Thursday, August 01, 2013

Storytelling

This is what its like inside my head.
I reached the storytelling part of the HackMaster GMG. Story makes me nuts. Characters are easy to come up with, but getting a good story together is a lot like the Lego shelf in my office...

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As a kid I always wanted to do crossover adventures. I still like them. For example, Bruce Banner, Loki, and Indiana Jones take on the Spartans and the Goblin King in a battle to save Chicken Man. The end result is chaos. Funny to look at, but probably not realistic to write. I think big and it gets me into trouble. The problem with going into a HackMaster game with a big story is the players will probably change everything in the first ten minutes.

What I learned about storytelling from HackMaster is that forcing it doesn't work. What worked is starting with a tiny event and making it bigger. And that's how I ended up with my current story arc. I wrote a little one-off encounter where my group had to fight a Lesser Ettin. To make the fight important, the Lesser Ettin had captured a librarian in charge of two important spellbooks. (If this sounds familiar, it appeared in Knights of the Dinner Table 199 because I entered it in an adventure contest.) What interested me about the adventure, though, was the books. When I rewrote it for the contest, I put a lot of thought into the books. Meanwhile, my other group of PC's was on the opposite side of the continent, looking up a former employer who was holed up in a famous library doing research. (Actually, he was possessed. Ghosts, am I right?) And stuff just began falling into place. The library has been compromised, books are missing, and the ghost is pissed.

The party figured out the ghost and recovered some of the books, but they don't know if they have all of them. I had stumbled on a story arc where the characters in my version of Tellene are going to have to recover the missing books and relics from the library. (And this was all before I read about what the locals did to save the books in Timbuktu in our real version of Earth. Google "library at Timbuktu" for an awesome story about people saying "hell no" to religious persecution.)

I didn't set out to make "to the library" an important part of my campaign, but there you go. That's how stories happen. I've found that too much planning results in chaos. And I have three epic storytellers at the table to help me. How the players interpret their reality is super inspiring.

By listening to my players and making things up as I go, I've discovered all kinds of bigger story ideas to play with. Which is a huge relief because I was having trouble making up stats for the Chicken Man....