The Cabal of Eight Pt.1: Amber & Gold

In one of the rented clubrooms in the back of the Red Helm Inn, a cabal of young mages meets to The Red Helm Taverndiscuss its mission and commit its member’s signatures to its binding charter. At its center, around the worn and marked mahogany table sit the seven mages, all known to one another for quite some time, colleagues, maybe even friends.

The foremost of these is Belrae Crokosa, an Ivoran of Creschan descent his purple robes bearing his chosen heraldic symbol, a green frog. Likewise, the second officer of this secret cabal is Riahm Iziani in patterned blue silks with a bright yellow waist and neck sash after the Hyvalian fashion, an Ivoran Bard/Sorcerer and the group’s link to a choice few contacts in the college as displayed by his half brown, half green cloak.

The clubroom itself was a small octagonal affair paneled in old dark stained wood decrepit with craquelure. Additionally, he small and sparse shelves were overrun with the detritus of past guests, empty inkbottles, scraps of rotting paper, multitudinous candle stumps, and decomposing ink quills. All peppered with a fine sheet of pale dust. The old moth-eaten red curtains were thrown back letting in the light of early evening which wandered into the small chamber from over the tops of much taller buildings and houses. Two windows lay to the southeast and northeast, a small stone wood-fronted built-in fireplace in the north wall, and the door, currently shut and locked, lay in the west wall.

Another of the group was Ilna of Nezorik or “Bumble” as the other members nicknamed her. A native Ezmerian, she’s the eldest daughter of a prominent merchant in Ezmer, her membership in the cabal doubtlessly due to her family’s resources. She’s short, overweight, and wearing a patterned yellow silk robe with a black silk cord belt fixed with a jade clasp. Her cloak and apron bear a pattern of alternating black and yellow chevrons. Her painful shyness is apparent, as is her uncommon clumsiness.

Next, the secretary of the cabal, Jirek the Scribe of Arebas, is a lifelong scholar with access to the College Library where he works as a librarian. He has no life experience outside of it. He wears a simple brown tunic and pants secured with a black leather belt. With him is his portable writing desk and writing kit as he is also a scrivener.

Opposite these were Fauna the rogue druid (played by Jenn), Gornix the Ivoran wizard (played by Gil), and Excor the mage (played by Cris). Excor being the last member to sign the cabal’s charter slid the parchment to Jirek after he had finished scratching his name. With that, Belrae brought the first official meeting of the unnamed cabal to order. However, after deciding there was no business as of yet to bring to the table the members brought up random points of interest.

Jirek: “There’s a funded expedition going for a 7-day south of the city into the Red Lowlands to some ruins. It’ll be under the oversight of a cloaked Surveyor and Curator. Might last a while though.”

Bumble (snorting and bouncing in her seat as she pulled it out): “Ooh! Ooh! Here’s something! I think it might be magic. I sensed something weird from it onetime.”

Nearly spilling the open bottle of wine in the process, she revealed a palm sized piece of polished amber with what appeared to be a golden bee caught at its center.

Bumble: “My master uses it as a paperweight.”

Accordingly, the PCs grunted as they had already guessed as to whom her master was and it figured he would do something like that.

Excor (played by Cris): “So. Who exactly is your master? His name?”

Bumble: “Xanto, a master mage from Skullhead.”

That elicited a collective groan from the players.

Excor (pointing his pipe at Riahm): “Well! What about you! Got any bardic knowledge for us?”

Riahm: “Well, I know a shipment of naphtha is coming by ship from the Hill-Lands within the month or so. Something going on concerning ‘Creschan Fire’ around the harbor district. There’s an alchemist there leasing a warehouse guarded by Bortorro mercs and a Creschan Captain with a ship. Don’t have any names yet. The Hyvalians and the Ivorans are lurking; something’s gonna go down.”

Gornix (played by Gil): “Interesting.”

