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Old 10-19-2018, 05:20 AM   #41
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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Originally Posted by Mark Skarr View Post
I view an RPG story not like a movie or book plot, more like a well-crafted TV series. Each session, more-or-less, stands alone, but there is a thread that ties them all together. As they reach the end of the arc/season, what the players have done and seen is shifted into more focus and little things that they’ve encountered make more sense.
I did this in a campaign set in my cyberfantasy* setting about 15 years ago. It was structured like a police drama** with a certain number of sessions constituting a "season". There were arcs for the season, the series and, most importantly, individual characters.

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This works because hindsight is better than foresight. Having time between sessions allows me to review my notes and view things with hindsight, as well as, foresight. It’s then easier to tie together random events into important events that may not have been important at that exact moment, but maybe in the next session, the players discover that one of the prisoners actually knows something because they didn’t have time at the end of the last session to interrogate them.
I believe in minimal adventure planning. This is mostly because I found out early on that the more work I did on an adventure, the more I tried to force that content into the adventure.

At times, i have started a session with only things written down being the protagonist (rarely in any detal) and what he wants to accomplish (and why).

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This also allows the players time to think about events and come up with their new plan of attack. It also gives them time to reflect on their characters and decide how they want to continue their story.
I've had players (especially in my Weird WWII campaign) mail me suggestions of things (person, location, or object) they'd like to see in the campaign (an advantage to running an alternate history campaign) and further develop.

As for the dice, I think they add suspense, not drama. While a very bad or very good dice roll might be memorable ***, it's not a story either. I have also rolled dice at times, frowned at the result, then continued on without comment, to see if I can get players worried.

* Inspired by Shadowrun, but less cyber and more horror

** Given that the PCs were police detectives, it seemed appropriate

*** I remember four over 35 years, including a mage getting a critical success (create fireball) and critical failure (throw fireball) on consecutive rolls.
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Old 10-19-2018, 07:05 AM   #42
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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If I replay the narrative of a game session to an uninvolved third party, without extensive editing, they will probably be bored and confused for at least 90% of the time, not entertained. That makes it not a story.
It's like recounting a sporting event to someone who is not a fan of the participants, or even the sport. The storytelling has to get them to care, merely retelling what happened is insufficient.

OTOH, for fans of the participants or sport, a much lower degree of skill at retelling the story is required, as they already have an interest.

I recall the episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer went into great detail on a game of Risk he played once, and when Lister asked high m how he remembered all the die rolls, he said it was because he kept a Risk journal ...
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Old 10-19-2018, 09:38 AM   #43
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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I don't think I do this. At least, my experience has been that rolling dice to define a character, a species, a planet, or whatever is likely to produce something random and unsuitable, and I've basically given it up.

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I don't do this at all. It's fun to sit around, with friends, and roll on random tables to see how non-sequitur we can get with results, but, that's not something I'd set a game up around.

Its tricky to do, and I have to admit I throw away or warp a lot of the results I get. I often use custom tables as well, or very generic ones that give ideas. The dice aren't dictating what happens: they're assisting me in my brainstorming. And usually I'll come up with three or four ideas this way and use one of them. I've got good automatic rollers for the things I do a lot of, and I can quickly build more, so I can bang things out pretty quickly.



As an example, I needed to build a political framework between 6 cities for a game. To do this, I rolled up 6 NPC's using the collaborative gamers NPC generation system (I have an automated generator for that). Then I randomly generated a graph of "Good connections" between the 6 city rulers. I also generated a sympathy rating, their background (military, civilian, religious), and a competency rating.



I knew which location needed to be the ring leader, and that he needed to be military, so I assigned the graph and the NPC profile to that location. I also knew one city had to be politically isolated from the others and have a certain type of leadership, so I assigned that. Then I distributed locations, graph relationships, and NPC's to the different cities. And then I sat down and figured out why these relationships worked. Why is the short fat appointed incompetent civic leader friends with absolutely everyone? Perhaps he's good at the wining, dining, and politicing aspect of things. There are two military leaders, and one of them is the leader of the faction... perhaps the other one is trying to imitate the actions of the more successful.



The drama came when the PC's tried to navigate this political system. Who do they need to beat in battle to stop everyone? who can be used as a neutral party to negotiate a treaty? Who can be easily bought off? Who can be brought into the war, and what can you offer them?


Often, when I'm struggling to be creative, I find that imposing limits gets my mind going. Its easier to come up with a reason why the true power in a city is informal than to just build a city power structure from scratch.


And you need to have just the right random tables. I usually build custom ones when I'm noodling with an idea, and run it a few times to make sure the ratios come out right.


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I wouldn’t consider “roll and see” drama. Randomly generating NPCs, on the fly, isn’t something I would do. I have a large stable of NPCs that I can draw from, and, if necessary, I can always create a new one to fill the role I need right now. If they were in a position where “do they have a mistress” is a relevant question, I would already have an answer because I know what is going on, in general, and could decide that in an instant.

I don't have that stable of NPC's, so I use the dice. As a side note, how did you build the stable, and how do you ensure you have someone appropriate for every situation?
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Old 10-19-2018, 10:18 AM   #44
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I

As an example, I needed to build a political framework between 6 cities for a game. To do this, I rolled up 6 NPC's using the collaborative gamers NPC generation system
Hooray! Glad to see it's still getting some use.

