We have the tags and . Is there any value in having both, or should one be a synonym of the other?

Previous inconclusive meta: How should the "story" and "plot" tags be used?


To me, there's a bit of a difference between them.

Plot is something that will, or at least, can happen. Your campaing have a plot - the planned events that you want to put the players in.

Story, on the other hand, is something that already happened or is more or less static: your character background, the lore regarding a magic item, the tales regarding the founding of a dungeon, that kind of stuff.

The "Plot" tag should be more about planning stuff, while the story tag would cover telling stuff.

At least, that is how I would use each tag. If this is the way they are being used, that's another matter.

For instance, this question asks for advice regarding how to handle what seens like railroading. This question end's with a interesting phrase, with the questioner seeing cleary that there is indeed a difference between and .

Thinking a bit more about those tags, however, it seens that neither of them are really necessary.

Story would be about:

  • Review of Stories - No good, RPG.SE is not for reviews.
  • Creating Stories - No good, too opinion-based.
  • Asking how to close a gap in a story - While narrower, still too opinio-based.
  • Asking general methods about how to create a history - that's more like it, and the only use that I can devise to this tag.

Plot suffers similar problems:

  • If it is about a missing element to your plot, like a monster, a special spell or a NPC, it would use that tag (, , ).
  • If it is about how to create a plot, that would be or
  • If it is asking a review about a plot, that would not be a good fit for RPG.SE.
  • If it is asking about how to resolve player action inside a plot, that too would be too opinion-based to fit here.

So, while I can sey they are indeed different, I can't say they are useful.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding [gm-technique] vs [plot], plot is more specific than [gm-technique] and shouldn't be gotten rid of just because it can be covered by a broader tag. We like specific. (Ditto [campaign-development]: not all development is plotting, not all plotting is done on whole-campaign scale.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 17 '14 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Makes sense. Yes, I can see that, now. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Oct 17 '14 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm in agreement. Plot and Story are definitely similar, but different tags. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Oct 18 '14 at 4:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sandwich Are they used differently though? It's not enough for the words to be about different ideas if the tags don't get used differently—that would indicate that the site's users don't actually see a difference. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 20 '14 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, that's another thing. I will check up the usage of those tags, and see how often users are assigning them and how. Also, keep in mind that we have tags that get misused all the time - like the Dungeons and Dragons tag. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Oct 21 '14 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's years later now. As @SevenSidedDie pointed out/predicted above, the two tags are very inconsistently and quite interchangeably used - and the tag wiki doesn't at all make it clear how they're supposed to be used or how they're different from one another. I think this issue needs to be brought up again. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 10 '18 at 8:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've now made a new suggestion in meta here: The [story] tag should be merged with the [plot] tag \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 10 '18 at 9:16

No, we don't need them both, and we should make one a synonym of the other.

Multiple dictionaries define "plot" as primarily meaning "secret scheme", and secondarily meaning "story". We've been using in the second sense, which means we're using it exactly as a synonym of story. We can't get much more of a solid synonym than that.

Thales makes a distinction between them that plot is forward-looking narrative and story is backwards-looking narrative. The definitions we're operating on don't make such a distinction though, and netiher have the users — both tags are being used both ways.

If we want a tag for the first sense of 'plot', as in secret schemes, we should pick a clearer name for the tag like .

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be tempted to synonym them the other way around. My understanding of how they're used in RPGs and here in particular is that “story” is fairly vague, while “plot” is more narrow. Looking at the actual questions seems to bear that out: [story] is applied pretty broadly and vaguely, while [plot] is more narrowly applied to the business of plot-management. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 25 '15 at 0:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie there's no meaningful difference between 'story' and 'plot' in the sense we're using them. It can go either way really. I suggested it this way around because if 'plot' is defined as meaning 'story', that kinda makes 'story' the primary term and a good candidate for the primary tag. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 25 '15 at 0:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest that "story" is vague to the point of guaranteeing misuse, while at least "plot" will tend to get used less, and therefore more often usefully. In creative writing and in RPG planning, they're not used interchangeably. Dictionaries are not so useful when you get into a specific knowledge domain the dictionary isn't accounting for. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 25 '15 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, that sounds pretty reasonable to me. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 25 '15 at 0:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Do you have something like a writer's dictionary available that articulates a meaningful difference between the two words? I know there is a difference (meaningful enough to direct the synonym as you've said, not meaningful enough to keep them separate), but I can't find words to articulate it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 25 '15 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I threw some terms at google a few times and turned up things like this and this — the emergent picture seems to be that plot is an ingredient of story (among others like "character" and "setting"). But people here have been using "story" to mean just "plot". I think that's why I feel like [plot] is primary, because [story] is burnable if used correctly, and as used here usually actually means what "plot" does. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 25 '15 at 1:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'll leave a position of which should be the synonym out of my answer for now, as I can't articulate it well, and just suggest they be synonyms. Also, the system prevents me from suggesting a synonym on [plot] at the moment, since I suggested the opposite on [story]. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 25 '15 at 1:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's years later now, but I still agree with your point here, @doppelgreener. The two tags are very inconsistently and quite interchangeably used - and the tag wiki doesn't at all make it clear how they're supposed to be used or how they're different from one another. How would you suggest I bring this up for discussion again? (Do you think I should?) Or should I directly propose that [story] be made a synonym of [plot]? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 10 '18 at 8:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Doesn't hurt to revisit a subject a few years later. 🤔 You could open up a discussion again or directly propose a synonym on meta, either would work. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 10 '18 at 8:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener: If I were to do the latter, which tag would I use? [support]? [feature-request]? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 10 '18 at 8:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Either one would be [discussion]. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 10 '18 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've now made a new suggestion in meta here: The [story] tag should be merged with the [plot] tag \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 10 '18 at 9:16

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