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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Storytelling System  (Read 2352 times)
F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« on: February 12, 2007, 09:03:53 PM »

I'm trying to create a game system that focuses on telling a story moreso than killing ogres and taking their loot.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of experience with sitting down and telling a story that plays by the rules.  Does anyone have any suggestions for where to begin?
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2007, 01:21:36 AM »

Well, my first question is, "What kind of story?"

I think there are a lot of games which put the focus on producing solid stories, but you're going to have to get more specific than that to get good feedback.

Generally, some games that do this: My Life with Master (the specific scene types, and built-in storyline), Shock: (the Protagonist|Antagonist division, and mutually-possible stakes setting), The Pool (drawing character traits from backstories, simple mechanics that don't clutter the story), The Shadow of Yesterday (Keys, which put the focus onto the things you want to see happen).

But... those all facilitate "telling stories" in very different ways, and you'd need to talk more about what you want to see, in order to get any useful feedback.

Also... posting to Actual Play with some of the things you've found dissatisfying might be REALLY useful.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2007, 10:50:28 AM »

Or posting to Actual Play with the things you've found satisfying.  Either one (or both!) is good.

I support Joe's statement:  You can't make rules that will help you tell just any story, ever.  It's the same way that you can't make rules that will help you play just any ball-game, ever.  The rules that help you play soccer would get in the way of playing baseball.  The rules that help you tell a superhero story will get in the way of telling a survival horror story.
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F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2007, 09:25:13 PM »

Aha...I see the error of my ways.

Well, I'd like to make a storytelling ruleset that pushes the characters into a horror story...the way you'd push someone into a gradually narrowing chute until they wedged in there real good.

I'm going for a horror story.  When I tried to create a narrativist game, I somehow ended up creating a fun little pocket epic.  Instead of week-long character creation, I made a convenient little system where players generate characters by picking skills, backgrounds, personality quirks, etc. from a list that automatically generated stats based on how you mix-and-match the skills you want.

By some miraculous accident of design, the thing balanced.

However, it was a long way from having any strong storytelling elements.  I blame this on never fully understanding GNS theory (I imagine that I should have argued more about it) and of course Dungeons and Dragons.  As an indie developer, I am required to have a vendetta against Wizards of the Coast for no specific reason.

One shall stand, one shall fall.

Anyway, I'm trying to encapsulate the elements of a good horror story into a game format.  After creating a strange little hybrid system capable of managing short, pick-up-and-go roleplay, I want to make the game that I didn't make when I stumbled across something that worked for the first time as a developer.  Yes...I was distracted by something shiny and now I'm trying to remedy that.

So far, I've got a kind of sleepover RPG where players take on the personas of kids, each living in a house that everyone on their blcok assumes to be haunted.  The child holding the sleepover is the GM and the other kids are...well, kids.  They get benefits from living in a haunted house that ensure their survival when spending the night at another one.  At the end of the night, the survivors go home and there's a new sleepover the following week.

I liked it because it's literally a game where players sit around and tell ghost stories with a light RPG element as well.  However, it's a soft jab compared to what I'm really trying to do, a game that has the players collectively creating a story that has the potential to be genuinely terrifying.  That'll be the knockout punch.

So...where do I go from here?



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johnwedd
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Posts: 32


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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2007, 10:42:24 AM »

make ghosts, give them personality and push the reasons why they are ghosts. give them powers and cunning to set up traps and attacks. either to scare or to harm. then set the ghost loose in the house. then have the kids interact with the ghost, in fact if one player was the ghost, i'd go that direcvtion. then just let them duke it out till morning.
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F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2007, 03:36:05 PM »

I like that.  I'm going to use that format.
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xenopulse
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Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite


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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2007, 06:58:29 PM »

Here's your focus:

Quote
I'd like to make a storytelling ruleset that pushes the characters into a horror story [...] a game that has the players collectively creating a story that has the potential to be genuinely terrifying.

In order to be genuinely terrifying, your game needs to bring out whatever scares the hell out of the players who actually play the game.  Some people are more afraid of supernatural things (can't beat Freddy), some more of tangible threats (psychos).  Some are more afraid of what they don't know, others get scared through imagining actual horrible things.

So if the players are to collectively tell a scary story, there needs to be a way for them to bring out what really scares them.  If you do have haunted houses and/or ghosts, they need to be about what the players whose PCs deal with them are afraid of.

The time I was the most scared in my life was when a bunch of friends and I (we were a dozen or more) had a camping night in one of the friend's backyards.  We were young teenagers, mixed boys and girls.  We happened to start talking about scary stories, everyone sharing the movie or TV series episode or short story that really freaked them out.  And by sharing what we thought was really scary to us, we freaked out ourselves and each other.  By the middle of the night, we were sitting inside, huddled together in shivering fear, screaming when someone pointed out that the patio door stood ajar.  It didn't matter that we were a big group, or that we had light inside, etc.  It mattered, however, that we purposely began trying to think of the scariest things to say to each other, such as, "Did you see that when you sit all alone on the toilet, the window is right behind your head where you can't see when someone reaches through from outside?"  Sounds silly now.  It was terrifying when we were in the right mood.

That right there is the foundation for a truly horrifying game, and I think your idea of telling ghost stories goes in the right direction.  What you need are the sharing of true fears, the right ambience, and ways to push players.  The questions you can think about are:

How do you get people to share what really scares them?
How do you get them to get into it as much as possible?
How do you connect that to the fate of their characters? (if at all)
How do you get the right mood set up?
How do you get players to benefit from scaring each other?
How can you take away everything that's familiar and friendly and make it evil and scary?

Some of these things won't be reached just through mechanics, but by requiring that the game is played at night only, for example.  There needs to be a ritual for starting the session so that distractions are eliminated.  Players should be required to share true fears.  Maybe a storyteller can grant a bonus of some sort if a player adds a truly scary detail during a scene.  The characters should care about things that the players care about (family, friends, music...), which are then turned by the other players into twisted, haunting versions that take away all their security.

You could think about having one player control a PC while the others try to scare them as much as possible, right after the PC player has told a snippet out of their own real life about a time when they were really scared, and what they really can't take.

Those are just some ideas off the top of my head Smiley  Good luck with the project!
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F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2007, 09:24:14 PM »

Allright...actually, this could vastly improve my "Outatowners" concept that I hadn't the chops (I'd been on the Forge all of a week with good ideas and no experience) to develop at the time.  I think I was really onto something because everyone really wanted to make scenarios for it and here I was...mechanic-less.

Pardon if this is a rehash for anyone, but the concept was pretty cool.  Players were a group of strangers in a strange town, completely unaware of the local lore, who end up in exactly the places that no one goes after dark.  As the game progresses, the players slowly uncover the local legends and hopefully get out alive.

This one had promise because it actually achieved a level of fear by dropping the players into a ghost story without a compass.  In order to figure out the story and get out alive, they had to open creaky doors, go alone into the woods, and shout "Hello, is anyone there?" into the darkness.

Problem was, I didn't know how to make "cool idea" into "something playable".  Maybe this time around, I can do so.
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johnwedd
Member

Posts: 32


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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2007, 06:58:43 PM »

the key to makeing something playable, out of some great ideas. is to be willing build a system "through" your ideas, rather than around the. IE, make comprimizes in both the idea area and the system ideda, without loosing the prim focus of the idea. maybe your should write down what you want to acheive, and what can be discarded if needs be. and play the cheese out of anything you come up with. do that until you have something worthwhile.
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