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Monday, April 9, 2012

Monomyth Stages as Mythic Meta-Threads - Template

This is an unfinished "template" for the Monomyth Stages. The basic purpose is to treat the various Stages as "meta-threads" under which the normal Mythic Threads are organized. The questions pertaining to the Monomyth stage  are treated as Mythic Threads to follow as you see fit. Those questions can either be resolved, or used to generate more specific Threads as the story evolves.

As mentioned, the template is unfinished, as not all of the Stages have been fleshed out with questions. Most of the questions were directly lifted from The Writer's Journey, and this Hero's Journey document.

The reason I decided to go with this is that I've already been using the questions in the Writer's Journey to guide me in much of the session, but I wasn't taking advantage of the Mythic list organization, nor was I explicitly or concsiously thinking of the questions as Threads to follow. I find that organizing these as Threads provides me with direction when I'm stuck.

An example how this template is being used can be found here. Note: some of the Threads there have been retrofitted to this structure.

Purpose: Use this template as a skeleton for an RPG story. The questions here can be treated as Mythic threads to be explored, and/or fleshed out into more specific threads. Use this in combination with the Archetype cheat sheet, from which you can add more Threads here or color the questions as you see fit.

The questions and threads can be picked in any order that makes sense. Not all threads or questions need to be answered.

· Before The Beginning


1. (Optional) Prologue: visual metaphor, or scene that conjures up Special World of Act 2 . Suggest theme, or alert audience to issues characters will face.

2. What is the background of hero?


a. Give a complete biographical account for yourself: Physical description, education, family background, job experiences, romances, dislikes, prejudices, food preferences, clothes preferences, etc

b. Do a timeline of specifying what the hero was doing and where he was at every stage of life. Find out what was going on in the world at these times. What ideas, events, and people have been the greatest influences on your hero?

c. Make a list of all the points of backstory and exposition that an audience needs to know to get the story started. How can these be revealed indirectly through visuals, action or conflict?

d. (All of this may be revealed during the course of the story)


· Act One


· Ordinary World


1. What is the hero doing when we first see him?

2. How is the hero “relatable” (like us, the audience)?

3. What are the hero’s universal goals, drives, desires and needs?

4. What is the hero lacking, or what has been taken away? (E.g. does the hero lack romance? Has a family member been kidnapped? Is she an orphan? Is something missing from his personality like compassion?)

5. What are the hero’s tragic flaws? (These humanize the hero) Is the hero wounded in some fashion (psychological or physical)?

6. What is the hero’s outer problem? / What is the hero’s inner problem?

7. How is the ordinary world different from Special World?

8. What seeds of challenge, problems and/or conflicts already exist in Ordinary World for the hero?

9. How is the Special World foreshadowed?

10. How does this Ordinary World raise the dramatic question of the story? What are the hero’s goals? What are the hero’s flaws? What lessons does the hero need to learn? (add your own as threads)

11. What is at stake in this adventure? What does the hero stand to gain or lose? What are the consequences of success or failure? What is the threatening condition?

12. What is this story about? What is its theme?


· Call To Adventure


1. What his the hero doing when the Call comes?

2. How is the hero just ‘getting by’? How is his situation static but unstable? What are the hero’s crutches, addictions or support mechanisms?

3. Who or what delivers the Call for change? Is it internal? External?

4. Is the call an accident? A blunder? Something planned? Something hoped for? Is the Call anticipated or dreaded?

5. Who is behind the Herald’s mask? Is he an ally? Enemy? Neutral?

6. How does the call manifest? (E.g. temptation, synchronicity, unsettling, disorienting, a lack or need, running out of options, a warning?) How are the hero’s crutches kicked away? How is the hero prompted to action?


· Refusal Of The Call


1. Is the hero afraid of anything? What?

2. Which of these fears are real? Which are paranoia? Who or what makes the dangers clear for the audience (you)? (Sometimes a Threshold Guardian appears here to do that: Is the hero truly heroic enough to face and survive the quest?)

3. Does the hero refuse the call? Why? In what ways the hero refuse the call? What are the excuses? (E.g. Let the FBI handle it)

4. What are the consequences of refusal (positive or negative)?

5. What would cause the hero to leave home?


· Meeting With The Mentor


1. Does your hero need one?

2. Who or what is the mentor? Is it an internal code of ethics or an external entity or force?

3. How does he change the Hero’s mind? How does he motivate/prepare the hero? How does he impart wisdom? Does he/she bestow any gifts/advice? How does the hero earn these?

