Running A Stage
Skotos' Stages won't be available to StoryTellers until January 2001. However, in the meantime potential StoryTellers might want to become familiar with the process for running a Stage. This is how we expect it to work.
Choosing a Stage
The first thing you need to do is choose a Stage. An ever-increasing library of Stages will be available from the StoryTeller page at the Skotos web site. These Stages will include short descriptions, reviews by other StoryTellers, and more.
Much of your decision will depend upon what type of story you want to tell. If you're going for a far-future thriller, our Medieval Inn Stage probably won't be appropriate. Likewise, a far-future casino wouldn't be appropriate for a slice of life story set in Anaheim, California in the year 2001.
Plotting Your Story
Before you go much further, you should plot out your story. You'll need to know how you're going to modify the setting, who you're going to populate it with, how those people will interrelate, and what their goals are.
Modifying a Stage
It's unlikely that any Stage will be exactly right for the story that you want to tell. The next step is to check out a copy of the Stage that interests you. This will create your own personal copy of the Stage that you'll be able to make modifications to.
To make changes you'll use a cut-down version of our complete StoryBuilder Toolkit. You'll be able to change descriptions, clone objects, and move things around.
At this point you'll have modified the basic setting to make it appropriate for the story you need to tell. Now you need to set up the conflict that will really make your Stage move. This is done through characters.
You'll need to:
- Duplicate characters from pre-written character objects
- Change their names, descriptions, etc.
- Give them any special powers, calling on a library of special powers
- Give them any objects, calling on a library of objects
- Modify the names and descriptions of their objects as appropriate
- Give the characters goals and save them in the "recall" listing for that character
- Explain the characters' relations to each other using the "recall" function
While you're creating characters, you'll inevitably need to create props: the objects that the characters are holding. You may also have cloned some new props when you were modifying the setting. At this point, you should look around and see if you need to create anything else.
Did you miss any objects in the setting? On the characters?
Are there any props that should be brought on mid-game?
The last thing you need to do to prepare your Stage is figure out if you want to have any events occur mid-game. If so, you should do as much as you can to prepare for them beforehand.
Maybe a chaos monster attacks the town square in the middle of the game. If so, you should design the monster beforehand, so that you can bring it onstage at the appropriate moment. Perhaps a StoryTeller character dies in the middle of the game and an important clue is found on his body. In this case, you might create a special object for the character's dead body and also create that clue beforehand, so that you can substitute the body for the StoryTeller character at the appropriate time.
Events could also be much more dramatic. Say you're running a two-night event and you plan for a meteor strike to hit the middle of your town in between the two nights of the game. In this case, you'll probably need to: prepare a few paragraphs of text that describe what everyone saw during the night; ready alternative descriptions of a few "rooms" which get wiped out by the meteor; and create an actual object for the meteor, which may hold secrets within.
Whatever you can do to prepare these events beforehand will help things run much smoother on the day of your Stage.
Recruiting Assistant StoryTellers
In your preparations you may have discovered the need for some Assistant StoryTellers. They may be folks to Host major StoryTellers characters or they may be folks to step into any major roles which haven't been filled at rundown.
In addition, it's always a good idea to have a few Guides around StoryTellers who respond to requests for help and assist the players, particularly new players, in using the system.
You might decide that the game is going to pretty much run itself. Or, you might wish to draw your Assistant StoryTellers from the ranks of your friends. A third option is to post to the StoryTeller portions of the Skotos forums. There are always StoryTellers looking to help run Stages.
Running the Story
With everything ready, you are go to run a story. You just need to decide upon a time and start advertising to potential players. Skotos will provide a special "Green Room", which will be a location for players to choose their characters from among the ones available; you'll be able to place restrictions upon who gets to play which characters--for example, you might only allow acclaimed StoryPlayers to choose the best roles in your game.
When all/most/some of the roles have been selected (depending on which roles you define as required), your story will begin. You'll be able to largely sit back, bringing on events as required, and arbitrating any questions that people might have. If you've done a good job defining the conflicts of the characters, most of the game should be self-driven.
Summing Things Up
At some point there will need to be a summing up of the game. Characters will be able to decide on their own if most of their personal goals were met. However, by offering a few more global goals you'll be able to offer a dramatic summing up of what's happened in the game, bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion for everyone.
Make sure that you, the StoryTeller, have a good way to measure the success of these overall goals. It could be something very simple, like a vote to elect the last president: at the end of the game, everyone casts their votes; you look at the results and decide what had happened. It could be something more complex, like an attempt to overthrow the rulers of a city. Although this is logistically different, it works much the same. Throughout the game people have to commit their resources, either to overthrowing the current regime or defending it. At the end of the game, you'll be able to look at the resource commitment and see who "won".
You'll want to make these summing up as dramatic as possible. After all, it's the end result of many hours of grueling playing for the characters. Prepare some events that will help make things exciting (the coronation ceremony of the new president; the fall of the city walls). Then, offer a description of what occurs, introducing events as appropriate.
As the game comes to an end, it's often a great idea to let players know that you'd love them to write up their own in-game story of what happened. Give the players a deadline for sending in their stories and when you're all done put together a web page and send out its URL to all the players. You might want to write a summary of your own, incorporating your earlier summing up and also an interweaving of all of the different story threads introduced by the players.
No one ever gets to see more than a small portion of a Stage. A summing up like this is a great way to give everyone an idea of everything that went on during the Stage.
Getting More Information
If you're familiar with Live Action Roleplaying Games or Muder Mystery evenings, you should now have a fair idea of how Stages work. If you still have questions, we suggest a few other sources that talk about Stages in their non-electronic incarnation. They'll help you get started:
- Nexus - Chaosium Inc. A complete Live Action Roleplaying game for 44 players and 5 StoryTellers. It does a great job of showing how characters, handouts, and a small set of rules can work together to create a live action game.
- How to Host a Murder Mystery - A set of Murder Mysteries, where you can gather 8 of your friends and stage an evening of detective-work and intrigue. Great for understanding the basics of mystery in Live Action Roleplaying games. (Available at http://www.mystery-games.com/howtohosmur.html)
- Cthulhu Live - Fantasy Flight Publishing. A live action roleplaying game with a lot of applicability to Skotos' upcoming Lovecraft Country Stage. This is more rules-heavy than most Stages will be, but gives some indication on how Live Action Roleplaying works for a small group of gamers in the horror genre.
Also, playing in a Skotos Stage is a definite prerequisite before trying to create one of your own. The first Skotos Stages are expected to run in late 2000.