NOTE: Gaming topics have been moved to Tabletop Manifesto.
Lately I’ve been indulging myself by listening to a lot of podcasts about gaming. 2d6 feet in a random direction and Have Games Will Travel just to name two. After all that immersion in the culture and conversation, it is apparent to me that I want more from my gaming experience. My role-playing history has mostly been a reactive style of campaign. That is to say, the players create characters that are little more than tableau of numbers and the GM creates storylines that are about the GM and not about the characters.
For my money there seems to be something missing from this. People are rarely random in their lives. For the most part, people have wishes, ambitions and goals that they wish to accomplish – even if they aren’t motivated enough to achieve them, they still idly think about what they would like to do or have that is larger than the current situation. Even if the goal of a modern, middle-class character is little more than to live in a house he owns with a wife and family to keep him company… this is still a goal. It is still something towards which that person drives.
And this is the heart of that person’s story. Any story that involves them as the main character must take this into account. The character wants something. It might be simple: Gorzan wants to amass a large amount of gold. It might be noble: Otto wants to expose the activities of the corporation that is polluting the local water supply. It might be dark: Count Esteban wants vengeance on the man who raped and killed his sister. All of these things are goals that give the players something to work towards, give the GM some good story ideas, and make the story about the characters.
If role-playing is a story-telling exercise about the characters brought forward by the players, then this is critical to the creation of plots, episodes and adventures. And this is what I want from my role-playing experience. When I’m a player, I want the story to interweave with the goals of my character. When I’m a GM, I want my players to have crafted goals and ambitions for their characters so that I can craft a story around those ideas. I may not want a game that is without a GM, or that uses a shared GM style, but I certainly want the story to be about this progression.