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RPG Board Game Story Narrative

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TwentyPercent
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Joined: 12/25/2012

Hey BGDF Aficionados

I am in the process of designing a board game and seek your assistance, input, and ingenuity. My wish is to create a board game that really captures the essence of a Role Playing Game. To achieve that, I see two key factors: character development and story.

The character development is achieved through quests, combat, crafting, exploration, and simply game progression. Right now, I'm happy with how I have these mechanics designed and maybe will seek advice on it later.

Where I would like help is how to convey story through my game. I am considering having a comic or picture book come with the game, that would tell a little backs story, as well as the story of the game, and possibly a little bit afterwards. (Side Note: the story is also being told through the quests as the players progress through them.) My only issue with the comic idea is that the characters played by the players will be the players' creation (in other words, they aren't pre-made characters to choose from). I've considered having the comic tell the story through one of the main characters, which would be an NPC, such as the King or a common soldier, but then how would the story/comic connect to the characters (ie players)? I feel like that would be a major disconnect, as players want to see themselves as part of the story (it is a role playing game, so that's pretty crucial). Could the comic tell the story with a party of "Filler Heroes"? If so, I could even have the Filler Hero templates (basically, pre-made characters created, with pre-made progression set for them). Also, the comic is only one idea. I'm open to different ideas. I've considered having an "Adventure Book" that is similar to a Pick-Your-Adventure story, where as the players play through the game and make choices, they can consult the adventure book for the narrative, based on the choices they make. This could allow for multiple stories, and coincidentally, replay value and game appeal.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on the best methods to convey the story? Also, how important do you think the story is to the players? Would you be interested in reading a comic that came with the board game, or would you just toss it aside and get right into the action? What if the comic coincided with the game and it was a reference for in-game play?

Thanks in advance for your advice and thoughtful attention.
Cheers,
20%

Orangebeard
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Joined: 10/13/2011
Rough idea

I will take a shot since I used to love choose your own adventure stories!

How about a combination Mad Lib/Choose your own style adventure, but instead of noun, verbs, adjectives there are places, monsters and goals? Draw card to fill in the places, etc. The cards for places would match locations on the game board. (let me know if you aren't sure what a Mad Lib is...)

Hang on, phone is dying

Ok I'm back...

So for the "mad lib" part, the game comes with a number of stories; some of the stories are shorter or longer than others and some of the stories may naturually send players to certain sections of the game board. This would allow the players to potentially choose the length of game play and might help them focus their game play on areas of the board likely to reward them with special treasure or goals. Each story has several pages and as the players complete the requirements they turn to another page to continue. By poplulating elements of the story with cards from a deck, there is some built in replayability and some rare treasures or monsters may only appear when drawn for certain stories. Still with me?

For example, Story 1: Trouble in the Forest

Farmers from the village of Wheatville have approached (player name) and have asked for help. Each of the last 3 nights, something has crept from the Forest and has stolen food, livestock and supplies from the villagers. Some villagers suspect that a (draw monster card and insert name here) has taken up residence in the Forest Valley while other believe it is the work of a (monster card) that dwells in a nearby Cave. The villagers are poor, but have offered (treasure card) in return for your assistance. Will you help? There is only enough time to investigate the Forest Valley or the Cave; which will you choose?

Monsters may have additional treasures if defeated and there could be challenges associated with different map locations. In addition, there may be "default" locations that can be reached from certain locations. For example, if the players choose to investigate the Cave, they can either return to the Village at the end (as per the story) or they may deviate from the story and move to a location on the board that is near the Cave (another village, town, etc.) The drawback to deviation is that you can't collect your reward until your story takes you on a journey that allows you to return to the village. Moving to another location may or may not trigger a new story; perhaps there is some kind of default action the players can take?

I am picturing a a large board with many general locations, however each location would have a mini-path that the players explore 1 space at a time as part of the story.

I really like you base idea - good luck with your design! Also, I would toss the comic and head straight for the game :)

BubbleChucks
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Joined: 06/07/2012
You could use a first person

You could use a first person perspective for the graphic design of the cards. The players wouldnt see themselves in a location, they would simply see the location.

The problem with this is twofold.

One, you would need to include information on the cards linking them to other cards. This can be a tricky act to pull off - having a system that links the cards which also retains the secrecy of the cards.

Two, they could be linked to a book, which kinda defeats the objective.

Having the story on the cards (option one) isnt impossible. It just needs a little thought. There is a game system thats very similar to this idea. Its an old game, but for the life of me I cant think of its title.

It didnt do very well from a sales perspective, so copies are a bit rare. However, the system has a lot of potential. It came in a couple of variants - world war 2 fighter planes and a cowboy theme.

I have a copy of the cowboy variant somewhere in the house - but again, I dont know where because its been ages since i played it (small box, with two decks of cards and rules).

TwentyPercent
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Joined: 12/25/2012
RE: Rough Idea

Hey Orangebeard

Thank you very much for your thoughtful attention to my post. You have a really interesting and unique idea for the game that would give the players an engaging method of questing, and that is definitely something for me to consider.

