Sunday, February 26, 2017

Constructing Stories

The events of tabletop RPG's unfold by means of a collaborative storytelling process between those participating. These stories can take place in any time, any region and any reality, from the cold dark depths of our galaxy, to the deepest dungeon of a medieval fantasy world. Likewise, the characters in such stories can be just as varied. Dwarves on a quest to regain a lost kingdom, Space Marines out to expand the galactic territories of a new earth, or maybe coworkers at a nonprofit organization.

In traditional tabletop role play, a Game Masters decision on how to construct a story usually begins and ends with the groups interest. If everyone is hyped about the newest season of The Walking Dead, the game that will be run this week might be "All Flesh Must Be Eaten" or "Zombie Apocalypse". The GM would then develop a fitting scenario to present to the players. Stories would be told, dice would be rolled and, hopefully, everyone would leave amused and itching for a sequel.

When designing a Skill Centric Role Play session, a Game Facilitator must take into account some additional elements, namely, what will the story teach through the in-game events and challenges presented? Though I am a strong believer that every game system and setting is capable of teaching any skill that another could, I must concede that some systems have a greater predisposition for certain topics. One could teach resource management in a Dungeons & Dragons style game, or  World of Darkness. However, a zombie survival horror game, like those mentioned above, have mechanics that are specifically designed to evoke a sense of scarcity which lends well to teaching resource management allegorically. It is the ability to present vital, but often less than entertaining subject matter in strange and interesting ways that evokes a desire to engage and interact; to learn by doing. This is one of the many wonderful qualities and advantages of tabletop RPG's as teaching tools.

Story's are perhaps the oldest means of not just teaching, but connecting with other people. Storytelling is a commonality shared by all; it is part of our human heritage. When constructing your stories, remember that fun isn't a byproduct of learning, rather its the fuel that drives it.

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