DMing is Not Storytelling

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TristramEvans

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In the latest supplemental video to Me, Myself, & Die, Trevor tackles the notion of the GM as "storyteller",or RPGs "creating stories", a subect I've talked about in length many times:

 

The Mad Hatter

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Completely agree with the video.

I once had this make a story period GM style. It was horrible for both myself and my players. I would come up with all sorts of awesome stuff, like specific nemeses for PCs, preplanned plotlines and more. I would literally make a combat encounter, and when sit and dream about how it would play out.
of course, once I got to the game the players wouldn't do any of this. Why would and should they, when they didn't know about it. It made me very frustrated and made me almost have GM burn out. It was also contrary to how I had run games before that.

This is why, I now really like using stuff like Mythic and random tables. I love that their is some mystery to the game, even for me as the GM. I also love to come up with reactions, to all the stuff the players do. I find with this style games often end up almost running themselves.

This is also why, I often have issues with long prewritten adventures. Do to what happens during the game, I often have to do a lot of changes to it later on. Basically it creates a lot more work, than if I just made something up myself.
 

Numidius

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In my current OSE adventure I'm having the distinct feeling of running a solo game, with players as living randomizers. They tend to be the participationist type of players, so I might have pushed the Npc/monsters agendas a bit too much.
 

Ladybird

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I've given up even trying to predict what my players are going to do or force any form of story structure on them. It's a waste of everybody's time. PC's are weird random forces of nature and everybody around them just has to hang on as best they can. The game finds it's own natural peaks and troughs and everything feels right in the end; the PC's have a vague goal and are more or less making progress, and that's plenty.

Conversely, I have a friend who is obsessed with storytelling structure and how to fit in particular beats and spotlight sections for folk and his games just feels so... mechanistic, as if all the life has been crushed out of the game. There'll be challenges tailored exactly for your guy which is fine, but there'll never be the free "here's a problem, you've got tools, work it out" stuff which is what's the most fun about an RPG.
 

Gringnr

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Not to mention which, it's a really neat thing when you're able to put ego aside and realize that the mistaken assumption one of your players just made about the plot/clue/etc. is actually better than what you had planned/what was in the module, and run with it, while congratulating them for figuring out what "you" had in mind.
 

Gabriel

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I'm currently halfway through this video. I've watched both these YouTubers. I think I generally like the content of the guy in the hotel room informally framing this video. They guy whose video he's responding to is a content creator who I'll watch, but I don't really feel his content is good. I've always felt that it was at least partly insincere.

I do notice that the second guy is definitely constructing a strawman. All GMs who believe in storytelling are believing they are Shakespearean auteurs. He then whips out what he considers a textbook example of "storytelling" which is much more an example of a 12 year old gamer's plans gone awry because of player action, bad calls, and dice. He flatly equates story with railroading in his strawman construction. I'm sure it's going to go on like this.

Yep. Finished the video. It's the same kind of anti-story diet Pundit bullshit that has been floating around for ages.

Oh, and of course the main presenter drops in that storytelling is one way to play and a fun way to play, but it's the WRONG way to play. He states that the GM's only role is to present conflicts, painting the GM as a purely adversarial participant. At one point he very much emphasizes the GAME aspect, which, to me, very much paints an image of him running a contest between the GM and PCs. He also equates to a GM predicting player activity to the GM forcing that activity and eliminating player choice. There's also an obsession in the presentation with dice being the sole arbiter of things.

To tell the truth, I think this guy is drinking the anti-storytelling kool aid, because I know from watching previous videos he doesn't normally take the position about gaming which he is in this video.

Oh, and through all of this is the subtle thread of "you aren't really having fun if you aren't playing in this GM vs Players style of directionless gaming. You may think you're having fun, but you're not."

---

Here's what I have always tried to do.

First, I come up with a story. I figure out where I'd like things to go. I also get the players to create characters and figure out what kinds of things they think are cool.

I predict what characters might do. I prepare based on some of those predictions. Yep, I create setpieces that I hope I'll be able to use in game.

