Here are some techniques I've used to create the play experience I describe in the "Game informs the fiction informs the game informs the fiction" thread
I've been meaning to write up something like this for awhile and I got a few requests in that thread to do so, so here it is.
This is addressed to DMs. When you read "you" think "you the DM." When I talk in first person, I'm speaking as a DM. When I talk in first-person plural, like "our" or "we" I'm talking about our home campaign, which is a paragon-tier thing approaching its fiftieth session.
If the players aren't interested in making fiction with their D&D, then these techniques are probably of little use. Sorry!
There's lots of influence from the usual suspects here, but also I want to call out the big single-player modern CRPGs by BioWare and Bethesda as large and surprising influences. Edit:
The make-story-out-of-silly-mechanics approach was directly inspired by Knights of the Dinner Table
, most notably the Bag War series, which opened my eyes to the fictional potency of Bags of Holding.
Finally, this thread is for discussing techniques to make storyful D&D4E. Please don't respond by attacking the premise as a mismatch of game and agenda.
1. Quests (The Bethesda part)
Quests are the heart of my DMing approach.TENT YOUR QUESTS:
Hopefully, potential storylines will emerge as you explore your setting. Use D&D quests to track those storylines. Whenever a goal emerges in the fiction, make it immediately tangible by writing the goal's victory condition and XP reward on an index card and put that card where everyone can see it. These are some of the quest tents from our campaign:MODEL QUEST CREATION TO THE PLAYERS:
As soon as you mention a fictional goal -- like "Baroness Vanessa wants you to bring a ball invitation to the Master of Ogres" -- write that down as a quest tent
.PLAYER CREATED QUESTS ARE SUPER COOL:
When a player declares a quest, that's an affirmation that some piece of the fiction is compelling to them. So you need to make sure that you don't lose any opportunities to create a player quest. Whenever any player suggests an intention, stop everything that you're doing and write that quest down immediately.
Take this input seriously. Even if the game never follows up on the player's impulse, all that's been wasted is the minute to write the card. What matters is that you are demonstrating that you are listening for input on the game's direction.CHALLENGE QUEST GOALS WITH D&D STUFF:
Whenever a quest appears, your job is to put D&Dish challenges -- encounters, skill challenges, skill rolls, etc--between the party and the fulfillment of that quest. IMPORT QUEST FICTION BACK INTO GAMEPLAY:
Say a quest emerges that doesn't really feel like something the D&D4E mechanics cover. For example, say that Gronda the orc fighter PC declares that she wants to win the heart of Huckleberry, the parish priest NPC. This is awesome, but there's no check in D&D to make someone fall in love. So what kind of D&Dish opportunities can you provide for Gronda so that she can achieve her goal?
- Maybe some toughs are bullying Huckleberry? (an encounter)
- Maybe Huckleberry and his acolytes need an escort to a meeting with the bishop? (a whole adventure)
- Maybe Huckleberry is already in true love with someone? (encounter to kill the other love, stealth/thievery/bluff skill challenge to intercept their correspondence and fake unflattering responses, diplomacy/intimidate skill challenge to convince Huckleberry's parents to arrange a marriage with Gronda..etc)