How often have you been reading a book and you think to yourself, “Man, why can’t I do that in my games?” Well, books and games are two different things, but one of the things that I want this blog to be about, is finding a happy place where these things blend, and in effect, everybody at the table is telling a group story led by the DM. The Players of course become the central heroes, the main protagonists. These people are broken and challenged and must unite to defeat a power that will greatly change their world for the worse. , but how do you do this, and how do you get them ready?
This starts on character creation day. The characters should always begin the game at first level; this allows the role-player to understand what motivates their character. Yes, they will bitch because they are weaklings in their minds, but this is an important time for the characters themselves. They have just left their teachers and are just now, striking it out on their own! Just remind players who are worried about this, that while it can take up to a year to gain a level when you are a 15th level powerhouse, 1st though fifth level happens very quickly.
After the characters are all rolled up; and the game is about ready to meet for the first time, you as the DM must decide who knows whom. This is a quick way to handle exposition; it is the player’s job to decide HOW they know each other. This can be anything, but done secretly, among those that do know each other. An example of this: Four characters, each plays a different class. Based on alignment and sex you can define that the fighter knows the cleric. The Wizard knows the Thief. The Thief knows the wizard and the Cleric. Talking in private, the fighter decides that he and the cleric fought with each other in a war, the cleric mentally aiding the fighter often. The Wizard and the thief decide that they are brothers who have struggled with their relationship but brought together by a death of both parents. The Thief and the cleric decide that when they were younger they were sweet-hearts, but a jealous rival came between them.
This is a group exposition, but there is also personal exposition that the player can write up away from the table, after they have played the character a time or two. Things that the player should write about is their birth date (I will be writing about calendars and gaming in the future), their hometown (May require showing them the world map and city maps), and about their family life and how they were raised. Who trained them? Why did they leave? Do they have any love interests, or any rivals? Did somebody hurt them in the past? Do they hold a grudge? Are they racists in some ways and why do they feel this way?
Character expositions can be as brief or as in-depth as the player wishes it to be, the main purpose for this is to create NPCs that are tailor-made for the PC, and give that sense of enjoyment to the player that they are a part of the creation process, which they are! The more in-depth these expositions are the more experience points the PC should get, especially if it gives them some kind of disadvantage while playing the game.
Some players are not creative enough to do this, or they lack the energy. The DM can write up a short summary of exposition for them, just to help them with their role-playing, but of course, this will not give them any bonus experience points.
Players should think about three different goals:
The Story Goal
These change as the story advances; usually discovered through game play.
These are constant goals, which lead to making personal sacrifices for the entire group as a whole. Sharing loot and spreading it around evenly, and helping the other party members become more powerful.
This goal is typically ignored by most DMs and players alike, which are personal to that character alone. What is it that the character wants to get out of life? What are his dreams regarding the future, does he just want a quiet retirement to a country farm? Does he have dreams of building a shop and owning a business? Why is he adventuring? What would he normally be doing if he were not adventuring? If he is thoughtful about the future, where does he see himself when he is too old to adventure anymore? It is your job, as a DM; to give him opportunities to further these personal goals as well as you give him opportunities to further story and group goals.
The advantages for doing this, I feel, speak for themselves. The players themselves are taking an active role in the creation process, this will also bring the player closer to the character that they are bringing to life, and they will actually care about them! This will also improve their skills as role-players and make the game that more immersive. The disadvantage is that it may leave uncreative players feeling alienated because they feel that they lack the ability to create a colorful background, but I feel that with some gentle help on the DM’s part, this is not a problem.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
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