Playing Narrative Games, Part I

Contributing author Bill Castello

What is this, anyway?

This is the first part of a series of short articles that covers some of the areas of Narrative gaming and how you can best prepare to be a part of it.  Narrative gaming should be fun, but some people get anxious about whether or not they ‘narrative well enough’. Rest assured, you do and it’s not all that hard.  You can jump in at any level and put as much into it as you like. Just remember, what you get out of a narrative event is proportionate to what you put in.

What is narrative gaming, and what it isn’t?

This is a relatively simple question that has no simple answer, however, you can think of it like this.  A competitive game of AoS is two warlords fighting a battle to see who the better warlord is (i.e. better at pushing their plastic army men around).  A Narrative game/event however, is more akin to two generals fighting a war, complete with all the problems that wars bring (conflicting objectives, politics, logistics etc.).   

Naturally, a narrative event is much more like two players, telling a story together.  To tell that story, the players will have to combine two concepts that have always existed in narrative gaming, the Embedded narrative and the Emergent narrative. 

The Embedded narrative is all the pre-generated content that exists prior to a player’s interaction.  This is basically the backstory, the setting, maybe some maps or other ‘props’. It boils down to the ‘setting’ you will be playing in.  GW is creating a lot of this for us, with the Realms and their campaign settings (Malign Portents, Forbidden Power, Firestorm et al). Narrative Event Organizers (NEOs) do this for the events they create.

The Emergent narrative is what arises from the players interaction with the game world and occurs moment-by-moment.  Many of us NEOs refer to it as ‘when the players start destroying the setting’. The key thing to remember about the emergent narrative is that it will vary from player to player as they push their own, and perhaps the organizer’s agendas and boundaries.  The emergent part of the narrative is what makes the event fun for everyone. It is how the story evolves and takes everyone for a ride.

Thanks, Bill! Next week we’ll feature the next installment: How to prepare for a Narrative event. And we recommend you check out the latest Mitzy & Jimbo Show about Realms at War 2019: Realms at War 2019 – Organising a Narrative Event

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s