Betrayal- An Emotional Response

Fully Developed Cast of Characters

I must confess that I am a recent convert to the greatness that is Joss Whedon. His ability to craft an engaging story is nothing short of epic awesomeness.

I would not be surprised to find out he is, or at one point was, a gamer/GM. I see it when I watch Buffy (halfway through season 3), and while I was watching Firely. The way his episodes flow and his characters develop.

So what does this have to do with betrayal?

Last night I was watching an episode of Buffy where someone she trust every much, and depends on every day, betrayed her for the sake of tradition. Although that person attempted to redeem themselves by the end of the episode, the damage is done.

These type of emotional responses are things I would really like to strive for in my various games. As I have moved more towards “story-telling” from “Dungeon-telling” I look for ways to develop the characters, their world, and the people around them, hence why I have moved more towards “mouseguarding” my games by using the goals, beliefs, instincts, and failure (complication/twist/condition) mechanics.

Sometimes I accomplish this, and sometimes I don’t.

Story-Telling VS Dungeon-Telling

When I started GMing (and largely this is still how thing are done in most games) it is the GM setting up obstacles and situations to challenge the players. For the most part the players are in constant reaction mode, and the GM only reacting when the players come up with something unexpected.

As I have grown as a GM and tired to learn new tricks and whatnot the whole concept of a communal story has really gripped me. Sharing the narrative (albeit only to a certain point for me) with all the players is an awesome way to really pull them into the story and make it their own.

Doing so puts both the GM and the Player in the action and reaction roles and yields its own rewards. I also think that through story-telling everyone becomes more attached to the world and characters around them.

In one regard I think part of the trouble I come into is my group is usually 7-9 people and since we only get to play once every two weeks (or less) we tend to want to rush into the action and further the story line. I am using new tricks to incorporate as well as reminding myself and staying focused on flushing out more than just “action and martial conflict” into the story.

What do you do for your games? As a player or a GM?

Author: Mike Evans

I am the dude behind DIY RPG Productions. I have a fuck all punk rock attitude, love meeting new people, doing nature shit, and gaming (tabletop and console) and having a good time. I love craft beer (maybe too much), punk, grunge, and industrial music. I write books. Good for me.

6 thoughts

  1. I’m also a Joss Whedon fan, although my exposure so far is limited to Firefly, the X-Men series he wrote, and a bit of Dollhouse. The crew from Firefly always struck me as a classic adventuring party.

    That’s the kind of rich character development I’d love to see in my games. However, one of my monthly games is full of people who really just want to get together to kill things and take their stuff; eat pizza; and tell jokes. It’s a good time, but not very deep for my storytelling needs.

    So, I selected a group of GMs and known-storytellers (a writer and a musician/songwriter) and asked them to help me with the world I was homebrewing. The backgrounds that they developed for their characters and their play so far has added a lot to my world, and I’m really glad of their input.

    As you’ve done, I want to find more ways to encourage their participation in the story. When I’m writing character backgrounds for my characters, I’m trying now to put in hooks for my GMs to play with, and for my fellow players to connect with as well.

  2. I’ve always been a fan as well. Joss is the man. I actually got started with him on Angel, the spin-off to Buffy, and then got into his other shows. Got the Angel complete series box set for Christmas a few years ago. THis has been the gift that keeps on giving and giving.

    However, in all honesty, the recent games I’ve played have all focused on the Dungeon-telling side of things. I seem to be cursed by having all the desire to tell stories with deep backgrounds, but never have players who want to do the same thing…

    1. I have a few players that are more comfortable with just killing stuff and pressing forward than exploring relationships and deepening the characters or world.

      I have started using Mouse Guard motivation mechanics in my games that really have engaged even those players. You can then weave your deep story line around those people. Feel free to check out stuff I’ve jotted down.. If you have any questions on how it plays out I’m more than happy to yak about it!

  3. I’ve had a nagging frustration for over a year now. I always seem to be trying to rush through combat in order to get to the story. Particularly with 4e, where combats take forever, the story (in my eyes) tends to suffer. For that reason I’ve been trying to come up with ideas of how to tell the story through/during combat, and do away with the story-combat-story feeling I’ve had.
    Reading/GMing/Playing Mouse Guard has really helped me in both engaging players and drawing them into the storytelling side of the game. One aspect I love about MG is that every player action must be backed up by player description. This is not something that is mandatory in Dnd or Pathfinder (that I know of), but IMHO it should be. Not all players, however, are comfortable with that. But mechanics like Belief, Goal, Instinct, Traits, etc. really help players get a grip on how to bring a character to life. Also, simply asking a player to describe their attack, or how a spell effect works in game, or what type of NPC their are looking for, i.e. leading questions, will get them more into it. Of course, back up your demands with great description yourself.
    I also strongly suggest having the group form the party together – spend a whole session making the party! Get the players to “buy into” the group/party concept. What is the party’s role? Why are they all there? Get them to buy into common goals, party interrelationships, and even party conflicts (Think conflicting Beliefs ala Mouse Guard). As a GM/DM promote these things both in game and out of game. You’d be amazed at how much story you will get out of it. Of course some want to play the outsider, but they should always have a reason to be with the party; if not, maybe a different, more connected, character concept is ideal. Maybe you can play out a mini-game via email with their dark, loner character.

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