Belrae: “There’s also a black ship from the Deadlands docked at Slavers’ Wharf. The Silver Owl is the name I think. A famous fight manager came in on it with his fighter Skullsmash, a half-giant. The manager’s name was Xinn. Their working the fighting pits in the Slavers’ Quarter.”

His tone shifted to a humorous one though it still seemed that he was only half joking.

Belrae (smiling): “Maybe we should buy a zombie from the ship eh! Eh? *ahem*”

Gornix fake laughed as a result of Belrae’s weak attempt at humor and engaged him in “small talk”. The white wizard poured some wine from the dusty bottle delivered from downstairs, compliments of the publican. The bottle was a good vintage though not very expensive.

Excor: “So. Anyone know where to get some Yellow Lotus? No? Hmm.” He then realized he had a contact which could “hook him up”. He made a note to visit her when he had the chance. He lit his freshly packed pipe with a prestidigitation spell.

In due time, Gornix and Excor spent an hour copying down a spell from the other’s grimoire (these being Neutralize Poison and Ghost Form respectively). After finishing this task, Gornix tried to engage the bard for a beer downstairs but Riahm said that post-meeting him and Belrae had some “business” with which to attend.

The gang sat chatting for only a few more minutes and when the chatter died down Belrae adjourned the first meeting of the as-of-yet unnamed cabal. He mentioned that meetings would be end-weekly at dusk. Each member in turn took a small brass key that opened the simple iron lock on the clubroom door for his or her own. The librarian and part-time scribe packed up his writing equipment after recording the last hour of the meeting and headed out the door answering an invite from the PC’s with a terse “I have a scribing job after”.

So the remainders decided to go down into the tavern. Without delay on the way out Excor snatched up the wine bottle. Fauna noticed that Bumble was lingering behind with a bowed head seemingly disappointed they didn’t invite her.

Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Awww. I feel bad for her. I invite her!”

The young mages began to depart their meeting as the orange-gold light of dusk fell through the leaded diamond pane windows . In time the purple moon in the eastern sky would fade as night slowly rose. The cabal room overlooked the corner of Silver Circle and Western Avenue the streets of which were teaming with people of all stripes. The Red Helm Tavern itself sits on this corner straddling the edge of the West Quarter with the start of the Shop District just across Silver Circle street to the northeast, these being only two districts of the many comprising the whole of the ancient city of Ezmer.

The ancient city survived the Druid Schism from which the Bardic College of Ezmer arose and a shift of faith from that of the founding Druids to that of the Brighthouse imported from Crescent Moon by Creschan sailors and missionaries. When the verminous hordes (savage ratlings) raged across the west of Arvan the city itself was at the very edge of its ravening only suffering through the short threat of the hordes final phase, the Red Horde. But all that was 600 years ago.

The gang tumbled down the narrow wooden stair onto the ground floor of the tavern walking around from behind the bar into the taproom. They found the place was jumping and crowded with the usual clientele; laborers, clerks, and shopkeepers. A white but fragrant stratum of smoke hung in the air. Floating over that layer of pipe-smoke, they could hear the sweet music of the songstress from the small theater at the other end of the place.

Thereupon Draiga Skullshine, the publican of the Red Helm glided over the well-worn floorboards to accost them.

Draiga: “Ah! My young friends! Come, come. Did you like the wine I sent up to you? Good, I’m happy. Here let’s all chat a little the drinks are on me!” The gaudy costume jewelry on his fingers clinked as he put his left hand to his chest.

Draiga was a tall heavy-set man with a clean bald pate. He was in his early to mid-forties and spoke with a Poisonwood accent. His clothing was of fine patterned black silks with a broad crimson waist sash. He was a charming fellow and always curious about and eager to talk to his “young friends” whenever he saw them. Of course, he didn’t occupy the apartment traditionally reserved for the publican in the tavern, Draiga lived in the well-to-do Western Cliffs District.

Gornix, Fauna, and Bumble take Draiga up on his offer. Excor on the other hand simply kept on walking eventually settling into an open table in the theater. Those at the bar with the publican chatted some until Draiga revealed that he had the inside skinny on the pit fights. His contact was the newly arrived manager of Skullsmash, if anyone should want to make some bets. He was also a bookie.

