Thursday, August 30, 2012

Based on a True Story!!

I was at the cinema (or Movie Theater if you're American) yesterday to see the Total Recall remake (slightly above average 3/5 if you're interested) and I saw the trailer for the new Sam Raimi flick 'The Possession'. Splashed across the screen was the message 'Based on a true story..';  a statement that seems to be mandatory for any ghost/demon movie these days that is hoping to do well commercially and one that immediately makes me suspicious - especially when it comes to tales of a supernatural nature. So much so that I quipped to the person next to me "so I presume it's based on experience of someone that bought a box once..' 

Long after I'd left the cinema (and forgotten most of the detail of Total Recall - oh the irony!) I remember that line in the trailer and it got me thinking about it's usage to sell a obviously fictional story. 'Based on a true story' gives a movie, or book, or whatever, a grounding in reality; something tangible to the viewing audience.  I suppose it can make it more engaging, perhaps fire the imagination, and make the drama more 'real' since it might have happened, and it can draw in the audience.

Basically exactly what a GM is trying to do at the gaming table.  

Anyone that has GMed for any length of time is sure to have seen advice on basing stories on real life - stealing plots from the all over the place, but I wonder how many people make a point of telling the players this?  Admittedly this is unlikely to have the right impact in your typical D&D Fantasy game, but if you're playing a game like Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or similar, then I reckon there might be significant impact to be had through silently, and without explanation, holding up a sign at the beginning of your first introductory narrative, that simply says 'Based on a True Story'.

Of course, for your own credibility (because you know the players will ask later) it's kind of important that the adventure is 'based' on a true story - or perhaps 'inspired' by it at least! But there are enough mysteries for you to easily pluck a story from the popular media and use that as the basis of your story. Adding tentacles, sea monsters, or aliens later doesn't stop your story being 'based' on a true story does it?

Yes it's a bit of a party trick, but so it a lot of effective story telling and if it engages your players then there's no apology necessary. Just don't do it all the time as it does become a cliche..

In case you're interested The Possession is apparently based on the story of The Dibbuk Box. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that is a good thing.. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Developing the Kingmaker Sandbox

I've been GMing the Pathfinder Adventure Path 'Kingmaker' and, though we're still in the middle of the first part 'Stolen Land' I'm already looking ahead for ways I can extend the campaign.

What makes Kingmaker different from the adventure paths that precede it is the very 'sandbox' nature of the campaign story.  Though there are events that take place, and a climax against dangerous opposing forces, the GM has far more opportunity to make the campaign their own.  This got me thinking about how I might want to extend Kingmaker and I've decided to introduce a couple of other stand alone Pathfinder adventures into the mix, as well as extend the back story; in fact foreshadowing to one of my player characters before the game began, as well as hinting at the nature of the bad-guys from the outset of play.

So far I've decided on two Pathfinder adventures to add into the campaign (though not for a few levels yet!)  The first is 'The Realm of the Fellnight Queen', a particularly appropriate scenario that can easily be incorporated into the wooded area that makes up a substantial area of the lands in which Kingmaker is based.  The plot of the scenario also fits very nicely in the overall 'feel' of the Kingmaker campaign, and it's also a good read!

The second adventure I'm intending to add is 'The Harrowing', a unique adventure that takes the PCs 'inside' a Harrow Deck - the Pathfinder equivalent of Tarot cards - in a very much 'Alice in Wonderland' style adventure.  I think it will make for an interesting departure of the King-building nature of the campaign.

Another reason for adding these two scenarios though is my concern that my players are used to being reactive to the plots they are presented with - rather than 'proactive' and going out to build their own adventures.  This is just how we've always played really, and even the 'hexploration' (exploring the hex-grids that make up the 'Stolen Lands' has been something they are only slowly getting used to.

It will certainly be interesting to see how they get on with the Kingdom-building rules. I'm pretty convinced that some will love it and others loathe it.

I think the 'issue' (if you can call it that) is that the gamers in my group enjoy the 'narrative' aspect of roleplaying and that is something that is possibly down-played a little in the Kingmaker adventure path.

Only time will tell.