If the players do as expected, they run into the prepared bits. If the players don't do as expected, it's time to improvise. Improvisation is the GM's most important trait. The players are contributing to the story. At the most binary, the GM is asking himself, is this something I should adapt to the storyline I prepared, or is this something I should abandon my storyline to pursue, and then adjust the progress of the game accordingly.

The result is the story gets better. A GM is DEFINITELY a Storyteller. But so are the Players. The GM comes up with a story, the players make their contributions which inherenty change that story. By the very definition, running a game is inviting a group to create a story.

Another problem is the hardline stance taken about GMs being absolute gods of setting and having total control while players only directly control their individual playing pieces. I've grown to feel that this is a very narrow way to look at RPGs like they're games of Monopoly or something. If immersion is any kind of goal, then a basic fact of immersion is that every participant at the table is forming a different image of the setting and proceedings than the next guy. The trick is to get everyone on a closely enough aligned understanding that everyone at the table is compatible. The GM has hardass setting lord philosphy spits in the face of immersion and states that the GM is the only one whose perception of the world matters. I also think that hardline philosophy is one of the reasons why the followers reject storytelling as an option, because it rejects the idea that anyone other than the GM has meaningful control. They automatically assume any storytelling would be a railroad, because that's the only way the power centralized GM role they accept as the norm could do it.

Edit: Also may have confused the Me, Myself, and & Die guy with someone else. Was looking over his stuff and it didn't look to be familiar or what I was thinking of.
 
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robertsconley

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My view is this, a referee of a tabletop campaign is in the business of creating an experience. Referees are tour guides not storyteller. To bring the setting to life around the character that the players are playing, the referee has to get into the heads of the NPCs. Come up with a personality, motivations and plans. As human beings we have limitation to how much we can do at once so shortcuts are relied on a lot.

In the absence of the players the sum of the NPCs plans, and goals look like a story but that is an illusion. The way I think about it is that I am defining a initial situation and extrapolate events into the future based on what I know about the circumstances. Because I am human and have bias, I may used various aides to change up the results to make the flow of events more natural.

What I have at the end of this is in essence a plan of battle. Like a general's plan of battle if one follows it exactly it will lead to disaster as changing circumstance are ignored. But like a general's plan of battle it provides a structure and a guide for help the referee deal with what the PC do and don't. And like a general's plan of battle I will be revising this as circumstance change as a result of what PCs do and don't do.

This is what I wrote in my Blackmarsh Setting

It is suggested that to get maximum use of this setting that the referee look over the locales, then chose the ones that best suit the campaign. Note the NPCs and their circumstances. Develop a timeline of events if the characters are not involved. Detail important locales and add new ones of your own design. Do the same for the NPCs, and make notes on their motivations and personalities.

After each session of the campaign, review what the players did. Look at your original timeline of events, see what impact their actions had, and make the needed changes. Sometimes the players’ actions will lead to a new and unexpected chain of events.

The creativity of the referee comes by not forcing his players to follow a predetermined story, but to develop new and interesting consequences based on the players’ actions. Use the NPC’s motivations and personalities to decide which consequences are the most likely and pick the most interesting.

The result is a campaign where the players feel they are forging their character’s destiny within a living, breathing world. It will not only be fun and adventurous, but also filled with surprises. Consequences will accumulate and spin the campaign into unexpected directions.

Finally to stress this point again, there is only so much I will deal with in any given moments so unless a NPCs is important to what the PCs are doing, I will use various shortcuts to gloss over the details and keep things manageable.


The upshot of this, I am very negative on anything that tries to emulate or support storytelling in RPGs. I find it a distraction from the above at best, and often a hinderances to me juggling various NPCs and their schemes. I prize aides that help me easily shift what NPC get focused on as the PCs make their way through the setting as their characters.

Some final notes, as far as above is concerned, animals, and monsters are NPCs. Supernatural Entities are NPCs as far as the above goes. Everything else is a detail of the locale or the setting as whole if it something like how magic works. I tend to focus most of my attention on NPCs as it is a setting's characters that bring it life. You can convey some of the grandeur of nature and other locales in a tabletop roleplaying but where I think RPGs are at their strongest when it about character interaction. Whether it combat with a monster, or intrigue within the alleyways of a city.

Also here is a link my World outside of the Dungeon chapter from my Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules which explains some of the details more fully.

 

The Mad Hatter

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Here's what I have always tried to do.

First, I come up with a story. I figure out where I'd like things to go. I also get the players to create characters and figure out what kinds of things they think are cool.

I predict what characters might do. I prepare based on some of those predictions. Yep, I create setpieces that I hope I'll be able to use in game.

If the players do as expected, they run into the prepared bits. If the players don't do as expected, it's time to improvise. Improvisation is the GM's most important trait. The players are contributing to the story. At the most binary, the GM is asking himself, is this something I should adapt to the storyline I prepared, or is this something I should abandon my storyline to pursue, and then adjust the progress of the game accordingly.

The result is the story gets better. A GM is DEFINITELY a Storyteller. But so are the Players. The GM comes up with a story, the players make their contributions which inherenty change that story. By the very definition, running a game is inviting a group to create a story.

Another problem is the hardline stance taken about GMs being absolute gods of setting and having total control while players only directly control their individual playing pieces. I've grown to feel that this is a very narrow way to look at RPGs like they're games of Monopoly or something. If immersion is any kind of goal, then a basic fact of immersion is that every participant at the table is forming a different image of the setting and proceedings than the next guy. The trick is to get everyone on a closely enough aligned understanding that everyone at the table is compatible. The GM has hardass setting lord philosphy spits in the face of immersion and states that the GM is the only one whose perception of the world matters. I also think that hardline philosophy is one of the reasons why the followers reject storytelling as an option, because it rejects the idea that anyone other than the GM has meaningful control. They automatically assume any storytelling would be a railroad, because that's the only way the power centralized GM role they accept as the norm could do it.

You're not wrong. But I think the issue is basically, that games can be run in multiple ways. It's all about setting the expectations for the players and yourself before starting the game at all.

What you're doing, I have done multiple times as well. This style I call linear internally. But it's not really linear in the form that published scenarios is. I find it's good to tell the players before hand, so they know. That way they know that there will probably be times, when the plot might force them in a certain direction. This avoids conflicts that otherwise could happen.

But I have also run games with no preplanned stuff at all. Mostly I just have a map of an area. Set a starting location for the PCs. The players when create characters. I usually create a starting hook with Mythic. When we just start gaming. Nothing more nothing less. Again the players will know that's how this game is gonna be.

Finally a little suggestion for this thread. Can we please not get into another semantic debate about words. We all know how well that will go.
 

joetheok

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Let's try this formulation: unlike a conventional work of fiction, the referee and the players in a role-playing game collectively take on the creative role of authors of whatever narrative exists or is created?

I always thought I had plenty enough to do with world-building, creating places and things, and especially NPC 'people.' Those last have agendas of their own. My role as a referee then was reduced (in this regard) to occasionally putting clues out there as to who those NPC's were and what those agendas were. Amongst my own group I refer to this as "chumming the water,' throwing bait out there and seeing what gets snapped up. If the players bit, we followed that line, if not, more chumming. (Of course if they refused to follow anything there could be no game, as they all sat around.) When the stock of baits seemed a bit thin, more chumming.

The only things that were forced, since we must start the ball rolling somehow, were, first, a low-stakes session to teach the rules. In the ancient Roman Call of Cthulhu campaign, when no one was familiar with the BRP combat system, I simply said that the NPC friend of the PC's was off to the gladiator games and invited them to accompany him. I then handed each player an NPC gladiator and said that each player character was free to bet, or not, on the outcome of the next match, their own or some other player's, and if their NPC gladiator won the PC could keep the coins. (If they lost they lost the coins.) Alternative, if they felt they were short on cash, if their NPC won, their PC could get a skill check. I then made up a random deck of matches. I expected to run one bout for each player to work through the combat individually, but the thing took on a life of its own, and we spent the entire session running matches.