The young mages raucously drank ale for a couple of more hours until Fauna made a comment about Bumble chowing down on a big plate of Bittles (balls of ale-soaked bread drizzled in honey) and how much it might cost.

Bumble: “But he, he said it was free! *sputter* Why’re you laughing? … I’m going home!” She leapt off her stool and nearly tripped before leaving in a sudden huff pushing past an approaching Excor.

Excor (wine drunk and with a belly full of fish and fish sauce): “What’s her problem?”

Jenn (Fauna’s player): “Aww. I feel so sorry for her. *gasp* Oh no! Her master’s gonna be mad at her!”

Fauna picked up Bumble’s paperweight from the ale-soaked bar. She put it in her robes with every intention of returning it to her later. Meanwhile Excor, unconcerned, turned the conversation between Fauna and Gornix towards the question of finance. Suddenly, Draiga who had buzzed away quite a while ago appeared out of nowhere.

Draiga: “Well, my young friends I might have a happy solution for you.”

Thus, he quickly gathered them up and hurried them down to the basement after signaling the bar-back. He sat them down at a small table after lighting an oil lamp and began to talk.

Draiga: “So. Let’s talk business, shall we.”

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight: Intro

Well, work on the Arvan setting continues and I am still exercising the material in the games that I GM. This new campaign has had a few stops and starts but now on its way to clear and open road. Hence, I’ll begin to blog it as I have the others in the past.

This campaign I call The Cabal of Eight. It takes place in the city of Ezmer at the tip of the Ezmerian headland extending into the Silverset Sea. This sphere collectively named Ezmeria. All characters are mages and involved in a secret cabal with the mission of enriching members and gaining influence.

The Player Characters are Gornix a Level 1 Wizard played by Gil, Fauna a level 1 Druid played by Jenn, and Excor a level 1 Mage played by Cris. Gornix is young Ivoran Wizard in white robes with a grey cloak, the emblem its back, a salt-water lotus on a starfish. He wields a wood staff with a quartz crystal in its head. Fauna, a young Southlander woman, dark-skinned, red-haired, with violet eyes has a tendency towards hotheadedness. Excor is a young Ivoran mage but dresses and tries to speak as a Westlander. He’s a schemer and a gambler. It has also become evident as well that he has other secrets as Gornix has realized that Westlander wannabe is of noble blood just as himself.

They find themselves at a table in a small, leased clubroom in the second story of the Red Helm Tavern in the West Quarter of the city of Ezmer. Across from them are four other mages…

Handling Game Flow in Tabletop RPGs

Another hubpages article from Robert A. Neri Jr. about Game Flow in tabletop RPGs.

The article examines the derailment of a campaign resulting from flattening action and lack of player engagement. It proposes a solution and some tricks to get the game back on track.

The most common problem that Game-Masters have to face is that of managing and maintaining the flow of the game and what to do if it stagnates. How to keep the campaign from running aground?

Read it Here

A Giant in Xuun Pt.3: The Swamp Venture

Heraldry of Woodcutters' Guild caravan that the trio waylaid in the swamp3 days had passed since the trio of “goodfellows” had traversed Xuun’s bazaar and outfitted with their new gear the trio finds themselves in the swamp astride a crude log raft piloted by one Gator-Tooth a swamper leatherback with tattoos over his bald sun-baked pate in a crocodile skin vest and canvas pantaloons. At its head serving his role as fearless leader, Zevor the Westlander rogue, and filling out the rest of the motley crew3 more rogues dressed similarly in studded black leathers and a Westlander mage dressed in a brown robe with gold trim serving as mercenary.

The small party of desperados had sat sweating on the wet logs of the raft in a reeking swamp located somewhere in Gorloc hidden in steaming shadow as the wilting dripping canopy of the marsh was thick enough to completely blot out even the noonday sun. The party was currently on edge as they had already braved giant constrictors that prowled the green waters and giant spiders the size of large dogs which dropped from the black sagging canopy.

