Where there are stories, there are storytellers. Storytelling has existed since the earliest incarnations of human language and still retains a prominent foothold in modern culture even to this day.
While stories are often told to an audience, Mythmaker transforms storytelling into a conversation where the players and their created characters have a stake in the outcome. Together, the Storyteller and the players sit down at the table and make decisions on how the story unfolds. In other words, the Storyteller is not in charge of the story; the story is what happens at the table.
This section of the book is intended to act as a guide for Storytellers on how to create worlds, fashion adventures, and design obstacles for the game of Mythmaker. Do note that even though this book gives a framework on what to do, you do not need to follow it if you think there is a better way. It is your game, your rules. The goal in the end is to have fun.
As the Storyteller, you are the voice of the World. If the players and their characters interact with something, then it is your role to determine how the World responds whether that be through a character or fate. While this can seem daunting to new Storytellers, a good Storyteller only needs to do four things: Ask Questions, Reveal Challenges, Listen to the Players, and Keep Track of Time.
One of the most powerful tools a Storyteller has at the table is the ability to ask questions. Role-playing games, when boiled down to their core, are just conversations where one side asks questions and the other side answers those questions with actions and dice rolls. If you can master the art of asking questions, you will be well on your way towards being an excellent Storyteller. Here are some of the kinds of questions you should ask as a Storyteller:
Revealing Challenges is perhaps the defining role of a Storyteller. When the going gets tough, how tough does it get? When the players at your table state their intent, you simply need to ask yourself this one question: What is stopping the characters from performing a task or reaching a goal?
If nothing is stopping the players from taking an action, then they should be able to take it without hassle. Asking yourself this question also invites you to think about the current situation and ask questions about it.
When the ex-soldier declares that they want to draw their sword in a tavern full of people, you have the power to slow down time and reveal what consequences an action may bare upon the character. As the ex-soldier moves their hand to the hilt of their sword, you can reveal that doing so in a crowded place would inspire panic. Or perhaps their eyes catch the glints of blades from the other side of the room where three guards enjoying a drink see the character’s intent from afar.
This kind of questioning doesn’t just apply to the local situation, but also to the adventure you plan to set them on. If the dark lord follows through with their villainous scheme, then what challenges would that present? If the characters don’t make it in time to stop the young prince from being sacrificed, what happens then? These challenges don’t need to be told to the players directly, but hinting at them and building them up with clues along the way will encourage the players to be thinking about them and may even motivate them to take actions to investigate further.
The players themselves are the best resource you have for figuring out how to engage their characters. Listen to how they describe their character and their actions. By listening to the players, you will pick up on words, phrases, and ideas they use to interact with the world. It’s from these observations that you can make curious questions and put challenges and obstacles before the player that inspire their involvement with the game.
Do they engage with combat? Then that gives you a clue to add interesting creatures for them to fight or unique encounters to be in. Is the character after gold and power? Create opportunities for them to acquire them.
Your players also act as a gauge over how difficult your challenges are. If you know they’ve been spending a lot of resources and don’t have many left to spare, consider easing up on challenges or offer them opportunities to keep active in the game. Remember, while you are the Storyteller and may take an adversarial position at times, you should be on the player’s side. Without the players, there is no game.
The game as it’s designed happens within broad Turns which can span anywhere between days or hours. As the Storyteller, part of your job is taking into account how much time passes. After four turns of daylight, the setting turns to night which can impose difficulties on the characters if they choose to continue their existing adventures.
But keeping track of time extends outside of Turns as well as you the Storyteller are the ultimate arbiter over how time flows. Turns are all tools that allow you to manipulate time and enhance the story. Keeping track of time also helps make the world feel like a living place. Plus by keeping track of time and putting importance on it, the players will understand its relevance to the game as well.
In addition to the four tasks listed above, there are also some generally good habits to work at to improve your standing as a Storyteller.
Just as there are good habits, there are also bad habits to acquire as the Storyteller. This section lists a few to be mindful of when playing the game.
When you and your fellow players finally meet up for the first session, there are some details that should be addressed before people begin making their characters:
The World. The first session of the game should establish the present world for your players and where exactly the game will be taking place. Is the game going to begin in a city? Does the game begin with a big cataclysmic event that causes ripples across society? Perhaps there is an ongoing war between two rivaling kingdoms that is happening in the background of the adventure.
Establish the key details defining your world’s current state before the player characters enter and inevitably change it some way. It is advised that you come up with four to six Key Details for the start of the game.
Expectations. The First Session is the perfect time to tell your players about your ideas for the campaign and what they can expect. If you don’t have anything concretely established, you can opt to petition the players for information and themes. Players will become much more invested if they feel they have a stake in a part of the world at large. You can also use Expectations to establish the themes of the game which the players can then use to build their characters.
Hard and Soft Limits should also be discussed. First start by deciding what you are comfortable with in your game before bringing it up with the players. Not all players might be comfortable with the ideas and themes present in your game and the beginning of the game is the perfect time to address them. Let your players inform you of their Hard and Soft Limits. Hard Limits are things that a player is very much against while Soft Limits are ones that require extra care as they are sources of fear, anxiety, or discomfort.
The purpose of the game is to have fun and setting these expectations early helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Character Relations. The First session can also serve as a good way to figure out how the characters are linked together. As Storyteller, you can either come to an agreement with the players or offer some options that link back to the key details of your world. If there was a recent war against the Dark Lord, then perhaps some of the characters are ex-soldiers who are looking for a new line of work.
Another way of going about this is tying all of the characters to a group, guild, organization, order, or faction in the world. Going this route gives the players an immediate hook into your world and gives you a starting point for offering them adventures and quests to perform.
Alternatively, you could offer the group a series of patrons or benefactors to get them started on the adventure. Each of these patrons should offer a different perspective into the campaign but they are not permanent and the players should feel at liberty to switch to another or find a new one if the situation calls for it.
Reasons for Cooperation. Character creation in Mythmaker can lead to a wonderfully wide array of potential characters for your players to choose from. Even though you can have a party of exotic persons, frustration can arise if the expectations of the players are at odds with their character’s intentions. For this reason, it is wise to make characters that would have a clear reason to adventure with the rest of the party. Even if a character is the silent ranger who broods in the shade, sticking with the group provides them back-up in the face of danger and even a source of extra rations should the situation turn dire.
Once all of these details have been covered, you are ready to begin the adventure into the world of Mythmaker.