The second thing is the first adventure kind of gets assigned--In the Call of Cthulhu game it was, you have a dinner invitation from a wealthy patron. In the medieval game it was escort the tax payment from the manor to the lord's castle and oh by the way he is having a tournament for the knights and fighters of his lands (see 1 above.)

If the players ignore the bait, or the clue, then the NPC will progress with his agenda.
 

hawkeyefan

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I feel like the video really focuses on the GM as the creator of conflict. But that's one of the core elements of story. Setting up a conflict absolutely touches on storytelling. Whatever conflict is set up will have a huge impact on how the game plays out.

The GM is largely responsible for a lot of what are considered the core elements of story......Conflict being one, but also Setting and Characters (although this is shared with the players) and to some extent Plot (in the form of backstory more than current events). The Resolution seems to be the element that folks are tending to resist, which is understandable....most of us would like that to be undetermined when play begins, and be up to the players to bring about.

So I get why story and storyteller are terms that often get connected with RPGs and with GMing. It certainly is a part of the process. However, I think there are significant differences that are absolutely relevant. That the Players can impact the Plot and ultimately the Resolution through the decisions they make for their Characters is the big one. That they aren't simply going along some predetermined route set by the GM (although that still could be an RPG, it just seems many folks would find that dissatisfying).

I think the idea of it being a shared exercise in storytelling is more accurate because the GM and the players are all contributing to what happens in the game, and also there is the random element that most games have, usually dice, but also cards or other means. So no one party has control over all the elements in order to be considered THE Storyteller, which is what most of us think of when we hear the term.

I think it's more about a GMing determining a Plot and the Resolution ahead of time that seems to be the issue.
 
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Yeti Spaghetti

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This thread is a great reminder for me to just "go with it." I tend to like pre-planned modules and storyline stuff, even when I write my own, but I agree that for a good game you need to just let the players go wherever they will and experiment. If they happen to "come back" to the planned story and script, great. If not, then make something else up on the fly. In essence, the GM is just as much a player when it comes to story.

One example from a Cryptworld adventure I just ran: The players found a dead body on an airplane, but never bothered to check his pockets for his identity, which would have led them to the only gun stored on the plane (he was the plane's air marshal). Instead of butting in and forcing them or an NPC to check his pockets, I decided to let it go. (Maybe everyone was so shocked by what happened, and later distracted, that checking the man for ID was forgotten.) And I think it ended up creating a somewhat more interesting scenario for the rest of the adventure, forcing the players to do without a gun and seeking some other remedy.

So, hurrying up to get to the "proper" conclusion is something I definitely will continue to watch out for.
 
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TJS

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I feel like the video really focuses on the GM as the creator of conflict. But that's one of the core elements of story. Setting up a conflict absolutely touches on storytelling. Whatever conflict is set up will have a huge impact on how the game plays out.
I think the focus on conflict that comes up a lot in GM advice occludes the actual role of the GM.

Creating conflict is not the most basic aspect of the GM's roll. Role-playing games are structured and paced around decision points, not conflict. Conflict of course is a good way to create decision points, but it doesn't guarantee them.

You can throw a map at a group of players and say "Where do you want to go?" and they can pour over their options and be engaged without any real source of conflict. You can have the PCs as soldiers in the great army against the forces of evil, and it can be boring and railroaded because there are not any real decisions to be made.
 
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hawkeyefan

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I think the focus on conflict that comes up a lot in GM advice occludes the actual role of the dungeon master.

Creating conflict is not the most basic aspect of GM's roll. Role-playing games are structured and paced around decision points, not conflict. Conflict of course is a good way to create a decision points, but it doesn't guarantee them.

You can throw a map at a group of players and say where do you want to go and they can pour over their options and be engaged without any real source of conflict. You can have the PCs as soldiers in the great army against the forces of evil, and it can be boring and railroaded because there are not real decisions to be made.