The raft ran into a shallow and skidded roughly onto a sand-bar quite a distance from the barely visible shore. Nezor and Gator-Tooth hopped into the waist-high (for Gator-Tooth anyway) opaque waters, a thick film of bright green slime clung to their clothes as they dragged the raft onto the shore to allow the others a dry disembarkation.

Gator-Tooth (to Nezor): “Watch yer-self! Leeches everywhere!”

As soon as the old leatherback hit the sand-clay shore he immediately began to search himself and scrape several fairly large black leeches from his belly and arms with his broad-bladed bowie-knife. Nezor just shrugged, his hide was too thick for the tiny black specks to even try to bite him. He hefted the few water-tight barrels the crew had brought with them onto the shore and into their newfound campsite.

It was up to Gator-Tooth to set up a hasty camp while the rest of the party, the rogues and the “goodfellows” huddled around Zevor to hear his plans. The ambush spot would be scouted tonight by himself and two of his three rogues, the ambush would be tomorrow at first light, he tried to smooth the “goodfellows’” dander with a typically greasy smile and an open-palmed gesture then when that didn’t do it he pulled a rare and expensive timepiece from his studded leathers. He went back over everyone’s role and discussed positioning.

Come morning the rogues and Zevor took up their positions with crossbows ready as did Cantra with her bow, all out of sight in a large clump of broad-leafed bushes. Phenox was just off the narrow black road in a grass-choked ditch with weapons ready. Nezor was leaning against a thick warty tree waiting for Zevor’s signal to step out onto the road blocking the caravan-wagons. They were waiting for a caravan of 3 wagons bearing arms that consisted of a field split per fess with a winged lion against a blue field atop a white lotus against black. Nezor spotted a mossy sand-stone boulder in a mass of wet reeds and murky green water in a pit-pond to the side of the road. He had a plan.

It was a few hours later when the sounds of steel clad wagon wheels sloughing through sticky black mud and the huffing of horses could finally be heard coming up the road. It wasn’t long after that the beleaguered and mud-laden wagons came into the thieves’ hungry view. Zevor had yet to give the signal but eager to put his plan into motion Nezor leapt out from behind his tree chuckling stupidly as he chucked a boulder at the lead wagon.

The boulder crashed into wagon’s side pushing it into a water-filled ditch hopelessly stranding it. It was only then that the impatient giant could see that it was in fact, a gypsy caravan. The southern-nomads scattered and fled like cockroaches before him disappearing into the overgrowth. The other wagons immediately began reeling and took off down an invisible side-path and the boulder-crippled wagon slowly sank. It was another hour or so before their actual target rumbled into view. Zevor gave the signal, the sly hoot of a swamp owl. So with a disappointed sigh, the hill-giant did his part and stepped out onto the road.

That was when Nezor saw that an Ivoran Knight in full chainmail and a ranger with full kit were leading the wagons, both mounted. With utter calm they signaled the wagons to stop. The knight clacked shut his great helm’s visor.

Nezor (Played by me): “We’re here to liberate da’ gold!”

The Knight (lowering his lance): “Prepare yourself filthy giant!”

The shady mage that Zevor had brought along fumbled his spell and Phenox moved from his position trying to sneak around and flank the knight. The teamsters on the wagons became the first victims of Zevor’s and his rogue’s bolts. With a ringing shing the ranger drew his paired short-swords leapt from the back of his horse and charged grim-warrior Phenox. Nezor immediately charged the knight and dismounted him with a single mighty metal-crunching swing of his club. The knight immediately leapt up and in a single movement drew his long-sword.

A fighter from the rear of the wagon-train began to charge at the giant. Crossbow bolts and arrows flew in a brief but harrowing exchange. The mercenary mage cast a spell at the Ivoran knight but he was able to apparently shake off the malignant sorcery. A teamster shrieked and fell dead from the lead wagon. The knight struck with a savage swing against Nezor scoring his new suit of hide armor badly and barely touching the giant’s flesh beneath. The charging fighter hit the giant with a blow from his battle-axe but only managed to hack into the crocodile’s hide. The knight followed up with another armor chopping blow from his broad-bladed long-sword.

