Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Con Diary - Day 8

Often enough a plan is a list of things that won't happen. I'm still preparing for that con game, but right now I'm not so sure how much stuff I will be able to present (that is, how much content and depth I have to "fake" during the game itself...).

While I tried to build a random dungeon generator (so far it failed due to lack of variance), it occured to me how important "story" really is. I already stated in the past that even while play in what is called a sandbox, we still communicate, still tell a story. And the amount of background story a DM has prepared, will be of tremendous help to improvise the rest.

So much for a background. But this, as a technique, does also work the other way around, I guess.

Imagine a totally fleshed out city setting and a totally fleshed out story about corruption and political intrigue in a city.

In the city setting the characters are free to do whatever they want. But make no mistake, the story that will be evolving from it, will be improvised (which means , made up). It doesn't magically arise from some random tables, no matter how good the tables.

Same goes for the story of corruption and intrigue, but with changed parameters. The players are free to do whatever they want within the story, but their surroundings will be improvised at some point (like when the characters need to go to a location the DM didn't anticipate).

This isn't  a matter of taste either. Knowing the story beforehand helps improvising meaningful decisions during the game (mood, pacing, tension, etc.).

Having the setting all made up helps improvising how the environment is reacting to the players.

The question isn't why we can't have both, it's who told us those approaches need to be separated. In my opinion a DM has 3 duties: building a world, providing stories and improvising the rest from player input. Sometimes I start thinking player agency is a myth to justify one mode of working on the game...

Anyhow, for now I've decided to go story first for the con game. More thoughts will follow as  I have them.

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