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Author Topic: About dices, rules and narrative  (Read 24032 times)
pells
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Posts: 192


« on: October 10, 2005, 11:14:17 AM »

Hi! I'm new to the forge and this is my first thread. I've been reading posts for a while now, and I believe people do have interesting things to say about RPG here. I've found some excellent sources of reflexion. That said, I hope I can receive some advice.

But first, a little introduction. I've been playing RPGs for almost two decades, mostly as a GM. I've played many kind of games (vampires, d20 D&D, call of Cthulu, cyberpunk ...). I would declare myself mostly interested in the narrative aspect of the game.
If you find my english kinda strange, it's because I'm a native french speaker.
I'm currently working on a RPG project which as many specificities. I will talk about rules here.

I'm responding concerning a comment I made in "I Hate Dice", about system and games. I'd say, rules for RGP would look like this (I know, it's not exhaustive... anyway, it's not the purpose of my post) : you get a guy who tells a story in front of others who play characters. When you encounter a situation where it isn't obvious if your character can or can't accomplish a certain action, you refer to a mechanic, a set of rules.

So, what I meant by "no rules" means no mechanics defined for the game. I'd let the DM choose themselves whatever mechanics they like.
Eventually, I would be able to offer a pdf format of my story using different mechanics.
As I'm not interested in developing a particular mechanic for what I'm writing, I do have a different relationship to rules. They exist to represent the story I'm creating and not the opposite (I don't create a story base on a set of rules).

In my product, you wouldn't see character sheet, or anything related to any possible mechanics. It would be purely narrative.
But still, it wouldn't be a novel. It would be illustrated, but still, not a

About that, I'd like to make two observations :
1. take a story design for RPG and remove all elements concerning mechanics : I don't think you get a novel
2. add mechanic pages (as a add-on) to a novel : I don't think you get something like a game
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2005, 10:40:07 AM »

Well it seems I'll answer to my own post... by completing some ideas... and by asking some questions...

Ideas :
  • I have to admit I used narrative in a wrong way. It would have been wiser to use story (in the sense to be told). This story would offer a backbone, a skeleton, upon which you add your own need as a DM.
    You would be able to play it as narrative (in the sense moral dilemma) or adventurous or with a lot of combats...
  • It wouldn't be a novel. Still, it's true that novel, or comics or movies do inspire GMs for their games. But they are not specifically written for the role playing. I think it would be exciting to read a good novel which offers you a possibility of playing after.
  • I do have to admit this "new kind of novel" would have to be well written. I don't say I have the talent to do so (as obviously you can see!!). But maybe someone else can...
Questions :
  • Would it possible to find a market for this kind of product ? Or, said in other words, are RPG's stories bind so strongly to rules ?
  • What would allow this product to be defined as made for RPG ? I would use the to be told criteria. Maybe I'm too vague on this...
  • What would you need as a DM in a novel for it to be played ? What would look great books (let's say lord of the ring, game of throne, wheel of time) if they had been written by their authors for the RPG ?
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matthijs
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2005, 12:43:25 PM »

Hey there, Pells... (what's your real name?)

So you're saying you want to write an interactive story, without any mechanics? One that different groups can adapt to their style, so that some may use the story in a tactical way (combat!), while others may want to explore character/moral dilemmas?

It's a bit hard to understand exactly what you mean. Are you picturing something like a standard RPG scenario, just without the stats; or something like a solo gamebook; or something like a background supplement, detailing lots of NPC's and locations, but with no ready-made plot?

Could you give an example of the structure of such a story/novel?
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2005, 02:26:38 PM »

Hey... first name is Sébastien...
I'll try to explain with examples, but I think the general idea can be seen (or pictured) in an other ways.

Quote
Are you picturing something like a standard RPG scenario, just without the stats
Not really and for two reasons.
First, I find standard scenario not really exciting to read. From the beginning, the reader (ie GM) knows exactly where it goes, most of the text using a form that is informative. That said, there's exceptions.
Second. Usually, standard scenarios (at least, not indie ones) are written as linear chain of chapters. Example. Chap 1 : meeting with the guy who needs adventurers. Chap 2 : going somewhere. Chap 3 : finding a mystery. What I'm trying to do is definitly not strutured that way.
Quote
or something like a solo gamebook
Like I said, it's meant to be told. Alone, you can read it, but you won't be playing anything.
Quote
or something like a background supplement, detailing lots of NPC's and locations, but with no ready-made plot?

