Storytelling and RPGs

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge nerd. I absolutely love role playing games; both running them and playing in them.  I run into one problem though: I get sidetracked by other games.

The games I play in I have a blast with, so that’s not the problem. It’s when I run games that I get distracted. Lately I’ve been running Traveller. Traveller is a space opera, in which players generally find themselves moving across a subsector of space, scraping by and high-tailing it from one system to the next. In a word, it’s basically Firefly the RPG, more so than the original Firefly RPG.

I am stoked about playing it, and have a large civil war story arc set up, however I find it hard to keep running. It’s not because I’ve run out of ideas or don’t have the time, but because I keep forgetting to treat the player-characters as characters in their own right, and not just an extension of the player.

I’m guilty of forgetting to include character background into stories, which is a big no-no to me. I already have characters that have enemies from character creation, yet I forget to look who has what, or in what circumstance they acquired those enemies or allies. Instead, I focus primarily on telling my story, and am guilty of not letting the players also tell theirs.

That’s not to say I railroad characters (i.e., force them only to go down one route I’ve mapped), I’m reactionary to how they play, but I don’t take that extra step and plan to throw them for a loop from their past.

The two best GM’s I’ve ever played with took detailed notes, went over back story repeatedly, and made sure to include elements of the character’s history where it was least expected. Those games lasted more than a year each. Most of mine are lucky to hit 3 months.

So, why am I writing all this? It’s because I want to resolve to start adopting their practices. I started by writing an after-action note for our Facebook group covering the basics of what happened that day, and what may be coming up. I’ve started writing down all the characters I invent on the spot.

I figure that if I can start forcing myself to develop one-off characters, or incorporate characters from back story that I didn’t come up with, maybe, just maybe, it’ll also strengthen my regular writing and help me with character development.

This week I’m going to write a bit about tips and tricks I’ve picked up from RPGs, and hopefully get some more aspiring writers to give them a try. Getting a good group together can really be one of the most rewarding activities.

Now, I’ll go wait over there for someone to take my lunch money.

Let me know what you think!