I think that they were talking about conflict in the sense of decisions to be made. Of opposing elements or options. Not just conflict of the physical variety.

In that sense I think their meaning is very much in line with what you’re talking about.

That “what do you do?” moment is a conflict. Do we do A or B, each with its own pros and cons.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I think that they were talking about conflict in the sense of decisions to be made. Of opposing elements or options. Not just conflict of the physical variety.

In that sense I think their meaning is very much in line with what you’re talking about.

That “what do you do?” moment is a conflict. Do we do A or B, each with its own pros and cons.
I agree.

A creampuff fight with mooks who have zero chance of really harming the PCs isn't any more meaningful or "empowering" for the players than dictating their journey to them.

But fights with real risks (or having the ability to avoid the fight through one scenario or another) or even deciding which leads to follow is a meaningful conflict (so long as the outcome is not predetermined regardless of what they decide to do).
 

Bunch

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I embrace the random. My current game I did a random 1 shot intro adventure because all the PCs couldn't make the main adventure. Turns out a random NPC from that game just fit perfectly into a random level of a dungeon probably sux months later. So I squeezed him in and the PCs are like "WTF what's he doing here?!?!" The great thing is I don't really know either but I had to drop him in and see what the players start giving me. Maybe it's just he's an addition. Maybe he's part of some grand machiavellian plan of the GM. Nobody knows! I recently added in another random party (necromancer w undead followers). PCs were very politically correct and accepting of alternative lifestyles. Even helped him get some zombies out of a pit they fell in. Never saw that one coming.
 

TJS

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I think that they were talking about conflict in the sense of decisions to be made. Of opposing elements or options. Not just conflict of the physical variety.

In that sense I think their meaning is very much in line with what you’re talking about.

That “what do you do?” moment is a conflict. Do we do A or B, each with its own pros and cons.
It may or not be what people are thinking of, but that's not what a conflict is, and the general connotations of conflict lead to confusion and distort thinking.

It's always better to use the more precise terms.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I think there's been some incredibly bad faith interpretations based on chips on the shoulders left over from "personalities" on other forums.
That's actually why I was initially so snarky. I assumed it was another screechy YOURE PLAYING IT WRONG video.

But then I watched and more or less agreed.

One of my favorite sessions ever was Necessary Evil. I had Dr. Destruction contact the PCs and tell them some villains had defected from OMEGA. I wrote out dossiers on them, but their actual character sheets sometimes varied from the dossiers they got. All he did was reach out to the group, give them the dossiers, and tell them to tie up the loose ends.

First villain was an expy of The Hulk, and the group put him down.

The next two were a speedster and a fear monger ala Scarecrow, and they got surprised a bit by the power descriptions not matching up with reality (in truth, Dr. Destruction had incomplete information).

The next was a guy who was outright trying to defect to join the alien occupying force. He was a necromancer type and had aliens coming in for a rendezvous to discuss terms when the group managed to completely blindside him and assassinate him, despite me trying to have him prepared for an ambush. (This was an infamous Savage Worlds "One Hit Kill")

The final target, they found in a suburban neighborhood, unloading groceries from a minivan with her kids. They paused and went from attack mode to telling her who they were, why they were there, and making sure what they saw was legit. Then, assuming this would piss off Dr. Destruction and preparing for a fight with him, the team leader recruited her to their OMEGA cell...but as an inactive agent, keeping her retired but back in the fold.

I set up conflict...and most of it played out like I expected. But the most memorable one took a turn I loved, but hadn't really counted on.
 

TJS

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I agree.

A creampuff fight with mooks who have zero chance of really harming the PCs isn't any more meaningful or "empowering" for the players than dictating their journey to them.

But fights with real risks (or having the ability to avoid the fight through one scenario or another) or even deciding which leads to follow is a meaningful conflict (so long as the outcome is not predetermined regardless of what they decide to do).
But this is why the distinction matters. I tend to think that focusing on conflict means mssing the real point.

A fight with real risks is still boring if there were no decisions made to engage with it. We're then relying on the combat system to provide the decisions, which is always sketchy.