First half of the novel, only descriptions of what I would call the essence : what elements are going to interact, the setting. That would be a great deal of characters, locations, organisations, even creatures. As I see it, around 500 words for an element. But, remember... not a single mechanical term. You would find their peronal history, motivations, ressources at the beginning of the timeline, the story. Seems to me kinda of intuitive. Take any book, or movie, you can do the exercice. Althougth, it doesn't make much sense for a regular book...

Second half of the novel, the plot itself (what I would call existence). But I wouldn't go into details as how the events occur. After all, I'm not writing a novel... I would present a backbone, ideas, along a timeline of events, presenting many sides to the same story. I'd say, 'In week one, some guy, who I described in part 1, hired adventurers in an inn of a city, I also described in part 1'. Are they your players ? How exactly does he presents the offer ? In which inn ? For how much money ? I wouldn't give those informations. It's up to the DM. That said, I would described the scene in a "novelistic" (is that a word?) way... so that the DM reading it, I hope, will be eager to play that scene as he sees it....

Finally about those two components :
I don't want to separate them when I'm creating the "story". I wouldn't want to offer just a setting. I believe the setting takes sense in a plot and that the plot needs an elaborate setting. A DM, I think, would work between the two elements. Understanding one part from the other and vice versa.

Now, to return to rules. As I wouldn't go into details, I really think DM can manage the kind of play they want based from that kind of story. I believe, players, after a certain time of gaming, knows what kind of rules and games they wanna play. So I don't feel the need to provide the mechanics but instead let the DM go with their preference. The counter part, I think, is that the story is not ready to play.

But narration (not narrative, sorry for my french!) without system may certaintly take another form.
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RedWick
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Posts: 5


« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2005, 03:29:03 PM »

You're interested in the "fluff" aspects of gaming supplements as opposed to the "crunch", correct?  Something which goes through and details whatever the subject is about, without it being attached to a particular game system?  Basically, you want a book filled with non-system specific information concerning, say, a particular cityor location, or about a race of humanoids or a particular culture, and a handful of potential storylines which could/would follow.

If that, indeed, is what you're talking about, then I'd be most heartily interested.  When I go out scouring for new supplements to pick up, I ignore all of the mechanics specific information and instead look at the quality/ability of whatever I'm looking at to inspire game ideas.  As it stands, I have a very ecclectic collection of books from a lot of different genres and companies.  I end up adapting whatever it is that I'm using to whichever game system I'm using.
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matthijs
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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2005, 11:18:03 PM »

To me, this sounds like a generic supplement (statless background info), together with a relationship-map like setup (do you know relationship maps, from Sorcerer?) In other words, you're giving setting and situation, and letting the players decide how they want to handle it; they choose their own rules, and their own goals of play.

This can work for some styles of play, but not for all. What kind of players are you aiming at?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2005, 04:34:14 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, Sebastian!

First off, you are starting with a very good practice: you're calling your project a product, and that's a fantastic foundation from which to build from.

Secondly, you are dragging in a lot of assumptions about what a roleplaying game is, what players want, and what resources and knowledge players bring to the table.  That can create a whole boatload of problems in design.

Luckily, your foundation can be the key to resolving those assumptions.  Try and define the customer that your product will appeal to: what they want to get from the product, what they bring to the table, what they want to do.  Once you do this, you'll find that a lot of your questions are answered.
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2005, 01:48:13 PM »

I'll try to answer most of the questions... If I can.

Quote
You're interested in the "fluff" aspects of gaming supplements as opposed to the "crunch", correct?  Something which goes through and details whatever the subject is about, without it being attached to a particular game system?

I had to search for those terms. As I understand them :
Fluff : "softcore" description of the game. The story, descriptions.
Crunch : "hardcore" rules of the games. The mechanics.
If that's so, yes, I'm only interested I'm the "fluff" aspect of the game, as a DM, in my game. That said, I do understand some players and/or DMs are interested in the "crunch" aspect. But I think of the latest as a detail, as a add-on (in my opinion). If you find a good "fluff" you want to play with a "crunch" that doesn't meet your needs, you can always adapt it. Not the opposite.
My all reflexion comes mostly from my writing. At the beginning, I was writing for a specific mechanic (I'll admit it, d20). But soon, I realized that the mechanic was restaining me. For example, a group a sorcerer were "fire mage". But what are they in that system ? I came to the point where I decided to abandon all system ; not to so see it as a goal or even a source, but as a tool.

