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  • So story tellers

    How much of your stories are detailed? How much of it is improv?

    Do you detail full events for just jot down a couple sentences and see what happens?


    WoD-Dark Eras!! (Backed for Viking Age Werewolf)

  • #2
    Broad strokes planned and specifics are improv.

    I generally know where the story is going to go, or at least who's responsible for large scale actions, but how the players eventually end up there or the condition they are in when they make it is flexable.

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    • #3
      SAS like. Story progressions with aims, both for myself and players. Multiple ways to get from one scene to others.

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      • #4
        I usually come up with an NPC agenda or two that will shake things up, plus a scene to kick off the session. Then I let the players decide how they're going to tackle things. If the game slows down, I throw in an event to ratchet up the pressure.

        I do more world/NPC prep than anything else.


        Cavaliers of Mars Creator
        Retired CofD Lead

        Check out my guides to Vampire and my indie games!

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        • #5
          I run slice of life type games. I play over Skype via text and pictures rather than video and voicing. Frankly, face to face is too much pressure for me. I present a better story when I can type things out.

          I prep by finding out a lot about the player's interests, their character ideas.

          I generate back story ideas that I think the players will find interesting that will give their characters something to discover, run into, or have find them as things progress. These are broad stroke ideas to start. As the game progresses I try to tighten them up and fit them in. (Or throw them away and make new ones, if it works out that way.) Sometimes I fit them into a larger story idea loosely, or sometimes I just sock them away in files as "ideas".

          I generate a bunch of interesting NPCs. Broad strokes again - mostly description and story. These I throw in when I need an interesting NPC to show up.

          For some reason I am absolutely in love with apocalypse. Every game I have run has had an undercurrent story of something moving towards some kind of devastating destruction. In my last werewolf game it was the city of New York being swallowed up by spirits of forgotten treasures of the deep and becoming an isolated realm ruled by the Pure on a ruthless, open hunt for mankind.. (Think of all the stories and mythos around sunken ships and their gold, Atlantis, etc..) In a changeling game it was the government accidentally inciting war with Arcadia over their research and 'ventures' into the Hedge. In my current werewolf game it deals with the God Machine, and I'm interested to see it run through.

          Anyway, so I come up with a general "this is moving towards apocalypse" theme to build on. It helps me for moving NPCs and storylines around in the background, especially for generating mysterious "huh?" events.

          Whenever I'm web browsing, if I find an interesting picture of any sort I save it away in a folder for potential inspirational use in a game. A setting, a person, a monster, an item.. etc. I go to these when I need something suddenly on the fly. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that can be a lifesaver in game.

          When the game runs, I swear every time. I have a set of things planned for and it never goes that way. I have to wrestle when ST'ing to get those items covered in the game at all. So inevitably I wind up winging a good amount of it, always trying to keep things interesting and moving in the direction the players desire - while preserving the storylines I've already prepared. I think this really is the art of STing.

          As far as stats and abilities? Almost never. When I need stats and abilities I grab a character example from one of the books and modify it to what I need. At best I will write a page number down to refer to once I get to it in game, or jot some notes about particular skill sets or abilities a given NPC will have. I think I'm a lot looser on that then other people, but I don't have a lot of time during the week to to prepare, so I take shortcuts!

          So wrap up of my overly long post. My prep folder is tons of text files labelled with story lines, characters, and other random ideas. When I improvise something in game, I write it up on the go so that I can remember what I did and try to keep it consistent.

          Oh yeah, and finally if things seem to be going slowly in the game and I'm floundering, I just add something with sex appeal. Works like a charm.

          -going to go prep now.

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          • #6
            I'm fairly new to the GMing scene, but I've found that when I plan too many details in advance it becomes a game of Read-the-GM's-Mind, which is no fun.
            A kick off scene and a handful of along-the-way pieces that you can fit in as your characters move around make for a good arsenal.

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            • #7
              I plan out my stories like a TV show, with each session being an episode. In session zero we discuss, if this chronicle was a TV show, what genre would it be? What would it be rated? etc. We might draw comparisons to actual shows, or we might use more general terms. After that, I will come up with a rough story arc for about a 12-episode season, but only plan about 6 episodes ahead. For each of these episodes, I might prepare one or two setpiece scenes, but beyond that I just rely on the tropes of the genre and my improvisation chops. Each scene, I ask myself "if this was a [genre] show, what would happen in a scene like this?" and then that thing is what happens. For example, if we're doing a sphagetti western and the players decide they want to go into the saloon, you can bet there's going to be a barroom brawl. At all times, I keep in mind the PCs' goals, both personal and plot-related, and I make it my job to present obstacles to those goals. I present scenarios that pose dramatic questions, but I let the players answer those questions with their actions.

              The first episode is a day in the life of the PCs. Main characters are introduced, and the setpiece scene is some kind of small-scale conflict that foreshadows the overarching conflict of the season. Episode two introduces the overarching conflict - the setpiece scene involves the villain revealing themselves, or the player characters uncovering the conspiracy, or something to that effect. Episodes three and four give the players the opportunity to follow what ever lead they discovered in episode two, or to pursue personal character goals, and the NPC's advance their own agendas accordingly. Episode five is when shit hits the fan; in the setpiece scene, something is going to get blown up, or some important NPC is going to die, or something to that effect. By episode six, there should be some sort of resolution or cliffhanger before the mid-season break. Then I plan out the next 6 episodes, which generally follow the same structure as the previous six, except that episode seven is more of a recap than an introduction, and episode twelve should see the resolution of the season's overarching conflict.


              Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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              • #8
                I run sandboxes. I do a lot of both.

                I think the first and last games were the most smoothly run. The first because it was a more tightly knit story and player action was pretty easy to predict, the last because with aspirations I was able to really get a handle on what players wanted for their characters.

                Scenes the players go after will have a brief description of the likely mood of involved NPCs and where they are in their script when the players confront them. Then there'll be a few lines for each relevant NPC with things they might want to talk to the PCs about or avoid talking to the PCs about. A while ago I started tacking on lists of things NPCs could offer and things they want to their own descriptions, which helps with a lot of improv, once you get to know the characters.

                When the players stumble upon scenes like at the beginning of sessions there tends to be more detail, as well. Often there will be a few 'If the characters do this or that' reminders for mechanics or other plot developments.

                But the conversations and 'random' encounters are almost entirely improvised except for specific lines I might want to drop. Because of the sandbox environment I've a lot of events that could pop up, and if I think the players are cruising too easily or maybe getting a little disinterested in the run of things I'll let the Phantom of the Monorail appear while they're riding along or a stray from another city run into them.

                Once you really get to know the NPCs, their affectations and their aspirations, the improv really flows from there.

                The Phantom didn't really appear until much later. He texted while Obfuscated, suggested rather strongly they do not eat from his train and sent picture attachments of them so they would know he was watching them.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Rose Bailey View Post
                  I usually come up with an NPC agenda or two that will shake things up, plus a scene to kick off the session. Then I let the players decide how they're going to tackle things. If the game slows down, I throw in an event to ratchet up the pressure.

                  I do more world/NPC prep than anything else.
                  That's actually exactly how I run my games, too. Unless it's something special - like a convention game or something - wherein I need specific things to happen, or within a time frame. Then I plan more.


                  This space for rent.

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                  • #10
                    A lot of it depends on how far in advance of the actual game I can get people's games-or how early I can tell that personal character story isn't going to matter.

                    Because of how much character deconstruction goes into my story structure, the first few games tend to be improv until I can get my feet under me for larger ideas.


                    Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                    The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                    Feminine pronouns, please.

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                    • #11
                      I run games via Skype (much like Mother's Love, I have a harder time in face-to-face games due to a rather nasty first encounter the hobby) and while Skype's much slower than tabletop it offers me a greater ability to enrich the setting. I tend to think of broad themes first and then as the players make their characters, I see what they're building around and mesh those in with my plot. I kick off usually with in media res or with an immediate "this is the horrible thing that forges you lot into a group" revelation and drop pieces of the overarching story as I tend to go. I'm terrible at sandbox, so my games are narrative run with player actions driving the story itself.

                      As for actual sessions, I plan for one session ahead with some focus, but everything's left in broad strokes, scene snippets/ideas, and a running excel sheet of what the NPCs are doing when the players aren't messing with their plans. I've found that if I plan any further, I'll back myself into corners or become too worried about how to fit the current session into the one down the line.

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                      • #12
                        I aim for an SAS style on mine. Each scene gets a page, maybe two if it's very important. Each page details the major plot points, potential actions and consequences and any stats for enemies/npcs. I don't plan every little touch because more often than not my group is going to take things in in a slightly different direction. I end up improvising about 20% of any particular story.

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                        • #13
                          I too do it Bailey and Fisher style. I have clearly defined NPCs with their own Aspirations and I jumpstart the chronicle with an event that desestabilizes things. I tend to have one big plot and at least one personal sideplot for each character, of course that's manageable because I only have three players, in bigger games that would be too much.


                          I'm So Meta Even This Acronym

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Xaielao View Post
                            I aim for an SAS style on mine. Each scene gets a page, maybe two if it's very important. Each page details the major plot points, potential actions and consequences and any stats for enemies/npcs. I don't plan every little touch because more often than not my group is going to take things in in a slightly different direction. I end up improvising about 20% of any particular story.

                            Hey, what does SAS style mean exactly?

                            I love hearing about other ST's methods and opinions, thanks everyone for sharing. I had been thinking about posting a question about pacing time as a related ST question.

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                            • #15
                              I usually start with thinking about major story beats*. The beginning, some major dramatic events in the middle and roughly where it is supposed to go (pending player actions). That usually helps to fill out the space between those things.

                              Generally, I have about a sentence each for important scenes I think are coming up (to remind me what really matters). When I *know* a player is going to do something (because they said so or have an Aspiration to that effect) I usually spend a bit more time on the details. For example, in my VtR game I have prepared a couple of "Touchstone Scenes" ahead of time, so when a player visits their Touchstone I have ideas for interesting scenarios to happen.

                              *: Indeed, many of my Chronicle ideas were spawned from thinking about a cool climactic scene.


                              Politeness is the lubricant of social intercourse.

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