A long time ago I was a game master with a gaming group. For a while the gaming group averaged 15 people with a high point of 35 and a low of 6. I ran the games. I have always run the games. I have…no I am a difficult player. I get bored easily and many game masters have a difficult time juggling running the game, engaging all of the players, and telling a story all of which is necessary. I never had a problem doing that, which is why people wanted me as their game master. I tell a good story. I know the rules well enough to fake when I don’t know them and I keep people engaged.
I was known for my stories. To me a good role playing game is not about the single adventures or a campaign with a start, middle, and end. Those are fun, but to me a good role playing game does not have a start and ends many times…like life. Why no start? Because characters have a background or at least they are assumed to, but most players do not create good backgrounds until they have played for a while. Thus, the start usually happens during the middle when a player realizes what their character’s start really was. Why the middle? Because the character interacted with another character or non-player character and the players says, “Ah ha! That is where and how my character got started.”
My worlds were interactive, adaptive, alive, and ever changing. The characters could leave their mark upon my game worlds; something as small as giving a simple noodle vendor a lasting name to causing entire nations to fall. That is the expected role of the character to change the world. What about the everyday person or villain? They too in my worlds could and did leave lasting changes. Most players when joining a game of mine in progress were shocked to learn that they could pursue anything that the player desired. Life and my games are about exploration, thus if a player (s) wanted to follow a clue somewhere or a rumor somewhere else they could. But, the villains and many of the non-player characters have plans too and they, in my world, followed them. Not in a robotic way, they were my characters they had their motivations and ideas, the key being players never learned or saw them unless they were interacting with the villain.
Thus, players would often get distracted following their own character’s dreams and goals only to discover the villain or villains had gone and done something…sometimes majorly bad, most of the time annoying. So what is all of this about? Shared experiences, which was the first writing prompt I gave to the Island of Misfit Writers, and my realization that writing a long story is exactly like running a role playing game, except that I am in “control” of all of the characters. Each character “starts” when they are introduced, but do not really come alive until they and I learn their background, motivations, goals, and ticks.
When I was thinking about of shared experiences, I kept coming back to gaming. Those times when many of us gathered together to tell a collective tale and how today, many years later, those tales live on. Often changed in small ways, like Rashamon, but the tale is one all of us share. A favorite amongst us is the death of Jubei. Jubei was a ronin, with a murder she wrote style of living; every place Jubei went someone died and many times not at Jubei’s hands, but because of Jubei none-the-less. The Legend of the Five Rings campaign lasted close to four years, unusual for many role-playing games. Jubei died due to actions from one of the first games and a non-player character who had been seeking revenge the entire time.
Which brings me to the story telling and writing. At that moment when Jubei set in motion his inevitable death that non-player character was a nobody. Someone in the background, but right after that moment, that nobody became a somebody and discovered their purpose, their motivation, and their ticks. That nobody, became in a way a villain. A villain with a very specific purpose and one that Jubei or any of the other characters over the years could have interacted with to prevent the endgame, but nobody did because they remembered the non-player character as a nobody. Just like happens in life.
The thing everyone could relate to, even today, is that concept that a wronged nobody would spend four years plotting revenge. I have a lot of shared experiences and stories to tell, when they intersect those are the special moments I and others carry for the rest of our lives.