After my last game night and post about Game Night, Session 6, I got to thinking about how the story unfolded during the game. It did not play out how I thought it likely would. That is the gift and curse of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs).
A quick primer on tabletop RPGs…
For those that don’t know, a tabletop RPG is a game where a group of people play/act out an adventure/story as a group of characters they have created. These characters are the heroes/villains of the story. The “game” part is the rules system that helps determine the outcome of actions the characters take during this adventure when there is a chance of failure or success. The “play/act” part is basically “theater of the mind”. A character is created with attributes linked to the game system rules. The player adds color and depth to the character that is appropriate to the setting in which the story/adventure takes place. Then the group sits around the table talking about what their characters do as the story plays out. The role-playing is when each player assumes the role of his/her character in the story.
Then the “other player” is the Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM). It’s the DM who acts as referee for the game system and manages the rest of the game world in which the players play their characters. This person is responsible for supplying the setting and general plot hooks for the adventure/story in which the characters are the heroes/villains.
That’s what I do. I’m the DM.
Back to the point of this 😉
So, anyway, session 6 was meant to be a showdown with Slythis – the villain that was harassing the characters as they tried to make their way to a town (Piketon) a good distance from their home town (Braiton) to get information about the plot they find themselves in. As the events unfolded in the past game nights, the players decided it was time to force a direct encounter with this menace.
And so, as DM, I worked to accommodate just that. I fleshed out Slythis for game mechanics (needed to determine the outcome of the pending fight). I also set things up so that the group of 3 had some potential allies (the merchant and his group) for the pending fight. Finally, I made a few notes about how I thought the encounter should happen. That involved an attempt by Slythis to infiltrate the camp by stealth and make surprise attacks. Then the fight would ensue, and hopefully, the outcome would be a victory for the players.
Well… ultimately… that is kind of what happened… kind of. . . …
This is where the game mechanics come in… I rolled dice as prescribed by the game system rules to determine if Slythis could slip into the camp area undetected for his surprise attack. He could not. In fact, he was detected much sooner than that because Theren reminded me of the fact that he could sense the nasty magical dagger Slythis used. That was part of the story I helped create. On top of that, my rolls for his stealth were not good enough to beat rolls by the characters standing watch to see if they detected the presence of an enemy.
Yep, the encounter went right off my intended path (the curse part of tabletop RPGs… anything can happen). Now I had to start winging it based on the information about Slythis up to this point and reacting to the players’ actions with their characters. On top of that, the merchant’s group now had to become more than just “warm bodies” for the fight. They had to be more… dynamic. That really is the “gift” part of tabletop RPGs. Now even I, as DM – the creator of the base story, had no real idea what was going to happen next.
When I run a tabletop RPG, I consider myself just one component of the story. Sure, I have to create the setting (or use published material as an aid) and kick off a scenario/plot. But I rely on the players to help create the story. It is OUR story and adventure.
Nope, it did not go how I thought it would go. But that might have been the best part the other night. I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. So, in spite of my plans/ideas, even I can’t wait to find out what happens next 🙂
Thanks for taking your time to read this. Let me know what you think. Click that like button and/or leave a comment. A conversation is typically better than a monologue 😉