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Is there a book, movie, etc where the plotters and schemers are the main characters?

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  • Is there a book, movie, etc where the plotters and schemers are the main characters?

    In all the stories i have read, the ones that ploy and scheme are either villains or support cast while the story focuses on the heroes charging with his sword. Arent there any stories where the focus in in the backstage of the conflicts?
    Also, is there one where the focus is in the strategic part of a war?

  • #2
    Well as far as plotters go I guess Death Note would be one place to look for a schemer.


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    • #3
      Well, I know that the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson starts out as focusing on the schemers and plotters (even though they are schemers and plotters with superpowers effectively). I would also recommend the historical fiction I, Claudius if you're interested in political scheming, plotting, and all things "backroom."

      As for your second question, there's isn't a whole lot that discusses wars at a very high level outside of things like military history (mostly because that tends to be things like logistics, which don't sell well as novels). Isaac Asimov's Foundation series tends to focus on action at a very high and abstract level instead of the personal.

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      • #4
        The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006) is about a gang of street level con artists. It was a while since I read it, but it reads like a fantasy heist novel.

        That said, planning is often ungrateful to show. The reason is that if you spend half a book setting up a plan, and the plan then goes off perfectly in the second part, then the second part is actually pretty boring. In order to keep the reader interested, you typically either let the characters plan off-screen and succeed, or show the planning and throw in a complication. That way, the reader is still kept in the dramatic tension.


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        • #5
          Tales of the Black Company, while it does focus specifically on sword weildung mercenaries, has a substantial amount of page count on the underhanded and/or subtle actions taken, both in large scale battles and the small but vital operations that make or break a war.

          In televised media I recommend the colonial spy thriller Turn (I think on Hulu or maybe Amazon) or Raymonds portions on Blacklist, or (in an action comedy sense) Neil's part in White Collar.

          Heist films, like the Oceans flicks or if you're willing to go classic, The Sting is an excellent con job movie (an excellent movie in general actually).


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          • #6
            Books:
            I'd look at Brandon Sanderson novels, generally. In many of them, a collection of heroes are faced with a complex problem that cannot be solved simply by killing somebody. Usually, they are struggling to learn about a problem at the same time they fight it. Houlio already mentioned the Mistborn trilogy, which begins with a collection of rebels who are trying to overthrow a continental government. Then there's the Stormlight Archive, in which both heroes and villains regularly find themselves entangled in each other's political machinations as they struggle to survive a coming apocalypse.

            You also might consider The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey. In those, the heroes aren't usually scheming so much as they are trying to thread a needle through other peoples' schemes, which sometimes involves complicated operations. One notable exception is Chrisjen Avasarala, the UN Assistant Undersecretary of Executive Administration who spends all of her time wheeling, dealing, and manipulating governments.


            Films:

            The Banquet, aka Legend of the Black Scorpion, is a wuxia film loosely based on Hamlet. In this story, the queen, the king, and the prince are all independently laying plots and trying to figure out each other's plots. Of course, it'll all end in violence, but it's interesting to see how the characters try to manipulate each other until that happens.

            The Curse of the Golden Flower is another wuxia film with a similar concept, albeit with more pseudo-incest. An empress is plotting to overthrow the emperor, the crown prince was sleeping with the empress (no relation) and also wants to elope with the emperor's doctor's daughter, the emperor is possibly poisoning the empress, and you just know this isn't going to end well.

            Ran, an Akira Kurosawa film that shares a lot in common with King Lear. A king wants to divide his kingdom among his three sons. Almost everyone thinks this is a terrible idea, but some see an opportunity to profit from the chaos. This story doesn't really have "heroes" - mostly, it has victims. But the efforts of the princes and their friends/relatives/retainers to seize power may give you some inspiration.

            Red Cliff, a film about the battle of Red Cliff as described in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Just about everything Zhuge Liang does in this movie is a demonstration of grand strategic thinking.


