How a story-game GameMaster creates an adventure?

edited November 2008 in Story Games
I consider myself a traditional gamer that appreciates indie/story/hippie-games and ideas. But its being a long time since a GMed (almost 10 years, im 29 now). So I would like to GM a game for my group. But the point is - I dont want to write a adventure and just reailroad the characters in it, like good old trad GMs do. I want to create an adventure by implementing these cool ideas I see around here and in other indie-story-hippie communities.

So, the question is simple:

How do an Indie/Story/Hippie-GameMaster create an adventure? (in opposed to an trad-game GameMaster)

Comments

  • edited November 2008
    Here's one way: Get the players to make their characters. Then you, Mr. GM, plunge those characters into an untenable situation that demands action on their part. As they take action, respond to it. From time to time (don't agonize over the issue of "when"! Do it when you feel it), throw in complications, reversals, and revelations that shine a terrible new light on the situation. Eventually, due to the characters' actions, the situation will be resolved. And, BAM, you've just made a story.

    As far as prep, you want to get really familiar with your NPCs, and work out all the details of the starting situation (which you can keep up your sleeve if you want). Don't plan where it will go, and don't expect it to go anywhere in particular; that's up to the players, so just respond to what they do.

    So, how do you make an untenable situation that demands action on the part of the characters? Target the situation at the characters' issues. Offer them relevant opportunities -- for a price! Put something dear to them in danger (with a LEGITIMATE chance to defend it!!!). Challenge their resolve, principles, and abilities. Put strain on existing relationships. Face them with dilemmas. I even like to set things up such that the characters are running at cross incentives, and are maybe even encouraged (but never forced) to turn against each other. But that's just me.

    EDIT: See this for an example of such a scenario. It's got terms that are specific to a certain game, but I think you can get the gist of it.
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsHere's one way: Get the players to make their characters. Then you, Mr. GM, plunge those characters into an untenable situation that demands action on their part. As they take action, respond to it. From time to time (don't agonize over the issue of "when"! Do it when youfeelit), throw in complications, reversals, and revelations that shine a terrible new light on the situation. Eventually, due to the characters' actions, the situation will be resolved. And, BAM, you've just made a story.
    I would add a step in there that if you come up with a big overarching situation with some obvious difficulties in it BEFORE character creation, that can help character creation proceed along a particular path. You are entitled, as a GM, to have fun and contribute too!
  • Traditionally, the GM doesn't prepare much, if at all. The story's created on the fly by reacting to the players/characters.

    Graham
  • Well, I don't know about that, but then I think the normal adventure-generatey method of years past also produced cool stories. :)
  • I think an important point which must be brought up is which game do you have in mind?

    Most Indie games feature advice on how to get going. Additionally the flags on the character sheet will be indicated in different ways.

    I started my Indie kick with Burning Wheel which features very obvious and in your face flags called Beliefs. Creating Bangs for beliefs was very easy and came naturally to me. Once you get your head wrapped around bangs it becomes much easier to improv as Graham suggests.

    So here is what I suggest:

    Find a game you want to play
    Find out what flags the characters provide
    Prep bangs before play and be very agile with their application
    Throw in bangs you come up with during play

    Once you've gotten your feet wet I would recommend Graham's book, "Play Unsafe", which has excellent advice on playing without prep and improving. I would not recommend starting with Graham's book before you've used bangs or an r-map or any of the various common-place indie techniques.
  • A lot of story game type play revolves around players and PCs interacting with other characters, and dealing with the problems that ensue from other people. There's no so much emphasis on the 'man vs nature' or 'kill or be killed' conflict of many 'traditional' games.

    Do what others have said: talk to your players, create a general situation they can build from, identify what specifically grabs their interest, and do detailed prep around that. The important thing is to have quite a few NPCs that embody the points of interest that the PCs can interact with. Give the NPCs agendas that involve the PCs.

    You can do a lot worse than buying Dogs in the Vineyard and working through its town creation rules. They provide a very clear and structured procedure for creating a messy situation of sympathetic characters with powerful motivations, all working at cross purposes.

