Your place in the story

This follows on from my previous post, and is basically me ranting on the same subject after criticisms I got in reviews of C&S Essence for the scenario that was included was my idea that the player characters might not, ever, get to know what was going on. I don’t do that all the time but it is something I do on occasion.

I know why I do that, but it’s never ever been something I took the time to explain, however an article I read recently about the difficulty of early D&D adventures got me thinking. The article is here and the Clark Ashton Smith story is speaks of can be found here. The thesis of those early D&D adventures seems to be the world is a harsh and uncaring place, sudden death, without meaning, purpose or honour is around every corner, whether it is being trampled by runaway horses or choking on your soup.

That wasn’t my reason for not involving my characters in everything, but it did prod me towards actually setting it down for once. In the D&D philosophy the story is the world, individuals don’t matter.

I prefer that the characters are heroes, so what they do does matter.  However my inspiration is from Tolkien. I have nothing against Clark Ashton Smith, the setting of my one published story is inspired by his Averoigne stories. In Tolkien the story can continue with characters entering and leaving like players on a stage.

However the story can intersect with other stories and plotlines. The characters from one meet the protagonists and antagonists of the other briefly but they do not necessarily know the beginning and the end of the others’ story. Merry meets and travels with Eowyn, they share part of the story of the Ring, but when Eowyn meets and falls in love with Faramir a story that started before she met Merry continues while he has gone his own path.

By keeping this in mind while there may be some frustration to the players in the short term, not knowing what is going on, it means that later pieces of news and actions might tie into the events they took part in. This gives some depth to a campaign and allows mew to pick up on seemingly inconsequential things and work them into something of more significance. I know that if I don’t do that, my players will, which makes the idea of trying to plan everything out in advance into a waste of time.

E.g. While accompanying a merchant they have to deal with the City guards who take a value of 1/20th of the incoming goods as the King’s Tax. In a later adventure the city they are going into has a different tax, 1/16. I decide to work in what was originally bad memory on my part into the local lord skimming from the taxes to hire mercenaries and brigands in preparation for a rebellion.They defend an outlying village (that has not being paying the taxes) from some of those brigands but do not, at that time, know about the rebellion.

They didn’t know about the rebellion at that stage, but later on they got involved in thwarting it, and earlier elements started to tie together as part of that, but little of it had been planned at the start, my original idea had been an expedition to a mysterious land, but that got lost in court intrigue.

If all is known, if all is wrapped up neatly at the end then that limits the scope for surprise, for inspiration and spontaneity by the GM, who can enjoy the way things develop by the way players interact with the World much more than if he or she is desperately trying to hold things onto the rails

This entry was posted in RPG, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your place in the story

  1. Geoffrey Brent (@GeoffreyBrent) says:

    In one of the games I ran, there was a group of NPC heroes active in the area. The NPCs were all high-level knights who rode gryphons and had magic out the wazoo; the PCs were around third level. They got to do missions like “hey, you know the huge dragon the Mighty Heroes killed last week? It might have laid eggs, so you get to search the forest and bring back whatever you find.”

    • hurcheon says:

      That’s not a bad idea, also allows for occasional involvement by the main squad should the “Mystery Men” get in above their heads.

      A pal of mine who had moved away and I once shared an espionage campaign, with the groups being from opposing nations, so every so often they’d find traces of each other’s handiwork and try and undo it,or trap that team. Would have been easier these days with email rather than phone calls and scribbled notes.

      IIRC we finished that up with both teams trying to assassinate the same insane leader of anaggressive neighbour, bit of a shoot-out at the end

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.