View Full Version : Using out of character info to further interest?

2012-11-03, 01:53 PM
What do you all think of using the "meanwhile" scenes like old TV shows to supplement the story. Following is an example I used. Richak is the group's mentor who was thought dead when the group escaped a slave mine. Ladrin is a demonologist/necromancer that the group recently learned was not the "big bad" and actually just another underling.

The room was dark. No light existed in the endless gloom. The smell of mold and decay hung heavy in the air, making every breath a battle to not gag. Moans echoed throughout the abyss. They cried of exhaustion and pain.

Hours passed. Maybe days.

The sharp sound of metal sliding on metal broke the monotony. It was followed by the protesting of rusted hinges and hollow footsteps.

A dark figure illuminated from behind by a pale red luminescence approached. Malevolent eyes and a wicked grim materialized within the shade as a pale hand as cold as ice reached out.

“Ahhhh.. Good tissue. Sturdy frame.”
The gaze rose and the lips smirked, their emotion never reaching the eyes.
“Spirit as well. My superiors will like this one.”
The eyes looked slightly off to one side and the smirk was replaced with a frown of dismay.
“Pity about the arm. It can be replaced, but that is never as good as the original.”
The gaze returned, piercing straight through to the soul.
“Yes… This one will be magnificent. We begin at nightfall”
As Ladrin turned to leave, the source of the illumination came into view. A spectre of darkest black, wreathed in pale red flames. Its eyes lingered, then it too turned and followed its master.
The last of the pale light revealed half a dozen mangled bodies, barely clinging to life, chained along the wall. All save one seemed to not even have life left in them. Only one pair of eyes have fire in them. Richak’s gaze met Ladrin’s one final time before the door closed with a deafening slam and the bolt was put back in place.

I sent this out as an email the morning after the game when they discovered Richak was still alive.

2012-11-03, 02:08 PM
It's fine. I don't do it, but you are telling a collaborative story and if this kind of things piques your players interest or advances the plot go for it. For basically any DM conundrum, ask yourself, "Would my players have more fun if I didn't do this" "Would the story go better/game play smoother if I didn't do this?" "Would the game be more memorable if I didn't do this?" If the answer to all of those questions is no, go for it.

2012-11-03, 03:47 PM
I've done this before and it works well for scenes and information that the characters do not interact with directly.

Some systems have mechanisms for players to contribute to off stage scenes and bring them into their own story.
Fate systems (Dresden Files, Diaspora, Strands of Fate) allow for Declarations where the player rolls a skill (or pays a Fate Point) to declare something is true in the game. Your example could go as:
GM: "Your long time mentor Richak is dead and it is difficult to imagine continuing on without his guidance."
Player 1: "I wont believe he is dead." Rolls high on Conviction. Tags the scene/story with the Aspect "Richak is missing and presumed dead."
Player 2: Pays a Fate Point and Declares with another scene/story Aspect "Richak is held prisoner by Ladrin."
Player 3: Rolls medium on Empathy but pays a Fate Point to declare "Richak is still resisting Ladrin, but will not last forever." Tagging with an Aspect "Richak resists Ladrin's confinement and torture."

2012-11-03, 05:00 PM
The game system we are playing is Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Still learning the finer points to the rules.

2012-11-03, 06:26 PM
IN 4E's DMG2 there is a large section on vignette's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vignette). They suggest that if you're playing in a collaborative story with your players that you could let them play NPC's who have the 'POV' of the scene. Example:

Player A and B are dwarven guards in this scene. They are stationed at the base of the lowest mountain tunnel sharing some ale when out of no where there is a large explosion and the door is blasted off it's hinges. Through the smoke and rubble they see small, shadowy figures start to make their way towards them. You ask player A and B what do they do? No rolls, just RP with a cool foreshadowing.

2012-11-04, 02:13 AM
I think it's fine although I would advise you to make it text only. If you started to recite that sort of thing out loud (I've encountered GMs that love this sort of exposition) I would have zoned out two sentences in as soon as I realized it was a cutscene. I would stare at the ceiling until you stopped talking and have no idea what you said.

In text form, outside of the restricted time of a game session, it's alright. Just make sure everyone is made aware of it going out (perhaps tell everyone at the end of a session to check their email in the next couple of days) and be prepared to have to bring someone up to speed if they forgot or got bored reading.

2012-11-04, 05:08 PM
My conflict here is that A. I like the main extended part of my campaigns to be about the mystery of figuring out what's going on, but B. I really like this particular mechanism for showing things the characters could not possibly see.

So what I tend to do is, if I'm going to run a campaign in which this kind of thing is appropriate thematically, the PCs somehow pick up the power to actually see it - they have prophethetic dreams, they have some sort of scrying device, etc. That way they can use the information in-character without having to try too hard to keep stuff separate.

2012-11-04, 08:01 PM
The way I would like to see that sort of thing done is, if anyone here has ever read The Iron Tower, by Mckiernan. In it, there are several branching off points where the main characters have to make a decision. Do they chase after the princess? Or go form the army to combat the enemy obliterating all in its path? Do they head straight for the big boss' castle and try to chop off the serpents head? Or do they stay with the army and crush the enemy one battle at a time? Things like that. But once they make their choice, the author would, from time to time, show what is now happening along the other path.

For instance, in one choice, the main characters leave their homeland after saving it from invaders to go after the big boss, but shortly after they left, an enemy horde busts into the land from the other side and proceeds to destroy the entire place. They dont know about it till later, but it would make for interesting OOC info to give your players so they can learn the consequences of their decision. It could be good, it could be bad, but either way it would be interesting background info and help to illustrate that there is an entire world out there with events taking place. Its not just some small bubble where nothing happens unless they are there to see it.

2012-11-04, 08:23 PM
I'm reluctant to do this sort of thing, but curious to hear about how it works for you.

As a player I don't want to have knowledge my character doesn't have. I don't want to be responsible for not metagaming. It's distracting. If I'm worrying about whether or not out of character knowledge influenced my choices, even if I'm not taking advantage of that knowledge, I'm not thinking in character.

As a GM I'd like the above statement to hold true for my players. I try not to give them a chance to metagame. Giving them snapshots of enemy activity, even in the game of foreshadowing, runs contrary to what I'm trying to do.

Which isn't to say that it's actually harmful. It sounds like all you're doing is providing the name and description in advance instead of when the players actually meet that NPC. Seems harmless to me, even if it's not something I'd use.