Role-playing games – Story

One of the points I bailed on last time was story. Specifically, I was saying that the group can control how much story they choose to have, and they can decide who controls that story. This may not prove to be a popular thing to say, but the simple fact is that one of the big factors that affect this is the maturity level of the group.

Let me explain by saying that the more mature group will be more interested in a more complex story. (I’m not here to pick on the tweens; believe me, I understand the economics of the industry well enough to leave that alone.) Put simply, hack-and-slash is less gratifying to the folks in my age group than it is to the younger crowd. And believe me, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. If anything, it’s great because we’re in what might be called a golden age for RPGs. There are more games of more types out there right now than many of us ever thought possible twenty years ago. But I’m digressing again.

Making a choice about how much story to have in the game is often not a conscious one. It can be small, subtle choices that control it. The most notable, I think, is when it is decided who will be the gamemaster, or DM or show runner or whatever the group or the game system calls it. This is the person in your group who will be driving the story, as it were, and some members of your group will be more into story than others. Sometimes there’s only one person in your group willing to take on the responsibility, and that may not be the person most interested in story. It will also fall to the GM (I’ll go with the most generic term for now) to gauge the rest of the group to see how much or how little they can handle, or whether they can agree at all on it. But that’s more about the dynamics of the specific group than I want to go for now.

The other choice that has a strong influence over story is the choice of the game itself. Good old-fashioned D&D is going to create a completely different story mechanic than something from White Wolf or DramaSystem. (For those who aren’t familiar, D&D is very much rules- and combat-driven, where WW gave us Vampire: the Masquerade and several other game settings where it’s all about story. And DramaSystem is based on TV and movies, which lean heavily on story formulae.) Some systems are better equipped to work with story than others. And that’s not a knock on any system; it’s by design, and as I said before, each is valid for what it was meant for. The trick is to find a good one for what you want to do, which is harder when you don’t know, either from lack of experience or just lack of knowledge of the games out there.

Maybe next time I’ll try to identify some story types. Or maybe I’ll have a better idea. I’m trying to play this loose for now. I hope that’s okay with you guys.

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