Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Supporting the Narrative

15 years ago, a friend and I were discussing the video game X-COM: UFO Defense (or UFO: Enemy Unknown as it was known in Europe.)  In this game, one controls a squad of operatives as they combat UFO invasion by cleansing crash sites, reverse engineering alien technology and repelling alien terror missions.  This friend of mine told me of another friend of his who played X-COM as though the operatives all had personalities and relationships.  What resulted was as much a one person role-playing game as a strategy game, where she would decide each squad member's actions on the battlefield in a character appropriate way.  If one fellow's girlfriend was in trouble he would take risky action to help protect her.  If a squad member is killed the others would get scared and duck for cover, etc.

I have discovered that this is the most entertaining way for me to play tabletop war games.  Play to win, but do it in such a way that you are telling a story.  When my Harbinger of Menoth was killed, her nearby choir charged the Man-o-war Drakhun that did her in to avenge their beloved leader, blocking the charge of the knights nearby.  Was it the most effective choice?  Probably not.  Did it make for good story?  Definitely.  Was it all the more satisfying when the choir took down the Drakhun on the charge?  Heck, yeah!

So before you drop that unit of Eldar Fire Dragons into the middle of the battlefield with the intent to pop a tank and then get creamed in assault, remember that these are members of a dying race who have lived hundreds of years and tread many paths of expertise.  Would they or their commander throw their lives away in so cavalier a fashion?  Would your Ork warboss hang back from assaulting a unit of Space Marine Veterans because it would leave him in a vulnerable position or would he be barely containing himself to get stuck in?

Give your little toys an identity and you will be rewarded with a compelling story, win or lose.

1 comment:

  1. Sooooo TRU~!
    Way too many players ignore the awesome story that is Warhammer 40,000!
    Story above Rulez i always say!