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Author Topic: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.  (Read 4234 times)

Ratman_tf

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Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« on: October 27, 2021, 12:39:31 PM »
When playing/DMing, do you think it's more important to tell a coherent story (with beats, pacing, etc) or to present a situation? (Here is the scenario, what do you do about it?

I lean heavily towards situation, but my situations are inspired mainly by stories I've heard/read. So it gets a bit fuzzy at the edges.

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S'mon

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2021, 12:51:05 PM »
Depends what I'm running. If it's the final session of a linear-ish save-the-world campaign, I want it to feel satisfying. If I'm running a sandbox I try not to think in narrative terms.

Mishihari

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2021, 01:06:01 PM »
They're both important, really.  When it's time for the PCs to act, then the DM just presents the situation.  But an adventure is a series of situations, and the DM can set the pacing and tension so that the adventure follows the structure of a story.  Even an individual encounter can has a series of such events within it.  Keeping a good dramatic structure while still accounting for the results of player agency can be challenging, but it leads to a more fun game, IMO.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2021, 01:08:05 PM by Mishihari »

Svenhelgrim

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2021, 01:14:38 PM »
I agree with Mishihari.  Both are important.

I think of a plotline, present the hooks to the players, then adjust everything based on what they do, and what the dice say.

FingerRod

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2021, 01:45:30 PM »
Situation over telling a story. And it isn’t close.

The only story I tell is the story of what the PCs have done in previous sessions. It is their story, created at the table, not from a set of notes. The recap, which I make a point to own, takes about 7-10 minutes. I end the recap asking if I missed anything.

After that, I have a very terse and direct communication style. I have seen several benefits to this approach. 

Godsmonkey

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2021, 02:25:14 PM »
I am heavy on situation, but like to have recurring NPCs that may influence the characters stories. Ultimately it's the challenges I set up, and the way the players interact with them that determine the story for the most part.


tenbones

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2021, 02:50:55 PM »
I do both.

My NPC's have their motivations. They have actions they enact during the game while my PC's are doing their things. The "Story" is where those actions intersect.

I merely present those interactions on either side of the equation and give my PC's all the leeway they can muster (probably more) to let them in on the NPC's motivations and their actions which of course influence their play. And I present all of this with as much detail as necessary to raise the fun to the highest level - or to extract the emotional reaction (desired or not) that elevates the game.

The story is simply what emerges out of those interactions.

rytrasmi

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2021, 02:51:59 PM »
They're both important, really.  When it's time for the PCs to act, then the DM just presents the situation.  But an adventure is a series of situations, and the DM can set the pacing and tension so that the adventure follows the structure of a story.  Even an individual encounter can has a series of such events within it.  Keeping a good dramatic structure while still accounting for the results of player agency can be challenging, but it leads to a more fun game, IMO.

I agree. It's like the players and GM are writing alternate sentences of the same story. As GM, you can push the story in certain directions, and the players can push the same way or not.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2021, 06:44:22 PM »
I do both.

My NPC's have their motivations. They have actions they enact during the game while my PC's are doing their things. The "Story" is where those actions intersect.

I merely present those interactions on either side of the equation and give my PC's all the leeway they can muster (probably more) to let them in on the NPC's motivations and their actions which of course influence their play. And I present all of this with as much detail as necessary to raise the fun to the highest level - or to extract the emotional reaction (desired or not) that elevates the game.

The story is simply what emerges out of those interactions.

This is my approach.  I find that the emergent story is often something that would be "substandard" or even boring if written down, but it wasn't boring for any of the participants at the time.  Some fairly basic or even trite stories are enjoyable when they are emergent.

SHARK

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2021, 07:20:21 PM »
I do both.

My NPC's have their motivations. They have actions they enact during the game while my PC's are doing their things. The "Story" is where those actions intersect.

I merely present those interactions on either side of the equation and give my PC's all the leeway they can muster (probably more) to let them in on the NPC's motivations and their actions which of course influence their play. And I present all of this with as much detail as necessary to raise the fun to the highest level - or to extract the emotional reaction (desired or not) that elevates the game.

The story is simply what emerges out of those interactions.

Greetings!

Yep, Tenbones, I agree. I do the same thing, more or less. Sometimes, the Players really jump in and drive "The Story"--and other times, the various NPC's around them--their friends, henchmen, lovers, family members--also engage in and push their own "stories". Meanwhile, the various villains, other NPC's, factions, tribes and whatever in the wider campaign, they too, often have their own agendas and "stories" that they pursue. The bigger story, of course happens when all of that criss-crosses and intersects in interesting ways.

The Player Characters are often central, of course, and serve as "prime movers"--but they aren't the only story being told, or advanced. The world has its own population, with lots of other heroes, villains, NPC's, that are all each doing their own thing, regardless of what the Player Characters are doing. Naturally, at points of interconnection, such NPC's shall respond to the Player Character's actions and motivations. The entire world doesn't just stand around with their thumb up their asses waiting for the Player Characters to "Get Involved." Sometimes, the Player Characters can act bind, stupid, or otherwise entirely clueless, and can oftentimes suffer the consequences for such dithering. The world must always be active and dynamic.

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SHARK

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2021, 07:27:48 PM »
I do both.

My NPC's have their motivations. They have actions they enact during the game while my PC's are doing their things. The "Story" is where those actions intersect.

