Auspicious beginnings

  • Admin

    Hey folks,

    I don't remember if we've had an existing thread for this but even if we did it'd be ancient by now so let's have a fresh one.

    I'd like to discuss Storytelling tools, methods and forms to best achieve as many of these goals as possible:

    1. Bring a story out to a potentially new or fluid mix of players. We can't assume anyone in the group will know each other IC or OOC, or that it will stay the same between sessions (think '+event' as opposed to 'page <A>, <B>, <C>=Hey guys I already know...').

    2. The initial steps don't feel railroaded. People shouldn't feel like the NPCs have yellow question marks over their heads, but still get a decent idea of what to do next.

    3. If characters become inactive the story can continue. Important clues will still be available, critical NPCs can still be tracked down and interacted with, etc.

    My ongoing difficulties with the above actually start with (2) as striking the right balance between open-endedness and laying a yellow brick road for players to follow without ST hints is tricky. After a PrP series gets momentum that's a non-issue since it feeds itself through characters' own actions and everyone's - including the ST- increasing familiarity with the now-refined plot, but before then I've rarely been satisfied with it unless I was dealing with top-notch, creative players able to sink their teeth right away with minimal prodding.

    For the most part (1) can be a thing too - sometimes I personally just give up and employ the ol'NPC-in-the-tavern super cliche to openly hand-feed the initial information. A tool I've used in several different MU* for example is the Narration Company, an IC group of highly competent consultants and contractors who hire local talent (ahem) to do specific jobs; it's sometimes worked pretty well, but maybe you guys have better ideas on how to achieve similar things. Use examples!

    Finally, (3) is a practicality anyone on a MU* has to be mindful of; people lose interest, access or just disappear. If one of them has/knows the unique McGuffin the entire story is based on then you might have just gotten screwed; alternatively it's always annoying when the plot is to save the world/city from annihilation from a time-critical villainous plot and the people involved start logging on once a week; what happened? I guess it wasn't that big a threat or? This is actually the most common of my three bullet points (or at least it has been for me) since players are frivolous, and will give a new MU* a try for a few weeks then flake out, so handing the reigns over to a new generation of do-gooders isn't always/easily feasible. How do you deal with it, if you do? This also works against the idea of running customised plots for specific groups or characters.

    If you have any thoughts please feel free to share. :)

  • I have a plot I've been considering running... And I rarely hand-hold people. I actually like to avoid it.

    It'd be a really neat plot... but it would require starting in media res. So I'd have to control things to the extent of 'Things happened and now you're in this situation.' I've been uncertain about doing it because I don't know how people would feel about it.

    The balance between making sure people have clear guideposts without forcing them onto a specific path is hard. And it's made harder by how many different play styles are out there. Some people want to have their hands held all the way through and essentially just want a Choose Your Own Adventure with a narrator and very specific options. Other people want the ST to only be a facilitator while they take the reins.

    I admit, I like the latter more than the former. I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants when running plot. Come up with a loose framework and let people loose!

    I had a few plots on Fallcoast just crumble to pieces because everyone involved just... didn't follow up. Or they'd follow up once and then never again. And while I could go back and rehash with a new group, it'd be tricky. I think a lot of players just don't like the 'downtime' work. They want someone there directing things actively "on camera." They don't want to do the +jobs and dice rolls to give outcomes, even if those outcomes lead to more RP.

    It's one of those things where I don't think there's any one-size-fits-all solution. It's more a matter of finding the players to fit your ST style and vice versa.

    (Also I am largely in this thread because of the title, so feel free to ignore me. ;))

  • Eh, I feel like there's a certain amount of "things happened and now you're in this situation" that it's unreasonable for players to object to. I get -- and have made complaints about -- railroading, but sometimes you're just trying to get everybody to the place where the story can happen and I'm kind of like ... OK c'mon.

  • Pitcrew

    Honestly, I think it's important to spoil a little bit (LITTLE BIT) of the plot in order to let players self-select whether their character would/could be involved. And I encourage offloading some of the burden of this TO the players. Like, "This plot is going to be action and investigation oriented, focusing on the Black Forest and negotiation with spirits. Characters will hear about the plot from either Old Man Trebond in the Guild, or through gossip among local wind spirits. Let me know if you're interested, and if you are, what angle your character might have taken to get on the trail."

    That, and I try to do that backstory stuff before the actual scene starts. I'll often have a bit of OOC before we get started just saying, "Okay, Jones and Jessica - you've said you're with the Guild, so we can say that Old Man Trebond pulled you aside to say that the Guild leadership doesn't believe him, but he knows that there's been an evil locked up in the Forest for a hundred years, and the time for its bondage to be over is coming. He wants you to go check it out, and he's willing to pay you for your time. Meanwhile, Lex, you're a shaman, right? Well, for the past few days, the spirits have been getting mighty restless - they don't want to name names, but they've been throwing up images of the Black Forest whenever you try to ask about it. Everyone good with those ideas?" And if someone ISN'T, then it's their job to come up with a plausible "in" to the scene. (I try to be flexible about that, but I'm increasingly less happy with "oh, just happened to be walking by" and similar justifications.)

  • Admin

    One of my goals, especially on new MU*, is to let players strut their stuff and allow them to grow into their characters; everyone's got that fresh CGen smell on them after all, they're all adjusting, so I figure PrPs are a good way for them to establish themselves. Meet-and-greets in bars and sphere meetings have their place but they're large, loud affairs... whereas trying to avoid being dinner for zombies after they opened the storage locker filled of them they won at that auction makes for a good bonding experience.

    So I agree with @saosmash that taking a few liberties isn't the end of the world, but we can at least make it...stylish. :) For instance, if staff help out a little this step becomes much smoother (@Coin went a step above and handed me a neat Texan Invictus vampire NPC to use once, for example) since then I get to play with established toys, but that only works if I trust them and feel they're involved in the story as collaborators - sometimes staff involvement past the initial approval can be a double edged knife. If it exists though then this entire step becomes much smoother and the plot is better integrated into the game's overall metaplot - it just feels less sandbox-y that way.

  • Pitcrew

    @Auspice said in Auspicious beginnings:

    It'd be a really neat plot... but it would require starting in media res. So I'd have to control things to the extent of 'Things happened and now you're in this situation.' I've been uncertain about doing it because I don't know how people would feel about it.

    I have found this works best if you just ask the players before the scene starts, hey for this to work I have to get you guys all t this point anyone mind? It lets those players that object opt out with out a fuss and lets the plot start as needed.
    It is also polite, I know that is asked before hand i would have no issues but if a storyteller started a scene with something like out of the blue I would nope right out of there.

  • What I do when I run a plot (not often anymore mind you), is I write up the set pose ahead of time and I @mail it to all players signed up, and the alternates, at least a day ahead of time, and tell them to use that to come up with their rationale for being there, so they can use it in their intro pose.

  • Admin

    @BetterNow That's actually a good idea. I might steal it. :)

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