Note: Dear Moderators, before you move this thread to Articles & Guidelines, I have a request. Don't do it yet. I'll report this thread myself when I think it's ready to get moved to A&G and edit this little note out.
As for the non-moderators reading this: Please feel free to comment and discuss. Even if it's something as simple as "I agree" or "I disagree, here's why." I want these articles constructed as accurately and altruistically as possible so that we can have a short, simple list of short, simply constructed guidelines, for the new players and the old players alike.
This is a guide to the tools you'll need in your toolkit. Nothing more, nothing less.
Regardless of your opinion (dissenting or accepting) I thank you for it, and to the silent majority who likely won't comment, thank you for reading, I hope this is helpful in some manner to you.
What are the Hero's Journey and The Mythos Arc? What purposes do they serve? Why should I know them as a role player/GM/DM? How can I use them, and how should I account for them?
The Hero's Journey applies primarily to individual characters, and details the process by which most characters surpass obstacles and grow to become something more than they once were. A peasant becoming a knight by overcoming a set of obstacles is a perfect example of the Hero's Journey. How this applies to role playing? Well...
Part 1 The Call to Adventure: This is the main motivational tool a character can have for completing a plot and is by and far the easiest device for doing so. It's also where the majority of characters fail--they fail to have a reason to go on the adventure in the first place. The Call to Adventure is the point at which a character is thrust forward--willingly or not--into the limelight, into journeying (literally or metaphorically) to regain what was lost or achieve justice/revenge of some kind. Lets say that the plot is about defeating the evil empire? Well maybe our example character, Archer, lost both of his parents to the empire and is now seeking some way to defeat them. Simple, almost cliché, but it works--Archer now has a reason to want to see the plot through and through, he has his Call to Adventure.
Part 2 (Super)Natural Aid: This gives your character their special set of skills, equipment, or simple determination to see their task through and through. It can range from anything, to anything--Archer may have his father's blade which was blessed by an Angel, for example, giving him a supernatural edge, something unique, that allows him to do what others cannot do. It can also be something quite mundane, like your character having some crude knowledge of firearms or being charismatic enough to bluff their way past many normally violent situations. This allows your character to be useful--to have something to use to overcome obstacles in their path, and is thus, quite vital.
Part 3 Guardian Threshold: If your character was being protected in any manner, the protection ends here and now. For example: Archer may not have been noticed by the Empire, but he just took up arms against them with a magical blade... The protection granted by ignorance is now, quite gone. This is also typically shortly after the role play has started, but can occur prior to the beginning of the role play if preferred, as this is when the character in question has left what is known to them to travel into the unknown (again literally or metaphorically) in order to accomplish their task set to them by The Call to Adventure.
Part 4 Helpers & Mentors: In most stories which contain main protagonists, other characters are relegated as side characters, or fellow protagonists that just aren't as important to the story (helpers and mentors) however in role playing, this is treated differently, and is also something that is often done improperly. Other player's characters are also accomplishing their own Hero's Journeys, for one reason or another. Every character in the group, thus, is a helper and a mentor to each other--Archer might be learning better blade skills from a blademaster in the party, and the blade master might be learning how to reconnect to his own heart again from a romantic interest, whom in turn is learning from another character about enemy weak points and where to strike, whom in turn is being healed after a long and arduous battle...
Long story short: The Helpers and Mentors positions can change, they're fluid in role plays, and are often taken up by other, experienced role players. It's a common form of interaction to assist or teach a fellow character, it's just not often treated as being important, when it's really one of the main tools a character has for expanding themselves to be able to overcome obstacles--either through the aid of friends, or from learning from friends. Why? Because role playing is a group activity, with multiple protagonists of equal value all working together. Cohesion is vital, thus, helping and mentoring one another? Vital.
Part 5 Challenges & Temptations: The series of obstacles that gets in the way of the characters in question. In Archer's case, this could be something as simple as several intimidating enemies between him and the target of his revenge, or it could be more complex, like his sister being a member of the enemy and constantly trying to find ways to achieve his goals without killing his sister. There isn't much to say here except that creativity flourishes here more than anywhere else.
Part 6 Revelation (AKA Death and Rebirth): The lowest point of your character's existence, where they fail or they witness a great personal tragedy that causes them to die, literally or metaphorically. Perhaps the aforementioned blade master witnessed the demise of his love interest, or Archer was forced to kill his sister and was then brutally wounded after being unable to focus on the battle at hand. This is where your character reaches their worst point, and this is usually the "do or die" of a character. Maybe Archer's revelation is that revenge only leads to more revenge, and thus he must seek justice--to make the empire's leaders pay in some other manner than mass murdering them and all of their cronies. This can occur multiple times within a story, but if done too often will either sign a character's death warrant or make it unbelievable and thus hard to care about by the other players.
As well: The revelation and great failure must occur as a result of the character's direction action or inaction. Someone else can't slay Archer's sister--he has to slay his own sister for the point to really hit home. (There are exceptions, but they are few and far between and generally only done by veteran role players whom have done this cycle several times.)