A creampuff fight is not meaningless if engaging in it is a result of decisions made by the PCs. It's only meaningless if the GM sees a fight as something the GM does to the PCs.
 

hawkeyefan

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It may or not be what people are thinking of, but that's not what a conflict is, and the general connotations of conflict lead to confusion and distort thinking.

It's always better to use the more precise terms.

Well, Professor DM used conflict in the sense of a traditional narrative, with an author who constructs the conflicts with the characters and then also constructs the resolution. He points out that with an RPG, the GM constructs the conflict, then the players decide how to address the conflict, and then the dice which will determine how it goes. So he's using it in the literary sense, but applying it to an RPG, and then explaining what makes it different.

Then Trevor describes the job of a GM as the "instigator of conflict, or instigator of obstacles". He equates conflict with obstacles, which don't need to be physical obstacles. The job of the GM is to create obstacles that allow the players to make meaningful decisions that affect the environment of the game.

So as much as I'd hate to see the conversation devolve into quibbling about definitions, I hope you can see why I am reading their use of conflict this way.
 

TJS

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Well, Professor DM used conflict in the sense of a traditional narrative, with an author who constructs the conflicts with the characters and then also constructs the resolution. He points out that with an RPG, the GM constructs the conflict, then the players decide how to address the conflict, and then the dice which will determine how it goes. So he's using it in the literary sense, but applying it to an RPG, and then explaining what makes it different.

Then Trevor describes the job of a GM as the "instigator of conflict, or instigator of obstacles". He equates conflict with obstacles, which don't need to be physical obstacles. The job of the GM is to create obstacles that allow the players to make meaningful decisions that affect the environment of the game.

So as much as I'd hate to see the conversation devolve into quibbling about definitions, I hope you can see why I am reading their use of conflict this way.
I get that they're using conflict in a literary sense. That was exactly my point. Rpgs are not literary works! They are games.

The idea that the job of the GM is to create conflict or obstacles is looking at things the wrong way around and leads to bad (or more often just vacuous) GM advice.

A railroad can have conflict. A railroad can have obstacles. This is the sort of thing that leads to comments by gamers along the lines of "Really interesting setting; damned if I know what to do with it though".

If you conceptualise the GM's job as essentially creating decision points then conflict will flow from that naturally.

Encounter on the road:
- You are attacked by bandits. Roll initiative.
- Vs An arrow flies out the shadows and thunks into a tree. You see there is a note tied to it. It says "laydown all your weapons and belonging on the ground in a pile and then laydown facedown on the ground. You have no chance to resist. We have you surrounded".

Both of these are obstacles; both of them are conflict. Only one offers a meaningful decision point.
 
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CRKrueger

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By the very definition, running a game is inviting a group to create a story.
NOPE. Not even in the same galactic supercluster as the truth. That’s your definition, because you think of Roleplaying as story creation, and therefore use it to create stories.

There’s lots of people that...don’t, and you story guys seem to be the only ones that haven’t got the memo. Reminds me of the old joke about the Catholics thinking they’re the only ones in heaven (which was told by a Catholic Priest during a homily).
 

Simlasa

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It seems to me that the game is more like 'story interruptus'... the story is what would happen if the PCs didn't show up and poke at things. They might hear about it later as news, they might not... it might become background for a new situation... which they might engage with, or not.
The 'conflict' is just those places where the PCs, in whatever way, interact with the setting and influence it.
 
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NinjaWeasel

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Yep. Finished the video. It's the same kind of anti-story diet Pundit bullshit that has been floating around for ages.

Yeah, this is exactly what I thought. It's definitely less obnoxious than certain personalities would portray it but there's a judgey tone to it and both guys are using "story" when they're referring to what I would call an authorial approach. At times it also feels like they're referring to a GM as just the creator of encounters. Encounter Design is a concept I've only encountered with D&D players and it's not a thing I do, not in the mechanical sense anyway. It feels like (and I know this is me making a big leap here) they are talking exclusively about running dungeon/hex crawl type games. If there's no story then how would you run an investigation scenario for example?

