Narration and Storytelling Skull with blue fire Skull with blue fire

ow that you have written a story, you need to make it work in a live game. Narrating a story is an art akin to juggling; you have to keep up with all story threads, play judge and make sure that none of the players gets bored – you’ll be juggling quite a few of them. Narration requires a lot of work and planning, and usually leaves you exhausted. You, however, have a ringside seat to the story and can watch it unfold in its entirety. Because your control of the story is loose (tight control denies player freedom), you may be surprised by how the story twists and changes in the hands of your players. If you do your job well, you will be rewarded with the players’ thanks.

Of course, with the great rewards of storytelling comes a great deal of responsibility. You have to initiate and guide the story and present it in an entertaining manner. You, above all people involved, can destroy the story. Even a very good story can be ruined if it’s not presented well. If a few required player handouts are missing, or if players have no idea where the game is taking place, you have failed. It is very important that you prepare every aspect of that story as far ahead of time as possible. If you try to prepare an entire game at the lat minute, you’ll be stressed out by the time the game begins. The game will suffer heavily from your exhaustion.

Veteran roleplaying Storytellers should take note that running a live game is very different from running old-style roleplaying games. You can no longer sit down an hour before play commences and dream up a quick plot. If you try to do this, your story will have lots of holes. If you change your setting in mid-story, you need to represent the change in some way so players realize where they are without having to ask. Prepare everything in advance, or suffer the folly of sloth.

The main rule to remember when preparing your story is “show, don’t tell.” You have to present your story so players can make their own impressions of the environment without your impressions being forced on them. Live games work because player can take the lead based on information they discover themselves. If you have not fleshed out your story enough – if you have to tell players what’s going on – you might as well be playing a tabletop roleplaying game.

To be a Storyteller, you need to work magic. You have to create the illusion that your players are ghosts, dwelling so close to the “real” world but unable to be a part of it. Fortunately for you, your players will probably cooperate in every way to help you maintain the illusion, but it’s up to you to direct their attention from the gamelike aspects of roleplaying.