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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180430


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The Rule of 3 and the magic it brings.
(A Technique post)

There are some general "rules" in story creation that are good to keep in mind. The Rule of 3 is one of them.

Rule of 3: This is a general rule in fiction (and psychology) for "establishing a standard". Three strongly associated things in a grouping increase acceptance and make it more memorable.

Why three? Three is a mystical number which occurs over and over in world’s major religions, in mythology, and even in fairy tales: three wishes, for example. If you have a superstitious bent, you’ve heard that bad (or good) things come in threes. Psychology comes up with similar rules based on memory and recall. All the forces agree about three.

Three implies completion in most people's minds. Your players will be subtly satisfied with three of anything. You can (and should) use that to your advantage.

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Establishing things: aka It is this way:
If players/ readers experience something the same three times (usually three times in a row), they expect things to be "that way". So if the encounter a location three times or an npc three times or have a basic plot structure three times, players will accept the game piece as "the way it is". GMs can use the three impressions to set player expectations.

Any change after something has been established will have more impact. (It can also be confusing as people will go, "wait... it is supposed to be ...."

Three Bits of Description:
Something that is described three time or with three "notable parts" is easier for people to remember. So if something is going to be important (immediately or in the future), remember to describe parts of it (what ever it is: item, location, person, thing) three times during the first scene it is introduced.

The the Rule of Three when introducing characters to troupe for the first time. Some writers like to introduce major characters by presenting three pieces of description and action. You can do more or less (don't do less), but three is a good target number.

Note: Distinction are what are important, the idea of difference. It’s what makes a character different and unique to the audience/ players. People by nature are organically drawn to anything that is new or different – sights, sounds, experiences, etc. Humans actually predisposed to the concept of distinction without being conscious of it. Utilize the distinctions when describing things.

Doing the three bits of description for anything, any time it is important, is always a good habit to get into.

2+1 Character Traits
Now a character might have three physical distinctions that come up in play if you were just using the previous rule. This is about mental/ emotional distinctions.

Remember: Characters who are all good or all bad are boring and unrealistic. When planning characters, aim to give each character two good traits, to one bad. (Or if they are antagonists, two bad and one good.) Your dastardly villain, while flamboyant and scary, is also courteous.

Three core motivators:
Every character has a reason for everything they do. The three core motivators are Wants, Needs, and Fears. Wants and Needs are linked together, Need is the internal drive that the external Want will fill. Fears create responses that sometimes make no sense, unless you think of them in terms of fears (or anti-needs). This will be gone over in this post/

Foreshadowing in three steps
You should have clues and scenes that foreshadow (GM expected) important events. Some of these can even be cut scenes. They can be mentioned in passing by an NPC. You can even find a clue about them before they show up. I like foreshadowing important things (events, characters, things) three times before they show up. If your villain is going to blows up a train (with your protagonists onboard) at the climax, you’ll need to set up the explosion earlier. You’ll need to account for your hero’s impending miraculous escape as well.

A major scene always needs setups; so include scenes (three ideally) to set up the big event.

Three Clues
Thanks to Scooby Doo and a number of mystery series, three is the number of clues people expect. So make sure that they will uncover three clues (and get more if they make more successful investigation rolls).

If your group are good at mysteries, three is the number of red herrings (or clues that make no sense until you know the truth) the GM should throw at the group.

Remember clues are just a form of foreshadowing.

Three is the number of story structure:
Stories are best told in three acts or stages.
Act 1 is the setup. In act 1 we introduce the locations, the characters, and the events, that will bring the character(s) an issue to resolve. This shouldn't be more than 25% of the projected time.
Act 2 is the developing stairwell. The action slowly rises, as the characters meet challenges on the road to the big goal. They meet these challenges (or not) and learn things along the way to help them meet their big goal. This act is all rising action, with a twist/ surprise/ calamity at the midpoints. Act 2 ends with a final complication or disaster that leads to the character(s) to the climax action to solve the problem behind their goal - if they want to or not.
Act 3 is The climax of the story and any follow up from the big event. It is the final 20% of the projected time. It’s always battle/ conflict of some kind. Ideally, the hero wins. After the win, the should story winds up quickly, but there is always loose ends

Thinking of your story lines in three act terms makes planning easier. When the GM is dreaming up/ prepping scenes, they can be placed in a preliminary slot in the appropriate act easily. Thinking about things ahead of time, the GM can see when they’re missing some of the action.

Three is the number of voices to write with
Three is the number of voices for a gaming writing projects. Even if it is just for you, a proper write up is a source of inspiration and wonder. I have gone into detail on this HERE

This is not all the applications of the Rule of 3, but they are the most applicable to a gamer.

It would of been ideal if there were just 3 things that used the rule of 3. I could of edited it down to three, but its impact (and implied usefulness) would of been weakened. It is a strong tool with many uses. It is the power of repetition, repeated three times, that makes such an conscious and unconscious impact upon people. This little "technique" or "tool" strengthens writing and presentation. Apply this rule in your GMing and you you will see its impact.

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Did you notice its impact?

Note: one other links back to here once they are published.


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The Rule of Three for Dialogue
The Rule of Three for Dialogue is simple: After a character speaks three sentences of dialogue, either switch to another character’s speech or insert a bit of action, the POV character’s interior thought or emotion, or a reference to the environment.

Three lines/ sentences is one "turn"/ "impulse"/ or beat for a conversation/ persuasion/ argument.


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Three Senses
Want to build a more "real" scene or element? Include more than one sense in your little ladles of details. In fact, use three over the scene. Sight, Smell, Touch.... or Smell, Touch, Sound... and so on.
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