Avoiding the perils of Pauline in West Marches play.
#1
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This is a post I made to /r/rpg on Reddit.

I've been roleplaying for time out of mind, but it was only recently I tried my hand at a "West Marches" kind of game.  It... did not go well.  I found the whole thing narratively incoherent, and while the players didn't seem to hate it, they were much happier when I switched to a loose set of plot points that held together better as a story.

As practice, I decided to do some solo without structure using the Mythic Game Master Emulator, and I've noticed some of the same issues I encountered when I ran the West Marches game.  Namely a Perils of Pauline-type feel to the happenings.

This is especially apparent in this "hunter in a primeval world" game I'm running for myself.  The heroine has been put through the wringer in the first few scenes, bouncing from disaster to disaster and, frankly, it definitely has that *Pauline* feel, just like my abortive West Marches game did.

Is there a way around this?  All I read is how GMs need to step back and sort of let the game proceed according to its own pace and structure, and only step in when things get out of hand, but things seem to do that in an awful hurry.
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#2
I guess I don't understand the issue. But I don't have the same context as you, having never played West Marches.
Are you saying Wish is too reactive to her environment in your hunter game?
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#3
(04-03-2018, 01:59 AM)Jingo Wrote: I guess I don't understand the issue. But I don't have the same context as you, having never played West Marches.
Are you saying Wish is too reactive to her environment in your hunter game?

I'm saying that without even a loose collection of plot points, where the direction of the story — which, again, I'm using loosely — is determined entirely by the player(s), the game can devolve into a series of catastrophes with no real coherence.
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#4
(04-03-2018, 08:32 AM)Sam Wrote:
(04-03-2018, 01:59 AM)Jingo Wrote: I guess I don't understand the issue. But I don't have the same context as you, having never played West Marches.
Are you saying Wish is too reactive to her environment in your hunter game?

I'm saying that without even a loose collection of plot points, where the direction of the story — which, again, I'm using loosely — is determined entirely by the player(s), the game can devolve into a series of catastrophes with no real coherence.

I see. I agree those are important.  From a fiction writing perspective, I wonder if it's much different. One could argue that the specific plot points come about by how the main characters respond or react to events thrust upon them. Maybe you just need to come up with a few events that could potentially propel your PCs into coherent and interesting directions. Of course, I've ran games where players ran away from plot points and did their own thing, but maybe that's a different issue.

I really like the Dungeon World system. I think they have some great tools and ideas for GMs. The GM defines fronts and stakes. Fronts are things brewing out there that the heroes may or may not be aware of. The orcs are getting restless; a few maidens have gone missing; ominous clouds are seen in a dark dank tower. Whatever...  he stakes is the fallout of those fronts, in other words, what will happen if those fronts aren't confronted and dealt with at some point. 

The PCs could do nothing to confront the fronts, but then the bad stuff doesn't get dealt with, and the stakes get implemented (the orcs invade, the evil cleric sacrifices an entire village to sate his god's bloodlust, the king is assassinated, cities or nations fall, etc...). These bad things will probably even eventually catch up to the PCs in some far-worse form. And how they deal with it at that point could be interesting too. 

I think games where things happen in a larger scope with or without the heroes taking part, make for a living, breathing world. I think any PC or hero worth his or her salt will rise up and deal with those issues, if only for the sake of self preservation.

Perhaps for Wish in your Hunters game, she just needs to catch an inkling of what one of these fronts or stakes is, and see what she'll do about it? Personally, I enjoy your Hunter thread as is, but would enjoy more info about Wish, how she got there, how the settlement arrived, what's going on at her home base, what other notable events are brewing in the world.
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#5
I'm glad to say that your suggestions are coming to the fore without me even needing to do much. I've used the oracle pretty much every step of the way, from determining what the focus of the next scene will be, to figuring out the motivations of the various NPCs. In the beginning there I had no real idea what it was even going to be about, aside from hunting beasts in a primordial forest, but it's begun to turn into a story of a young warrior coming into her own, and a desperate fight for the survival of her people, which is pretty exciting. Hat's off to Mark for providing a forum for this kind of thing.

I guess the long and the short of it is that the situation will be as simple or as complex as you initially determine it to be. I started with the most basic of concepts, so it probably shouldn't have surprised me that it stayed basic for the first few sessions.
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