Now that the weather seems like it’s finally going to stay above the freezing mark, I thought I’d get started on some spring-cleaning and sift through the files recently transferred off of my old computer to figure which of this stuff I really need. Working my way through the mound of notes that was my old Requiem LARP, ‘Flesh & Blood,’ I’ve been rediscovering a lot of the work I’d done trying to make that a successful game, and thought that I should share some of that gained insight.

While there are differences between the myriad styles of gaming out there, one thing that will always remain true is the limitations of the storytellers. After all, they really are only human, and more often than not are just trying to do the best job they can. And frankly we all have to agree that the traditional gaming book doesn’t offer much by way of direction on how to be a good storyteller. Or for that matter what exactly the responsibilities of the players might be to the game. All of that you’ve got to figure out on your own.

And having gone through the guessing game of writing plot for a diverse group of players over years, only learning after the fact that parts of it wasn’t actually of interest to some of the players, I now try and actively engage everyone, asking them to communicate their interests for game. Not being a mind reader I think it’s fair to ask for open dialogue as it facilitates the role of the storyteller and helps push the game toward realizing the optimal amount of fun for everyone sitting at the “table.”

Some argue that this type of conversation can ruin their roleplay fun, as the surprise of the story will be undermined and as a result detract from their overall experience. While some element of that could potentially be true, I can attest that knowing the substance of a story doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know how it will unfold and that you can even still be surprised by the outcome. In fact from my experience both as a storyteller and a player, knowing some of the details in advance helps create the foundation for all involved parties to realize a successful game.

To this end I typically ask players to share their character goal(s) – and it doesn’t have to be any longer than a couple of sentences. But more importantly, whether they actually want the character to successfully attain this goal. While the default is typically the ‘victory’ of attaining said goal(s), there is something to be said for having unfinished business in the character’s background to give them some additional depth. Armed with this and their character sheet you should be able to craft sessions that incorporate these ideas and help keep the players engaged. And you’ll be surprised with how much easier it can get planning the sessions out in advance. Utilizing this information some days even makes it feel like the game is writing itself.