*** Warning: Spoilers Ahead ***
The topic for the RPG Blog Carnival December 2014 is “With A Twist”. The topic includes anything related to surprises, plot twists, the unexpected in any form, and anything else that’s relevant to these subjects. I am planning on running a Star Wars campaign in the near future and have sci-fi on my mind. So with that said, here are ten sci-fi plot twists you can use in your campaign. I have provided examples from books, TV shows, and movies that showed examples of the plot twist.
1. The Robot Reveal (Battlestar Galactica) – The “human being” is actually a robot. A character in the story who is human or some other sci-fi race turns out to be a robot. This should come as a shock and potentially even provide some sort of consequence besides the fact that the race of the individual was simply misidentified. You mean Colonel Tigh was actually a Cylon all along? You don’t say…
2. The Reverse Robot Reveal – The “robot” is actually a human being (less common than The Robot Reveal). This is obviously the opposite of The Robot Reveal and a little harder to pull off. What if Data from Star Trek turned out to be simply an awkward human all along?
3. Not A Simulation (Ender’s Game) – You are participating in a training simulation, only to realize it wasn’t a simulation at all. What if you were participating in an intense training simulation designed to prepare you for war against a certain opponent? What sacrifices would you make to win the battles? What happens if after everything is all said and done, you realize it wasn’t a simulation at all? The assets, the people, the ships, the planets you sacrificed to win were all real…
4. It Is A Simulation – Similar to the “it was all a dream” approach. You are participating in a war and fighting difficult battles with all of the tragedy and loss that accompanies a true war. What if at a pivotal moment near the end, you are hit with the realization that it wasn’t a real war at all? It was simply a simulation to prepare you for the real war that looms ahead of you.
5. Alien Training Exercise (Predator series) – The situation you are trapped in turns out to be a training exercise for an alien species and you are the target. There have been numerous movies with a plot similar to this. It typically starts out with the player characters being trapped in some area and trying to escape, only to realize that an alien is hunting them down. Eventually, they come to the realization that this is a training exercise for the alien that they do all the time. The player characters are simply the next target in the next exercise. Some of the Predator movies and books fall into this category.
6. They’re The Same Person (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) – Two seemingly different people, one good and one bad, turn out to be the same person. It’s basically common knowledge these days that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person, but the plot twist is a good one and was a true shocker when the original book came out. It can easily be modified for use in a sci-fi campaign. What if a major ally of the player characters turns out to also be the evil enemy they were looking to destroy all along?
7. Who’s Your Daddy (Star Wars) – “No, I am your father.” What do you do when the bad guy turns out to be closely related to you? Ask Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia. This could really be any relationship though: father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, roommate, pet, third-grade teacher, you get the idea…
8. Soylent Green (Soylent Green, duh) – Investigation of an important substance reveals horrific origins. In Soylent Green, it is revealed that the lower echelons of society are forced to live off processed food that has cannibalistic origins. This could be twisted into numerous other horrific realizations for the players in a campaign. You just need to have a little forethought on what you want the horrific realization to be and how you will make it come to fruition.
9. It Was Earth All Along (Planet of the Apes) – An astronaut crashes onto a planet inhabited with apes and realizes at the end that it is actually Earth. This is one of those plot twists like Jekyll and Hyde that is almost common knowledge these days. But this idea could be twisted into something else that will fit your campaign. Perhaps the players are looking for a lost city or planet. They crash in a certain area and immediately realize they are in enemy territory with an alien species hunting them down in nightmarish situations. Eventually, they come to the realization that this is, in fact, the place they have been searching for.
10. From The Future (Terminator series) – The old person that you have been in contact with is actually you, from the future… Or, it could be an enemy from the future that has come back to get you. The “from the future” plot twists always require a decent amount of planning and forethought. The Terminator movies and books pull this off at various levels. I’ve used this plot twist before and had great success with it.
Plot twists, when planned right, can drastically affect the direction of a campaign. It can also really change how a player looks back at previous adventures and pictures it with a new perception of the situation. If done correctly, it can be extremely rewarding to both the gamemaster and players. But be warned if done incorrectly, it can also ruin a good story. Try some of these plots twists out in your own campaign and let us know how they go! And tell us, what are some other plot twists you’ve used in your sci-fi campaigns?