Lately, perhaps it's all this time alone with my thoughts as we make our way through the pandemic, I have been giving a lot of thought to various ... I dunno... narrative theories. What makes a story? What makes it compelling? I've already talked about arcs, so I won't go down that rabbit hole again (and it is a rabbit hole...). Today I thought I'd share some thoughts on something closer to my own project: the randomly generated story. Can it work? I hope so, because TOTM is largely created this way.
I'd been listening to Roleplay Rescue Podcast a lot. The host, the thoughtful and refreshingly honest, Che Webster, was talking about solo rpg'ing in one or two episodes. I didn't even know this was a thing. The only experience I had of it was through the Iron Realm Podcast (also very near and dear to me, and definitely a big influence on TOTM). Anyway, Che was talking about this system called Mythic. It's a GM emulator and it ... actually works. If there's any doubt, check out Me, Myself and Die on Youtube for some extreme brilliance by way of solo rpg'ing. (Seriously, it's awesome.) It all comes down to a pretty simple mechanic, or set of them, which go: Ask a question, randomly determine the answer using dice and logic, and sometimes roll for random happenstance, also determined with logic, context, imagination and luck.
I've considered using such a system in my own 'writing' such as it is, but I keep finding I don't run out of ideas and the story you hear in the podcast basically pours out of me, writing itself. Still, I wanted to try this thing for myself, so I took a baby step. I used an extremely spare system, supplied by RPGCalligraphy (Insta). Here's the system: Start with a scene/premise idea and just start asking questions. Use the following table to guide the narrative:
On a d6...
That's it. For combats and other fine mechanics, just use whatever game system you like... or don't. Here's what my first try looked like:
Scene/Premise: My character is a burglar. Inside the baroness' bedroom in her manor/keep. The Baroness is here. My character wants to steal her diamond pendant. Go.
Is baroness sleeping?
Six. Yes and. Snoring loudly.
Is the jewelry box by the bed?
Can I sneak up to it without waking her?
One plus one for snoring loudly is two. No. She tosses and turns.
Looking at the jewelry box, can I see if it has a lock? And is it locked?
One. No and. It's not locked. It's open.
Is there a window here?
One. No and. No other exit here or near. She is a paranoid woman.
Can I see the jewel in the box?
Yes and. There are other jewels there too.
Can I crawl under the bed and inch my way to the table?
Six. Yes and she snores so loud you know she's fast asleep as you do.
This action takes less time than you think but still takes a full hour. It's two am.
Can I reach out and grab the box?
Five. Yes. Got it. Can I inch my way back?
Can I get out and into the hall? Plus one for something fairly easy.
Three. No but. She doesn't wake. Can I wait an hour and try again?
Six. Yes and. I get all the way back to point of entry.
Can I climb out without being spotted?
Six. Yes and. I manage to evade several guards and get all the way to the outer wall.
Can I get past the wall and get away?
Six. Yes and. Don't even need to go over. I dug a tunnel under in advance.
The next week I look for a fence. Can I sell I The jewels?
Four. Yes but.
The fence is not trustworthy and he knows my name and face...
And so on and so on. It works... gosh darnit... it really works. If the above system is a little too simple, I think the Mythos system would take care of the "X factor".
Anyway, just wanted to share this cool thing I found. Probably old news to many of you. At the very least, let me say thanks to RPGCalligraphy, Che Webster of RPRescue, Able of The Iron Realm, and Trevor Duvall of Me Myself & Die.