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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    What I enjoy most about running a game is the opportunity to tell a story I've devised in a setting that I've imagined--and hopefully to share my enthusiasm in a fun, accessible way.

    Unfortunately, sometimes enthusiasm alone falls short of the mark. One of my players recently remarked, rather pointedly, that not everyone is as good as they think they are where storytelling is concerned.

    Well, fair enough. I've had more positive comments than negative about my DM qualities, but I also recognize there is always room for improvement--especially when you're naturally terrible at public speaking, and a better writer than an orator.

    So, what do other people do to improve their storytelling skills?

    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2013-04-15 at 09:40 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
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    Oct 2010
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    Dallas, TX
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    1. Read more stories.

    2. Think about them. What made them good? What can you steal?

    3. Tell yourself stories. Lots of them. (My DMing became a lot better after a few years as a bard in the SCA.)

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
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    7 Riverside Ter, Blauvelt
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Stories should be genuine.
    Visit my furniture store to buy furniture for your house.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DrowGirl

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    Feb 2012
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    Texas
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Actively seek criticism. play your game like you're at a workshop- after the fact, ask your players what they liked about the game and what they didn't like. They should be able to identify a few things for you, even if they don't necessarily know why they were bothered by it. alternately, you might could work up your proposed story as a short story and actually workshop it, but that seems like a lot of needless adaptation from how adventures are written and the result would likely tend to railroading, even if you never wanted it to.

    But yes, I maintain that communication is pretty much the key to everything.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Totally Guy's Avatar

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    Aug 2006
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    England
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Let the game take the strain.

    That is, work with it, not against it.
    Attempting to say controversial things that everyone will agree with.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Apr 2013
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Really, if you just sit down and think about what you enjoy and compare it to what you actually do, you'll be halfway there.

    In my case, I have to continually remind myself that the players know the setting and the game through me, so I should be more generous and detailed in my descriptions and what information I give out. They can't see into my mind, and I have to think about how to best convey what I want them to see.

    Also, I have to be better at getting into character with NPCs, rather than just saying "X says Y". Nothing wrong with this per se, just that it can get a bit stale over time.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Jul 2008
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    Sweden
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Practice in front of a mirror.
    Delivery is more important than content, they'll forget/reshape the content soon enough, but the delivery shapes the atmosphere and feeling of the game.

    As a DM though I prefer simulation over storytelling, I set the scenery, describe the NPCs and force the players to interact. I'll gladly voice act the NPCs to immerse the players as deeply as possible, but I have no hope of thinking I can know what they'll do.
    I just throw stuff at them and watch the events unfold. The events built into a narrative that is usually better than anything I could've devised as a DM.
    Black text is for sarcasm, also sincerity. You'll just have to read between the lines and infer from context like an animal

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateWench

    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Sweden

    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    What I enjoy most about running a game is the opportunity to tell a story I've devised in a setting that I've imagined--and hopefully to share my enthusiasm in a fun, accessible way.
    The way you phrase this raises a few alarm-flags in me. If you enjoy to tell a story you've devised then either write it down as a novel or record it as an audio-novel. As a player I do not enjoy a game master that tells me a story. I want to take part in creating it. What I enjoy most about running a game is that I don't have to tell a story. It will be created for me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Blue text for sarcasm is an important writing tool. Everybody should use it when they are saying something clearly false.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Chimera

    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    I second the "take feedback from your players" idea already mentioned. Every month or two I'll sit down with my PCs and have a discussion about what they like and don't like about how things have been going. Every group is unique, so tailoring your story to their tastes is an absolute necessity; don't build a high royalty intrigue campaign if no one cares about those sorts of stories, don't plan a game around chivalry and honor for a group that wants to play chaotic neutral bandits, etc. Offer a variety of situations and challenges (combat, intellectual, social, environmental) geared on what perks the group's interest. Nothing gets more boring than nothing but one particular style (combat all the time, social situations with the same NPCs all the time, etc).

    As to some of the other suggestions I, personally, think the "total sandbox/there is no story" approach to DMing is just as bad as the "I'm going to railroad my players with this set story that they cannot change" approach to DMing. Part of an interesting game to me is watching as story threads wind their way together in interesting patterns, so that you can figure out what is going on in the background. Wandering from random encounter to random encounter with nothing to tie them together is bland, and I as a player and a DM want some sort of story to unite them together.

    Part of creating a good gaming story is making sure that it is flexible enough to be changed by player actions, of course. What happens when the PCs kill the BBEG's top lieutenant? Their organization should show signs of the loss, and not just instantly recover. That change in leadership can have major alterations in the enemy's influence, tactics, and composition. Seeing those changes in action can reinforce the PC's view of how they can change the world; not only did they take down the top lieutenant, but they can see the ripple effect of their actions.

    Of course, this works the same for when PCs make bad decisions. Actions have consequences; if the party kills the leader of the town militia while escaping from jail for being murder hobos, then that city's defenses should visibly weaken due to the absence of leadership. The players should see the negative consequences from taking that action, even if it is only minor things like jumping crime rates or people slowly abandoning the town for somewhere safer.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    some guy's Avatar

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    Jan 2008
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    Groningen
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    Quote Originally Posted by Matticussama View Post
    As to some of the other suggestions I, personally, think the "total sandbox/there is no story" approach to DMing is just as bad as the "I'm going to railroad my players with this set story that they cannot change" approach to DMing.
    There is no one in this thread who suggested "no story". There is a very big difference between 'not telling a story as a DM, but creating the story together with the players, increasing their agency over the story' and 'no story'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matticussama View Post
    Part of an interesting game to me is watching as story threads wind their way together in interesting patterns, so that you can figure out what is going on in the background.
    This can be perfectly done in a sandbox game.
    Last edited by some guy; 2013-04-16 at 07:09 AM. Reason: spelling
    Demiliches. Why'd it have to be demiliches?

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    May 2005
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    Somerville, MA
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    Default Re: Improving Your Storytelling as a DM?

    I'm not much of a wordsmith and an even worse orator. But when I GM, the players bite into the story, hard. Why? Because I make the stories emotional for them. Game stories are about emotion. The characters should feel an emotion and I try to get the players to feel it too. Just think about how you and your friends will relate to the characters in the story. Focus on the emotion it's supposed to bring out. If there isn't one, find a different story.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

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