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Often, when I'm struggling to be creative, I find that imposing limits gets my mind going. Its easier to come up with a reason why the true power in a city is informal than to just build a city power structure from scratch.
The describes me, too. There are times when I sit down to invent something, and all I can come with are cliches, which makes things really boring. At that point, introducing a random roll or two can shake things up, and help to force me out of a rut. I find that tables (and similar) can work really well during prep, as long as you're not obeying them slavishly. They need to be good, appropriate, logical tables, though - totally gonzo random stuff can end up being more distracting than helpful, I find.

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I don't think I do this. At least, my experience has been that rolling dice to define a character, a species, a planet, or whatever is likely to produce something random and unsuitable, and I've basically given it up.
This is maybe a cheeky suggestion, but I wonder, Bill, if it would make it at all more interesting for you to think of it as a process a bit like divination, without the superstition. You're looking for some inspiration from outside yourself, so you just throw down the bones, the sticks, the cards, or whatever, and then try to generate an interesting and logical solution to your problem within the framework of whatever's now on the table. I find that I really enjoy that process of interpretation. When I have to force my imagination into an odd-shaped box, I'm more likely to come up with things that surprise me.
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Old 10-19-2018, 01:36 PM   #45
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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Originally Posted by copeab View Post
I believe in minimal adventure planning. This is mostly because I found out early on that the more work I did on an adventure, the more I tried to force that content into the adventure.
Word.
I do minimal planning as well. I know what the goal is, and maybe even an idea of how they'll accomplish it. But, then we'll go.

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Originally Posted by copeab View Post
At times, i have started a session with only things written down being the protagonist (rarely in any detal) and what he wants to accomplish (and why).
Word.

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Originally Posted by copeab View Post
As for the dice, I think they add suspense, not drama. While a very bad or very good dice roll might be memorable ***, it's not a story either. I have also rolled dice at times, frowned at the result, then continued on without comment, to see if I can get players worried.
I used to do that, but then my players got used to it. I can still do it, at times, with new players.

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I don't have that stable of NPC's, so I use the dice. As a side note, how did you build the stable, and how do you ensure you have someone appropriate for every situation?
I've been gaming for 35+ years, I've created a lot of interesting characters over the years for a wide variety of games. And the majority of them can easily be tweaked for an even wider variety of games.

If I think the scenario is going to require a specific type of NPC, I'll create it before the game. Otherwise, there's someone in my stable that will work.

The most recent NPC I had to create, from scratch, during a game, was Gnagagnodart, the insane gnome jeweler. The only thing I generated randomly was his name, and even that wound up getting tweaked as I didn't quite like the original.

I decided that he was . . . not normal. I decided that he was an amazing jeweler. I decided on his voice. I decided that he had a massive, dwarf-enviable beard (and nose-hairs) that had all of his jewelers tools tied to (so he'd stop losing them). My players are freaked out because they know that he's now, permanently, in the stable, and they'll meet him again, in other games.
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Old 10-20-2018, 08:35 PM   #46
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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If you accept whswhs's definition of narrative — and I think it's overly broad, covering anything you can possibly say with words — then you must accept that "I go to the store. I trip a robber. He bashes his head and is arrested. The end." is just as much a narrative as a complex, structured plot with interleaved characters, heroic archetypes, and what have you.
No, it does not cover "anything you can possibly say with words." Nothing in this paragraph can reasonably be called "narrative."

A narrative involves statements that form a chronological sequence, not just in that the reader or hearer must encounter them in some order (for one thing, any set of statements can be read in a variety of orders, or, if heard, can be recited in a different order). Those statements describe a series of events. The events must be causally interconnected; if not, what you have isn't a single narrative, but multiple narrative. In a literary narrative (as opposed to, say, a description of the sequence of events that make up a cycle in a V8 internal combustion engine, or the detonation of a hydrogen bomb), a significant part of the causation is agent causation. It's not mandatary for the agents to be humans, but they must be entities that human beings can imagine taking the viewpoint of.

I'm sure there are other constraints, but I think that those apply to the kind of narrative that goes into RPGs, and that they do exclude many, many sets of statements.
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Old 10-20-2018, 11:01 PM   #47
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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I'm sure there are other constraints, but I think that those apply to the kind of narrative that goes into RPGs, and that they do exclude many, many sets of statements.
I'm a bit confused about why whether RPGs include narratives is being discussed; it seems to me under the category of 'true but uninteresting', as
a narrative does not have to be a story, and requires neither drama nor plot.
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Old 10-20-2018, 11:42 PM   #48
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Default Re: Drama, dice-rolls and Plot

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I'm a bit confused about why whether RPGs include narratives is being discussed; it seems to me under the category of 'true but uninteresting', as
a narrative does not have to be a story, and requires neither drama nor plot.
Primarily because I was responding to Stormcrow's statement that "It doesn't become storytelling until I tell you about it later and I impose a narrative structure on it." I was saying that you don't need to "impose a narrative structure" on an rpg, because narrative structure is inherent in rpgs. It m ay be a minor point, but I have presented other arguments for rpgs having other storylike qualities.
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