RPG a Day 2018 – Day Thirteen – Describe how your play has evolved

Describe how your play has evolved

I’m someone who’s tried to be a writer for many, many years. When I was first into role-playing I let that instinct take over. Initially I only made up anything to get players from one second-hand AD&D adventure module to the next.

There were occasionally recurring NPCs and the players either liked or tormented them. Either way, it was good. I kept pressing on and had some relatively fixed story expectations with a few of the campaigns.

I read a lot of Knights of the Dinner Table at the time and the contest between players and DM seemed like the natural state of things. Sometimes they’d ‘win’ and sometimes I would. There were some great times where we’d all hit the same kind of goal but there were often bumpy rides as well.

Games like Fiasco really changed me. They allowed me to hand off ownership of the world and story to other players. In Fiasco the first quarter to a third of the game is making characters and their connections. The rough idea is there from the playset you pick, then in creating everything, you load the story like an elaborate firework, ready to go off. Lovecraftesque’s ‘leaping to conclusions’ phase at the end of each scene has people make assumptions about where the story’s going and they’ll drive towards that, each in their own private direction until we make a mystery we all built but none of us planned.

It wasn’t just a case of surrendering the story to the players, sharing responsibility for it with them, but also of sometimes not prepping at all. Monsterhearts taught me this, as the first Powered by the Apocalypse game I played. Then Apocalypse World really drove it home. Have some ideas, but don’t come up with a massive plot. Some larger plots will happen naturally, some will be gifted to you by the players and their actions, some rough ideas can be jettisoned and some can be harvested for stories later if you need to.

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