Big Stories

After writing about small stories, I suppose I should add a word about why big stories are important, and how to get there. Big stories are not just a case of scaling up small ones, after all.

A big story, the way I run it, tends to be a campaign arc. There’s some big problem that needs addressing. It should be the biggest thing that is important to the PCs, that they can deal with. That can include survival against a backdrop of drama, or they could be the dramatic ones. Stories can run in parallel with each other, and one does not have to end when another does. The biggest one, however, is what I call ‘the campaign’.

From my own campaign, I’ve got a few campaign arcs, and a few big stories. I’ll give each PC their own arc, once I’ve worked out what’s important to them.

For Androuranos the Yelmalian, the big arc was that the Shaker Temple had worked out he might be able to bring Yelm’s shield spell back to the Yelmalians, opening up a lot of political debt from that cult to theirs, and also arming both the Lunars and the Heortlings in their struggle, something the blood-letters at the Temple were all in favour of.

For Fargast, it’s finding out about his family. He had none, and he’s found out about someone he’s related to. He’s got family for the first time in his life.

Saronil is going to have to work out what it means to be a Hero, in the sense that he’s one almost by accident and only one person seems ever take the time to explain anything to him, and that person’s a ghost.

Kosa is going to have to deal with two Earth Temples fighting over her, and the fact that sometimes just killing people is not enough. I’ve not really got a full arc for her yet, but I have some things I think will be fun for her. A significant enemy tricked her into a HeroQuest during which she was playing Zorak Zoran. She crippled a duck by eating his leg, and that has yet to come to light, but the enemy is out there.

That enemy’s one of the big ones of the story, although I hesitate to say he is THE arc. He’s probably a seasonal arc.

And why are they important? They give the characters a thing to feel satisfied about. Players remember the moments, but it’s the sweeping story leading up to those moments that make them important. “I killed a tough guy who meant nothing to me, and next week I’ll do something else,” becomes, “I finally killed Onjur-eel, and this time I’m damned well making sure he stays dead. I’m burning him with full honour and I’ll scatter his ashes. In Magasta’s pool.”

Big stories make small stories mean more.

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