As a game master, no lets face it, a gaming GOD, you are the sole individual
responsible for taking care of your players and the storyline. I realize this
responsibility can be tough, but we shall learn to persevere. There are three
ways in which storylines become living nightmares: simplicity, complexity, and
the muddled mess.
Firstly, storyline simplicity is the easiest the spot, and usually the least
rewarding for your players. Oddly enough, sometimes it is justified to bring
in novice characters. Initially, it is suggested to bring in novice players
using a very simplistic and easy to follow character building session prior
to incorporating them into a main storyline with other more experienced players.
While this is fine, main storylines need to have twists and turns, NPCs that
are helpful and those that aren't, as well as desirable prizes and painful
pitfalls. Not all treasures should be good, not all princesses should be
beautiful, and not all glory should be rewarded with love and devotion from
all who see your players. If your players are advanced and know enough to
expect higher standards, meet them. Communicate with your players and make
sure you have the right levels of challenges and rewards.
Now, onto the subject of complexity, as it is perhaps one of the pitfalls of
many great storytellers. In the effort to try to entertain, captivate, and
intrigue players, game masters feel that they must add in every little detail,
flesh out every NPC, and put every clue to the next step behind eighty doors
guarded by dozens of trolls bearing ill-will toward our heroes and a smell that
could wake the dead. Fortunately, this isn't the case. Players need to have a
balance of easy clues and hard challenges, and you need to be able to balance
those with the needs of the game and the people involved. Sometimes clues need
to fall into their laps, and you need to be the one to initiate it. Aside from
this, creating too many little details to fill in the world and plot that aren't
necessary can lead to the next problem in storytelling.
The muddled mess is the generic name given to the plotlines that have no
definitive goal or end in sight. There are seven different pathways to get
somewhere, none of which lead to anything in particular, or may lead to a clue
behind a fight, around the corner, that leads to six other pathways to take,
and has the essentials of a run-on sentence that doesn't stop for three pages.
Players need to have a maximum of one or two main goals at any given time to
make sure they stay on track. Minor goals should lead to the main goals or
character development. As a game master, you can control how fast they get
there and where they have to go to get there as well. Take a step back and
change the course of challenges if they succeed too early, and throw a puzzle
in their way. "Why doesn't the key release the treasure?"