The bulk of the Era of the Dragon’s story is told through arcs, and as such one should be familiar with their ebb and flow. But what is a story arc? How long does it last? Who can participate? What sort of things happen during an arc? What about character arcs? These questions will be answered shortly, but even if you’re familiar with these things, I encourage you to take a quick glance through this page to familiarize yourself with how they apply to the Era of the Dragon.
A story arc is an extended storyline that follows a dramatic arc. The specific style of dramatic arc that is used can obviously vary, but within the Era of the Dragon, more than one style may be utilized across different arcs. Simply put, this means that one arc might utilize the classic five act structure, whilst another uses a traditional Asian structure, and yet another might go with the popular three act structure. The variety is part of what makes a collaborative narrative like EotD nice. Regardless of what type of story arc is presented, you’ll generally see three things happen; an introduction, a central conflict, and a resolution.
The general guidelines for how long a story arc should last is approximately 3-4 weeks. The idea is that a major story update is posted at the beginning of the first week, and then people have a chance to include their character’s actions within that context until the next major update is posted at the beginning of the next week. This simple pattern of major update (singular) followed minor updates (plural) will continue until an arc is concluded. Ideally, the major updates will follow some sort of dramatic structure pattern and be planned in advance. Upon an arcs conclusion, there will an intermediate period known as “The Calm” before the next arc is introduced. When the story inevitably comes to The Calm, writers/characters may enjoy free rein to do whatever makes sense within the context. The Calm should only last a single week, giving people a break and a chance to prepare for what comes next. This means that the ideal pattern and timing for arcs and breaks is 3-4 weeks for the arc, followed by 1 week for The Calm, rinse, and repeat.
Anyone with an approved character and proven writing caliber may participate in an arc. Ideally, a writer will announce their intentions to participate in an arc within The Calm before the arc itself begins, but tasteful mid-arc appearances will be tolerated. Writers are not expected to participate in every single arc going forward after their approval, although they are certainly welcome to do so. Instead, writers are expected to see an arc through to its completion, and then may decide whether or not to stick around for the next one. To illustrate this, a writer may choose to participate in their first available arc, their fourth available arc, their fifth, seventh, and tenth if that’s their preference and that is perfectly acceptable. Their characters will be forfeited as NPCs during their absence and will more than likely remain “off-screen” during that time. If a writer misses any arcs, it is recommended to (at the very least) read through the arc summaries before joining back up.
A great multitude of things can take place during an arc, but that isn’t to say that examples can’t be given. Some popular examples include the Tournament/Competition, the Mystery, the Rescue, the Obstacle/Threat, the War, the Voyage, the Quest, etc. While these may seem simple on the surface, it’s how a writer chooses to approach an arc that makes it interesting. One may choose to blend popular arc types together, or reinforce a particular theme with their arc. Whatever the case, there are endless possibilities in the arcs to look forward to. The best part of all is that any of the approved writers have the opportunity to be in charge of an arc of the story, just get with the GM ahead of time and work out the details/approval. Those in charge of an arc should have the major events of an arc planned out ahead of time and it is recommended to have at least some of the writing done before the arc starts as well (just be mindful of potential variations produced by fellow writers within the arc). Additional tips and suggestions for writing an arc can be obtained from the GM.
A character arc is something that is happens separate from story arcs. While it is entirely possible for them to run concurrent with story arcs and even be caused by them, they are in no way required to be connected. That being said, a character arc is only as good as its representation, and that requires it being represented at some point. A mutual character arc is also possible wherein two or more characters grow together, think romances, close friends, life bonds, etc. A famous example of a character arc is the “Hero’s Journey” (arguably a story arc within itself), wherein a long list of things happen and the character grows. A character need not experience a character arc within the narrative to be a well rounded character, but it’s certainly a great way to expand on who the character is and to make them more appealing overall.
That pretty much covers arcs and how they work within the Era of the Dragon. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Otherwise I’ll include some further reading on the matter that might help you to round out your knowledge on the subject.