To give a little bit more detail about my story (and game), players will get to choose to be play either the Good Side or the Bad Side, to allow both cooperative and competitive game play. My plan was for the game's story to be continuous throughout the game. The story is quite more detailed than a simple "Village A is being pillaged by Orcs or Trolls... go slay them for a reward." I know you were just stating an example, but my point is the story is much bigger, as in there will be a decent back story about how the Bad Side is growing forces, rampaging across the land, and massing an invasive army against the Good Side. Players will have two types of quests through the game, Story Quests (specific for each side), and Town/Side Quests (random quests drawn from a deck, not side specific). Both types of quests were going to be pretty similar in scope to your example, in that they may require one or two shorter sequences of events for the players to unravel. The difference is that the Story Quests will be side specific and play in sequence, getting more and more difficult with better rewards. Also, they will be tied to the Final Climactic Event of the game. The Town/Side Quests would be available to all players from either side and would be drawn randomly from a pool (at least, that was my initial idea).

My initial post was about how to convey the story of the game (ie, the Story Quests) and possibly convey it through another medium, such as a comic. Your idea of a Mad Lib/Choose Your Own Adventure is a great idea and still could be worked on the scale of what I'm thinking for the story. Possibly during the Game Setup, players could fill out their Adventure Sheets with the monsters/treasures per your idea, and then play out the game. Alternatively, the Story Quests could allow for choices to be made, with each choice leading to alternate story progressions. The choices the players make from the Story Quests could be referenced to the Adventure Book, with corresponding narrative for each choice.

I do like your idea quite a bit, and think it would be an interesting method to engage the players while providing re-playability. If you have any other interesting ideas or comments, I'd be interested in hearing them, especially since I've given a few more details about my conceptual design.

Thanks again,
20%

BubbleChucks
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Joined: 06/07/2012
I remembered, its the picture

I remembered, its the picture book style of games

Ace of Aces
Lost Worlds
Bounty Hunter - Shootout at the Saloon

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/798/ace-of-aces-handy-rotary-series

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1421/lost-worlds

Unlike the picture book system, you could have the decision trees leading to story parts. And unlike the system you could use cards instead of the pages in books - being that you have alternative action mechanics.

Alternatively, you could combine the two - the cards feature both story advance options and affectors to actions available in the locations.

If player has key objects then option to move to location beyond door is open, else closed. If character has pick lock skill, option is also open and so on.

TwentyPercent
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Joined: 12/25/2012
RE: I remembered, its the picture

Hey BubbleChucks

That's an interesting system, but it's a bit more involved than what I was considering. The combat will be played out on a hexagonal battle grid and in turns, not done with books or cards.

One idea I do like is to possibly have the Story Quest cards reference an Adventure Book, so that when the quest is taken or completed, the card will say, possibly based on choices made, "Read Excerpt 'Scouting the Invasive Army' on Page 9 when the quest is started (or completed)."

And different options will have different excerpts being read, so that there are different experiences for various games played.

Thanks for your input.
20%

MarkKreitler
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Joined: 11/12/2008
Admirable

Hey 20,

I admire your goals, but as a player, I would find the proposed system "fiddly."

Referencing an Adventure Book in the midst of game play would break flow. If the story was very good, I might not mind, but that's a tough sell. It's hard enough to write a standalone piece of fiction in a compelling way. Integrating one with a game is harder still. Not impossible, though.

Still, I think your underlying idea can work.

Have you considered an approach like the one in Memoir '44? In a nutshell: the game comes with a number of scenarios, each representing a single play session. Each scenario has a unique map and unit setup, along with a short historical blurb that sets the stage for the session. For instance, the game's opening scenario is "Pegasus Bridge," and the scenario description comes with two short paragraphs explaining the historical significance of the raid as well as some specific details about the Axis and Allied experience.

If you play through all of Memoir's missions in order, you'll get a slice of WWII history, ordered chronologically (I think -- haven't finished them all, yet).

They same could work for your game. It wouldn't provide as much detail as a regular fantasy story, but it allows players to get a chunk of fiction, then enjoy uninterrupted game play.

Good luck with the design -- it's a tall order, but worth the effort.

Relexx
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Joined: 05/31/2010
Orangebeard wrote:... For

Orangebeard wrote:
...

For example, Story 1: Trouble in the Forest

Farmers from the village of Wheatville have approached (player name) and have asked for help. Each of the last 3 nights, something has crept from the Forest and has stolen food, livestock and supplies from the villagers. Some villagers suspect that a (draw monster card and insert name here) has taken up residence in the Forest Valley while other believe it is the work of a (monster card) that dwells in a nearby Cave. The villagers are poor, but have offered (treasure card) in return for your assistance. Will you help? There is only enough time to investigate the Forest Valley or the Cave; which will you choose?

Monsters may have additional treasures if defeated and there could be challenges associated with different map locations. In addition, there may be "default" locations that can be reached from certain locations. For example, if the players choose to investigate the Cave, they can either return to the Village at the end (as per the story) or they may deviate from the story and move to a location on the board that is near the Cave (another village, town, etc.) The drawback to deviation is that you can't collect your reward until your story takes you on a journey that allows you to return to the village. Moving to another location may or may not trigger a new story; perhaps there is some kind of default action the players can take?

