Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Padding the Story Out

Quick post for today. Sorry about that, but matters came out of my hands and I didn't have as much time as I like for a full post. That said, this post is a comparison between videogames and other stories that I wanted to get a gauge on, as well as layout some thoughts. So, let's begin.

The Situation
Pick a video game, any game you want. Personally, I'm going to go with Mass Effect. Why Mass Effect? Because Mass Effect is one an RPG, two a video game, and three designed to be cinematic in nature. Basically, Mass Effect is a game you play around experiencing a story. However, it is also a big fan of throwing in effectively needless things in order to pad out the story in ways that might not be necessary.

What do I mean by this? Well, in a movie or book do I really expect everyone Shepard gets to join the crew to require Shepard do a job for them first? Especially in the second game where folks are being offered big money, other benefits, and the mission is somewhat time sensitive. It is bad enough that Shepard can even joke about it with a dialogue that basically says "just once I'd like to ask someone for help and have them go sure thing, right away, I'm ready now instead of first do this stuff for me." Now, these aspects of the game, the padding as I called it, aren't pointless fluff. We learn things through those sequences, about the person we're recruiting or something else, but just how critical are they to the core story? How crucial is it that Archangel is being attacked by 3 gangs when you want him to join? That Mordin is trying to cure a disease on Omega for the people there? Not really in the grand scheme of things. In fact, they're things I'd expect most editors to trim from a book or screen play - maybe not a TV show or comic as drawing things out can work great for those.

So why do I bring it up? Well, two things. One, I want to know who is already doing it. Two, if you're not, are you aware of the technique?

While, at times, I hate these aspects of stories - they just push off hitting the good part of the tale by several hours a lot of the time - the fact is that it is content and that is something that a table top GM should always be willing to look at. So have you ever had an NPCs help depend on the PCs helping them with something else first? The PCs come looking for information on the Evil Wizard Ackbar (star wars reference :D ) and before the innkeeper will say anything he needs them to save his daughter from some dire wolves or something. The PCs go out on the adventure and maybe make the place a bit better for everyone along the way. The GM gets content for a session and a way to level up the PCs - or at least give some XP - before they rush off into the castle.

Now, unfortunately, this doesn't work as well in table top RPGs. Remember how I said I dislike the stall as a member of the audience at times? Yeah, each and every one of your players may feel that way too. You want to see "standard PC tendencies" put something int he way of what they want. It's not out there to envision certain players torturing - or worse - the inn keeper for that information, or taking the daughter hostage for more. PCs sometimes like to cut the crap and get to the chase. You can plan for that, but sometimes things just don't go all that smoothly.

So, do you do it? If not, are you going to try it? It's a great way to fill an evening if you need more time to prepare. :)

1 comment:

  1. This topic, of what I think you could also call "side jobs", has been on my mind. My players are in the middle of a multi-session combat during a major storyline...and I'm considering including a hook to a local side job for three reasons.

    First, to slow things down a bit after what will probably be 8-12 hours(!) of straight combat. Second, to further feature the planet they're on that is now pretty well fleshed out and rich with background in their eyes. Lastly, and most enticingly, to give them a CHOICE.

    Without a side job they'll almost surely be heading off-planet & back to HQ - which is fine. But with a side job surfacing where they're at they'll have a bonafide choice of where to take the storyline next.

    The most compelling reason to me for adding side jobs here and there, whether connected to the main plot or not, is giving the players more choices.