I'd like to begin a series of essays in which I will examine how story structure works and how to apply that to RPGs.
I'll begin by answering the question "why are you writing these essays, and what makes you qualified to write them?" I'll actually answer that in reverse order. I am a student of theater, so I tend to see the world in terms of how theatrical/spectacular things are. Roleplaying is, in many ways, linked to theater and group improv; each has a scenarios with rules, characters, and a willing suspension of disbelief in order to create a world. In my time as a student and professional I have been a carpenter, actor, sound designer, set designer, dramaturg, playwright, and director: these are the skills one uses to create a world.
Why am I writing these? It started with a DnD adventure. An official DnD adventure, no less. After we were finished, I could tell what the adventure was supposed to be, a cool little "play one evil against a greater evil" type of thing, but it wound up being a mess. My group was contracted to kill a sea monster, so we did - and somehow that turned out not to be enough, there was a lich involved as well as some kind of creature from the elemental plane of chaos, I don't know. It was, as you may gather, sort of a mess.
So what was the problem? Were we just too silly to notice the clues? Did the DM skip over sections? Did we fail to make Search rolls every ten feet?
Not really. It was just a poorly put together story. The idea behind it, as mentioned, works. I'll be spending some time over the next several days examining episodic structure, act structure, and how both of those apply to RPGs. I'll also look a little into improvisation.