Finally, a character can fail to learn from a revelation. Archer might instead become genocidal in his revenge, blaming others for his failures instead of learning from them. While a character can still hit the "transformation" stage and become something more powerful than before, they will never reach atonement, and will instead forever wander in agony, rage, and pain until they either become the very evil they wished to destroy, or learn the proper lessons from their revelations and then seek atonement.
Part 7 Transformation: The point at which a character grows from their meagre form into something noteworthy and more powerful than they once were. Archer for example might have a whole, newly found determination into honing his blade skill--to the point that he might surpass his own mentor, now that he has the right mindset. While a character has been working up to this point and slowly growing stronger, now is the point at which they will have found the piece of themselves they were looking for all along. Dedication? A secret magical or supernatural power? Discipline? It varies between eastern and western culture, as well, but I will get into that in further detail in a different deconstruction.
This is the point at which the peasant becomes a knight.
Part 8 Atonement: This is where the character in question atones for any of their previous sins or crimes against the world. Any mistakes they may have made that resulted in the loss of friends, or the unnecessary deaths of others (such as Archer's sister), etc. This is where they leave their emotional baggage behind, and finally become the person they were meant to be.
This is also analogous with growing up: Becoming a man where one was once a boy, and is often found as a repeating aesop in a great number of classical and modern fictions, especially those directed towards youth. (One that comes to mind prominently is Harry Potter, really.)
Part 9 Return: The climax ends and the character remains standing, the villains lay slain and the princesses have been rescued, the trumpets are sounding, the sun is shining, the doves are in the air and the love interests finally get married in wondrous ceremonies celebrated far and wide. Your character, now willingly or not, returns back to their home (literally or metaphorically) to start a new life, their own life, independent and strong and ready for any challenges that might get in the way. Archer might return to his home to rebuild it and start a new family, or he might become part of the new government to make sure that what happened to him would not happen to anyone else. This is your character's "happily ever after".
At this point you can start the journey over again in a sequel RP, or leave the character to rest peacefully after their ordeals.
And that is the Hero's Journey in a nutshell. It gives characters a direct connection to the plot and a reason to see it through; it naturally guides and shapes a character to grow by overcoming whatever obstacles they see in their path and by interacting with other characters as helpers, mentors, and love interests on the journey; it gives them their greatest failure which helps prevent them from becoming Mary Sues and then turns around and gives them a chance to learn or die; it causes a character to grow up into a fully functional person, and assuming they survive the climax of the story, allows them to shape their own destiny and have their happy ending.
-That-, in my books, is a fairly important tool to have as a player or as a GM/DM, or as a writer, or as a director, or as an artist, or... Really any kind of fiction with a coherent story and interpretable characters. Even if you don't end up using it word for word or step for step, its uses modified or played straight are innumerable.
As for the deconstruction example?
Archer was a youthful, idealistic boy who witnessed the demise of his parents by the evil empire. He grabbed his father's angel-blessed sword and took up arms against the empire, joining up with a group of like-minded individuals whom wished to see the empire's government deposed in one way or another. He fights through many battles, learning from his newly found mentor (another player) and gaining council from his friends (helpers/other players) as he hones his blade skills and constantly avoids direct confrontations with his sister. Finally, a few miles away from the capital city, his sister finds him and forces a conflict, causing Archer to be forced to slay his own sister. In the horror of the moment, he is struck down, barely surviving thanks to the magical healing powers of one of his allies (another player/helper). Finally, after healing and training constantly day and night, he aids in deposing the government of the empire, settling down near his family's destroyed home and building a new one where it once stood, free to make his own life's decisions as he would with a newly found enlightenment.
Simple. Effective. Functional. Can easily be expanded upon with nearly anything, as the base character here is perfectly functional.
Now, for the Mythos Arc.
The Mythos Arc is one of the main tools in a DM/GM's arsenal to create a long lasting story. The general idea of a Mythos Arc is that every battle, and as many encounters and situations as possible, should be in some manner tied to later events. That is, perhaps the characters (including Archer) meet an enigmatic thief whom reappears several times throughout the story to aid them with information, and near the end, is held captive with the characters having the ability to risk their lives to save her. The Mythos Arc is generally set up by having a couple battles and a few encounters which introduce mainstay characters--the enigmatic thief/information dealer, the main rival(s) who reappear later, a few NPC helpers and red shirts (fellow rebels?), etc.
What this does is that it sets up a situation in which the players don't just move from disconnected event to disconnected event--they follow a series of breadcrumbs and clues left by you to encourage them to move in certain directions, like following the enigmatic thief or slipping into a town's garrison where one of their high ranking rivals are. Repeatedly visited locations are also helpful for this task. It gives the story a natural flow because each event always leads to another, and another, and another. It builds up on itself until it reaches the end, thus preventing players from not knowing what to do. (As you can always just illuminate what options they have should they feel as such, as every event is tied into another.)
The Mythos Arc also often aids in directly tying player characters to the main story in that the player characters are no longer just "bubble heroes" that appear out of nowhere. We have Archer's Sister, and other family members or close childhood friends and the like can be created to service the same role of awkward obstacle for each player. Maybe one of the characters will turn out to be related to one of the government officials, who doesn't look evil, but has officially committed war crimes, putting him into doubt and creating situations in which players have to think very hard about their decisions. It naturally creates a complex set of relationships between characters and NPC's just by normal interactions.
