Collaborative Storytelling

It’s important for the GM to keep in mind that S4E is not just a roleplaying game, but is also a vehicle for collaborative storytelling; and to understand what that means as it applies to the gameplay experience. When players start to pull a story away from its originally-intended progression with unique ideas, it’s a natural tendency of many new (and sometimes experienced) GMs to take a firm stance with their players of “that’s not how it works in my world.” While this usually comes from a noble intention of preserving the integrity of the story, it’s important to also remember that the players are crafting the narrative along with the GM; it is the very nature of characters in a story to alter the direction of that story to make it personal to themselves--and S4E is certainly focused on the personal journey of the characters.

By the same token, as any veteran GM can attest, it’s entirely possible for things to get chaotic and out of hand--and it’s part of the GM’s job to keep a rein on things and prevent that kind of discord by guiding some of the players’ actions without overtly controlling them (and consequently removing the point of having players at all). One of the best ways to do this is to use players’ (and characters’) emotional attachment to parts of the story in order to appeal to them and guide them toward (or away from) a particular course of action. For example, the advice of a trusted non-player character can often turn a group of players toward a particular path or train of thought; likewise, if doing something would risk the well-being of a beloved place or character, players will often avoid it as an option.

The GM’s role should ideally shift fluidly between giving the players direction and focus and then letting them take the spotlight and lead themselves once they’ve gotten a handle on where they’re going in the story. Take cues from your players as their characters’ dynamics emerge; for example, if one character seems to be naturally taking on a leadership role, shift the interactions of the story to help reinforce that leadership role. Similarly, if two characters seem to be locking horns over different ways they think situations should be handled, adjust the choices the group comes across during the Episode so that it plays on that dynamic.

Good players will create their own fun and make the story personal, and it’s an important part of the GM’s job to help create opportunities for them to do so. While you may have conceived of the original premise and plot of the Episode, you’re the only one who knows how it was originally intended to be played; letting your players take the spotlight can help to make for an even better and more memorable story in the long run--a fun, meaningful, and rewarding experience which your players will credit you for providing when they reflect on it later. 

It’s an ideal, win-win scenario--and the greatest strength of truly collaborative storytelling.