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Narrative Tool Kit

Started by Ace, May 15, 2002, 07:58:35 AM

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It occured to me that a lot of Narrative gaming tricks can be used with any system.

Things like The Confessional in InSpecters, Directors stance, Scene Bidding and that sort of thing can be easily adapted to many different systems.

Anybody know if there is a list of tricks out there?

Ron Edwards

Hi Anthony,

Don't mix up techniques with goals. These aren't Narrativist techniques per se; they are techniques which, in certain applications seen thus far, promote Narrativism.

No technique exists in a vacuum. Combine the trade-off of narration in The Pool with a reward-system that promotes winning, and you get a brutal, fun narration-grabbing competition - just as in the card games Once Upon a Time and Slasher. However, combine it with the Hallows and Accord of The Questing Beast, and you get intense Narrativism.

What you're calling for already exists. For instance, Director Stance and Scene Bidding are already firmly ensconced in Gamist design, mainly in Pantheon. I also think that Rob's Million Worlds game, currently in development, looks fair to be a strong Simulationist design with a lot of Director Stance, and certainly Universalis tended in this direction for at least one phase of its design. (I apologize for referencing games that most people haven't seen yet, but both are very close.)


joshua neff

Well, I have a response to this, but it's going to make the thread much less relevant to Indie Game Design & much more relevant to GNS Discussion or Actual Play or something.


Your right, Ace, narrativist "tricks" could be used for any system. After running more stuff these days (although I haven't run nearly the number of "hardcore" narrativist games I'd like to run) & talkign with Ron & Paul & Mike Holmes & Jesse & others, I feel like I could run a narrativist game using just about any system. And there's really only one "trick" I'd use--Premise. Make sure there's an explicit Premise (which doesn't mean you have to announce to the Players, "Yo! The game is about this!", but just that the Premise has to be easily grasped by the Players, to hook them in) & as the GM, keep the Premise central. Make sure the game is completely fueled by the PCs & the way they deal with the Premise. Everything else comes out of that.

So...Story Points, Drama Dice, Author & Director stance, whatever--I'm cool with all of these things, but if there's no Premise engaging everyone & driving narrative play, it's not nearly as interesting to me.

That being said, System Does Matter (imagine echoey tones right about now), & not every system will support that kind of Premise-driven play. Many games out there won't necessary drive it into the ground, but it won't support it either. As Jesse or me--running White Wolf as a "story game" can be a chore, because the mechanics (except for Adventure &, I think, Exalted) don't support the PCs as protagonists who drive the narrative, which is crucial. Narrativist games, as had been pointed out a lot lately, are called that because they facilitate narrativist play, not necessarily through certain "tricks" but because they support the PCs as protagonists driving the Premise. (Okay, there are a few RPGs labelled as "narrativist" that don't have a central premise, like Story Engine. I'm reserving comment on that for the moment.)

So, yeah. You want to run D&D as narrativist? No problem. Blue Planet? Sure. Werewolf? It's possible.

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes

Le Joueur

Guys, I think you might be reading Ace wrong.

What I heard was, "I thinking about running [blank] in a Narrativist fashion; what are the 'tools of choice' for the Narrativist craftsman?"

He's not saying, "What tools are inherently Narrativist?"  It sounds more like he's posing a question to 'professional' Narrativists about what tools they like to employ to reach Narrativist goals.  Look in your toolbox; which tools tend to be 'on top?'  Tools don't have 'modes,' but you're more likely to use a chisel in carving than a feather.

(It also sounds like he's talking about what - or how - he might promote 'drift' in an existing system.  What this has to do with design, I have no idea, unless he's thinking of a 'top down' approach to making a Narrativist game.  I really can't say.)

Fang Langford

p. s. Or he's talking about narrative tools, and not Narrativist tools; in which case I have no response.
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!