Quote
When I go out scouring for new supplements to pick up, I ignore all of the mechanics specific information and instead look at the quality/ability of whatever I'm looking at to inspire game ideas.

I think you can take ideas for your games from supplement, but also from movies, books, mangas, TV series. What I want to create is something written for RPGs, for DM's needs. But, yes, this is the main idea of my product : to offer ideas for games. I have writing for two years, and I find more difficult to give a lot of general ideas, plots than specific details aboout one or two main ideas.

Quote
To me, this sounds like a generic supplement (statless background info), together with a relationship-map like setup (do you know relationship maps, from Sorcerer?)

I'm sorry, I don't know anything about Sorcerer... That said, be sure I'll be looking for it very soon. But, if you're looking for some kind of map, or table to relate elements together, you won't find that in my product. There are characters, organisations, races. But no charts to relate them. If you read a character, you should have enough informations about his motivations and ressources to play him, even if your players make much changes in the story. That's what important for me. If a character is a an important member of an organisation, it should be mentioned and you would have informations about him in the organisation description. But still, a relationship map sounds like a good idea and might apply to what I'm doing.

Quote
In other words, you're giving setting and situation, and letting the players decide how they want to handle it; they choose their own rules, and their own goals of play.

Exactly. I believe firmly that details are what makes your world believable, and most important, your own. Ommiting those details allows DMs to put their owns, personals ideas into the story. So, that each time the story is played, it would be played be diffrently.
As of the goal of the players, I believe they should decide, in common with the DM, what it should it be, based on the type of game they prefer. But I could speak for a long time about this aspect which is based on the way I'm writing.

Quote
This can work for some styles of play, but not for all. What kind of players are you aiming at?

You're correct. Not all kind of players would be interested in that kind of product. I don't think I should aim at newbies : too much freedom for the DM and the players. Obviously, I don't think I will interested players who seeks to try different mechanics as their goals in RPGs (for myself, I prefer boardgames if I want to try rules).
I guess mature DMs who knows exactly what kind of mechanics correspond to their needs and already have it, but would be looking for a good story to tell. That said, my specific product, despite the fact it has no system, is a more complex than that. It would take the form of a campaign, offering more than a 100 hours of continuous play. That restrict even more my market. But that's not the subject of this thread.

Quote
Secondly, you are dragging in a lot of assumptions about what a roleplaying game is, what players want, and what resources and knowledge players bring to the table.  That can create a whole boatload of problems in design.

Maybe I get it all wrong, but I do believe that, to create a good product, I have to do something I like, and not something others would like. Today, as a DM, what I sense I have to bring to the table is a backgroung story, a good one, preferably. Everything else, mechanics, dungeons, even details about the story, I can make them up. The foundation of my "work" as a DM (despite assuring everyone is having a good time!) is telling a story. By telling I don't mean directing, I mean having "something" to offer to whatever my players want to play, whatever direction they want the story to be told. And for that, I do not need a specific mechanic.
But, I know this applies to my kind of my play, to my need of today. It might not fits for others.

Last notes :
  • I was talking about typical supplement and rules. Here's another example. Take a story published for d20 system. Is it game ? I would guess so. Remove all mechanics related and replace it by another system, let's say GURPS. Is it still a game ? Remove all mechanics. Would it still be a game ?
  • I think today a lot of mechanics are offered to the RPGs players. And I'd say it's hard to define a good working mechanic, but still, I'm surprised I can't find a good, documented campaign. My desire to write emerged from that. I didn't look for a mechanic, I looked for a non directive story, in which I could add my own vision of RPG.
  • Not the purpose of this thread, but here's what I'd like to do with my product. Define a new way to write and to play, in the sense of the role of the DM. Maybe I should give an example of play to illustrate this.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2005, 02:20:40 PM »

Actually, I just wrote up what I think is a pretty decent description of Relationship Maps, as well as a few other non-mechanical techniques, over in this other thread; that might help you with Forge terminology and ideas you're unfamiliar with
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2005, 04:44:42 PM »

Hey, Sebastian, I keep running into the hint of an idea in your posts that goes completely counter to my approach to designing scenarios. I design them fairly frequently, as Multiverser chews through entire universes rather quickly sometimes. I've got different approaches that I use, and some critics have said that we should strip the game-specific materials from our world books and sell them as generic supplements, so I think I may be doing something like what you want.

