Products of the story making machine…

This was sparked off by a question from Mary Hamilton over at Quora.There’s me banging on about games and story, and she asks what in retrospect is a bleedin’ obvious question. If I think stories are what LARP is all about, (and I do – and I’d expect a few more do too.) what do I do to encourage storytelling in and around the games I play or help run?

Well, yes. Of course. Obvious now you put it like that. And I cast around my head, and the actual, recorded/collated storytelling activity isn’t as prolific as you might think … Either that, or my memory is rubbish.

In-game: At a trivial level, I’ve seen stories told. Stories generated by the action at the event, by character’s backstories, and stories placed by game organisers, in some games as a result of players’ characters’ activity in the downtime between events.

Characters I’ve played have rewarded storytelling with in-game money as an entertainment like any other in all sorts of games. They’ve been round fires when stories were being told. I’ve seen printed game journals and periodicals produced by both organisers and players, and bought them for in-game money. (A recurrent dream in a high fantasy system is to produce something in-game using moveable type…) . I could probably hunt out examples, but they’d be hard-copy. Depending on the game, they’ve ranged from reasonably accurate reportage to beautifully spun demagoguery.

Out-of-game: It’s here I’d love to see more. More great stories of character’s experiences. With a couple of selfish hats on: good stories would make good marketing material, and I want to read people’s stories of events I’ve run just to see how they enjoyed them. Good stories. I guess that’s the problem; how to find the good stuff.

There’s a fair amount of fic around Maelstrom… is well worth a look – no systemic incentive, but community kudos and concrit as encouragement. It’s more storage than curation, though. A bit from the lovely Knifewinter turns up on their own LJ community.

I know of at least one continuing LRP campaign, Death Unto Darkness, which offers XP for character backgrounds before play starts, and I think de-briefs. So there’s a direct incentive for storytelling. I like it.  There must be others, and I’ve just not been concentrating. ZombieLARP‘s Run System leaves a specific gap for post-run frothing, so at least one of the game organisers hears the story first hand. Longer, weekend, events don’t have that luxury.

On the cross-over between in-game and of-of-game: I’ve briefed and played crew characters deliberately designed to seek out stories of the game world so the organisers had some idea of what was going on, and what the players thought was going on. The larps I’ve been involved in running have tended to be fest-style. Knowing what’s going on is pretty handy to shape what you’l be running next event, and with hundreds of players, it’s tough. No nice crunchy stats on player behaviour for us….

That way danger lies, though. I’m pretty sure that in at least one game, an in-game story has become game reality. In a game that will remain nameless, a couple of chancers made up – made up in-game, not out-of-game as a piece of backstory – a story about a collection of magic rings. Later – to their great surprise – it became true when the game organisers heard the stories and wrote the rings into the world background. I’d argue this is a bad practise…

Anyway: storytelling. More of it. Yes.

One of my core beliefs about larp is in making the players the centre of attention: and then there’s the fact there’s more of them, so there’s more creative energy there that can make a better game if you can inspire it right. And stories are so in the fibre of larp. There’s a natural limit to those stories that can be placed in the world by game organisers. The supply of game organisers’ time is finite. Partly as a result of my fest game addiction, I spend much of my time thinking of scalability. How a little game organiser time can make more interesting stuffs happen. So, I’ll definitely be wondering how we can encourage storytelling in-game and out-of-game. And best I learn some more about narrative, as well.

Thanks, Mary… Bit rambling this. Publish anyway…

2 thoughts on “Products of the story making machine…

Add yours

  1. H, great post, got me thinking. I’ll put a long reply up on my blog to Mary’s initial question – would be much easier if I could quote you – so put down the fear and go public!
    In terms of what you have said, I think the crucial thing about storytelling around games is that (other than for the organisers benefit) it doesn’t need to be recorded or curated.
    Guess I need to sign up to Quora too, and ‘become part of the debate’ as they say. Hope it is more grown up than Rule 7!

  2. Go on, quote then…

    I’m agreed storytelling doesn’t _need_ to be recorded/curated. However, as a player, I _like_ reading stories of games, but I _prefer_ reading good ones.

    I don’t know about the moderation policy on Quora – but I do know that I intend to to be brutal here. If comments aren’t polite, I won’t approve them.

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