Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't Forget The Small Scale Stories

I know, I know. I said there probably wouldn't be a post today. However, I saw Ant-Man over the weekend, and one of my favorite parts of the movie was how small in scale the story is. That isn't a pun either. One of the things Marvel has done with their recent entries - most notably Ant-Man and Daredevil - is tell small stories as well as the large stories. You can't have the world in danger every story, and Marvel knows that. Daredevil is a battle between two people for a small section of New York. Ant-Man is someone trying to stop a plot before it gets to the point it could threaten a country or the world. This is a good thing to remember for your games too.

Who The Hero Is Matters...
The Avengers, Age of Ultron, and even Captain America 2 are all great movies. No one is doubting that...well, maybe for AoU but it is still fun. However, there isn't a whole ton of room for character growth in them. People come out of them the same way they go in because the stakes are so high, the events so big, that it demands center stage attention. This isn't a bad thing. We still have smaller, more personal plots involved (particularly in Cap 2) but the scale and scope of the story is so large you can't really focus on the details.

However, in both Daredevil and Ant-Man we get to learn who these people are. The stories are smaller scale, and as such they are more about who the person is rather than what the person is. We also get to see how they act, and how the world reacts, when everyone isn't pitching in because of some desperate attempt to just keep breathing.

Simply put: you want to make your PCs big damn heroes, have them save the world. You want to find out who your PCs are when all the chips aren't down? Give them a story that is small enough to really focus on them.

The World Needs To Stay Saved
When every story is about saving the world it becomes boring. It is a trope, it is fun, and everyone wants to do it, but if you look through comic books and other Sci-Fi/Fantasy works you'll see stories being held up as better than others where the only real distinction is the world isn't at stake in that story.

If you keep putting the same thing at risk, it becomes boring. Eventually it will become a joke, or worse, routine. If saving the world becomes routine then how do you top that? You can't really. Not with event based stories. I know some of you are thinking "threaten the galaxy" but if your game is galactic scale then that is basically your world. Also, you're at a point of scale so unfathamoble to most people that there really is no difference between the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe, and the dimension.

It Requires A Different Approach
PCs can do some crazy things when they're trying to save the world. After all, with everyone's lives in danger the ends can justify some mighty extreme means. However, what happens when the scale of the problem doesn't justify extreme means?

One of two things happen: the first is that the PCs take a different course to resolve the problem. The second is that the world/people around them see that that is just the kind of person the people are.

What makes your average hero better than your average villain? The hero doesn't ruin people's lives to get his way when he doesn't have to. Present the same obstacle to PCs with different levels of things at stake and see if they change their answer. If not, what does that say about them? How does the world react? How will the world react the next time they try to justify with the stakes?

So change it up in your game. See what happens with it. Use that to help form the next part of your game.

As a reminder, there will likely not be a post on Wednesday, Friday, or Monday due to traveling to/from GenCon. I may post off schedule during GenCon if I have time/inclination (like last year.) If not, I'll see folks next week. Have a great week!

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