I mean, the approach as laid out in the video is perfectly valid though. All play-styles are valid and I do think the majority of GMs see setting up conflict as a large part of their job. It's just a part of their job though and "story" is part of what they do as well. I mean, I definitely don't think the GM is exclusively a "storyteller" either but I do think that it's another part of their job. Even if it's just "setting the scene" and linking events in a meaningful manner.

For my friends, there is no game without some kind of story or plot line. It's open ended but it's a story still. Just one that will be shaped by what the players do. That's our play-style. So storytelling is definitely part of my job. It's also a part of the player's job too. Having a story, as a framework around what you're doing, doesn't mean railroading. Railroading is having very specific beats, that MUST play out as written, that lead to a predefined ending. A "story" to me is the set-up, it helps provide structure, it provides hooks, it's a guide for how you and your friends can interpret events, and an aid to improvisation. It is helping steer a journey but it is not a pre-determined destination.

It seems to me that the game is more like 'story interruptus'... the story is what would happen if the PCs didn't show up and poke at things. They might hear about it later as news, they might not... it might become background for a new situation... which they might engage with, or not.
The 'conflict' just those places where the PCs, in whatever way, interact with the setting and influence it.

This is actually pretty close to how I view story. For instance, if I run a game based on published material I will use it for the intro, a direction to push the players in and for NPCs to interact with, and then the rest of the book is just possible scenarios and inspiration. The end result may vary wildly from what was actually in the module or campaign that I originally bought. We're still telling a story though. Maybe not classically structured but a story none-the-less.

That's how I run games and if other people don't then that's totally cool! I know people who just do randomly generated dungeon crawls. I don't do that but I have no issues with others doing it. So the video would probably work a lot better if it was presented in a "this is how I run my game" way. Instead it comes across as "this is the correct way to run a game, let me educate you on what you're doing wrong". If they're having fun than that's great! But I'll do things my way regardless of what the book says, let alone randoms on the internet. If I want to use my Hollow Earth Expedition book as a soup bowl, and I'm comfortable with 98% of my soup dripping on the floor while I lick 1% of the soup off soggy cardboard, then it makes a perfectly good soup bowl for ME and I won't have anyone tell me otherwise! :grin:
 

TristramEvans

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A story, by definition, has a beginning, midde, and end. An RPG, by definition, has the beginning described by the GM (presenting the situation - which is all that is really being described when they say "conflict", anyone who has watched Me, Myself, and Die knows Trevor isn't "setting up encounters" in the D&D sense of the term, let alone restricting play to dungeoncrawling), the middle (reaction) described by the player(s), and the end (resolution) decided by chance (dice roll). If the GM has the beginning, middle, and end planned out and the players cannot make any meaningful choices to change that, then I think it's perfectly fair to say at that point you are not playing an RPG.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with narrative playstyles or mechanics. I know for a fact Trevor doesn't have the same issues with those that I do.

It's solely the difference between the players having agency or the GM railroading them through their fanfic.
 

Stevethulhu

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I've said for decades that RPGs are at best distant relatives of storytelling media. And not a good way to tell a story. Been dogpiled, shouted down and accused of heresy of all stripes for that, too. It was only when I joined the Pub that I found other people with similar attitudes.
 

Mankcam

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Yep I agree with Trevor and Prof DM on most of this.

However I don't think it's a sin to help steer the ship at times, I think there is room for both approaches actually, and one isn't necessarily better than the other. I think that if there is too much free-form then sometimes things get too loose and go nowhere like a ship stuck in the doldrums. Whereas too much steering the characters in a particular direction runs the risk of things feeling railyroady and bland as well.

As a GM there is always a few milestones I like to hit in a session, but I'm eager for much more free-form sandboxy stuff to happen as well, so I really like hearing about ways to do that.