4. Is the mentor what he seems to be (good or dark mentor?)? Is he/she to be trusted? Is there any conflict between hero and mentor?

5. Is there more than one?

6. How is the final commitment brought about to push into Crossing The Threshold? Is it an internal event? External?


· Crossing the First Threshold


1. What world is being left; what world is being entered?

2. How do you know that you’ve crossed from one world to the other? How does the energy change? What does the border between the two worlds look like?

3. What is the threshold? How does the hero cross it?

4. Is it a smooth transition, or rough (like a rough landing)?

5. What or who is guarding the threshold? Are there any Threshold Guardians? How do they make the leap for the Hero more difficult? How do they block the way? How does the hero get around, absorb, or push through the guardian?

6. How does the hero deal with the Threshold Guardian? What does the hero learn by crossing the Threshold?

7. What options is the hero giving up by crossing the Threshold? How do these unexplored options come back to haunt him?


· Act Two


· Test Allies Enemies


1. How does the Special World contrast to the Ordinary world? How is this contrast increased? Are the differences physical or otherwise?

2. In what ways is your hero tested? How do these tests prepare him for greater challenges ahead? Are these tests built into the landscape by the Shadow, or in service of the Shadow, or dominated by the Shadow?

3. What are the new rules of this world?

4. What are the “watering holes”, or the places where people in this world congregate? Can the hero obtain information/gossip there?

5. When and how does he make Allies/Enemies/Rivals? Is the mentor still with the Hero at this stage?

6. If you have a group of heroes, when does the group become a coherent team?

7. How does your hero react to the Special World?

8. What obstacles must the hero overcome to truly begin the journey? Limits of home or society? Limits of personality? Limits of perception? Physical limits?



· Approach to the Innmost Cave


1. Having adjusted to the special world, the hero now seeks its heart, by passing through an intermediate region. This is often shamanic territory; the edge between life and death. What Guardians, agendas and tests they find here?

2. What symbolizes/demonstrates the separation between the old/known world and the new in the story?

3. What happens between entering the Special World, and reaching a central crisis in this world? What special preparations lead up to that crisis?

4. Does your hero take time to plan, perform reconnaissance, reorganize, relax before the ordeal, or arm himself/herself? Does he just barge in boldly?

5. Is there any courtship/love moment before the ordeal?

6. Is this phase of the Approach a good time to get to know companions? Comic relief?

7. Does the hero enter yet another special world within the Special World?

8. Does conflict build, and do obstacles get more difficult/interesting? Does he/she encounter more Threshold Guardians? Can past experience in the Journey be used to get past? Can an emotional appeal do it?

9. Are any warnings signs sent?

10. In what ways is the hero, in facing external challenges, also facing internal demons and defenses? Is there a physical/psychological/emotional Innmost Cave? A physical headquarters of the villain which the hero Approaches? Or an emotional/psychological equivalent?

11. Do any disheartening setbacks or dramatic complications occur? How do these tear the hero apart? How do these further test the hero’s willingness to proceed? How do these allow the hero to put himself/herself back together in a more effective form to travel this unfamiliar terrain?

12. Is the hero challenging any powerful status quo in the Special World, which provides resistance? Is it tied to any of the hero’s neuroses?

13. Is the hero somehow isolated? (this is common)

14. Does your hero want to turn back now, or is he/she fully commited?

15. How are the stakes raised? How is the hero/team rededicated to the mission? How is the urgency and life-and-death quality of the situation underscored?

16. The villain’s headquarters are usually defended ferociously. How so?

17. How are the archetype masks reorganized among characters, if at all? Any misgivings expressed?

18. How does the hero get past obstacles? Does he get into the obstacle’s mind? Does he use force?

19. How is any escape attempt cut off for the hero? How is he forced to face the life-and-death ordeal?

20. Is the hero ready to transform? Does the hero descend willingly, or is the hero thrust/captured?

21. The hero is leaving his old known world and his old self. What self is being left? What self is the hero moving toward?


· Ordeal


1. What is the Ordeal in your story? Does your story truly have a villain, or is it simply an antagonist?

2. How is this the central event of the Journey (e.g. the inmost center of the forest? How does it separate the two halves of your story? How are things changed forever?

