One key thing might be to have the drama unfold right before game effecting decisions. For instance, a spy reports certain types of weapons will be used, and you also have an opportunity to open trade with a foreign kingdom that would be quite valueable. As the drama unfolds, it is invariably tied to the decision of which route to focus on. The story line would also give information as to the possible outcome and value of each decision, but of course tied in through dialog. This gives tactical reasons to pay attention to the story.
With randomized characters that will be tougher. I designed out a large scale editor "Mad-Libs" type plot generator, that would tie together several randomly chosen plots, and weave them into others. It turned out to be a lot of work to try and get our version of that idea to become effective. Its possible though.
Here is the basic idea of how it worked.
1) generate a lot of small key plot ideas, that requires a certain set of characters / traits.
- I.e. a love interest, a boss/friend and a weapons dealer.
2) If one doesn't exist in your character's circle, introduce them as a new character.
3) Each mini Mad-Lib has starting characters, and then ending condition characters.
- The idea being that a character who starts as a love interest may become an arch enemy. or a boss may become friend.
4) It picks two plots at a time, so long as any starting or ending characters match up between plots.
- If two plots have a family member to start, but one ends as an enemy and the other ends in the original state, then don't tie those two plots together.
- if they have different characters that don't overlap at the beginning, and they don't have matching characters at the end either, then they can be tied together.
- if they have one matching character, so long as that one starts and ends in the same condition, the two plots can be tied together.
5) Next, when those two plots finish up, it selects two new plots, and tries to get ones that start with character needs that match the ending state of the characters from the previous plots. - This will keep a rich ongoing story, with new characters from time to time, and role switches, that seems to take new shapes all the time as the game progresses.
6) But that alone doesn't work, because the story is separate from the technologies at hand
But it needs to be coupled with a secondary plot system to really work with keeping the game moving.
A) look at the characters used in your current plot lines. (maybe 3-5 characters)
- Types would be: Boss, Friend, Family, Love Interest, Bully, Nemesis, Political figure, Parent, etc...
B) also look at the technologies and features in the players current state of the game.
- They are very early, have weak technologies. enemy might be in a single character with no following, but flies a ship, or runs a small squad.
- Perhaps you are farther in the game, and you run two planets, and have several space armies. Your enemy might now be the general of a large space pirate batallion, that seems to be targeting your planets trade routes.
C) Now, you combine those to give each character a little tie in to the game.
- Enemy gets tied to a battle.
- friend gives you an old beater space ship to get around since you just lost your ship.
- Love interest is having a hard time with pirates, so you want to help out.
- Boss presents tasks to get paid.
D) All the while, these characters are also continuing with their key plot, intermingling story with in-game actions.