I follow both of these presenters, and tend to agree with alot of their views.
Especially Dan DeFazio as Prof DM, he is really entertaining with lots of great advice.
Very inspiring :thumbsup:

It's great to see some of these views gaining traction again. I remember from the late 1990s onward, the idea of GM-as-Storyteller took prominence.
Sure, being a storyteller can be part of it, but it's only one part. I like the idea of being a 'conflict arbitrator' (or whatever term Prof DM used), that's another major part of the GM role for sure, it's a very good way to approach this whole GM thing.

I have to agree with Prof DM that the amount of prep time does not correlate to the amount of enjoyment during a game :thumbsup:
 
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Charlie D

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Me as storyteller: “I’m going to tell you a tale about the time your investigators found out who committed the heinous murder of Old Man Gribbly. It was a cold and stormy….”

Player A, interrupting my story: “How much does it pay? I’m not investigating some dead guy for free.”

Player B, “Yeah, maybe if the pay sucks we can track down the murderer and blackmail them into not having us deliver them to the cops.”

Player C, “And maybe we can murder that jerk hoodlum who has been hassling us and frame the murderer for that one too.”

Player D, “I want to buy bullets. Can I do that now? How much do they cost again? Let’s go to the gun shop.”

Player E, “Hell yeah! This story is great. Tell us what happens next.”

Me, looking at my tattered and battered story, “Umm….”
 

NinjaWeasel

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What you just described seems exactly the way Prof DM runs his games, btw
And myself, actually, when I use prewritten scenarios as a basis
This has nothing whatsoever to do with narrative playstyles or mechanics. I know for a fact Trevor doesn't have the same issues with those that I do.

It's solely the difference between the players having agency or the GM railroading them through their fanfic.
I'm not going to pretend I'm familiar with either of the guys in that video. This is the first time I've encountered them, as I generally don't watch podcasts or YouTube videos about gaming (other than Seth Skorkowsky sometimes). Based on what you've both said about them I'd say that they're not communicating their ideas that well to someone who isn't already familiar with them but, as that may well be their intent or expectation, that's okay. Thanks to the likes of Ron/Forge and Pundit it's difficult to discuss "story" as an RPG subject without any baggage though.

I've said for decades that RPGs are at best distant relatives of storytelling media. And not a good way to tell a story. Been dogpiled, shouted down and accused of heresy of all stripes for that, too. It was only when I joined the Pub that I found other people with similar attitudes.
I'd say it is a storytelling medium. Even if not all RPGs are intended to be. An RPG tells stories in it's own unique way that is related to, but unique from, traditional (and some not-so-traditional) mediums. The storytelling part is always going to be down to the people playing though. I have friends who just play RPGs as minatures-based skirmish games. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with railroads either, if everyone is on board for that and having fun. There's lots of different ways to play and I don't think any one way is objectively superior to another.
 
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Mankcam

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Me as storyteller: “I’m going to tell you a tale about the time your investigators found out who committed the heinous murder of Old Man Gribbly. It was a cold and stormy….”

Player A, interrupting my story: “How much does it pay? I’m not investigating some dead guy for free.”

Player B, “Yeah, maybe if the pay sucks we can track down the murderer and blackmail them into not having us deliver them to the cops.”

Player C, “And maybe we can murder that jerk hoodlum who has been hassling us and frame the murderer for that one too.”

Player D, “I want to buy bullets. Can I do that now? How much do they cost again? Let’s go to the gun shop.”

Player E, “Hell yeah! This story is great. Tell us what happens next.”

Me, looking at my tattered and battered story, “Umm….”
You forgot to add in Player F, who just randomly rolled a dice and loudly exclaims "Hey, I found something! What does my character find?!"
And then Player G starts rambling on about how this scene reminds him of a movie he saw as a kid and etc etc etc :grin:
 

Charlie D

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You forgot to add in Player F, who just randomly rolled a dice and loudly exclaims "Hey, I found something! What does my character find?!"
And then Player G starts rambling on about how this scene reminds him of a movie he saw as a kid and etc etc etc :grin:

Player H, coming in late, "What did I miss? Can you repeat everything that happened so far?"
 
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