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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: dealing with writing about theme, and storytelling  (Read 2851 times)
AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« on: February 15, 2007, 01:49:56 AM »

So I've got an idea that I want to run with for an RPG.  But I've never gotten very far in such an endevor before, and what I need some help with is how to go about explaining things like theme, and storytelling in my RPG (I plan to have sections detailing both). I haven't seen any articles that would help an RPG writer with such a thing, so if anyone could give me some advice or links on the subject it would be much appreciated.  I need to be able to explain such things as how theme applies to games, and how to go about GMing in my own words, but I do need some help to get started.
Just to give you a basic idea of what the GM/storytelling aspect of my RPG is going to be based on, pretty much its going to be centered around the Hero's Journey.
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Matt Machell
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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2007, 02:18:26 AM »

There are a variety of ways you could do it. Many of the games designed here have approached that problem by embedding the story structure in the procedures of play. Check out the articles section here for some of the background on that.

But here's a useful first question: In your RPG, who decides the theme and when?

Does the GM decide it pre-game? Do the players (and/or the GM) decide it as play progresses?

-Matt





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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2007, 02:59:52 AM »

well, I tend to think of setting theme/mood and such are primarily the GM's job, as in most cases that's how games are ran (in my experience).  However in this game there's going to be times when the psyches of the characters are going to start affecting reality (this game draws from mythology heavily, but I also want stories like Alice in Wonderland where the world the character is exploring is a reflection of their own psyche to be an important source of inspiration).  Because of this I think in this game there will be times when the players will actually need to start taking part in the "GM's job". 
Anyhow I'll have to take a look at the articles section again, I haven't visited it in a while.
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F. Scott Banks
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Posts: 200


« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2007, 09:35:21 PM »

I'm not certain what the overall gameplay mechanic of the game is, but generally I imbed my plot in the scenario.  Whether it be a character, a location, or some powerful artifact, I try to lead my players with hints.  When they don't follow the hints, they end up in more danger than I'd originally intended to put them in, and have to feel their way around.

It's kind of like blind man's bluff.  If you put the turning points of your story in places where the players are sure to find them, then it's challenging without being aimless and meandering.  Video Game RPG's have that shortcoming in spades.  I can't recall how many times I've explored some dungeon for hours before finding the key or candle, or person I need to talk to in order to further the story.
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Matt Machell
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2007, 06:31:05 AM »

well, I tend to think of setting theme/mood and such are primarily the GM's job, as in most cases that's how games are ran (in my experience).

That's pretty common in late 90s style games design. You could always write an Actual Play post about how theme and mood came into play in a game you've played, that might give us more of an idea of what you've experienced in the past and where you want to go.

Consider this: In many games "theme and story" are set dressing provided by the GM to give a reason for the PCs to go from one encounter to another. Now, this isn't a bad thing, but it is a design choice. Is that what you want in your game? Or do you want the game to be about producing that theme during play? It's kind of an important choice, as which one you want will define which advice you want to give.

Scott's description of a plot and leading players from A to B is useful advice if you want the main thrust of the game to be what happens at those points. Whether it's some tactical combat, some in character discussion or a choice between going to points C and D next.

You might equally give advice of: create characters with strong passions, cut to a scene where those passions are called into question, use the fallout from that scene to cut to a new scene, repeat until player decides the character's story is resolved.

Neither option is more right than the other, but they do give very different game experiences with a very different concept of "story".

-Matt
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2007, 02:15:09 PM »

Well, honestly it's been almost a year since I've played a game, everyone around here is really into LARP, and I've gotten really bored with it, and the few people I knew whom played D&D don't have time anymore. I'm trying to find people whom would be interested in table top and have the time, but haven't had much luck.  But in the past the GM has always been the one to set the theme/mood pretty much, and in some games I've played that just amounts to the standard "we're heroes hunting down villains" or "we're villains terrorizing the populace". 
In the case of WOD LARP, well the themes were political intrigue and that sort of thing in most of them, things which I could never get into, at least not the way the were dealt with in vampire LARP.  As for mood, well it was somewhat dark, and perhaps a bit paranoid.
What I've experienced in the past there should be some elements of in my game, but they shouldn't be that important.  For example there should be some hack n' slash, but that really shouldn't be the point of the game, there should be a darker element to it, but equally, maybe even more so, there should be an element of wonder, and the potential for political intrigue is there if players want to pursue it, but it's not what the game generally focuses on.
What I do want the game to focus on is

A: The power of imagination, and the power of the psyche
B:The possibility (which is a reality in this game) that what we see around us is not the only reality. 
C: The Hero's Journey

To some extent the GM is going to give the players a reason to go from one encounter to another, this is part of the hero's journey, it starts off with a call to adventure, and the GM will probably give the players that call to adventure.
But I do think that maybe there should be times along the way where the GM and players interact in the role of storytelling. 

