he key to a successful chronicle is a constant and uninterrupted flow of action. In the real world, events never stop occurring, and everyone, in one way or another, gets dragged into life’s chaos. Your chronicle should have the same power. All characters should be drawn into the events around them. Every character should be doing something. Those in conflict may bide their time and pause to marshal their forces, but the tension never recedes. After all, if you give your players time to rest, relax and think, they may think about the fact that they’re just playing a game. Too much time for reflection can shatter the most carefully crafted illusionary worlds.
Trouble in all Shapes and Sizes
There are dozens of things in a story that can go wrong. This is particularly true of a chronicle. With the added level of complexity that comes with a chronicle, problems with continuity, advancement, numerous players, constant change, and background plots are inevitable. A few of the more common chronicle problems, and how to deal with them, are detailed below:
Maintenance and Record Keeping
- Problem Players – This problem is probably one of the most delicate and potentially disastrous you can face. For one reason or another, one or more players are disrupting the story and ruining everyone’s good time. This can be the result of many things: cheating, rule quotation (“rules lawyering”), personal vendettas, or improper behavior.
Once you detect a problem your first action should be to approach the players privately and explain what they are doing and why you don’t like it. At that point, most people attempt to change their ways… and that’s that. Unfortunately, some are prone to backsliding or just don’t take the problem seriously, disregarding your warning. The next step to consider is some sort of penalty. You may have to speak with the Chapter Coordinator and discuss possibility of expulsion from the game or temporary suspension.
- Favoritism – There is often a tendency to give friends special treatment. Be vigilant to this habit in all those who run and play the game, including yourself. If the problem does arise, try to remember that this is just a form of entertainment; no one can reasonably hold you responsible for a character’s loss. If the problem continues, try to isolate problem individuals from encounters where favoritism might occur. As a final option, remove the offender from any position in which she can dispense favors.
- Grudge – In this situation, an individual is treated unfairly for some reason that is not related to her character’s nature or actions. Such is often the case with players who are not fond of each other in the real world. Handle it in a manner similar to favoritism problems.
- Stagnation – Even the most imaginative Storyteller occasionally runs out of ideas. Perhaps you’re running the game too often to give yourself time to create new and original stories. If this is the case, consider spacing sessions further apart to provide yourself more planning time. Another solution is to take on more Storytellers or Narrators to give the chronicle a greater creative base on which to draw. A plot coordination council of some sort is almost essential to running large-scale chronicles.
- Logistics – Problems with supplies and locations are bound to arise. If this is the case, be sure to communicate with everybody involved in the game. Players are often able to help procure a setting, props, incidental supplies and all manner of other needs.
- Getting the News Out – Sometimes you just don’t have enough people to play the type of chronicle you’ve planned. This is more often a case of poor advertising than genuine lack of bodies. Spread the word among your friends and acquaintances. Host “Get to know Wraith” gatherings so players can learn about the game. Direct potential players to this site.
- Staying Focused – At times your story may drift away from its original plot, or players may become lost. They may become too wrapped up in their own subplots or may be unable to unravel a puzzle. When this happens, you need something to bring the story back on course. Having a few extra props available can be helpful when the story goes off on a tangent. Many of the prop ideas already suggested can be used to reorient players. For example, an answering machine audio tape with an important message can renew characters’ interest in their original goal. Documents containing important information are another option, allowing characters a new avenue in pursuit of their original goal.
It’s a simple fact that the longer a chronicle runs, the more complex it becomes. The increased size of some chronicles only amplifies this fact. Developing a method in the habit of keeping records is essential. The easiest part of the chronicle to keep records on is characters’ statistics. Having a master copy of each character and Shadow sheet has several advantages. Someone is bound to lose his character sheet and may need a replacement. Without a good memory or a master copy, this can pose a problem, especially with advanced characters. Storyteller records of characters also discourage unscrupulous players from altering their characters in the field. Furthermore, you can make use of character information when designing new stories. And it’s a good idea to update your master copies after each story, given changes arising from experience, rewards, and penalties.
A journal of events from each session proves equally invaluable, helping you understand changes the chronicle undergoes. You can then apply these changes to new stories. Ideally, you, the Narrators and players should all file some sort of informal report after each story. Records from everyone can keep you appraised of all events and let you in on players’ individual intentions. To encourage players to provide this information accurately, consider making reports mandatory or award experience only after you receive them. Make it clear that these reports are confidential and will not be used to “screw players over.”
Advancement and Balance
The greatest reward for some players is the sheer joy of playing. However, many players prefer to see their characters improve in status, lore and power. All these needs must be satisfied.
Players who enjoy the story for its own sake are easy to please. In fact, they often please themselves by pursuing the goals their characters desire, which are often interpreted by the players themselves.
Pleasing accomplishment-seekers is a little more difficult. Allow characters chances to improve their station in the chronicle, if it’s within the scope of things. When characters make achievements, their players are happy. However, to keep players happy without their characters achieving massive power, be prepared to take characters down a peg or two, or allow other characters to do so for you. Besides creating revenge motives, such attacks fire players’ desire to achieve more.
Experience points, which players spend to improve their characters, are one form of reward, but there are others that are just as satisfying. Gaining the favor and support of other wraiths can be more rewarding than any Arcanos. Furthermore, there are numerous positions of power that Experience Points can’t buy, but ambition and tenacity can.
Even in well-planned chronicles, players may reach a point where they are bored and discontented with their place or legion in the story. A player in this position actually has a couple of options. Starting a new character, only playing the old one from time to time, helps players see if they still have what it takes to see a character survive.