Story Based Sessions

Non-bug comments, suggestions, and feature requests for BRPG and/or BGE
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Murgh Bpurn
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Story Based Sessions

Post by Murgh Bpurn » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:48 am

Knowing that Battlegrounds is one of the two market leaders for combat based sessions (imho). Can those that use it for story based sessions post their experiences on how it copes and what any short comings it may have.

ie How do you use handouts, how do you pre-enter story text, etc

Thanks

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Omnidon
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Re: Story Based Sessions

Post by Omnidon » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:10 am

Well, I was hoping that someone else would post first so that my ranting wouldn't overwhelm your topic, but it seems that everyone else has gone into hibernation while heruca is out of town.
Murgh Bpurn wrote:Can those that use [BRPG] for story based sessions post their experiences on how it copes and what any short comings it may have.
Note that while some "story gamers" play without a GM, my players generally prefer having one even though we're very roleplay-centric.

I'm far from a typical example, but personally I do pretty much all of my gaming over the phone or voice chat. I find that text chat is too slow and impersonal to weave vivid imagery and good atmosphere during a live session.

For the record, I consider story games to be games that, as the name implies, focus on weaving a story driven by realistic characters, as opposed to just playing out the cliché premade D&D-style competitive dice-based combat scenario.

Thus, the greatest shortcoming of all VTs (including but not limited to BRPG) is that it tends to be rather difficult to adapt the session on the fly. I find that the amount of pregame preparation that most GMs feel is necessary tends to hurt the plot's ability to be shaped by actions of the players. Like the D&D stereotype, GMs will end up steering their players into whatever places they've previously prepared rather than trying to invent new areas for the player characters to stray into and new NPCs for the players characters to talk to. This makes a perceptive player feel like a puppet and, IMO, is less satisfying for everyone involved.
Murgh Bpurn wrote:Battlegrounds is one of the two market leaders for combat based sessions (imho).
VTs, in their current state, I have used mostly as a visual aid to give the big picture of a strategic or tactical scenario on large battlefields. As you mentioned, BRPG is currently one of the best for this purpose, due to it's emphasis on ruleset agnosticism and its high resolution map-centric interface. I don't really have a use for the turn sequencer or anything like that at this time, though I have been planning on doing a type of story-driven wargame eventually that will probably have some competitive combat dynamics.

For purposes of true story-gaming, I would love to be able to use VTs for far more, namely to give players a sandbox in which to wander around, talking to NPCs that they see and exploring cities on their own rather than at the GM's prompting.
Due to the monotony of listing every single detail of the environment, most GMs just highlight the details which are most likely to stand out, but this prevents players from making their own judgments about what their characters would take interest in.
Such a sandbox, however, would require very large maps and the ability to create them on the fly (or at least, shortly before the session). Currently, mapping applications tend to be centered around making very small, very intricate maps that each take many hours if not days to prepare. This is very prohibitive of off-the-cuff gaming. As I've mentioned before, that is why I've been working on creating my own tile-based mapping tool oriented around creating large maps quickly. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to work on it much lately.)

The other major flaw I find in common with the VTs I've tried is that the interfaces tend not to be optimized for file management or for easy access to media. Even those with limited media preview support such as BRPG still require you to dig through awkward file browsers for every single creature and object you add to the map. With the vast assortment of creature, terrain, and object art needed to create visuals for character-driven story games, such primitive file browsers can become extremely tedious and time consuming very quickly.
Mind you, I'm not surprised that VTs have this problem, as no single feature can solve it. It requires the combination of many features that the poor overworked underpaid VT developers just haven't had time to add yet.
These features include things like drag-&-drop support, file tree interfaces, file sorting/filtering/search capabilities, directory content thumbnail views, media categorization, customizable file/object access permissions, infinite subdirectories, and the ability to use files from any location.
Murgh Bpurn wrote:How do you use handouts, how do you pre-enter story text, etc
I don't make extensive use of "handouts", but when I do I currently use Google Docs.
Google Docs has an advanced interface for creating or uploading word documents, spreadsheets, and more and sharing them with players. You can easily set who is able to view or edit them and they are accessible from any computer. All the player needs is a free Google account. My favorite feature with Google docs is that it allows multiple people to edit a document simultaneously (and updates it in real time).

I don't generally "pre-enter story text", since most of my gaming takes place over the phone or voice chat, aside from jotting down a few quick notes from time to time. If I did have something I felt needed to be written out, such as an excerpt from a particular in-universe book, I would probably use Google Docs at this time.

If I ever manage to finish my mapping tool, I will likely move on to working on things like a dynamic character sheet tool after that.

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Post by heruca » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:33 pm

There was a discussion taking place a while back about VT use for Story Games, here. Feel free to revive it. :wink:

As for how you pre-enter story text, in Battlegrounds this is done via Text Macros. See pg. 78 of the updated User Manual for details.

If you have suggestions as to how BRPG could better support story-based games, be sure to let me know.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Kepli » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:09 am

Since I use BRPG in face-to-face sessions to show combat only, I have the perfect combination of story-based gaming and combat-oriented gaming imo 8)
When needed I just draw something on paper of throw in more monsters/NPCs/etc on the fly. Preparing "possible" encounters in BRPG helps a lot, especially with the use of the turn sequencer. Last session went smoother than ever before, because I only had to press the Next Step button to see who was next.
Plus: I like showing of maps I made or others made :wink:
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