Phenox was engaged in his desperate duel with the ranger and another fighter, Cantra was somewhere unseen, while crossbow bolts continued to fly and occasionally when a fighter or teamster wandered too near the bushes, one of Zevor’s rogues would shoot out of nowhere and stab them in the back or slit their throats. The fighter wielding his axe against the Hill-giant fell with a bolt in his back. The merc-mage finally dropped a fighter with an acid type spell. The knight renewed his attacks against Nezor and the giant replied with a smashing two-handed club swing flinging his broken corpse off into the dark of the swamp.

Phenox dropped the ranger; the fighters were picked off as they began to flee. The battle was over. In the end the rogues and the goodfellows made away with 1 large mithral chest covered in runes and locked with a large iron lock and another very large and heavy chest, unlocked, and 10 superior quality spears found in one of the wagons. Nezor was a bit put off as his new armor was pretty badly, at least in his estimation, damaged though it had performed admirably especially against the knight’s weapon.

The armor was that he had made from the hide of a giant crocodile. It was gleaming brown spotted with black scales in places and covered the giant almost completely from his knees to his shoulders. The helm expertly crafted from the beast’s skull and head had come complete with polished black-wood carven eyes. The giant was proud of his new outfit and very pleased with its performance in battle he just hadn’t thought that it would take such punishment.

He refused to move any of the chests as the entire party of thieves struggled even with crudely fashioned bar-hoist which had snapped at first lift. Zevor had to pay the stubborn giant up front, 100 gold pieces to get him to pick them both up and take them to the camp, which he did with ease almost as soon as the coin dropped into his massive palm.

To Be Continued…

Building Tabletop Myths

Another hubpages article from Robert A. Neri Jr.

This one explores the construction of myth using the material generated from playing a tabletop RPG campaign as medium.

Role-players can extend their game beyond the limits of the tabletop and enrich their games by constructing myths of the raw materials and medium provided by their play using a handful of techniques.

Read it Here

Tabletop Meditations #9: Campaign Structure

As a work of traditional fiction has a basic underlying structure so does a Tabletop Role-Playing Game (TRPG). Story, Plot(s), Scenes, and Story-Beats are the building blocks of traditional fiction. Likewise, the structure to a TRPG is built of a Campaign, Adventure(s), Episodes, and Play Units. As knowledge of the basic structures of fiction can help authors write their stories the knowledge of the basic structures found within TRPGs can help to sharpen a Game-master’s communication skills and adventure-writing/story-telling prowess. Both traditional fiction and role-playing games structures are tiered and begin with the most basic of building blocks, the smallest units composing those higher up with those of higher tiers increasing in complication. The most basic building block of a fictional narrative is the Story-Beat.

A Story-Beat is an emotive change in a character or exchange between characters (as in action/reaction) and which is replaced in RPG Narratology with the social exchange between the participants; these being the Game-Master (GM) and the Players. As the characters that are involved are the Player Characters (PCs) controlled by the players and the Non-Player Characters (NPCs) run by the GM is where the story-beats lie. The story-beats are smeared across realities that is they are present inside of the game world and outside the game world among the participants and as there is not always an emotive change marked in certain specific characters determined by a single author but is dependent on the exchange of information on what the characters are feeling and doing and how the players themselves are reacting to what is going on within the game. Since the emotional change so to speak is distributed over multiple people and existent partially in a shared fiction, it is the exchange of information between these participants and frames of experience (a la Frame Analysis) that is of importance here with each single exchange between participants known as a Play Unit.