I merely present those interactions on either side of the equation and give my PC's all the leeway they can muster (probably more) to let them in on the NPC's motivations and their actions which of course influence their play. And I present all of this with as much detail as necessary to raise the fun to the highest level - or to extract the emotional reaction (desired or not) that elevates the game.

The story is simply what emerges out of those interactions.

This is my approach.  I find that the emergent story is often something that would be "substandard" or even boring if written down, but it wasn't boring for any of the participants at the time.  Some fairly basic or even trite stories are enjoyable when they are emergent.

Greetings!

Good points, Steven Mitchell! I agree with you as well. I'm often pleasantly surprised how Player Characters can often jump into some situation, and make an interesting and enjoyable story--at least for themselves. Like you said, if it was written down, or someone else was to read it straight, it may seem boring or just kind of pedestrian. Some of the best times the Players have is interacting with NPC's in relatively minor ways and creating their own kind of events and stories that are meaningful an important to THEM--and may often have absolutely nothing to do with anything I purposely planned, intended, or in any way had going on. NPC's simply react to the Player Characters in ways true to themselves, and interwoven with the society around them, and the fantastic elements, and stories emerge that were entirely unexpected and unforeseen.

I just run with it when things like that occur, which with my groups, can be quite often I'm happy to say.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
"It is the Marine Corps that will strip away the façade so easily confused with self. It is the Corps that will offer the pain needed to buy the truth. And at last, each will own the privilege of looking inside himself  to discover what truly resides there. Comfort is an illusion. A false security bred from familiar things and familiar ways. It narrows the mind. Weakens the body. And robs the soul of spirit and determination. Comfort is neither welcome nor tolerated here."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but is doing what you have to, in spite of the fear."
"Let Death and Fire Be Their Portion!"
"Delenda Est Parthia!"

King Tyranno

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2021, 10:44:20 PM »
Stories come as a consequence of the actions of the group. It's all well and good to have a tightly written narrative. But all it takes is one player to go down the wrong door or just do the "wrong" thing to an NPC to set that plan alight. RPGs are not novels with linear and sacrosanct narratives. They are above all games with the core concept of choice at it's very heart.

I see a lot with the Critical Role zoomers that they are presented with these very contrived stories that pretend to be DnD. Everyone gets their epic moments in very clean and scripted fashion. They go out thinking all DnD is like this. A story that you participate in and do cool stuff in. But then they get pissy when they roll bad and die to that 1 goblin. I didn't intentionally make the goblin kill them. They rolled their dice and that's what happened. That core concept of randomness and not being in control at all times seems to just elude or downright disgust these people. They don't understand that it's much more impressive and will stick with them longer that they used their own initiative to trick the Governor's daughter into giving them critical info on the Governor's evil plan. That they had a heroic fight with the elite guard to seize the powerful artifact the Governor was going to use to do... I dunno some evil shit. Work with me here. Some critical hits happened that led to cool and unexpected moments the players will remember for a life time. And they foiled this evil plan. With the chance of real failure hanging over them. And now several plot hooks created from player actions can sprout into full sessions or arcs for the entire campaign. Compare that to some railroaded bullshit where they HAD to talk to the Governor's Daughter who then COMPELLED them to foil the evil scheme where due to the GM being a pussy he fudged dice to make sure everyone got a really patronizing and specific "awesome moment" that they will forget about because they knew the GM planned the whole thing. And then afterwards the GM leads them by the nose to next thing he made. With no player choice whatsoever.

That's not a game. That's some arsehole's shit fantasy novel that happens to be inconvenienced by players.

Bren

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2021, 11:01:58 AM »
Situation.

I find that the emergent story is often something that would be "substandard" or even boring if written down, but it wasn't boring for any of the participants at the time.  Some fairly basic or even trite stories are enjoyable when they are emergent.
Case in point, players enjoy spending actual game time having their characters buy stuff. Personally, I don't find a shopping trip makes for a very good story. But then I'm not much of a shopper. In real life, I shop to eat. I don't eat to shop. But players do sometimes enjoy having their PCs acquire shiny stuff.
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rytrasmi

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2021, 11:32:14 AM »
Case in point, players enjoy spending actual game time having their characters buy stuff. Personally, I don't find a shopping trip makes for a very good story. But then I'm not much of a shopper. In real life, I shop to eat. I don't eat to shop. But players do sometimes enjoy having their PCs acquire shiny stuff.
Indeed! Shopping simulator is pretty boring IMO and would at most be a 30 second montage in a movie.

Compared to just finding equipment, I think players might enjoy shopping for it because it's low stress. Shopping often comes between stressful events and is a bit of a mental break. You generally don't have to worry that shopkeeper is going to sell you cursed or trapped items, as you might if you find them in a dungeon.

Wrath of God

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Re: Telling a story versus presenting a situation.
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2021, 12:06:50 PM »
Quote
Telling a story versus presenting a situation.

TBH unless you are really hard railroader... well those are not exclusive.
Let's say one of my favourite big campaigns - The Enemy Within for Warhammer 1e and 4e.
Campaign itself is quite storey - there are 5 main situations characters should deal with to finish it.
But each module itself is very sandboxey, there is sometimes timeline linked to PC's inactivity, but overall they have within adventure as written great freedom to run affairs their own way, while bad guys have own plans, until their roads meet. And that's perfectly fine.

Making every bit of module strictly linked to narrative though would gonna be mayor problem in most of games, though not all of course.

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