Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thoughts on Literary RPG Stories - Part 2

In response to a comment made on my original blog entry on this topic, I want to present my thoughts on Railroading. It seems that I didn't cover this point originally, though I really should have.

The comment was as follows:

Ian Borchardt (Reverance Pavane)

One of the ways of avoiding the problem of random chance killing your protagonists in a literary-based RPG is not to front-load the characters as the protagonists of the story. That is the story will develop as the players play, so any death demotes a character to having actually been a minor character in the story.

That is instead of generating the exiled Prince, destined to regain his throne, at the start of the adventure sequence, reveal this previously unknown fact as the game continues, for the character that has taken the lead in the party (and looks like they will survive). Similar flashbacks can retcon how the party formed, an the roles of the other characters.

And if, the principal characters of your planned drama die (or decide to do something completely different), don't be afraid to change the story you are trying to tell to suit this. Perhaps it becomes a revenge drama or a love story instead.

[For myself I find the idea of plot immunity abhorrent, and there is nothing that is more likely to spoil my fun at the table as a player. As a game master, I want to hear the story that my players tell, rather than the story I want to tell. By that's my persoal bias, and other people's will vary.]

My reply, and the point of this post, is...

Regarding Railroading vs Open Ended Narrative ...

As for the question of running the game so that it results in the story that the Gamemaster has in mind... actually, that's another topic that should be addressed. What I don't want to do, nor do I try to do in my own games, is have a vision of what the end of the story will be. The only thing I want to know as GM is what has happened, and what is currently happening, and what might happen in the next game session. The reason i take this approach is to avoid the issue of Railroading. And yes, I'm with you on that. I don't care to be Railroaded along a defined storyline set by the GM as a Player. Nor do I want to drag my Players along a story line that I devised. Rather, I want to set the foundations of the story with a history, and NPCs who have their own motives, objectives, moral stances, and then let the players interact within the world freely. The technique of getting to the Story End is one of tying up loose ends, and, if the adventurer's survive (in most cases at least some survive in my games, and not uncommonly the majority of them do), then to see them arrive back home where the came from and take up their lives again.

So what I don't do as GM is say "First they will do this, then they will do that, then having achieved X they will then need to go get Y, and finally the grand climax will happen with Z. The end."

Nope. Not at all. What I do as GM instead is say "The history of the place is such and such. There are x forces at work. A is trying to do this. B is trying to do that. C wishes to do the same as B, but is thwarted by D, who opposes the objectives of both B and C. D will help A if he can. And now in the little town of Hamfest is a family of swine herders, of whom our heroes will emerge. They start the story doing chores for their parents, swilling pigs, hunting rabbits, fighting wolves, and staving off starvation. Then one day ..."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Combat and Smart Play

In very thoughtful recently posted video on Combat in RPGs I was inspired to consider how I handle combat and talk a little bit about it.

This was my comment:

For me Combat is the "Game" aspect of my RPG GMing. It's where the dice become Fate and Destiny. However, my rules are such that characters can, if they plan ahead, or are clever people, augment their chances of success by exercising what I call "Smart Play". So if there's a scene where the guards are heard clamoring down the corridor one group of players might ignore them in their pursuit of treasure until the guards burst through the doorway. Their odds in this case are normal. Another group, lets say, panics when they hear the sound and start arguing and a few of them try to run into an adjacent room. This group's odds are lower and they may get negative modifiers on the initial round of combat because they're in a state of panic. Another group might quickly assemble around the doorway with weapons drawn and with the thief hiding behind the door so that he can get a backstab in at the right moment. This group will get bonus attack level modifiers for being prepared, and are more likely to win the initiative in the first round because the guards may be surprised. For me the last group represents what I think of as "Smart Play", and those guys augment their chances of success. Now does this have much to do with role playing? Yup. In my opinion it does. I have some great players. They don't meta game. If they're low level dumb dumbs with a thimble of intelligence between them, my players will play their characters that way - and they'll faithfully play the group that panics. And it will be fun and funny, and we'll have a ball. But if they're playing the highly skilled veterans then that group will be exercising "Smart Play", and it will be neat and effective and they've got a good chance of achieving their goals. And there will probably be some laughs along the way, because they're witty as hell. At any rate, that's my concept of "Smart Play" and a little bit about how that plays out in my game.