For the first time in my life I got to actually play the same mission for a RPG twice! As you may or may not recall I wrote an article about making a game for the San Antonio GaMExpo and so many things have happened since then soI have been unable to write this article until now. I am really looking forward to talking about how playing the same mission has produced such thoroughly different results in actual gameplay.
For all those at home who missed last episode about this mission I will lay it out in about two sentences. Players were rebel spec ops tasked with stealing a Moff’s Lambda Shuttle. The players had to infiltrate a factory on Mygeeto, get away in a cool spaceship chase, and of course celebrate! I decided to take the approach of designing a large area and populating it with what I call “doors” that are skill checks designed to do various action. Luckily this worked out very well because of the crazy different approaches that were taken in overcoming challenges.
My first party decided that stalking around the town, praying on innocent factory workers, and creating sandwich bombs was the best decision. When someone rolls two triumphs it’s hard to keep them from making a sandwich bomb is all Im saying. The second group used cunning, subterfuge, and luck to distract guards and literally avoid every combat that was set up in the game. The players deserved it though! They really worked hard to avoid any of my pitfalls and made valuable strategic decisions to get what they wanted. What got me was that I had no idea what would happen with two different groups, but as I heard some of the other repeat missions I knew I had something special, and that the Narrative Dice System (NDS) had something to do with that.
The first thing that the narrative dice system did was destroy the binary success fail system that plagues other medium to hard crunch games. By creating four outcomes that were possible in each roll mean players and the GM had less control over the direction of the narrative. This made them more conscious of the narrative directions they were taking. They had to use the outcomes to reach their own success in a way that’s even hard for a GM to predict. In a binary pass fail system player can say “alright if we lose let’s try this other thing and roll to see that” or a GM can say “alright if they pass we will do this and if they fail we will do that.” In a narrative dice system players narrative failure meant that when they rolled narrative failure, or threats, the timer they rigged to a bomb is now broken and can only be set for fifteen minutes and not an hour. Or the person that they are trying to follow and replace has, unknowingly to players met their mistress and not their actual wife and giving them the wrong perspective about their love life when speaking to NPCs that are close to their victim. If I was playing a DnD style system these outcomes are possible but they are also most likely planned and certainly beyond a 20 or a 1 there is no changing what is going to happen while it is happening.
The fact that the narrative was being manipulated on such a role by roll basis made it become something alive in it’s own right. Now that players are interacting not only with my plot in a unique way, they are now considering the narrative as a semi out of control entity that must be constantly manipulated. This led my players into not only creating their own unique player mentalities to my world, but also to how they changed that narrative personally. One group used their advantages to find outfits and sneak while the other used their advantages to create boons to their actions as they kicked in the door on some stormtroopers and other things.
As a GM I was completely and utterly pleased with how the mission literally felt like two totally different encounters. I was playing out gruff factory workers, mean foremen, and clueless security in one session and street thugs, surprised stormtroopers, cranky old men, and a totally freaked out fiancee in the other session. The challenge that was put in front of me was both refreshing and unexpected. The truth is though that I got this experience from this unique dice system that allowed me to turn narrative into a dice economy.
I suggest to any GMs looking to both challenge their players and themselves in a uniquely narrative way while still keeping a moderate rules crunch to pick up any of the Star Wars games. For all of you people who do not like or want to play in the Star Wars world (which let’s talk about that later because we need to share some words) fear not! FFG is making a new NDS system that is designed to accommodate multiple new genres. If you want to know more about that then simply scroll down my twitter or facebook because I am sharing most, if not all content for that on my social media.
Thank you so much for visiting my humble website! I do hope you enjoyed reading more about the NDS and its ins and outs. Be sure to check out our other articles and share this one with the links below. Also you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter @nblogcollective. Also check out our Patreon page! We have rewards for our backers such as helping us vote on games we review and exclusive access to our Discord Servers! Thanks again for reading and as always,