    To my mind, the most important steps in DitV town creation are the last two questions: "What does each NPC want from the PCs?" and "What would happen if the PCs did nothing?" These ensure that the situation is 'grabby': the NPCs will be queueing up to ask/plead/demand something from the PCs. It also means that the situation is unstable: something will happen, something will change.

    Another thing to keep in mind is to try to have three sides to the situation you set up. That way the players can't fall into an easy 'us v them' mindset.

    For another worked example of preparation, look for the 'Art Deco Melodrama' threads on the Forge. here is where they start.

    Neil.
  • OK, I think this is the best starting point:

    Flag Framing

    and

    Conflict Web

    The most concise version of all that information I've seen, and very very clear. There's also a link in one of those to a scenario ("Well of Souls") that not only demonstrates the process at work but also explains how it was put together and how to use it.
  • I would check out this link for how to structure a challenge based adventure.
    http://isabout.wordpress.com/fury-of-nifur/

    And here is how to engage the story:
    http://isabout.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/challenge-based-adventuring/

    It wasn't until I read these two pieces I was able to figure out what as a player I liked about challenge based adventures.

    ara
  • Posted By: vini_lessaHow do an Indie/Story/Hippie-GameMaster create an adventure? (in opposed to an trad-game GameMaster)
    I'm going to get a little Socratic and ask:

    "What game are you playing?"

    Because the answer can be different from game to game. Yes, certain principles apply across the board, but I'd recommend looking at how to prep for a specific game.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • edited November 2008
    Posted By: JDCorley
    I would add a step in there that if you come up with a big overarching situation with some obvious difficulties in it BEFORE character creation, that can help character creation proceed along a particular path.
    Oh, yeah, certainly. I was just describing the way I do it for a particular game.
  • ok, here's my bit:

    listen more. listen so, so much. listen to understand what the hell the players want to do, and ask clarifying questions to better figure it out.
    then you'll be better situated to help everyone (inc yourself) have a great time.

    i've recently witnessed two GMs just talk and talk; and have experienced this myself- after a long hiatus, i started gming and felt as if i had to
    entertain, and constantly filled the silences (those ones from which the greatness would have sprung) with blather.

    give your players some room to think, let them sit with what you've handed them and wait for them to hand something back. slow the hell down.

    and have fun!
    -jackson
  • edited November 2008
    You might find these situation generators handy.

    The idea being, you make situations, not adventures, and get the characters involved. Then whatever happens, happens; front-loading the setup with tension means it's likely to be interesting however it shakes out.

    Edited to add: The idea of making situation, not plot? That is not unique to me. Doing it by way of a fillable PDF, that's me.
  • Levi! I downloaded some of those, and they're awesome! I'm totally gonna use them!
  • edited November 2008
    I love Marshall's summary, with JD's caveat.

    This is how our current WFRP game is going, and it is the hot hotness.
  • Just to add something, this way of GMing, where it's all about putting the characters in interesting situations, does depend a bit more on the players. Trying to create interesting situations for cardboard-thin PCs is a challenge, for this type of game the players have to be willing and able to provide the gristle for the situations.

    Just as an example, I'm playing in John's WFRP game, and every character has brought with them a hook that allows for interesting plots (the cut-throat criminal, the W-esque politician, the power-hungry (and now demon-hunting) mage, the steadfast solider). It's a factor of the GM promoting ideas and drawing them out, the system allowing interesting options, and the players actively promoting conflict. On the other hand, I've recently taken over running a 4E game that started as a dungeon crawl with very non-story gamers, but everyone expressed interest in a more-story game. This game has been a bit of a struggle at times because for the 'react to the characters' model to work, the players have to create characters that cause action. For some player's that's not what they want/expect, they're used to having action thrust upon them.
  • That's a good point, Sage.

    I think people learn some pretty strong habits from D&D and similar games about how to create a "good" character. Many of those games encourage players to make characters who can easily be "slotted in" to any adventure the GM makes. A good character (in these games) is one who has no strong motivation of their own, except a general desire to make money, and do good in the world.

    It is very hard to run a story game based around these kinds of characters. What most story games thrive on is characters with strong, sometimes conflicting interests in the current situation. I think the first step to an effective story game "adventure" is characters who are fit for a story to be told about.
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