Im trying to classify things again.
I was thinking about how 'exploration/adventure' scenarios are hard to improvise. They tend to be a bit like road movies where the party wanders from place to place looking for, and hopefully having, episodic , but kinda random adventures -- basically a gang of trouble makers looking for something to do. I guess they can be fun, like Harold & Kumar, but trying to retrospectively stitch together a bunch of random episodes into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts - a coherent story - is hard.
I think these types of games are hard to improvise because they PCs lack an overriding concrete goal to their efforts? I guess thats why a lot of fighting-based RPGs have explicit quests -- dont ask questions, just pursue this goal! Maybe they need a major antagonist to defeat, and they are advancing towards that defeat, step by step?
another element I can think of is that there is no overriding goal or overall antagonist behind the episodic adventures, but the nature of the episodic adventures provides a kind of theme that has implications for character-based story advancement. Like the character(s) start off all one-way, but after a seemingly random series of episodic events, they emerge out the other side changed. what would you call that? character-based story cohesion as opposed to plot based story cohesion ?
Which leads me to think that classic 'explore/adventure' based RPGs just underline the need for certain unifying elements to make 'story', because they often lack them so it stands out more. All RPGs with ambition to 'story' should have one or more of these elements
[mostly specified up front, so easier]
- plot-based long term goals:(defeat the antagonist, save the city, find the magic sword)
- character-driven long term goals (gain respect, seek redemption, etc...)
[mostly discovered through ongoing play, so harder]
- episodic short term goals with plot-arc reveal (x-files, supernatural, etc... where the characters have no significant long term goals but slowly the episodic adventures reveal situation cohesion)
- episodic short term goals with characterisation reveal (good road movies, etc... where the characters have no significant long term goals, but slowly the episodic adventures reveal characterisation cohesion).
what do you think? Can you think of other elements that are helpful in (improvising) coherent stories for RPGs?