The most important part of RPGs is and always was “storytelling”. Without a story it’s just tactics, dice, cards etc. Story is what influences players’ choices, story is what forces them to invest time and effort into that stuff. So. How about a little experiment titled “So…”.
- Gather a few friends with decent experience in RPGing.
- Hand one six sided dice and up to 5 tokens to each. Tokens might come in any form you like, aside of edible products. Beer bottles are ok. Beer cans are the invention of Satan. The number of Tokens should be dictated by the story – the more challenging, the more Tokens.
- Start a story without character sheets, without discussing who is who and where things happen. Simply start it. The Storyteller unfolds some part, players ask, answer, react, the Storyteller adjusts, explains. Simple.
- Each time someone attempts to do something, he gets to roll a dice.
– 1 is a total disaster. Not only you didn’t manage to succeed but also you created a serious problem for everyone near you.
Your character fell off the cliff and he pulled his friend with him. Now they both are hanging helplessly and clock is ticking…
– 2 is your personal drama. You didn’t manage to succeed and you got yourself into trouble, but everyone else is safe. For now.
The mine exploded. You’re wounded, but only you.
– 3 is fail. You failed the task but it resulted with no real problem.
Your enemies heard some suspicious noises, and are investigating it, but they didn’t know where it came from and don’t realize what they really heard.
– 4 is meh. You managed, but that’s just about it. Not enough to say that this event is successfully finished.
You tried to shoot the guy and you wounded him. Yet, he is still alive.
– 5 is a success. Bravo! That’s how things are done in Texas!
You hacked into the mainframe. All corporate databases belong to you.
– 6 is extraordinary luck. Not only you managed to get the job done, but there’s some interesting bonus. What exactly? Tell it to your Storyteller. Unless it’s not ruining future events, you dictate things. You can also exchange it for an additional Token.
You didn’t only sniped the guy from afar. You did it in such a manner that his lifeless corpse still stands – enough for every other guard to assume that the guy still lives. Or, his corpse fell down and managed to knock out other guard. Or…You might want to either add or subtract up to one point if there are some circumstances influencing positively or negatively the possible outcome.
- Rather than roll the dice, a player might simply give one of his Tokens away and thus score instantly “5”. A success! Tokens might also be used to change that part of the story. The Storyteller might refuse that, but then he is obliged to award the player with an additional Token. There might be only one attempt of that transaction per scene and coming from only one player. The scene can’t be changed just like that – things don’t disappear, or appear all of sudden. There must be a plausible explanation for the change, given by the player and accepted by the Storyteller.
There were two guards, right? Well, here’s the Token and… one of them goes away, right?
- What are rules for everything? How much does it weight? How loud is Kalashnikov? Are you stronger than the other guy? Can you do magic? Yes, you can. Yes it is. Unless it contradicts the story, unless it breaks the game. Simply agree how things are. The Storyteller has the last word, but he can’t simply say “no”. He must either provide an explanation or create an obstacle (it’s blackest night of your life, the mist is almost impenetrable, the guy doesn’t simply look tough, he looks like a Terminator machine) – and when he does, he gives one Token to everyone involved.
- Number of Tokens is restored when some part of story ends. Unused Tokens are lost.
You finally made it from the sunken ship to the island… Congrats! It’s next chapter of the story.
- Try to enjoy it. Remember, if you want to break the game, you will break it, no matter what. But you’ll have no one else to blame for a shitty session afterwards.
That’s all, but not the end. It’s an experiment, remember? The goal is to observe your players’ behavior and your own – as the Storyteller – skills at almost pure storytelling. Observe, analyze, try to determine what the problems really were, where did they come from and such. Simple as it seems, playing like that, with pure story and rudimentary mechanics might be a very valuable exercise to improve your typical sessions. Good luck and good fun.
Some story seeds:
- …so, you’re all sitting in a metro, when someone observes that there’s nothing aside of total blackness outside of the windows.
- …so, here you are, a band of scavengers on post apocalyptic wasteland, attempting to find the way into that famous bunker that’s supposed to contain food…
- …so, as time traveling cops, you’re tasked with making sure that Kennedy’s assassin won’t be caught on the spot…
- …so, as the bravest hunters of your clan, you’re all leaving your village and venturing to that big place called “city” where you have to find chieftain’s abducted daughter…