The piece that gets me is that you keep talking about the referee telling the story. Rather than tell you directly why that irks me, let me illustrate it with part of my approach.

As I mentioned, I design worlds a lot of different ways. Some of those worlds are wide open simulationist bonanzas, as it were--places rich with possibilities for exploration and discovery, where nothing happens unless the players make it happen. A lot of players like that; you obviously are not thinking in those terms, but I would guess assuming that such a world already exists as the background for what you're writing.

I also design worlds in which there is some core premise or problem, but no specific plan for what will happen. An example of this is something like a Blake's 7/Star Wars situation, in which the player character becomes part of the crew of a rebel ship fighting against an evil empire. How that fight proceeds and what happens during it is not really detailed, as there is the hope that the player will embrace the conflict and pursue it by whatever means he chooses.

However, I do design what we call "story worlds", worlds in which there is some prepared plot and a set of hooks intended to bring the player into that story. I think this is what you're after, so I'm going to focus on these.

The reason I don't really need much help with these (apart from the fact that I'm pretty good at designing them) is that nearly ever bit of fiction already out there is already fodder for my games. I can use (and have used) The Last Starfighter, Cask of Amontilado, The Dancing Princess, The Most Dangerous Game, Prisoner of Zenda, The Postman--any story that's ever been told can be used as the setup for play.

Obviously, I adapt such stories to game books. What is needed to do this?
  • Hooks. Multiverser is not generally a trailblazer game, that is, the players have no commitment to do what it is that I want them to do. If I want the player to help the king keep his throne, I've got to find a way to set up play so that the player will want his character to want to do that. That means I've got to put things together in such a way that he's going to be interested in doing this, and then he'll move in the direction of my story.
  • Mechanics.  Any idiot can plagiarize a movie or a book in about five minutes, once he's seen it or read it. The time consuming parts come in adapting characters to game stats, working out distances and times for travel, and otherwise making the story rules-friendly. This of course is exactly what you're excluding. I think that the only way to make that work without those details is to include practical equivalents--to say that this person is very strong, or stronger than anyone in the county, or clearly stronger than the player characters, or in some way give the referee a guideline for setting the character's strength. I mean, I can read the Harry Potter books and decide what I think the stats should be for all the characters, but the thing that would be helpful would be having some guidelines in summary form that provide the basis for those stats.
  • Contingent Scenarios:  To my mind, this is the most important and difficult part of design in the story world, but it is the part that you neglect entirely, as if it could not happen. What do you do if the player plays against the plot? In Prisoner of Zenda, what if the player realizes that he could easily eliminate the king and take over the country? In Dancing Princess, what if the player is not interested in the king's reward and would rather continue his valuable work as a schoolteacher than risk his life on some fool's quest? In The Last Starfighter, what if the player character never plays the Starfighter video game and so can't be discovered as the starfighter? You seem to assume that the players aren't interested in creating the story, but only in hearing it told. Around here, even in very gamist and simulationist games, players expect that their choices are going to create the story, to impact the events of the world in decisive ways. They may well choose to help the king, save the princess, or play the video game, but it will be their choice to have done so. The critical problem for a story world is working into the text how to handle events should the player character choose not to fill that role slated for him in the design. It's all well and good to have a great story, but unless you're going to railroad the players or you know that they're going to do everything they can to follow your plot, that story is probably never going to be told.
Now, maybe I misunderstood your image of the referee telling the story, but I hope that these notes on what concerns I have in designing the kind of thing you describe will help you understand what's really involved.

--M. J. Young
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greyorm
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2005, 06:13:45 AM »

One comment on the viability of such a project: I know from reading about past experiments with this sort of thing -- all fluff, no crunch supplements meant to be used in any system -- that such products do not sell well within the RPG market. This is likely because they offer no method by which to incorporate or utlize the material in a game: no method by which to understand the impact and effect of the material on play (which is a if not the function of the mechanics). Such products thus also require a great deal of work by the buyer in order to incorporate it into play, as the buyer has to stat out everything and decide on levels of effectiveness for each piece to be used, etc. But a consumer is not usually looking to do such work, which is why they are purchasing the material in the first place. Those who are willing to do such work...just write it themselves.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2005, 08:19:04 AM »

I agree, generally, with the Rev here. Actually, people come up with this idea all the time, and what's really interesting is that they never even seem to make it to market with the idea. I actually can't think of a single product that's out there right now that fits the description. Again, that's not because it's a new idea - it's about a 25 year old idea. It's just that by the time people think it over, it doesn't seem like such a good idea.

