GNS: Narrativist Players

All posts, RSS Feed

Following up on last weeks blogpost examining play from the perspective of the Gamist, this week we take a look at Narrativist players. As mentioned in the earlier post, take everything here with a grain of salt as people are far too complicated to fit neatly into a three category system. Still, we hope that this helps provide some insight into how players enjoy their games!

Running for Narrativists

Narrativists can be a great ally for the storyteller as they seek to co-author the story, making them not just potential drivers of the plot you had in mind, but possible sources of new plotlines as well.

They are unlikely to hold you to account for minor mistakes in continuity as long as it benefits the overall story, and have little difficulty dealing with bad things happening to their characters. In fact, some of them enjoy when bad things happen to their character and they may actively seek out storylines of this nature, as long as it serves the story.

However, this willingness to co-author the story also takes some control away from the storyteller, who may find the campaign redirected in a direction not originally envisioned. This may be fine for some, but not every storyteller enjoys it, and even those that do may not want the story to go in the direction the player intended. Some careful handling may be required to get the Narrativist back on the right path.

One great thing with Narrativists though is that they are very good at fitting into the games theme, both in terms of story and character design. Properly guided, they can entertain the rest of the players with their interesting takes and antics, allowing the storyteller to focus on the bigger picture.

Narrativists vs Gamists

Narrativists sometimes clash with more Gamist oriented players as they are unable to find any weaknesses in the Gamists character, seeing them as ‘power gaming’ to win, which is anathema to what the Narrativist is trying to accomplish. Likewise, the Gamist is annoyed that the Narrativist keeps causing issues that could have been avoided to secure victory.

The underlying issue of the Narrativist usually isn’t the power level of the Gamist character however (unless it got significantly out of hand), but the lack of angles to play against. Here, a storyteller can be very helpful by providing hooks that help establish bonds between the characters that are mutually beneficial.

Complementary skills are a great way to explain to the Gamist why the ‘not-so-effective’ Narrativist character is worth to keep around, but the real focus should be on creating an emotional connection between the Narrativist and Gamist characters. Maybe the characters are relatives, long established friends or even lovers. If such is not possible, you could try to provide a bond through a third party the Narrativist character cares for.

Once the adventures have started off, characters will learn to respect one another through shared tribulations - but its good to have something from the start to work from.

Narrativists vs Simulationists

The main conflict between Narrativists and Simulationists revolves around realism vs plot. Narrativists sometimes have a tendency to get annoyed when rules or established facts get in the way of story. Things like travel times, and the locations of things are important to the simulationist to determine what is and is not possible, whereas the Narrativist might more easily turn a blind eye to such trivia when it comes to the plot.

The best solution here would obviously to have everything line up perfectly, such that both parties are happy, but realistically, that isn’t going to happen during actual play at the table. If you must break the consistency, at least try to make it as minimal as possible.

But instead of denying the Narrativist their story because of the inconvenient established details, you can also try to work them into the story. If the hero is too far away to get to the princess’ kingdom before the moon is full, perhaps they are still able to send a message, or find some way to delay her execution until they can arrive.

As a stop-gap measure, it may also be a helpful lightning rod to allow the character to ‘feel’ something is wrong as things are unfolding elsewhere, through a similar sixth sense that the Obi-One seemed to have about the destruction of Alderaan. This allows the Narrativist to get part of the payoff of the situation even if the story would not normally allow them to know.

Narrativists vs Narrativists

Narrativists usually do not clash with one another as their goals tend to align. When they do conflict it is usually because they have different stories in mind which cannot both be ran - at least at the same time.

A good way to resolve such conflict is to take a step back and explore what it is both players are trying to accomplish. Often, the conflict isn’t nearly as great as it seems, but both sides rely on unspoken assumptions that conflict. Exploring these usually offers an opportunity at reconciliation, or at least allow alternatives to be shaped so both players can get what they want.

Good communication is key here, both in the moment and before the game starts so everyone is on the same page as to the direction the game will take.

Are you a Narrativist player? What is your greatest story? We’d love to hear from you on the Community Forum. While there, be sure to check out this week’s changelog as well!