There isn't actually all that much to say about the Mythos Arc, except that it's basically just a series of events tied into one another directly, that nothing is done without a reason or purpose. Everything is done to lead up to something else, something more. The link to additional information has a great series of examples to explain this concept in action in television.
Sadly, the Mythos Arc is something that has to be practiced. I know of no other better way to learn it than to try it.
Additional information on the Hero's Journey and Mythos Arc can be found in the previous two links each respectively.
Previous guides in the Deconstruction Series: These are previous guides in the Deconstruction Series.
Article 01: Post Deconstruction: Explains and deconstructs how the average, functional post works.
Article 02: Stereotypes, Tropes, and Mary Sues Deconstruction: Explains and deconstructs the basic tools used by all writers and role players ranging from the novice to the complex.
Article 03: Character Deconstruction: Explains and deconstructs a functional character under construction at each step, from conception to finished product.
Article 04: Plot Deconstruction: Gives the basics of what, exactly, comprises a plot and how plots function in terms of role playing. It does not explain how to construct the archetypical plot: Just the baseline of what a plot is and is not.
Article 05: Story vs Game Deconstruction: Illustrates plainly what game elements and what story elements exist within a role play, and that role playing and writing are not the same entity.
Deconstruction-Series Approved Guides: These are guides approved as being factually accurate and informative, likely detailing something that the Deconstruction Series will not touch for a long time, if ever.
Understanding Textual Combat for the Aspiring Duelist: Written and published by Skallagrim, it explains the basics of how to craft functional text-based combat so that it makes logical, coherent sense.
TVTropes is a site dedicated to explaining and giving examples of tropes found in television, animation, film, role playing, games, literature, and more. It is, essentially, the textbook of basic to intermediate level devices concerning both plots and characters ranging from the classical fairy tale to the intellectual drama.
Literary Devices is a site dedicated to explaining the plethora of terminology associated with writing as a medium. It is, essentially, the writer's dictionary. If you ever have a question about a writing term I used, you can probably find the answer here. (It also teaches how to write short stories and books if you are an aspiring author as well as a role player.)
Who am I?
I'm Brovo, as is obvious by the name in the upper left. I've been a manager of the Writer of the Month contest for over two years and have been running long-term role plays for years now. Legend of Renalta is one such on-site example, having lasted for over three years. I've taken college classes in technical writing and I am educated enough to teach basic to intermediate knowledge in several aspects of writing, with a few bits and pieces of advanced knowledge here and there.
I've been doing this for quite some time, and I hope to impart what knowledge I've gained over the years into these articles as a reference guide for everyone.
Note: When I say “difficult”, that is how difficult it will be for me to compile the information, get the research done, and make it comprehensible. Not how difficult it is to understand. As well, examples =/= deconstructions. When I deconstruct something, I'm tearing it apart piece by piece and showing how it operates. When I give examples, I might not necessarily deconstruct them.
Relationships Deconstruction: An explanation of group dynamics and interpersonal relationships between characters, both positive and negative, and how to construct both healthy and unhealthy relationships (both in the manner of the RP's health, and in the manner of a literal relationship). No examples required, one deconstruction may be present. Moderate length, not particularly difficult.
Combat Deconstruction: I would likely write how combat works in a one on one scenario, in group scenarios, with stats & dice, and without stats and dice. If I have the time and research I will also illustrate how combat in a nation RP works. Includes examples, but not necessarily deconstructions. Moderate length and a little difficult.
Nations Deconstruction: An explanation of the politics and economics of a nation in a role play, both as a living entity in a nation role play and as being a simple device or background information. Moderate to long length, little difficulty.
Eastern & Western Deconstruction: An illustration and explanation of the differences between western (Western European & North American) and eastern (Oriental) perspectives, and how they impact characters, nations, and stories in general. Includes examples, but not necessarily deconstructions. Moderate length, moderately difficult. Note: Additional research required may cause up to a week in delays before posting. I want to do my damned best not to offend or misconstrue either western or eastern culture.
The Metaverse: An explanation and deconstruction of both Metaverse worlds and Metaverse characters, both healthy and unhealthy. That is: Universe-jumping characters, or universes built for characters of other universes (both canon and non-canon) to jump into. Includes two deconstruction examples. Moderate length, not particularly difficult.
Personality & History Deconstruction: Explaining how to write the personality and history of a character to be compatible in a group, and what to look out for as a GM/DM when examining character sheets. This is a fairly important skillset, as it allows a person to disseminate between uncooperative, unhelpful attention vampires, and genuinely good characters who will function in a group. Includes two deconstruction examples. Moderate length, not difficult.
Other Deconstruction: Would you like to see the Deconstruction series tackle a topic of your choice? Select this option in the poll, then post the suggestion below!
Don't Do Another: You believe that this article was constructed horrifically and would like to see no more of its ilk ever produced. Please give a reason why below, otherwise, I won't know how I could improve, or how I'm erring so badly as to earn the Deconstruction series this vote!