One of the reasons I stopped being a GM (generic term for someone running an RPG) for my friends was that when I got the itch to prepare a story, I’d go over the realistic bounds of the creative process for a game and get obsessed with the potential outcomes of the story. With an interactive story, in particular, you don’t know what thread of the story is going to take hold with the players, so thinking of all the different ways the game might play out and then trying to prepare a few steps in advance is a way to keep the improvisation to a minimum if you can’t think on your feet with the system at hand.
The problem is you can never anticipate how a story will work out, so you just need to roll with the vaguest of ideas where things are going, prepare a few things, and let the rest play out how they should. Otherwise you turn into Uatu and watch the multiverse, paralyzed by the number of choices you could make or prepare for. The lack of control is a blessing, as it allows for both players and the GM to be surprised.
My only chance to flex my GM muscles is during summer camps with students that are in elementary school. The story elements required for students to be entertained aren’t significant. They just want to roll dice, move people around, and hit people, and look for loot. It’s not all that different than my adult players, except my students aren’t going to rules lawyer me, or min-max their stats.
I went to work today and worked out the three maps I was going to use for my adventure, got the tokens ready for the encounters I was running, and printed out some additional materials I’ll need. I’m not running Dungeons and Dragons, but trying to run Sidekickquests as a story telling and conflict resolution system. I don’t actually know the system that well, having only read the preview manual I got from the creator, but I’ll be the only one in the room that knows that. I’m sure that my students will enjoy the unconventional tone and the cartoon style.
While I was setting up the game, I got the idea to make “achievement” cards for students. I made these in Magic Set Editor, and used game art, as well as images found and modified by me to explain what the players accomplished in each session. Unfortunately I don’t have an opportunity for continuity within the sessions, and I also do not have much time with each class overall, so I don’t think there will ever be a “campaign” with multiple adventures with the same students.
Instead, it would be cool to set up a “Hall of Fame”, so students can see who achieved what within the camp and put it on a board somewhere. As a group finishes one of the campaign goals, the next students will tackle a new part of the story, and by the last week there will be the entire set of encounters I have planned finished. The students will then be able to see parts of the adventure they didn’t get to go on, with students illustrating their part of the story for their peers, so they get to see the “entire” story finished. At least, that’s the plan.
But I need to stop getting ahead of myself and just let the story go for now. Once the students begin playing the game, I’ll be able to determine how ambitious I need to be.