Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Please Feel Free to Cheat
If the system is getting in the way of the narrative, can overriding it be the way forward?
The Tefr roleplaying system serves three functions; firstly to give both players and narrator a framework within which to tell the story: the world, combat, magic skills, religion; secondly it provides believable limits not only for the characters and their foes, but for the world of Tefr itself. Limits can, and should, be scaled to fit the magnitude of the story. Lastly it is there to provide a mechanism by which random chance can help the evolution of the story; giving the players a sense of risk and excitement over the outcome of their character's actions. This last can also provide a sense of excitement to the narrator’s own decisions as well, though as I will explain, the narrator should be able to override a chance roll that they have made, if it will have a negative effect on the narrative flow (though the need should be rare).
Creating a narrative form of roleplaying using a system like Tefr is more about the will and style of the person running it, than the system itself. This was one reason why I chose to not to use the term game-master, referee, or dungeon-master; instead using the term narrator. I also deliberately avoided such terms as game and rules to indicate that the responsibility for determining how the events in a story-scenario unfold lies with the narrator and players. This leaves the system to be a guide and framework rather than an absolute set of rules. The thought of fudging the rules to ensure a better narrative might seem a little odd to some, something akin to cheating, but if it’s not a game but a story, how can you cheat at that? Being able to use fudging wisely, and discreetly is a skill in itself; do it too often and the story risks becoming safe and dull, too obviously and the players will begin to lose the sense of excitement that unpredictability brings.
I’m not saying don’t use the system, after all it’s been created to help the way the story progresses while ensuring some events turn on chance to make the story unpredictable and exciting, but if the system gets in the way of the story, if a random outcome is undesirable to the narrative, then change the outcome, fudge the result, cheat; go on I give you permission.