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Feb 24

Tales of a Newbie Storyteller – Lesson One

There are some things that you can only really learn by doing, and I believe running a game falls squarely into that category. Having wanted the chance to play or run a Vampire the Masquerade game ever since I got my hands on a copy of the core book gifted to me by my partner, I found myself with a willing party and a world and carefully written story ready for them to explore.

It was not long in this series of games that I learnt the first lesson – players are unpredictable. In fact, I would liken it to trying to herd cats. Not three sessions had gone by when one of the characters attempted to blood bind another of the characters to his will. (it’s essentially like slavery with a blood tie, for those who don’t know the system.) I also encountered betrayals, bartering and blackmail, all in a very short time, rendering my carefully prepared notes regarding the game obsolete.

You can imagine how I reacted. It was my first couple of games, really just trying to get to grips with the idea and all my careful planning, my cosy safety net was gone. Instead of forcing the events of my story, I steeled my nerves, and metaphorically cried out, “SCREW IT, WE’LL DO IT LIVE!”, thinking on my feet and creating a whole new game plan. Although the links between the players could have been better thought out, for a newbie I don’t think I did badly.

Looking back on it, having a good game doesn’t really depend on how much planning you do, and how much scripting you’ve implemented. What matters is that what is going on makes sense to the players, and sometimes this means making way for unexpected events to happen, and even rewarding ingenuity. What really matters is that it’s a game, not a story. Despite my misleading title, I am not the crafter of their fate, I am their guide, the force of nature they must interact with to accomplish their objective. I’m not their god, to force them down a chosen path. I have to let their motivations do that for them. In the end, it’s not really my story anymore once it’s been told.

1 comment

  1. Michael Holland

    Welcome to the club!

    Vampire the Masquerade can test even the most stalwart of Storytellers and you handled yourself quite well. Most RPGs allow some leeway but I think VtM is one of those games where the Storyteller has less control over the story (in a good way). I hope you had fun and you continue to run games because the world needs more great Storytellers.

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