Here's a possible scenario that I just thought of.
Lets say a character is in the dream world (a realm where imagination, and state of mind really does define reality), and his state of mind has not been so good, he's been having trouble at work, and has been really concerned about losing his job.  So the reality of the dream world start to react to his fears about losing his job (along with some other subconscious fears), allowing them to manifest as some sort of monster which represents them. 

Now should it be the GM that controls the character's fears, and even determines how they manifest?
Or should this be a time in which the player would be better off running the scene, and determining what sort of form their fears take and how they behave?
I'm not too sure.

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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2007, 03:59:13 PM »

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TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2007, 08:30:49 PM »

Hello asura,

The game you describe reminds me of a few familiar movies and books. The dream aspect, alternate reality and heroic journey are common in many works and you could definitely gain the attention of many. The Cell with Jennifer Lopez is an excellent interpretation of the fantastic mind, journey and danger within. Dreamscape is an older film that is very simple and not so dark. "Talisman", a book by Stephen King and Peter Straub would be something for you to read as it describes how the characters are altered versions in two realities. Here are some reviews on Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Talisman-Stephen-King/dp/0345444884.

Torg is a game by West End Games where the earth experiences shifts in reality and parts of the world exhibit certain properties or axioms. Not so much like your game, but it has the idea that people are altered by the region and can alter reality. I like the game, but it just didn't get a hold of the masses.

This game would be a great way for the players to collaborate on the setting, theme and story for each character and the group. Your game could be comprised of a base mundane world (our own) where the characters are normal humans who are acquainted in some way. They may be completely average or be extraordinary (financial genius, great athlete, brilliant scientist, etc.) Each player determines his or her character's dream realm (preferably an earth timeline and location, fantasy setting, science fiction setting, etc.) Each character has an alterego in their dream realm, which is defined in detail by the player. Each players then develops a horror that is an amalgamation of his or her nightmares, paranoias, phobias and dark secrets. One player gets to play the horror and can pop-up in any dream realm with an appropriate form, abilities and motivations. Each session in a dream realm is partly governed by the source character and the horror. The other characters are there to support the main character in his or her quest. Supporting characters enter the realm with their original essences, but take on different forms and functions. Supporting characters could be a faithful servant, powerful steed, intelligent weapon, damsel in distress, eccentric wizard, etc. The goal of the characters is to vanquish each personal horror and support the other characters. In the mundane world, characters can only communicate to each other in the form of ideas (gain and loss, faith, fame, fortune, death, love, hate). So, the characters can talk to each other about their problems only in terms of the mundane world where they have very little power. The dream realms are an interpretation where the characters can affect their lives. For all practical purposes, the characters are oblivious to their dream realms, yet the events that take place affect the mundane world directly.

I think developing parallels in each realm will give more substance to the story and make the goals more than just "kill the bad guys". They become moral issues along with fantastic action.

Troy

btw What is your name?
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2007, 08:58:06 PM »

The idea of having realms which are a entirely the manifestations of an individual's psyche is one I like, they could exist as sort of sub-realms of the Dream World.  I also like the idea of players collaborating on the setting theme and story (though of course along with the GM). 
I've decided I defianately I want to include a place on the character sheets for fears, desires, vices and virtues as well, and for players to decide some ways in which those things might manifest themselves while on the dream world or other realms.

The alter ego you are talking about sounds similar to a Doppelganger, which I have been working on a write up for.  I'll post the in progress write up for the Doppelganger here, along with one for the elf which isn't as far along.  For each creature I'm detailing what sort of role they can play in the Hero's Journey and such.  I still have to research the Hero's Journey a lot more, so this may have some flaws.
I'm thinking now that I might have doppelgangers look identical to the character they are a double of if they manifest in the mundane world, but like some sort of horrific monster which represents the darkest aspects of the character if they manifest in the dream world.

Doppelgangers<Elves
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