As the greatest of social animals, we humans love to tell stories; and why shouldn’t we?
Life is a collection of stories-some good, some bad, some random but endearing-and as social beings we share them every chance we get. We tell our stories during breaks at work, over the kitchen table, across counters, while sitting on couches or in moving vehicles. Anywhere we gather, we share our stories. That is our nature, so much so that I’m quite sure that our primal ancestors grunted out their stories over their nighttime fires during those long dark nights of our distant past.
As gamers we love to tell stories, but our stories are a bit more fantastic than those of the poor folk live only in the mundane world of work a day reality. We tell stories about the miracle crossbow shot that landed right in the heart of the vampire in the cave under a village of the walking dead (Ask my daughter about this story. She would love to tell it to you.), about having a hulking half ogre fighter of great renown nearly strangled to death by an animated sheet (Mutt cringes at this story but he’ll tell it to you if you ask him.), about how the fledging investigators of the Lovecraftian mysteries tossed away the most vital of clues and promptly got one of their number killed and then ran screaming away from a forgotten house of elder terror (A story that I have referenced in this very blog.).
Stories are the true essence of role playing. We use them to add breadth and depth to a collection of dice rolls and pencil marks and turn them into an interesting alter ego with which to seek grand adventure in the fantastical shared worlds of our imaginations.
They can be simple back stories. My favorite Blood Bowl model from my Dwarf team is one of my trollslayers, an amnesiac berserker found wandering aimlessly on a mountain road covered in blood. His name and origin was never known, but those who found him took to calling by the Dwarf word Zaki. They persuaded him to play the dangerous game and since he excelled at acts of extreme violence, he was a raging madman on the pitch. He once accidentally scored a touchdown and then was ejected from the match for diving into the dug out of the opposing team and attacking the coaching staff and reserve players. None of that was technically within the rules but I used his developed personality to explain and add-well-story to the events dictated by the cards played.
In our recent Car Wars campaign my Generic Universal Role Playing Daughter injected story into her gang by modeling it after her old pit slave gang from Necromunda. That in turn caused us to add some house rules to her gang, such as the body armor that she bought for each of them was nonremovable. It was wasn’t just added armor for them. It was part of their enhanced bodies. A simple change certainly, but it changed the way we looked at those little pieces of cardboard being moved about on the table.
Oh! And when her leader Havok was killed in combat the table grew quiet. He wasn’t just a few pencil marks on a page. He was the three armed monstrosity of man and machine who held sway over a gang of mechanical marauders on a quest to rule over the soft humans of the apocalypse. Her gang won’t be the same without him. Our campaign won’t be the same without him.
It was rough for her to lose him. But it was a story, a new story for her to tell over game tables, online or in game stores to other gamers who understand it because they have stories like it, stories that they will want to share with her.