Improve Your Game: Narrative Control

This post is the first of a series of posts in which I want to share some of the things I’ve used to improve my game. Those tips may not be applicable to all games, but I found them very helpful for the games I’ve run so far.

Today I want to talk about narrative control and how the GM can improve his game by giving up some control to the players.

Usually the GM has almost total control over the game world. Players are limited to control the actions of their characters. While there’s nothing wrong with it, I have found out that handing some of my GM powers over to my players not only made my job as a GM easier, but also helped to immerse the players into the game.

Allow your players to come up with minor elements of the world, like who the NPC is, they are about to meet or if there’s a certain shop in the town they are about to visit. It can also be interesting to allow players to describe how a task they attempted to perform failed or succeeded.

Some games actively support this, but in my opinion it can be used with pretty much every game system. What usually works well is, that players have to pay some resource in order to get narrative control. If the game you are using doesn’t support this you can hand out special rewards that allow players to influence the game world. If you don’t want to come up with a system yourself, check out how the FATE system handles fate points and narrative control. This method an be easily adapted to any game.

What is your stance on giving narrative control to the players? Do you think it could improve your game or do you want to hold the reigns all the time? As always every comment is appreciated!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

2 thoughts on “Improve Your Game: Narrative Control”

  1. I’m a big fan of this technique and we’ve been using it ever since we started player Buffy: The Vampire Slayer years ago. Now we’ve adapted the rules for declaring facts in our Gurps and Risus games.

  2. As I have played more indies game, the more I have been willing to cede narrative control to my players. Building a shared world is much more fun in general and players should have the chance to make there characters as much fun to play as possible.
    .-= Sean Holland´s last blog ..New Monster – Tornado Hydra =-.

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