3. How are the hostile forces/enemies at the tensest state of opposition? How do things get worse before they get better?

4. In what way is the villain or antagonist the Hero’s Shadow? How is the shadow demonized? What negative/rejected qualities of the hero are projected on the Shadow? How does this help make the issue clearer?

5. Can the villain also be a Shapeshifter or Trickster? What other archetypes might the villain/antagonist manifest? Is the hero betrayed by a Shapeshifter?

6. What kind of Shadow does the hero confront? Deadly enemy? Force of nature? Opponent? Greatest fear? Standing up to a parent/authority? How is he Shadow he hero of its own story? How does it think it’s right?

7. Is the villain’s power channeled through partners or underlings?What special functions do these parts perform?

8. In what way does your hero face death in the Ordeal? What does the hero dread the most? How does the hero experience death /greatest fears? What ‘dragon’ must the hero slay?

9. Does the hero die or appear to die? Who is witness to this (which characters) as a stand in for the audience (you)? How does the hero’s ego die?

10. Does the hero witness death? Does the hero cause death?

11. Does the Shadow die? Does another one take its place? Does it escape only to be confronted later?

12. How does the hero cheat death? Magical gift from Mentor? Allies? Love? What must the hero sacrifice t achieve his greatest challenge? Or does the hero really die (a la Psycho—hard to pull off)?

13. How does the hero experience rebirth/change? Are any opposing forces within the hero brought together into balance(anima/animus)? How does the hero resolve him/herself with his/her greatest fear?

· Reward


1. What do the heroes of your story learn by observing/causing/experiencing death?

2. What is the aftermath/consequence of the Ordeal? What do the heroes of your story take possession of after facing death/greatest fears? Is it freely given or does he steal it? Is there a heavy price later for stealing it?

3. Is the reward something like new knowledge? New perceptions? Seeing through deception? Clarity? Clairvoyance? Self realization? Epiphany? Or is the reward negative? Does death bring distortion of perception like hubris, or being tainted by the horror faced/by the experience?Have your heroes absorbed any negative qualities from the Shadow/villain?

4. Does the story change direction? Is a new goal or agenda revealed in the Reward phase?

5. Is the aftermath of the Ordeal in your story an opportunity for a love scene?

6. How does celebration take place? How does the hero savor the pleasure of surviving death?

7. Do your heroes realize they have changed? Is there self-examination or a realization of wider consciousness? Have they learned to deal with their inner flaws?

8. What transformation has the hero achieved? How does it take form? Revelation? Discovery? Insight? How does it change the hero’s consciousness/how they view life?

9. Is there any conflict for the spoils/rewards?

10. How is the hero recognized a special and different for having survived the ordeal? E.g. knighthood, initiation into elite group, elevation in rank, being made a god, etc.



· Act Three


· The Road Back


1. Does the aim of the quest/journey change? A new goal? How do your heroes rededicate themselves to the quest?

2. Are the heroes ejected or chased out of the Special world? Or do they leave voluntarily? What motivates the decision (external/internal)?

3. Is there fear/threat of retaliation? Is it the same villain? Its minions? An even bigger villain/threat? Do any of the heroes companions die?

4. Are the heroes in pursuit of an escaped villain?

5. Is it another moment of crisis that sets the hero on a new and final road of trials? Are there any catastrophic reversals (a delayed Ordeal)?

6. Are they returning to their starting place?

7. Are they setting forth to a new destination?

8. Are they adjusting to a new life in the Special World?



· Resurrection (Climax)

1. What negative characteristics has your hero picked up along the way?


3. What flaws were there from the beginning that still need to be corrected? What flaws are preserved, uncorrected? How are they necessary parts of your hero’s nature?

4. What final ordeal of death and rebirth does your hero go through? What aspect of your hero is Resurrected?

5. Is there a need for a physical showdown? Is your hero active at the critical moment?

6. Is the final change in your character visible in their actions or appearance? How does your hero’s behavior/appearance show change?

7. Who learns anything in a tragedy where the hero dies, where the hero didn’t learn his lessons?


· Return With The Elixir

1. What marks the hero’s return to normal life?

2. What challenges do they face in integrating the lessons of the quest into their normal life?

3. Can/does the hero share their experience and wisdom gained in the quest with others?

4. How is the hero received upon return?