December 30, 2019

Narrative Authority in Tabletop RPGs

Today’s #GMAdvice stems from a fantastic article by Hayley Gordon with Storybrewers (@storybrewers on Twitter) that centers on the topic of narrative authority in TTRPGs.

The example Hayley uses to set the table is an adventuring party who has just entered a cave and has been thrust into combat. The traditional model is the the GM describes the setting, the players act, and the GM resolves as needed. The players themselves dictate little, if anything, of their surroundings, what happens to them, why it happens to them and what hooks take them from there.

Hayley’s thesis is that while this model of narrative authority clearly functions, it’s not the best way communal storytelling could operate. Players, just like the GM, can be potent creative, imaginative, and emotional people who can add an immense amount of flavor and depth to the proceedings if they’re ceded some degree of control over what happens in a scene. Telling stories together (see, I knew I liked Hayley 😉 ) is vitally important and the best way to accomplish that is giving everyone at the table a significantly greater stake in the proceedings than is traditional.

Her advice: ignore the voice in your head telling you not to try it and just try it! I second the notion. Give sharing narrative authority a try in your next TTRPG session and let us know how it goes! And give Storybrewers (@storybrewers) a follow while you’re at it!