Why Eternity RPG Uses Group Storytelling
Most tabletop RPGs use a game master. Many of you who have played RPGs for a long time are more than familiar with what I’m talking about. It’s a staple of the genre: five people get together on a Saturday night. There will be four players, and one GM to set up the world, referee rule sets, and generate the overarching plot. It’s a system that works really well, especially if you have someone in your area who is a great GM. It allows those GM-type-people (by the way, of which I am one), who are very creative and love building worlds, to play out their style of games. Then, people who are more tabletop RPG players can enjoy the hard labor of the GM. They can play the character they desire in a world that’s pre-designed, for the most part. In this blog post I want to talk about why Eternity RPG uses group storytelling instead of a single game master.
I GM’ed almost every game I ever played of tabletop RPGs for about 10 years, before we came up with a different way of playing RPGs, with Eternity RPG. So, there’s probably no surprise to any of you why Eternity RPG got so big, and eventually grew into its entirely own system (when it started it was just a supplement system to games like Dungeons and Dragons). GM people love to create. The next natural step for me after years of GM-ing was to create my own game. Right?
Well, not really.
Game Master Made Publisher
I used to love prepping game sessions where I was going to GM. It took a lot of planning, and I had to really know my players well so I could create an adventure that I knew they’d enjoy. I’d usually finish gaming sessions emotionally exhausted because I’d just poured my heart and soul into creating and roleplaying entertaining NPCs, wildly interesting locales, and compelling villains. I enjoyed that effort and reward. But sometimes I’d finish emotionally exhausted, and the game wasn’t even all that good.
When I published Eternity RPG and started hearing about adventures others had played using the system, I realized two things:
1) Other people are way better at creating stories than I am. Not just other GMs. Like literally anyone. After years and years of GM-ing you’d think I was a master. In some ways, maybe yes. But in originality, cool plot ideas, and overall wow-factor, someone in a group of 10 will always have you beat. What I mean is that other people have great ideas for story, plot, locale, and villains. Those people you game with – they’re worth listening to. Like, really listen, and use their ideas.
2) The other thing I realized is that gaming didn’t have to be work.
There have been days in my last 10 years of tabletop gaming that I really didn’t want to be the game master. I didn’t have time to create the adventure or look through published material for ideas. I’d rush something together, just hoping the group would take over and make things great for that day. I loved gaming but didn’t always look forward to being the magic.
The “Magic” Of Most Tabletop RPGs Is The Game Master – We Think That’s A Problem
And that’s really the problem of tabletop RPGs that involve a game master. To a greater or lesser degree – there’s a large spectrum, based on the system – the game master is the “magic.” If the game master’s good at game mastering, the game is great. If the game master’s not good, or is having an off day, or didn’t get enough sleep last night, or isn’t feeling creative, or is grumpy in any way… well, the game could totally suck. Not to mention if the game master’s late for the game, or can’t show up at all. Now the game can’t even be played, since they’re technically the most important “player” at the table.
But you see what I’m getting at. The “magic” of getting players into the flow of the game rests on that one all-important player, called the GM.
Eternity RPG takes a completely different mentality into gaming. Actually, it’s literally the opposite. And it comes from those two realizations I had after publishing.
Eternity RPG’s “Scene” System & Group Storytelling
Other people create great stories, even if they’ve never been a GM before. And, running adventures doesn’t have to be hard work.
Those two wonderful realizations merged into what Eternity RPG now uses as “scenes.” Eternity RPG has no game master. Instead, every player at the table takes turns describing different elements of the game world. The “tasks” of what a game master would do in other RPGs is divided among all players at the table.
One person decides what the “plot” of the scene will be, and how long it’s been since the last scene. The next player describes the setting. Then NPCs. Conflict. Roleplaying begins. “Misfortunes” are given out, and players receive “Applause” for great world design, description, and roleplaying. Every player has a say in the creation of their gaming world. The overarching plot is decided a piece at a time, by everyone at the table. All players referee together.
The main problem most people see with Eternity RPG is the potential for chaos. Game masters provide a (typically) easy-to-follow central plot and overall story. Some people worry that with so many people creating direction, no direction will be achieved at all. Eternity RPG rewards players, however, for creating a story outline to stay on track, following that outline to prevent chaos, and the use of recurring game elements (major, important people, places, or things) to build overarching stories. If Eternity RPG is played in the way we advise, chaos almost never happens. And if it does, things can be quickly brought back to focus as players are rewarded for following some kind of plan.
Playing Eternity RPG The First Few Sessions
One thing I will say is that Eternity RPG takes some getting used to. Most people feel a bit shy introducing any elements to the game world at all. Some people worry if they’re “doing it right,” and don’t want to create anything in the game that others might not enjoy. Some also worry about not being creative enough. People who tend to identify as “players” of tabletop RPGs, but not GMs, seem to have a little trouble at first.
All I recommend is giving Eternity RPG a solid play for 2-5 sessions. The first session, you’re just getting used to the rules set. The second, you might be picking things up. By the third you’re probably starting to see how things really work. There is a large difference in playing Eternity RPG with people who are used to using the “scene” system, versus those for whom it’s their first time. Once you’ve gotten used to the system, you can go through an entire scene in a few minutes. At the start though, it may take a little time to get a hang of things.
Co-Creating The Gaming World, Not Just Roleplaying Your Character
I think what you’ll find though from playing Eternity RPG is that you have more freedom as a co-story-creator and roleplayer than in just about any other roleplay game out there. To have the ability to both create the world, like a game master, while roleplaying your character in any way you’d wish, allows for really deep experiences and meaningful gaming.
Eternity RPG offers a unique system. For those of you who love game mastering, you’ll pick up playing “scenes” quickly. Your main struggle might be releasing control to other players when they’re helping you create the world. But don’t worry, like I mentioned above, they’ll take off tons of work for you and probably come up with better ideas than you anyways lol. And if you’re more of a player of tabletop RPGs, think about Eternity RPG as the way for you to finally influence more of the world than ever before. You might feel a little out of place in this gm-like land, but think of roleplaying the overall story like you roleplay your character. You’ll start to see some amazing possibilities, and you’ll have way more fun than you ever had just playing.