Just Another Brick In The Wall?

2009 February 10
by Vanir

I happened upon John Miskimen’s post at The Call Of The Dungeon this morning. In it, he lodges a complaint against setting your characters inside an epic story larger than themselves.

The idea of some epic story running in the background tends to diminish the PCs in a game somewhat. To me, player characters are competing with non player characters for the spotlight in settings like this. Even in a Hyborean Age setting, players will measure their character’s deeds and worth against that well known Cimmerian. Playing a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away means living up to all of the iconic characters of that saga. And who can stand next to the deeds of a simple hobbit and his gardener in Middle-Earth?

I can see where he’s coming from to a certain extent. You don’t want to diminish the PCs’ importance in the story. But I feel this points to something of a cultural need to up the ante and make things more exciting by means of putting things in a larger scale — an entertainment arms race, if you will. Under this mindset, you could have an exciting adventure where the characters save the girl, defeat the bad guy, and narrowly avoid death countless times — but since nobody saved the world from total destruction, it’s now somehow boring.

I would submit that large, epic backdrops for your campaign give you a lot more options as to what your PCs do. The story of Star Wars isn’t just about the dozen or so epic battles we see. For every one of those we see, there were a thousand more in the war that we didn’t, and they didn’t have anything to do with the Big Story. (That’s why I love the Clone Wars cartoon. Mace Windu vs the robots FTW.) There are giant, untapped mines of action and intrigue everywhere if you pause to find them.

There’s no need to try to shoehorn your PCs into someone else’s story — they have their own to tell. If you can get the players invested in their characters and what they’re doing, it will be interesting. Your players are not unimportant in the grand scheme of things if you focus on their story instead of the grand scheme of things.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. SirGeekelot permalink
    February 10, 2009

    Focusing on the stories of your PCs is one of the best things about being a DM in my opinion. Although, it often times requires some sort of back story from the players of their PC. ::hint:: ::hint::

  2. Vanir permalink
    February 10, 2009

    @SirGeekelot: Fine, fine. It’s coming. But this is partly your fault — aren’t you one of the people that wanted so badly for me to play WoW? You should have known I’d be completely consumed. 🙂

  3. SirGeekelot permalink
    February 10, 2009

    Just like a junkie to blame the drug instead of themselves.

  4. Vanir permalink
    February 10, 2009

    I learned it by watching you!!!!!

  5. Ryan permalink
    February 12, 2009

    I disagree. I’ve set lower level characters inside of epic events many times… and they’ve loved it. Lvl 10 PC’s shit their pants when they see Elminster flying above them casting 9th lvl spells at a 20th lvl Lich. Trust Me!

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