            TV shows:

            White Collar is a series about a white-collar criminal forced to work for the FBI. Most episodes involve the main characters trying to pull some kind of con on another, more nefarious con artist.

            Burn Notice is a show about a burned spy who takes odd jobs and mercenary work while trying to figure out who burned him and why. In the first few seasons, he's usually pulling an espionage operation against criminals or other intelligence organizations, with the help of a few friends. It's a bit more action-oriented than White Collar, but the MCs still triumph by trickery more often than they do by straight-up violence.

            Leverage is another show in the same vein - criminals staging elaborate cons for clients victimized by those holding wealth and influence to avoid legal reprisal. I haven't watched this show, mind you, so I can't vouch for how good it is or how well it fits your criteria.


            Plays
            Pick a Shakespeare. Almost all of them are about characters' plots and counter-plots, especially the tragedies. To name some:
            * Titus Andronicus, in which a lot of murder for power or revenge happens.
            * Richard III, in which an ambitious prince seizes control of a country by treachery, only to be undone.
            * Love's Labors Lost, in which everyone is apparently conspiring to get laid.
            Last edited by semicasual; 02-08-2018, 02:32 PM.


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            • #7
              Seconding Burn Notice and Leverage. Both have very impressive examples of how to come up with detailed schemes and improvise something on the fly.


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              • #8
                The TV series Profit, The Good Wife, and How to Get Away with Murder. Or most sitcoms really, convoluted hijinks to manipulate situations rather than just openly communicating are a genre staple.

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                • #9
                  Oh, Leverage! Can't believe I forgot about that one. One of the shows... writers, Exec P's, something like that; Dean Devlin I think, actually does work with TTRPG's. Legerage is a great source for not only conniving heroes but also ways to push such a story through an RPG medium.

                  Breakout Kings is in a similar vein, but I couldn't tell ya about it's quality.

                  Oh, amd of course there's also Runaway Jury... bit jf I say anythjng more on that one it's a spoiler.


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                  • #10
                    Isnt that pretty much every heist story?


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Janissary87 View Post
                      Oh, Leverage! Can't believe I forgot about that one. One of the shows... writers, Exec P's, something like that; Dean Devlin I think, actually does work with TTRPG's.
                      You're thinking of John Rogers, who's a big TTRPG fan and has written some published D&D material. (He also created the Jaime Reyes version of DC Comics' Blue Beetle.)


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
                        You're thinking of John Rogers, who's a big TTRPG fan and has written some published D&D material. (He also created the Jaime Reyes version of DC Comics' Blue Beetle.)
                        Ack, yeah that's him. Thanks!


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                        • #13
                          It was mentioned already, but the Black Company series of novels are pretty great at this. A few of the books (Shadows Linger and The Silver Spike) specifically are more or less heist stories as well, and there's a lot of ambiguity on the whole "Who's the good guy here?" around in how the characters operate or pick their battles.

                          I've only read the first two books, but there's a lot of minutia inthe Book of New Sun series that feels pretty background. A running thing I'm not sure is if the main character in his narration is a liar or an idiot, but that actaully creates some interesting bits on how other characters seem ot have interesting ploys but seem to me to be mostly pretty neutral rather than good or evil.


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                          • #14
                            Code Geass is an excellent example of a "Heroic" plotter. Lelouch also ended up being a star-making role for Jonny Young Bosch. He's also a fine example of a tactician/strategist if you ignore some of the chess metaphors.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
                              You're thinking of John Rogers, who's a big TTRPG fan and has written some published D&D material. (He also created the Jaime Reyes version of DC Comics' Blue Beetle.)
                              He also wrote the Crimeworld supplement for Fate, which is a how to guide for making a heist story and is easily adapted to other systems. It’s included in their Worlds in Shadow compilation, which you can buy here: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/...10_0_44284_0_0

                              I don’t know if he was directly involved with writing anything for the Leverage RPG, but that’s something you could look into as well.


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