Now, OTOH, if what you're talking about is to give a situation that's meant to be played sans mechanics, that's a different story. I think we're assuming as the Rev did that the idea is that a D&D GM will pick the material up and use it with D&D. But I think what you might be saying is that the idea is to play it sans mechanics (I read that up there somewhere, didn't I?).

If that's the case, well, it's already been done, and in spades. They're called freeform LARPs and LARP supplements. That is, most people simply take the "next step" with this idea and figure that if you're going to get together for mechanicless play, you might as well dress up the part, and act out your roles. There are even some LARPS that are more "tabletoppy" if you will.

That all said. Few of these products are not free. The one very odd exception are the "Host Your Own Murder" style games. Which are definitively one shot, written badly, and relatively expensive. I believe they get away with this by selling them to the non-gamer public for the most part.

So I think you definitely can sell such a product in theory. But in practice I think there will be few gamers who'll bite for cash. Because, as Raven points out, situation is cheap. You talk about making the product such that the GM will have the ability to have his own creative input. Well, yeah he's going to want to have that, and the best way is for him to come up with the situational material on his own.

In other words, what people are willing to pay for are systems that do better than what they can design themselves. The fun of creating in an RPG is at such a high level that even crap setting and situation works just fine. You simply don't need to have amazing write-ups, they never make it into play anyhow. It's a matter of there not being enough time in the world to transmit all of this detail in a session.

Sure you can have players read the material first and then play. But then why not use something that evreryone is really familiar with? In practice Interactive Fanfic and the like are alive and well all over the internet using backgrounds like Star Wars, Middle Earth, and all manner of stuff that you simply can't compete with. If you're actually as good as these writers, I suggest you write a book, and then have millions use it as source material like they use these other settings.

But, hey, maybe I'm just not seeing what it is that you're offering that any of these other forms are not. Here's the challenge to you. Write one up. Make a really short one, and then post it somewhere for all of us to see. Then we'll be able to have a better idea if it's viable or not. Until then I think it's all very speculative. I'm not optimistic, but prove me wrong.

You're quite right to make products that you like first and foremost. Just make sure that the sort of product you're creating doesn't already exist.

Mike
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2005, 09:58:46 AM »

I second the "write one up" suggestion.  Pells, something that gets done around here a lot is the writing of (what I call) microgames -- little things that are complete in ten or twenty pages.  The Ronnies contest churns these things out.  Think of it like the game analouge of the concept car -- it's your proof of concept.  It lets you get a holistic view of the project without investing (too much) time in it.  You'd be amazed at how much you can learn about your proposal by doing it in miniature.

Here are two examples:
Otherkind and Conquer the Horizon.  Otherkind is a nice couple of webpages and will be a little more accessible than CtH, which requires you to print and assemble the booklet.  There are also a ton of them at the Thousand Monkeys website, whose url constantly defies my ability to remember it.
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pells
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2005, 02:16:54 PM »

Well, well... might be a long post... again !

Quote
But, hey, maybe I'm just not seeing what it is that you're offering that any of these other forms are not. Here's the challenge to you. Write one up.

I'm not going to write one up, but I'm going to give an example. And then answer some questions. Just a reminder, my project is about a lot of things, one of them the absence of rules. I didn't plan on explaining how I'm writing. But why not... So here it goes !! I suppose I'm adressing to DMs.
First of all, one of the particularities is that no one, I said no one, is waiting for your players.
Quote
Some of those worlds are wide open simulationist bonanzas, as it were--places rich with possibilities for exploration and discovery, where nothing happens unless the players make it happen
I do the exact opposite. If you read a novel, let's say Harry Potter (I hate it, but seems a general exemple), there's no adventures for players. If you want to use this material in RPG you'll use it in three possible ways : players would play the role of Harry and his friends, some others students or ennemies of our heroes. What I mean is that I'm writing a "novel", a game, to which you add the adventure you're running.

Quote
Contingent Scenarios:  To my mind, this is the most important and difficult part of design in the story world, but it is the part that you neglect entirely, as if it could not happen. What do you do if the player plays against the plot? In Prisoner of Zenda, what if the player realizes that he could easily eliminate the king and take over the country?

