Home > RPGs as a Medium > Player Authorship in a Campaign

Player Authorship in a Campaign

One of the things that can happen to a player that is rockmost is when something their character does has  a major effect on the campaign. This could mean they change the campaign world in some way or some idea they had is pivotal to the way the plot unfolds, for a pair of examples. The reason this is so fun is because it’s empowering.

I feel like it’s very easy, as a GM, to fall into the trap of having sketched out how things will unfold or the pace at which things will unfold and sticking to it. Sometimes your players will have a better idea. Or, actually, even if the idea of theirs is slightly less cool than your idea, it gets a significant rockmost bonus for having been their idea. Sometimes it will advance the plot faster than you expected. Sometimes it will push the plot development into a sphere of events you didn’t expect. You should roll with it. Treasure Tables has a post about saying yes. This is in that same spirit, but also don’t make it too hard on them just because it wasn’t your idea.

As an example from real life, in my Kjemmen campaign (dark fantasy taking place in an evil city), one of the PCs, Lamario, was being hunted in connection with the assassination of a nobleman. The murder happened in another noble’s palace. Because of some other plot details, he decided to break back into the palace. While he was there, he decided to leave a note that said, effectively, “Dear Lord Guy, I didn’t do it. I don’t know who did it. We can talk about it, if you want. Meet me at a certain market at midnight tonight. Lamario.”

Now, I had planned for him to go some time trying to figure out who the real killer was and avoiding the investigators (the other PCs, in this case) and then eventually probably getting caught, but offering a compelling explanation as to who really did it and helping find the guy and clear his name. However, his note sets up a really dramatic midnight meeting in the market. It puts all three PCs in the scene (though he doesn’t know it will) and has all sorts of possible outcomes. I couldn’t have scripted it better and, if I had scripted it, it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as cool. So even though it speeds up the pace of this murder-investigation plot point, it’s much cooler now, so I’m excited to let his idea overrule some of the other ideas I had.

This kind of authorship on the players’ parts can make a bit more work for a GM (as in “Well, now I have to be more concrete about what’s next since we’re sort of a few weeks ahead of schedule.” etc.), but the rewards for the players can be massive.  In fact, it plays into one of the unique aspects of role playing games as a medium: collaboratively building the story. So, don’t be afraid of throwing out work you did because your players had a better idea. If your world is robust enough, their cool idea will probably play into whatever you had going on in a really satisfying way, anyway.

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Categories: RPGs as a Medium
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  1. August 23, 2010 at 8:55 am

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