Theme and Storytelling
I love telling stories through games, it is what has for years drawn me to want to play more RPG's. So I really enjoy when a game allows for those elements of storytelling or creation of moments that feel memorable and like they fit into a narrative.
I feel like games can do this in a couple of ways:
- Firstly, you have moments in games where the game paints a picture for you, things like the crossroads cards in #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, which I adore. They give you very meaningful choices and match that to a narrative beat, they are often linked to specific 'characters' and so make thematic sense and are compelling. If the writing and ideas are good they can really add gravitas to a game moment. Similarly in #Eldritch Horror, every encouter has a few lines of text between each section which both help immerse the players in the theme of the game (we always have the person next to you read your card out for both this and dead of winter) as well as help engage the other players: Joey losing 2 health cause he rolled a 4 is fine, but Joey the sailor battling a kraken that has attacked his ship, he tries to harpoon it but misses and barely escapes with his life illicits groans and commiseration from around the table.
- The second way a game can do this is by having a strong theme established at the start of the game but then allowing the events of the game to nudge the players to create the narrative in their own minds and with each other. I often think this is something that #Pandemic does really well: the theme is clear but there is no writing in the game beyond that, no flavour text on event cards or epidemic cards, the city cards are fairly non-descript, nothing to paint a picture for you. However, the placing of cubes and the outbreaks themselves are wonderfully thematic and evocative, the odds being stacked against you with disease popping up at random; your mind takes these elements and crafts a story around/through them. You picture yourselves as this team dashing around the world, you despair at you inability to save Europe from outbreak after outbreak and so a narrative develops between you all without the game giving you the words, only nudges as things happen.
So what do you all think, is there one style of storytelling you prefer in a game? What are your favourite game 'stories'?