I did not neglect it. I neglect to take about it. Quite different. I don't work that way. It doesn't even make sense in what I'm writing because I don't write my novel as a linear scheme. Let's take
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pells
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2005, 03:29:12 PM »

I can't believe it! Hit the wrong keyboard key... can't edit my post... so I'll continue.
Lets take an exemple. Usually RPG scenarios present one story. What I propose is a lot more. So :
  • The paysans wish to reverse the king. Assassinate him or go into civil war. (story A) Meanwhile...
  • A powerful mage seeks a powerful magic object to become an undead necromancer and take over the king. (story B). Meanwhile...
  • Forces of nature are rebelling against humanoids, both orcs and humans. (story C). Meanwhile...
  • The daugther of the king has been kidnapped. (story D). Meanwhile...
  • Orcs assemble themselves to go against humain kingdom. (story E).
But I wouldn't propose details for each story. I would give a calendar describing the five stories going at the same time.
Here's two important concepts for my project, and how I applied them. I know that I simplified them.

Existenstialism (from Sartre or Heiddeger) : what defines you is what you're doing.
As no one is waiting for your players, they will have to ask themselves, what are they doing ? They are no path predefined for them. They can try to assassinate the king or protect him. They can be tricked into finding a powerful object for a mage or oppose him. They can seek the daugther's king or even kidnap her. They can drink all their gold in an inn, if they want or even play orcs... The story is not about 'a guy who needs adventurers' and if your players say no... well, it would be "see you next week". One way or the other, whathever story your players choose, they'll have to take sides. They will change things. Or maybe not, but the, it would be their choices.

Hermeneutic : there is no truth, only point of views. There is no such things as a god's eye view.
For a given event, let's say the attempt assassination of the king, I would described many points of view : the guards who sucessed in protecting the king, the assassin who fails... When your players plays the game, what they do, is adding their own perspective of the many stories. That would be story F.

Major impacts of these concepts when applied to writing for RPG :
Role of the DM : what you have to offer is a menu of events. Your players will have the choices. Let's say, in the first week, they encounter someone who is offering to seek a powerful obejct. Your players accepted it, but they will get details instructions in a week... meanwhile, they encounter a battle between guards and paysans. What side will they take ? Will they try to assassinate the king or become his guards ? It is your players who directs the game, not the DM.
Alternative plays : let's say your players try and suceed in assassinating the king. That ends story B. As a DM, you still have A, C, D and E to offer.
Improvisation : so, for a given event you play, you won't have details... meaning you'll have to improvise as your players do. It means you'll be playing with them.
Freedom  of play : you can decide to offer only A if you want. Or play B as a narrative game. I hope each story is in a different style...
Multiples plays : if you play this game more than one, you'll play different adventures each time. 80 % A, 10 % B and 10 % C the first time. 50 % D, 50 % E the next. It means, I think, a challenge (and fun) for the DM each time you play it.

I hope I gave enough informations, knowing I didn't not present all the project yet. But feel free to ask more.

Now, some answers...
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The reason I don't really need much help with these (apart from the fact that I'm pretty good at designing them) is that nearly ever bit of fiction already out there is already fodder for my games. I can use (and have used) The Last Starfighter, Cask of Amontilado, The Dancing Princess, The Most Dangerous Game, Prisoner of Zenda, The Postman--any story that's ever been told can be used as the setup for play.

I'd say my own inspiration comes from mangas (hikaru no go, 20th century boy), asiatic movies (seven samurais, ran, human condition), philosophy (Camus), classics books and newspapers (le Monde)... what I don't read is medieval fantstic... anyway, I can't read nor see all... but everything I see or read feeds me for my writings...

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Those who are willing to do such work...just write it themselves.
Honestly, as I see it, I don't know of any DMs who are willing to write a story for which they will only use 20 % of what they're writing. So, writing all this "fulff" may seems a big work compares to writing the crunch you need.

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The one very odd exception are the "Host Your Own Murder" style games. Which are definitively one shot, written badly, and relatively expensive. I believe they get away with this by selling them to the non-gamer public for the most part.
I agree completly about this kind of product. And, for the record, there is "narration" (i.e. story) without mechanics... and it's still a game. I think.

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If you're actually as good as these writers, I suggest you write a book, and then have millions use it as source material like they use these other settings
Unfortunately, I would prefer to write for RPGs.

Finally, about rules. I think we can come to separate entirely the mechanics from the story. So, I could see marketing a "novel" for RPG and others selling mechanics for it. So, it the ends, it would have both... except the writer of the book wouldn't care about any given rules.
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