Plot-a-Day: RMS Titanic

The Titanic probably needs no introduction. It sank on April 15th, 1912 – one hundred years ago. Since its story is featured in so many stories, movies and so on, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post a list of plot ideas involving the Titanic.

First of all, the Titanic is easy to transplant to pretty much any setting. An airship that crashes in the jungle, a spaceliner that burns up in the atmosphere of an iceball world, a sailing ship crewed by orcs and humans, you name it, you can use the Titanic as your template.

The Titanic or a similar ship (Majestic, Mauretania, any of the great ocean liners of the early 20th Century) also makes a great setting for any sort of story – obviously, if you don’t want to include the sinking, don’t actually pick the Titanic. Or make the Titanic arrive safely, if you’re working on an alternate history setting. Playing with player/reader expectations can be fun. Stories in this category include espionage, murder mystery, drama, and so on.

Needless to say, the Titanic is a trope destination for time travel stories. You may want to avoid that, unless you have a plot twist in mind – or are running a time travel RPG and your players insist on going to the Titanic.

Some specific ideas:

  • The Titanic didn’t sink because it hit an ice berg; it was blown up by spies, space aliens, anarchists, and so on. The dive to the Titanic may be organized to find out its true fate, with the nation sabotaging the Titanic attempting to also sabotage the dive, fearing a public backlash if the truth is revealed. This is so obvious, I am sure it’s already a book, movie and comic book.
  • Similar to the previous idea: A sea monster damaged the ship, or pulled it down beneath the waves. Perhaps a floating alien spaceship collided with the Titanic. Diving down to the wreck would uncover the truth, and reveal the monster. The secret government conspiracy tasked with suppressing evidence of the supernatural will sabotage the dive.
  • Instead of the voyage, focus on the construction of the Titanic. Perhaps there is evidence of substandard work or materials (the rumor existed in reality, though as far as I know was not correct). The protagonists have to investigate and ensure a timely launch of the Titanic.
  • Any horror campaign could use the Titanic as a ghost ship filled with zombies – Ghostbusters 2 used that as a throw-away joke, but there’s more that can be made out of that than just a ten seconds scene.
  • The victims didn’t really die – the Deep Ones/Aliens kidnapped them and are holding them in the sunken ruins of once-proud Atlantis for slavery and/or nasty human experimentation. The protagonists, caught in this terrifying situation, must attempt to flee… only to be then hunted by the government for what they know!
  • In a twist on the usual time-travel scenario, the protagonists get sent back in time to catch a rogue Time Agent who is determined to save the Titanic. Our heroes must stop the Time Agent and ensure that the Titanic actually sinks, for fear of creating a paradox.
  • In a “future earth is a fantasy world” scenario, use the Titanic as a dungeon. How did it get out of the water? Anybody’s guess; it’s magic – or maybe tectonic shifts turned the ocean floors into dry land. Then again, perhaps the people of 2057 decided to raise the Titanic after all and it turned out to be in fairly good shape for its age. They set it up as an outdoors museum somewhere in a desert in the United States, and when our civilization fell, it remained there for eons until the protagonists stumble across it.

In the end, however, the Titanic is just another shipwreck with a tragic story. Using it as a setting or plot piece is a trope, and as with all tropes you gotta know when to use it, when to avoid it, and when to subvert it.

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