See also Sepdet's Guide to GMing Combat
Laying Stones in the Wooded Path
One of the strengths of GarouMUSH is the rich tapestry of stories that makes up the background of our world and the new threads that are continuously being woven into this flow. GarouMUSH isn't about hanging out in goth bars and trying to be cool; GarouMUSH is about stories. In the global sense there is one overall story that involves what happens to the Garou in and around the city of St. Claire. This story is in turn made up of many smaller stories. These stories are told by the players themselves. Some as part of day-to-day roleplay. Some as brief interludes (one-night-stands or ONS we call them) led by players. Some as longer stories with a definite beginning, middle, and end led by players who take on the role of GMs. And, finally, some as MUSH-wide plot lines overseen by the wizards.
Given that we have a character registration process, it probably comes as no surprise that we have a story registration process as well. A few points before we get into that part, though. First, not all stories require formal registration (the wizards don't believe in administration for administration's sake, having better things to do with their lives). Players are free to conduct one-night-stands (ONS FAQ) for interested players, for example.
So when do we ask that players consult with wizards before running a story?
- Stories that involve a large supernatural presence or affect a great deal of the MUSH's population are considered to be Feature Stories. Applications for such stories must be submitted to the wizards for approval.
- Events that involve minor spirits (the creation of a talen or fetish, a bane encounter, etc.) or take place in one of the Umbral Realms should be discussed with a wizard before they are pursued. Certain exceptions are made for those already on the GM list.
- All other situations are restricted only by common sense. This includes not only interraction with other characters, but also dealings with your pack's own totem spirit and minor plotlines that don't involve a supernatural presence.
Note the key there: common sense. We encourage players to take a hand in running scenes for the interest and enjoyment of others. Without their stories we lose a vital part of our world. We do ask, though, that they keep in mind the spirit of the game when embarking on a new adventure.
Feature Stories are formalized plots, run by a StoryTeller or GameMaster (GM) for a group of GarouMUSH players. These GMs come up with interesting and involving plots, gaining approval from the wizards and posting their stories on the Story Board in the OOC Lounge. Players interested in taking part in these stories get in contact with the GM, indicating their interest in playing either a major or minor role in the story as it unfolds. The GM is granted the right to "dictate reality as concerns the execution of his or her story". Is there a Coffee Shop on the corner? Are there Wyrm-tainted thugs waiting in that alley? These are questions that the GM may answer as his or her story requires.
The Feature Story system provides a contact point between people wanting to tell stories and people wanting to experience them; a handy guide to major activities going on on the MUSH. And, at times, it serves as a Wizard sanction for plots that might be considered major or disruptive. If a player feels that a minor, non-Story plot that he or she is involved in has the capacity to be disruptive or shift the game-reality in any fashion, he or she is encouraged to talk with a Wizard online before proceeding further. Wizards will generally be understanding and accommodating about such situations, but do like to be kept informed. Note that anyone may be a GM; we encourage anyone and everyone with a good story to contact a Wizard with the idea. They will be able to set you up.
Steps to Feature Story submission:
Like our character-registration process, the Feature Story approval process isn't as difficult as it sounds. Provided that you can write a legible and interesting description of the story you wish to tell and that the story is consistent with the game world in which we play. If you cannot then, well, you will find it very difficult indeed. It is intended to be that way.
1. Think of an interesting idea for a story, and submit a brief proposal (3-5 paragraphs that cover the main points, but not necessarily all the details) to firstname.lastname@example.org. This address will automatically send your story submission to a random wizard who will become the initial contact for your story submission.
2. Wait about a week for a response. This may take longer depending on how busy the wizzes are, and how much discussion your proposal has generated. If your story is tentatively accepted you will hear back from the wizard who will serve as your contact wiz. If it is rejected, someone will get back to you to explain what about the story wasn't met with approval.
3. Once accepted, work with the contact wiz to develop a more detailed story outline. Often there will be comments and suggestions made by the wizards for you to consider. This second story outline may need to be resent to the wiz mailing list for final approval.
Here are some things the wizards will want to know at some point in time. Try to keep them in mind when developing your story.
1. Plot. This includes rising action, conflicts, a climax, falling action, and a denouement. Consider also contingencies, loose ends, future hooks, and an estimated timeframe. 2. Theme and mood. 3. Cast of players. For the NPCs involved, what are their motivations, and how permanent are they? Are any specific characters needed to participate? Who might this story interest? What hooks exist to get them involved? 4. Location. Will temporary building need to be done? If so, what? 5. Weird requirements. This includes such things as NPCs, fetishes, moon-bridge openings, caern attacks, etc. 6. Staff. Will other players help with the NPCs? Will there be a co-GM? 7. Schedule. Will the story be run primarily in the evenings, on the weekends, during the daytime?
A Few Notes About MUSH Storytelling
Storytelling on a MUSH is different than in a face-to-face game. The same elements are there: the need for an interesting plot, an ability to organize one's thoughts, an eye towards the telling of the story itself, etc. But there are added complexities. You have, for example, a potential cast of thousands (well, hundreds, anyway). You have a medium within which to express yourself that is slower than most have come to expect and yet, at the same time, has a timestream that parallels our own. You have other stories going on within this world than your own and crossover is sometimes hard to avoid (it can also be a useful tool if used properly).
A Cast of Thousands
In a face-to-face game you know who your player-characters are, you know each of their individual strengths, and you know their weaknesses. On GarouMUSH, you have over 150 characters; getting to know each and every one of them and anticipating how they will react to your story is impossible. Expect any one of them to get involved and lay the best-made plans to ruin. Flexibility is the key; MUSH stories never turn out like you'd planned.
Time Marches on Without You
Time flows strangely on a MUSH. Technically, on GarouMUSH, time is one-to-one with the real world. But in the middle of a scene, the limitations of the medium prevent this. A combat scene that might take a minute or two in game time stretches out to an hour or two in real time. In that hour of real time, new characters may log in and want to become involved or characters already involved may not be able to stay. Sometimes the sheer volume of characters who become involved drags things to a virtual standstill. Breaking combat up into several rooms and recruiting GMs to help you run fights is one option that has worked well in the past.
On the opposite end of the scale you need to deal with the fact that activities on the MUSH march on even when you, the GM, aren't logged on. Characters will plan with one another, recruit help from somebody who has a specific power that they need, and generally do everything they can to complicate your life. Again there is no one solution to all of these problems. A co-GM helps. Sometimes it makes sense to recruit another player to run one of your villains so that your villains can be active even why you aren't.
Ask Your Wizard
Finally, your Wizard is your friend. They are there to help. If you have questions about your story, about what is or isn't allowed, then ask. They can @pcreate NPCs for you. They can provide ideas on how to doing unusual things (like attacking the Caern). Keep them informed -- among other things, they are trying to help pull the myriad number of stories going on together to get some consistency and to suggest places where one story might play off of another to enhance the whole.
As every Galliard knows, the storyteller's art is something that must be cultivated over a lifetime. However, all of us could use a tip or a story seed every now and then to get over that nagging writers' block. To that end, there exists my favorite storyteller's cheatsheet, the Big List O'Plots. It has story ideas and twists galore, and is a great thing for getting those creative juices flowing