Players are afraid of Narrative Control?

edited August 2009 in Story Games
One of my players has been playing RPG's for well over 20 years and has become deeply entrenched in the traditional RPG method and absconds all Narrative Control mechanics. Any ideas on how to convert him?


  • Why do you want to? Is it a standard feature in the games your usual group plays (or wants to play), or something?
  • Posted By: thadrine absconds all Narrative Control mechanics.
    He runs away and hides narrative control mechanics? Nifty.

  • If by deeply entrenched you mean "he's tried narrative mechanics and they're not his thing," I don't see any reason to do the converting. If you're asking for good ways to introduce player narrative control to someone who's skeptical but hasn't tried it, that's doable.
  • edited August 2009
    First, ask yourself this question: in the 20 years that your friend has been playing RPGs, has he ever GMed a game?

    If he has, then I think your theory that he's "afraid of" narrative control won't hold water. (And really, why do you think that liking narrative control is a sign of courage, and that your friend is "afraid" because he doesn't like the same thing you do? What's that about?)

    Second, why "convert" him? Have you knelt before the altar and swore a holy oath to forsake all games that do not include this mechanic, and shun the nonbelievers? That seems weird. If there's some game you love that's no fun for you unless he exercises whatever narrative control it gives him, then maybe you should just resolve to not play that game with him. Play something else with him, and save the troublesome game to play with other people.

    Really, all you can do is try playing it. If he likes it, he likes it. If he doesn't, he doesn't. This is not a matter of conversion or the One True Way or anything like that, it's just a mechanic. It doesn't appeal to everyone, and it probably shouldn't.

    Still, here's one thing that I have noticed which makes it much easier to pitch a "weird" game to an entrenched RPG veteran: don't try and sell the mechanics. Don't tell him it's a revolution in game design or the greatest thing since sliced bread or that it makes D&D look like a busted Monopoly board with half the pieces missing, because that kind of hype is poisonous and counterproductive. Don't try and get him enthusiastic about the system.

    Instead, pitch the game you're going to play: sell the setting, sell the characters, sell the idea that this is going to be you sitting down with your friends and having fun together. If there's something in particular that would appeal to him ("it's just like Aliens," "it has a really cool and easy to use way to make new magic spells," or whatever), mention it. That's where you want to generate the enthusiasm.
  • Also, what do you mean by "Narrative Control"?

    I prefer games like My Life with Master, Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Don't Rest Your Head... and several others where "Narrative Control" is not something fixed. Primetime Adventures for example has a nasty habit of escalating into a Cold War like power grab for "story."

  • Seth, I often find that the direct approach works best. Just say that, in these sorts of games, it works better if everyone jumps in and describes things.

    And then there's the leading question technique, where you say "Describe how that plays out", rather than describing it yourself.

    Which game are you talking about? Did you have a specific problem?

  • Play games without him, invite him to them but tell him there will be these types of mechanics involved. If he decides to give it a try and play and he finds he likes them he'll be converted, if not then that's his choice you cant always make people like the same things you do.
  • I think the question here is as much about your friend's attitude as his actions. Is he not taking control of the narrative simply out of habit, or because he doesn't enjoy that kind of game, or maybe because he doesn't fully understand how much power he is allowed to have? Maybe you should just have a quiet word with him on one side, away from the rest of the group but without arousing suspicion, and explain to him that nothing he can possibly try and do will ruin your plot.

    I've had a few players like this, and I usually find the problem is either that they lack confidence in their ability to weave a cogent storyline (or have a poor imagination), or that they are worried they're going to mess up someone elses' plans, usually the GM's. In the former case there's not much you can do about it beyond encourage them to take part. In the latter, you just have to get them out of the idea that you've got a specific story already planned out.

    Or just keep playing and rely on the other players to lead by example. You never know, if he sees everyone else doing crazy stuff and fiddling with the 'official' story, he might get the idea, see how fun it is, and join in.

  • edited August 2009
    My group just doesn't like it. They want to contribute to a story being told in a very particular way - through their characters. That's pretty much it. No arguing with matters of taste. Some people don't like country music, for example, and that I understand far less than not liking narrative control in gaming.
  • As a trial lawyer, I've learned many tricks for pulling narratives out of people.

    My strategy for giving players more narrative control is this: Ask "open funnel" questions (not yes-or-no, each one getting at a more precise detail), and use the in-game rewards systems to encourage good answers (or encourage other players to give those rewards if it's PTA or something similar):
    Player: Alright, success, I kill the goblin!
    GM: How do you kill him?
    P: Uh, with my sword.
    GM: Tell us a little about it.
    P: *does*
    GM: Cool! Here's a hero point for your trouble!

    And if your player still doesn't want to take the reins, email the game developer and ask for permission to treat your players as hostile.
  • Posted By: deadlytoqueemail the game developer and ask for permission to treat your players as hostile.
    A request that is invariably granted!
  • Just another vote for someone who is married to someone who hates narrative control. Its not fear or lack of ability or anything, she just doesn't like it.

    Life's like that sometimes.
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