Thursday, February 7, 2019

How do you know what the story will be?

I've been watching a lot of how-to D&D content lately on YouTube and I cannot believe how many people are fixated on "telling their story" or "making compelling characters" for when they sit down to play.

How can you tell what your story is going to be before you get together and make it? 

How can you tell who your character is going to be before he shows you through play?

Story is what you get out at the end, not what you put in at the beginning.

Admittedly this is me being obtuse and pedantic. Some people like story paths. Some people like railroady stuff where the players figure out the "how" of the DM's plot rather than the "what" and "where" of the PC's ideas. 

This is literally my play style summed up in one photograph
But to me, there's nothing more satisfying than telling the story of a completely unexpected adventure that materializes when you all least expect it. And there are ways to prompt and foster that amazing experience and, I suppose, procedurally generate such a tale. 

But the question is, what are those procedures that will generate that unexpected story?

Fallen Empire is a setting (not a product - it's nowheres near complete) that is attempting to put those procedures and elements in place. 

There's only a hint of story: "Here's A. What B do you want to get to, and how do you plan to do it?" along with some shared assumptions. 

Along with the several resourced I've made for myself and collected from other people, I expect to have a good shot at answering all the "what ifs" that come up between A and Z.

I wrote an essay a few years ago about this. It said just about the same thing I'm saying now but in a different style. At some point I should share it here.


  1. Hi. I posted elsewhere (G+?) about how much I was enjoying this series of yours because of exactly what you describe above. Based on the Flashing Blades campaigns I played, I think you’ve got a good chance of getting exactly what you’re aiming for. All you need is for the players to get on board. That is half the battle. The other half is the system to support it, and I reckon you’ve got it nailed. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out in practice. I’ll be referring to this series of articles as well as Flashing Blades and Pendragon now for doing this sort of thing.

    1. You are very kind to look and read and think about the things I’ve shared here. I do hope you have been able to steal something, even just a little insight. It would make me so happy to know that.

      There probably won’t be any actual play reports for this for a long time. My current play group is right about halfway through what appears to be a three year IRL adventure arc. While the DM is maybe flagging a little, he is eager to tell his story and we are enjoying playing along.

      I do dearly hope however to try this one out some day.