October 06, 2003
Game WISH 67: Storytelling

It's been a long time since I've done a GameWISH. A damned long time. But then, I'm slowly pulling myself back out into the world and blogging community and talking and thinking about meta-gaming and all. So I'm thinking... and writing... and as always, rambling.

This week, Ginger asks...

How do you tell stories in your games? Are there character stories, overarching stories, and/or other kinds of stories? Could you tell a coherent story from games you’ve GMed or played in? Does it matter to you? Why or why not?

When I GM, and when I play, I tend to focus on character stories. Which so far, seems to be a thread in the responses I've read. *smiles*

My first Amber character belonged to a campaign that just sort of ended, mid-thread. It drove me nuts. I didn't feel I had any resolution for the character. She'd been through hell and back, and things finally fell apart. She never had a resolution in game, but after the game I found myself talking to Toigo because I wanted to think about what would happen in the future between Jenny and Jynx. We talked, came to a point of agreement between them, and Jenny finally settled down in my head.

I couldn't play her at ACUS until that point. I needed her to have a story before I could take her out and put her in another game.

Some characters have stories that come to a conclusion that means they'll never fit in elsewhere.

Still, that's not the question, and I'm doing that rambling thing. Let me switch to GMing.

I run character oriented games. I've always done that, developing the plot through the actions of the PCs and NPCs, moving the world according to their desires. When I started AoW (Artifacts of Winter), I told everyone it was my first attempt at a tightly plotted game. I had a concept. I had a goal for the dozen players. I knew where things were going.

Needless to say, they blew that out of the water. In the first few sessions, two characters (Chris & Josh) met up with two kids (Tessa & Ben) and decided they needed to rescue them. At that moment, the plot I had planned became secondary. The interaction of the characters, and the way Chris & Josh saving these two affected Blackmoor, changed everything. The plot was still there (and still rather important). But the story was told around Tessa. And it became this amazing powerful story that I am still vaguely in awe of, and refuse to take credit for... it belonged to the players. So many things happened, so many stories came and went and resolved all because of who the people in the story were. One fell in love with a goddess... which changed how the world ended (or didn't).

Were they stories? Yes. Each one came to a cnnclusion of some kind. I made sure of it at the end. I remember the sorrow at the end, to say goodbye to that cast of characters. The NPCs still live in my head. I still wish I could write it as a novel, but know I could never do it justice.

Does storytelling matter to me? From the character perspective, yes. Do I care if there was a plot and we saved the world? Nah. Not important to me. I care that something happened, that was important, and that my character and others made it through. I care about what happens to the people. But that's my style.

I'm trying to keep RoP character oriented. I need to know the hooks, need to know what drives the characters. There are plots, yes, although a good half of them are caused by the chaos inspired by one particular PC. *laughs* She, alone, is a hurricane waiting to happen. Which is wonderful for me. And I am anxious to tell her story... anxious to see how it plays out. Yet most of this game (for all the characters) has years and years of play ahead before storylines are resolved. I hope to hell I'm up to GMing it and keeping energy up for that long!

Story of some kind must be important. There must be a reason to want to play. A driving reason to find out how it comes out in the end. Something that keeps us coming back for more. That is the story. What KIND of story it is, depends entirely on the player and the GM and the chemistry between them. Me, I'll just keep searching for character oriented games and having a blast.

The hardest part, sometimes, is that this isn't a book. I can't flip to the last page and read ahead and find out what happens. We have to play through the story to get to the resolution. And there's no one path there... so many options, so many ways the story could go. Which is wonderful and frustrating all at once.

I like to say I'm patient.

I usually lie.

[Listening to: Bent - Matchbox 20 - Pop Goes the World (04:16)]

Posted by Deb Atwood at October 06, 2003 11:11 PM | TrackBack
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