I am picturing a a large board with many general locations, however each location would have a mini-path that the players explore 1 space at a time as part of the story.

That is awesome ... may I extend and elaborate on it for one of my games?

TwentyPercent
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Joined: 12/25/2012
RE: Admirable

Hey Mark

Your kind of feedback is super important. It's good to know the downfalls of an idea. I completely agree and understand what you mean about interrupting the "flow" of the game. As an avid board game player, I see that flow as being incredibly important. It's funny how, when we get so into designing, we tend to overlook the common or simpler flaws.

You also make a good point about possibly using the idea at a much smaller scale. I haven't played Memoir, but have played the DnD: Castle Ravenloft Board Game, and they have a similar system, using 13 different adventures, each with their own 1-page narrative. It also has, in the adventure book, a single paragraph narrative that is to be read when a particular location is discovered. I could definitely see a smaller scale like that being used for my game. Maybe at one or two points during the game, or in the case a certain event or particular Story Quest is completed (or started), maybe a new narrative is read. Also, before the Final Climactic Event, another narrative would be read.

Simply put, I see the narrative and story as a means to engage the players in a way that is beyond the game and strategy. My purpose is to really harness a Role-Playing Game, and I see story an important aspect of that. That being said, the game itself is what most players will care about the most, as it is THE most engaging part of the experience.

Thanks again for your input. Any additional ideas or comments is greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
20%

Orangebeard
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Joined: 10/13/2011
Relexx wrote:That is awesome

Relexx wrote:
That is awesome ... may I extend and elaborate on it for one of my games?

Of course - Go for it!

Relexx
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Orangebeard wrote:Relexx

Orangebeard wrote:
Relexx wrote:
That is awesome ... may I extend and elaborate on it for one of my games?

Of course - Go for it!

Chanpion!

MarkKreitler
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Joined: 11/12/2008
You're Welcome

Hey 20,

You're welcome. Glad I didn't offend. I honestly admire you're goals. I've tried to work out similar problems and never got as much traction as you have even in this early stage. The "smaller scale" system you described in your reply sounds like a great compromise.

Actually, your system reminds me of an improved version of Star Fleet Battles' scenarios. Set in the Star Trek universe, SFB was a book case war game with a healthy rulebook and dozens of scenarios out of the box. Each scenario had a short story to set the stage, and many had special rules custom to the individual scenario. It's amazing how a few sentences like, "You must prevent the Andorian ambassador from falling into Romulan hands," and a special chart to compute collision damage from asteroids can completely change the feel of the game.

Best of all, we could work off those scenarios as examples. We created scores of our own adventures: scouting missions, fleet actions, diplomatic missions gone awry -- you name it. I could see a fantasy board game doing the same thing and being a blast.

Bring on the campaign packs!

So...when does your game go on sale -- I want a copy. :)

Mark

TwentyPercent
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Joined: 12/25/2012
RE: You're Welcome

Hey Mark

I really appreciate the praise; most of it can be attributed to the time I've spent on it (roughly 200 hours so far) and to the feedback and help I've gotten, not only from friends IRL, but also from people I bounce ideas off of online, such as yourself.

As far as the game going on sale, don't hold your breath. Within a week, my initial prototype will be complete. The prototype will have just enough content to begin play-testing the game mechanics, major game design, and overall fairness (roughly 80-90% of the total content I envision for the game). Like I said, I've spent about 200 hours on the game so far; I tend to be highly meticulous, and have also gone through redesigns before even starting the initial prototype.

Anyways, I have one side designed (the Good Side), allowing for cooperative play, as well as all the major game mechanics, but I still have the Bad Side to design and their interaction with the Good Side (ie PvP).

It's been awesome working on the game and am excited to finally get to begin play-testing soon. I know there will be some major (and minor) revisions as play-testing is hammered out, as well as new content and rules being added. With as much content as the game is going to have and the nature of the game (sandbox RPG, so no classes or skill-trees, but pools of combat maneuvers, attacks, and spell-crafting to spend experience on), testing the game for fairness and content will take a very very long (yet hopefully fun) time.

My goal is for it to be ready for publishing by the end of the year. I don't know how realistic it is, but it helps to have an end in sight, no matter how far off it is.

I will try and keep BGDF updated on the game, especially to bounce questions and ideas off. I'm still new to BGDF, so I'm not exactly sure all of the features. Maybe I could use my account to log my progress and ideas.

Anyways, sorry if I ramble. I tend to do that a lot. Thanks again for the input.
Cheers,
20%

MarkKreitler
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Joined: 11/12/2008
Good plan

Hey 20,

Sounds like you've done your due diligence and have a good plan for the "short" term.

Playtesting always brings unexpected insights. It's a fun process, provided you're not too attached to the design. Sounds like you have realistic expectations.

I hope you do keep us posted without impacting your schedule too much. I'm a fan of this style of game and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Good luck!

Mark

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