I’ve had a bunch of half-developed ideas for posts, involving social contracts, factions in roleplaying groups, story share vs. mechanical balance, etc. But I haven’t finished any of those posts. And this one isn’t one of those. I’m mainly posting this because I don’t have time to finish the others and this is more of a question than a commentary.
A while back I wrote a post for my private journal about the sort of “language” that other mediums will use and how there isn’t an equivalent in roleplaying games. If a game is the sort of game to have a section on GMing in it, there might be some suggestions on film tricks or narrative tricks you can use when running games. I recall such bits in the back of assorted World of Darkness games. So notions such as flashbacks and cutaways creep into roleplaying with varying degrees of effectiveness. Or you might hear someone tossing around improv terms like “blocking.” In the end roleplaying (and GMing) are almost their own medium. They bear many similarities to improv, but it’s still a bit different of a beast.
So in a movie if you want to convey a great height, you might have a point of view looking down over the edge of where someone might fall off, perhaps having the camera sway a bit to make things a bit more dizzying and adding in a sound effect of wind blowing by. My original question revolved around, “How do you convey that in an improvised fashion in a roleplaying game without just having someone make some dice rolls to maintain their balance?” But there are a lot of other scenarios that you could imagine where you’d really want to really make something more vivid and believable to the other players.
There are a lot of tricks that we invariably just stumble over, some working and some not so much. So I tried to think about things that I’ve tried out in games that I thought worked out pretty well. The first one that came to mind is what I’ll call “establishing tone.” I don’t know that this will be very deep or insightful, but it’s something that I’ve been mulling around. I’m hoping that if others find this interesting they can expand on it and write their own pieces on the subject of how to define the process of storytelling in roleplaying games.