Game Design: Story II

By 02/01/2018 January 3rd, 2018 Game Design

Now listening to: the drip of a shower

So what is a good story if a good story is something entirely subjective to the audience? Well, I guess a good story resonates. It sticks to the people who hear it!

And although the appreciation for different types of stories varies from individual to individual, there are certain universalities to telling a resonant story. The need for a compelling inciting incident is constant, the need for genre conventions is constant, the need for a resolution is constant. Different individuals need to hear different kinds of stories; every story needs the same landmarks.

So how do you have a game, storywise, come up all aces?

The short answer is: you don’t. You give the players the tools to craft stories. Crusader Kings II. Minecraft.¬†Planetside. Some tools are more specialized than others. Not all stories will stick with them. In fact, most won’t. But a few will and they’ll remember them for a long time.

How many stories are there in Disney’s Aladdin? You must’ve guessed that the answer already is “more than one”. Sure, the events are the same, but the points of view are many and create as many stories as there are characters. I’m pretty sure the retelling of Aladdin’s events would have a different flavor were you listen to them from Aladdin, Jafar or Raja’s points of view.

I need to shave time off D&D prep. It’s way too long. It generates one of three things: way too much delay in starting a campaign, inevitable DM burnout, or poor campaign quality. To do this I’m offloading as much irrelevant prep work¬†onto a machine, something that can take care of minutia infinitely faster than I can. Because no one remembers how long the hallway was, or the materials with which it was built. They remember the insane spectator monster NPC with a funny voice that I came up with on the fly.

As a DM, I need to invest my time in a wiser way, if not for me then for my player’s sake. A machine can readily generate a map for me, fill it with cities, fill those cities with NPCs and give goals to said NPCs. I’m not so sure, however, that it’s the purview of the machine to create a story. The world exists. The NPCs have their purpose. Their simulation the responsibility of the DM.

Kill time travel.

It’s storytelling poison.

The tragedy of man is not defined by our existence in three dimensions but by our enslavement in the fourth.

#74 Obstacle

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