GMs should take note, always take down notes by the way, of the exchanges that seem to be important either those that contain a nugget of info that the GM can play on later, those that apply directly to the current action in the game, and those that may hint or directly spell-out character traits and especially player interest and reaction. GMs should initiate exchanges with vivid and characterized descriptions playing to the interest of the players and/or their characters in order to hook them immediately. It is also vital that the GM’s narration contain enough information for the players to act on but not overwhelm them with too many extraneous details. It should entice the players to ask questions and/or act maintaining longer and more frequent exchanges improving the overall flow of a campaign. These exchanges are what construct the game world in the minds of all the participants. Multiple Play Units will build a single fictive scene.

In fiction a Scene is a unit of action within a story marked by a change of time or place (change of scene) and which contains an event which moves the story forward. Note that the entrance of other characters can also demarcate scenes. Essentially the same can be said of TRPGs save that sometimes the demarcation of a scene is more reliant on the presentation of a question, puzzle, or problem by the GM without the scene changing in time or place with characters dying in between these exchanges as well as certain characters simply vanishing or becoming suddenly scarce altering the scene, meaning it’s slightly less structured strictly speaking. Thusly, within the context of RPG Narratology it is probably more befitting to call these units Episodes instead of scenes. An episode in the context of TRPG narratology is a related grouping of related Play Units where the setting/background does not have to be fixed. An example of this is a conversation between 2 PCs while walking through a magic portal beginning before they walked through and continuing through and on the other side, the backdrop changes radically but the episode is composed of the exchanges between the PCs. This somewhat transient notion in TRPGs can be difficult when trying to translate between traditional narrative and TRPG narrative especially in such instances as trying to blog a personal (or a character’s) tabletop experiences. Those that blog their experiences around the table may try to demarcate portions of the campaign by Session instead of by traditional narrative units or even those of TRPGs being discussed here.

However, a TRPG session is not a very appropriate unit as it contains both real-world interaction and the exchanges between participants which build the fantasy world of the game. In addition, as most game sessions often run a few to several hours, there will be tons of information most of it being extraneous to the narrative the blogger may be pursuing aside from the world-building elements. A full session will also probably not have a clean break at the end or a cleanly demarcated beginning especially if the session begins on a continuation of a battle which began last session or on such an incident which has stretched across several sessions. Thus, a single session can consist of several Episodes strictly speaking and may not even contain whole Episodes at the beginning and ending. Not to mention distributed episodes, that is small exchanges or incidents that connect into a single episode but which are not temporally contiguous (they don’t follow each other in occurrence), are separated by other unrelated exchanges and/or episodes or are otherwise composed of out-of-sequence Play Units.

When writing or setting up for episodes a GM need only bank on multiple exchanges where they hope to end on a desirable result from their perspective. Basically, the GM will want the PCs to end up after this series of exchanges in a place or situation that either leads directly to another planned episode or that which they believe that they can work with, giving them fodder for more episodes further down the line. Keeping Play Units and Episodes in mind a GM can structure their thoughts and ideas while running the game and writing for their campaign. A game-master can learn to keep tidbits of info in mind and group them together later when it comes time to act on them in-game helping to form the threads that run through campaigns which the GM’s writing and narration helps to bind together into adventures.

Multiple related Episodes will accumulate to build an Adventure which may or may not be consecutive or broken up among episodes that take the Campaign in different directions or digressions which will matter later connecting to other non-contiguous episodes or future episodes. Basically in fiction this is Plot/plotlines. Plot is a sequence of events divided into Scenes each single scene often presenting a single event. A fictive plot is constructed of a sequence of scenes (as are Subplots but for the purposes of this article there is really no distinction between Plots and Subplots). A minimum of 3 scenes construct the traditional plot in fiction with a beginning, middle, and end type of striation within the text. In a TRPG, plot is essentially constructed of 3 vital exchanges or episodes which are Presentation, Complication, and Twist. As the building blocks of a TRPG plot is constructed of a series of bundles of exchanges guided by the writing (the GM’s and any other authors of any of the material they may be utilizing for the game as well) within the context of the game world and which is very mercurial and apt to change direction and nature suddenly and unpredictably even from the GM’s perspective, it is most useful to refer to TRPG Plot as an Adventure. An Adventure is a single plotline that can be followed through a campaign referring only to the game and meta-game elements necessary to communicate said plot.

