To be Narrative or not to be Narrative, that's the question

I’m posting this here because it comes after one of the best gaming sessions I’ve run, and one my players said they’ve had in a long time. The best part of it is, it was completely narrative, even though we were using a non-narrative system (i.e. a d20 system)

To me, narrative games can happen no matter the system used, as they involve the complete engagement of players and GMs in the story that’s being told at the table. For this reason, I’d even dare say that narrative games almost go hand-in-hand with storytelling. What I mean is that, eventually, the rules should fade into the background and not become the important piece of a session. My favorite system Index Card RPG (ICRPG) because it hits a sweet spot between tactical and narrative gameplay.

For example, I just ran my group through our 5th session of a Cyberpunk game and it was literally done almost on the fly, and I’ll explain why. My prep was about 30 min (props to Lazy Dungeon Master) but didn’t even use half of it. The only thing that I used from my prep was the locations where the action was going to take place. The party ended up splitting the end of the previous session and this one was completely separate (and the next one as well at least). They roleplayed the hell out of the session in both social interaction (amongst each group and pivotal NPCs) and combat. It’s more than just “I try to hit”, it’s more about how the action moves more cinematic and that lets them take control of their players completely, they dictate their own actions. They had a hell of a time as I had them in two separate locations and two separate maps, they could hear what each other was saying but they couldn’t see the other group’s rolls (just hear the reactions), and it was completely narrative, no actual initiative. Everything flowed however the story dicated, including if a change needed to happen (i.e. moved to the other group and their actions). I didn’t even keep track of HP or turns, just let them defeat their obstacles when it was narratively appropriate.

At this moment was when I felt like I had achieved something that I thought I never would. I’m pretty sure GMs here have done it a lot, but it was a first for me. I have created the world for them to play in and that’s it. The story is not one that they need to solve, it’s one that’s being created by their backstory and they get to experience it firsthand. It grows and changes with their decisions (although it’s not sandbox nor railroad by any means), the world has to evolve in order to adapt to their actions, for good or bad. And letting them take control of the narrative is the best decision I’ve made, it feels like we’re taking part in a movie where the characters are literally the main protagonists of their own stories. I love the fact that I feel I’m a protagonist as well and are also experiencing the movie with them. No idea who the BBEG is, as they keep surprising every session with their actions.

Wow, that was long winded, and apologies for the wall of text, but I thought I’d shared this awesome moment that I had with my group. Thanks for reading! :slight_smile: