So earlier this week I blogged an article talking about storytelling. It was not entirely in the gamer vein of things. Yet it contained some very good tips for any GM new or old. Not only are some of the lessons shared in this video great ones. As GM’s we have to be aware that we are masters of an art that is as old as man. In the dawn of time huddled around the fires to keep the darkness at bay we told stories. Many people will tell you there are no new or original stories. I would firmly disagree. There are no new plots or themes. There are plenty of stories that find their first breaths of life at the game tables around the world nightly. As the GM you are the storyteller and your players have joined with you to tell your story. In the contexts of games a few points to focus on in this TED talk.
MAKE ME CARE
Draw your players in. Use their back stories if they have them. Make your players feel that what is going on in the world is worth their time. A good story is good because everyone at the table is invested in the story.
If your players ever feel like they are not part of the story. Or if they are just “going along” as to not make waves. You have lost the precious power of MAKE ME CARE in your story.
If your players care they will help you push your story forward not only willingly but eagerly.
This is easily one of the most overlooked parts of running RPG games. So many times will the GM in traditional four color comic book bad guy fashion; lead the players from plot point to plot point only then in a boss fight reveal his whole plan to the party.
Do not fall prey to this like so many do. Gamer’s are smart, well most of them are. Give them the clues they need to put two and two together. Let your players find four. Never give four to them. When done in this way it has a much more profound effect on the table. often in that moment of revelation some truly memorable role play will take place. Most of it between the players. And you get to sit back and bask in the show.
As a GM I also remind you to give your NPCs a spine as he says in this talk. All of your NPCs should have a spine. This is what makes them memorable and gives them more presence at the table. NPCs in your world should have goals.
Drama, anticipation & uncertainty
As a GM you must create things of worth in the world for your players to give some form of value. If the players are invested in the world around them you can create drama through these outlets. One reason why I feel as a GM it is rare that I have a table of Murder Hobo’s is due to Drama. I strive to give the world around my players worth. More worth then the gold and glory that they will obtain in my games. In doing so I keep many options open by adding these three elements.
Combat easily covers any elements of anticipation and uncertainty. Yet as long as your players have outside elements around them that they value; it is much easier to invoke all three outside of combat as well.
Here is an example.
The players left the village to stop a group of raiders. After the battle they see smoke on the horizon coming from the village.
Did some raiders slip by ? Were the raiders forces split ? Might the village still be under attack ? Or Maybe Old Randel the farmer had no idea that his burning a few trees down in order to clear a section of land for farming would raise such a fuss. Lastly maybe the raiders got past them and kidnapped a few people and ran off when they find their allies had been defeated.
Thus by giving value with 2+2 to the NPCs in the world I have created drama, anticipation and uncertainty all with one pillar of smoke.
Lastly just remember unlike a Pixar movie you’re telling a story for players at your table. If you have not grasped their interest. They will drift and doodle, or become lost in their electronic devices. It’s your job to keep the story moving and involved. And most of all everyone having fun, including yourself.