An adventure is of course slightly more complex than the previous two lower tier structures (Play Units and Episodes). As stated before an adventure is composed of three parts which are Presentation, Complication, and Twist. These component parts need not be in equal size or be executed in roughly equal spans of time (either real or in-game). Each component is however, an episode. Presentation refers to an exchange initiated by the GM which presents information that gives the players something to be solved or acted upon in such a way as to lead them to another scene or episode though whether the players follow this to the next episodic component of the current adventure is unpredictable and may require the GM to make another go at the Presentation or put a hold on the current adventure to go on a player-fueled tangent. The next in the strict sequence of episodes that build an adventure is Complication.  A complication is the consequences of the players’ action(s) or an additional bit of information which throws a wrench into the players’ plans basically it’s a bump in the road or any type of obstruction separating the players from their goals that they otherwise couldn’t predict or that didn’t exist beforehand. The solution that they find should ideally lead them to the next component episode, the Twist. ‘Twist’ refers to yet another unforeseen consequence of the players’ current action(s)/previous solution, or the addition of another element by the GM which the players probably didn’t plan on appearing; this element however should have had clues as to its nature and its possible appearance scattered throughout the previous episodes that the players have already played through.

The episodic structure of adventures can be demonstrated in certain methods of writing adventures, adventure in the sense of current common usage that is, such as the Hook, Line & Sinker (HLS) format which structures adventures into 3 tiers. This structure though does not have to be limited to just 3 episodes it may take more to get the PCs to go along with it (if they ever do which is probably a hint to the GM to just drop it and present something else) or for them to progress through each single stage. The HLS format puts the plot-hook in the beginning episode to immediately try to capture the players’ attention by having the GM play to their characters’ motivations but a GM should also try to play on the players’ interests as well. Basically, it’s giving the players a reason to act and can also be inserted between the Presentation and Complication stages as well if the PCs were initially uninterested. Placing this ‘reason’ at the very beginning places a fair amount of trust in the players’ abilities not just to pick up on it but also their will to act on it. Putting it off until it can be used as the bridge between the Presentation and Complication phases can give the players more to latch onto adding to the likelihood of their taking action.

This brings us to the overarching super-structure underlying both fiction and TRPGs. In fiction this structure which is composed from the bottom up of Story-Beats, Scenes, and Plot is Story. A Story is the text resulting from the totality of the aforementioned structures with the addition of characters, details, and the background (that may or may not involve world-building) in which the events of the story take place. Of course, these underlying structures which authors of fiction use to construct their stories vary so much from those of TRPGs at this point it is probably more efficient to call the Story of a TRPG a Campaign. A Campaign is the totality of all of the game and meta-game exchanges, participant characters (both PCs and NPCs), any material that the GM used regardless of original source or author(s), and the game world where the campaign has taken place. It is from this accumulation of detail and narration from which the participants can extract their personal narratives from the point of view as either their character(s), as a player, or a combination of the two. It is also in this higher tier structure where the world-building occurs as world-building is done through the accumulation of information gleaned from the gaming material and from the information drawn or resulting from certain exchanges and demonstrated in certain episodes. Adventures help to propel the characters and thus players through this shared world which they not only can alter through the actions of their characters but also help to construct episodically.

A TRPG Campaign is built of adventures, episodes, and finally communicative exchanges between the participants called Play Units. Knowledge of these basic structures will allow the GM to plot out adventures and help their improvisation technique when dealing with at-the-table exchanges within the context of the game world which serves as the sandbox for the players. Game-masters can seize control of their writing through the use of the 3-tier structure of adventures and can collect information learned from certain episodes to direct the flow of the campaign. They can break down the campaign and its subsequent adventures into episodes allowing them to find and pick up lost threads (ones not intentionally dropped that is) within the campaign and gain a deeper knowledge of the PCs and maybe even their players perhaps even themselves (when it comes to gaming style).