then good to wait a reasonable amount of time for responses. Tag anyone whose opinion one may specifically want, maybe talk to people on Discord about the idea. Some plots may sit here for a while as people comment and an idea is refined more and more and that’s perfectly alright. There is no timeline from start to finish on how long development should take.

Once a Trello card is being actively developed, the person developing it (and anyone helping) should add themselves to a card by clicking the “Join” button on the left side of an open card. This allows a person who wants to know something know who is working on a card and thus who to ask.

Outlining

The divider between brainstorming and outlining can be a bit muddy. It is perfectly normal to have brainstormed an idea, do an outline, and go back and forth with it to refine it. Once the initial outline is posted, the card moves to the Outlining lane even if one is still brainstorming the idea it’ll stay in the outlining stage until the developer(s) are ready for it to move on.

Some things that are important to consider during outlining:

  • Make a “need list”, that is a list of elements that need to be in place before a plot can be started. This can be really helpful in making sure a plot doesn’t go off the walls. Consider how many NPCs may be needed, how many characters should there be / how many characters are required to start the plot, are any organizations needed that don’t already exist, and so on. Making this list ensures that a plot doesn’t get too big and helps break the development task down into smaller and more manageable pieces.
  • The plot will need a hook. A hook’s purpose is to give the characters an in-game reason for being there and can enhance game play considerably when characters are in pursuit of a goal. The hook can be different for different players, it can often be money or power but for the right kind of character the “right thing to do” could be all the hook they need.
  • How long will this plot be? It’s nearly impossible to tell how long a plot is going to be played but when outlining it’s a good idea to decide how many sections there will be to a plot. In the entertainment world stories are often divided into acts, though a longer plot may be better off in chapters. Either way it’s pivotal is decide how many distinct sections of the plot a person wants to write.

With those 3 things one can outline a reasonable plot idea and divide the work of writing things into sections. Each item in the “need list” is going to get its own card if it’s in development, as will each act / chapter that needs development. This process is recursive with each element starting out as an idea, to keep track of cards associated with a plot, each element needs be connected to the main plot by adding Trello attachment to the main card. This allows a person to find a plot’s Trello card and get to everything that has to do with that plot. Likewise it allows a person to find a plot element and quickly go to the main plot.

Drafting

After the main outline is done a card moves into the drafting stage. In this stage it may be necessary to go through and complete all the plot elements added during outlining. The idea here isn’t to get to a final, finished, polished story but instead to get a plot ready to actually play. During the drafting stage all plot elements needed to begin the plot should be completed and ideally the first act / chapter should be also completed and ready to go.

Acts / chapters should have a well-defined start and end. This is not only good for organizational purposes but the space between acts is a good time to let characters come and go, have appropriate down-time, or get off-the-page work done. Sections is good for time-skipping in a plot and the start / end of an act or chapter is a good place for exposition and making sure everyone is on the same page.

Trello cards have place for comments. This is a good place to store quick notes about a card, thoughts or ideas pertaining to the development of a card. Cards each have the capacity to have multiple to-do lists as well.

Ready

A plot is ready to start when it’s got the first / chapter ready to begin. An act / chapter is ready to begin once all of the plot elements required for that act / chapter are done. Characters, NPCs, lore, and other elements required to run a plot / act don’t really hit this stage. They go directly from drafting to done.

Plots will stay in this stage until they begin being played, specifically until the first session / posts / RP has started playing.

Playing

Cards for plot elements do not get put in playing. Even characters who may be currently being played do not get put in the playing stage. Plot elements go directly to the done stage. While a plot is currently being played the card is here. Acts / chapters will also remain in this stage while they are actively being played. Once one of these is completed, it will also be moved on to the done stage. The main plot card should not be moved to done while any of the parts are still being played.

Done

Self explanatory. Each plot element when finished goes directly here. Once finished all plots and acts / chapters of plots will be placed here when they are completed.