Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Narrative Play part 1

I cannot just sit down and play a board game or card game without immersing myself into the world of that game. It doesn't matter that the game is Magic the Gathering or something like the Serenity/Firefly board game. I have to immerse myself and know why I am doing what I am doing or what a given action would entail in the real world. With Warhammer 40,000 I take that even further. Unlike everyone else I know I cannot just turn up to a game and play. I have to know why I am fighting Dark Angels and what relevance the mission has. Without that I may as well be playing chess against a computer. Sure it is fun but ultimately it is missing something. I am a narrative gamer and I'm proud to admit it.

The problem is that being a narrative gamer when no one else is can be a real pain. I have tried with my local club to introduce a narrative element with the Midas Crusade. The MC was based upon the Crusade of Fire campaign book from Games Workshop. I did it as an open-ended campaign where players could challenge other players for control of planets. I envisioned players colluding together or seeking to build that perfect list to drive the Orks from Volistad. But it never happened. There were a few attempts but no one was interested enough. It ended up with me making posts and basically running the fluff for three years. I recently decided to drop it entirely.

So how do you run narrative games? Well, I have realised that you can't do with a games club. It needs a handful of dedicated players willing to immerse themselves. Willing to go beyond just turning up with some dice and an army. It needs someone, an organiser, to come up with the overall story line, the missions and be able to alter things as wins and losses mount up. It needs structure but not too much detail.

What I plan to do with this short series of posts is to put forward some ideas for narrative campaigns that hopefully might work for you. But first, do any of you have thoughts on this? Have you played a dedicated campaign and see it through as more than just another game of 40K or whatever your game of choice is? If you don't enjoy them, I'd be very interested to see why not.

The floor is all yours.


  1. I've run several campaigns at my club, but find that as you have, most players don't take the narrative aspect very far, if they're bothered about it at all.

    I took this a bit further when I ran Hero for a Day last month, writing narrative pieces for each mission, though even those were not absolutely keyed in to the precise mission being played (I found I didn't have time to write 38 bespoke pieces of fluff and get them done as a voiceover!)

    My most successful genuine narrative campaign was a necromunda campaign i ran with a couple of mates called the fight for shining falls. The narrative element held up quite well, but sadly my gang escalated much quicker than the others and the games became unbalanced very quickly.

    It's something I'm most definitely interested in though, and a friend of mine and I have some ideas about widening the appeal of narrative style play. I look forward to seeing your ideas!

  2. I'd be interested in the ideas that you have. Any thoughts on how to run something narrative would be insightful.