Rewarding Narrative Authority to Players for Roleplaying in a Specific Way

In certain games, players can earn narrative authority by roleplaying in a specific type of way. I'm looking for examples of these specific types of roleplaying, for which players are rewarded with narrative authority, in different RPGs.

In Fate, narrative authority is rewarded when players intentionally fail their objectives.

In House of Spiders a player is rewarded narrative authority for reincorporating an element of the narrative that another player previously introduced into the narrative. In essence, for building on the contributions that other players have made to the story.

Can you give some examples of the different types of roleplaying for which players are rewarded narrative authority, whether in GMed or GMless games?

Any examples would be super appreciated. Thanks :)


  • First of all, "narrative authority" is granted in most traditional games in the form of character advancement that then supposedly (but not really) gives the player more influence. The reward is somewhat detached in that regard, but it's ultimately the same thing, I think.

    A typical reason for rewards that you didn't touch upon yet is playing a consistent character. "Good roleplaying" or "hitting your Keys" or whatever. Individual games (and groups) differ in how they emphasize consistency vs. powerful projection.

    And, of course, the classic answer is that purposeful play gets rewarded: finishing the mission and so on.
  • I don't think it's really true that character advancement is a form of narrative authority. Certainly, I don't think most people playing D&D think anything along the lines of "Oh good, I've gained a level, I can have a bigger impact on the story now." So I'm not really convinced it's the same thing. I think "power in the game world" is a different animal, and is a very big carrot for some players even though it's mostly meaningless in a lot of games.

    But yes, the common ones that I see are:
    * Roleplaying a Certain Way (like Eero suggests - 'good roleplaying' or 'hitting your keys' or similar)
    * Making trouble for yourself -- Fate compels, "When you struggle with issues from your Vice or Trauma" in Blades in the Dark
    * Drama/Hamming it up -- Aiki in Tenra Bansho Zero
    * Doing something cute/heartwarming or that helped someone else - Dreams, in Golden Sky Stories.

    At the end of the day, what behavior you reward is dependent on what the game is about.
  • Maybe a stretch, but PBTA games mostly feature the GM deliberately incorporating player ideas and input into the setting, so this creates a kind of feedback loop where the player who creates a PC with an interesting backstory and complications has a bigger influence over the narration than the player whose PC is a straightforward guy with no entanglements. This can lead to the players competing to screw themselves over in the most creative way.
  • It is the same thing as regards Jeff's question, though; any method of assigning experience points that you care to name can be - and very likely has been - used to award narrative authority, too.

    It is also interesting how games will generally explicitly assign players with narrative authorities that enable them to grind reward systems. Exalted with its stunting comes to mind, for example: players are encouraged to narrate complex combat choreographies, complete with terrain and secondary characters, in a game that ostensibly does not feature shared GMing; the practice is hallowed by the fact that the player is using this narrative freedom to achieve a stunt bonus.
  • In Capes, when you vouch for the losing side of a conflict, the more energy/resources your opposition spent to win their side, the more story tokens you get. One of the ways you can spend story tokens is to bring an additional character into a following scene, which gives you more actions to influence the narrative. That incentivizes you to (for example) play a villain, invest all of their story power on giving the heroes a challenge, lose anyway, and then turn around and play a hero next time.
  • Any other examples folks? I’m trying to look at the different design tech that is out there, and more examples would be a big help. Thanks.
  • In my heavily house-ruled version of Everway, players are rewarded cards for hitting certain previously established "triggers" with their play. Triggers are defined at character creation, but can and do often change through character advancement. Cards are what you use to affect events at all in the later stages of play.

    Triggers are generally engineered so that PCs (who are always outsiders exploring some unknown realm) have to meddle w/the local affairs and get entangled before they even get the slightest chance to fix the mess they effectively started themselves.
  • Jeff,

    It's a bit tricky, because "roleplaying in a specific way", if I'm reading you right, basically covers everything we do at the table, right?

    So, then, the question becomes, "What games reward players with narrative authority?" And that's almost all of them. The question, at least for me, is a bit overwhelming.

    Here's another example:

    Lots of games reward you with narrative authority for later use when you give up narrative authority now. For instance, in Dream Askew you can choose to give in to another character's "move" and earn a token, which you might use to push your own agenda in a future scene.

    (These games tend to rely on social contract for the players not to abuse those rules in the moment, though - for instance, it's not generally considered "fair play" to immediately spend that token to "win" again.)

    In In a Wicked Age..., you get to put your name on the Owe List when you go into a conflict with someone stronger than you (whether you win or lose, which is cool). Being on the List allows you to have your character appear in a future Chapter, as well as choose an element for inclusion in that Chapter.
  • So the purpose of 'winning narrative control' isnt so much about spreading the allocation of narrative control, but doing something the game wants you to do in order to earn a resource - a resource that in this case, happens to be 'narrative control'

  • edited May 2019
    In Fate, narrative authority is rewarded when players intentionally fail their objectives.

    In House of Spiders a player is rewarded narrative authority for reincorporating an element of the narrative that another player previously introduced into the narrative. In essence, for building on the contributions that other players have made to the story.
    So the examples you gave here are to be given narrative authority:
    1. as a result of something.
    2. by interrupting.

    I would add a third and fourth one:
    3. if it's your designated domain.
    4. by creating conflicts.

    As a Result
    • Failed a roll.
    • Succeeded a roll.
    • Intentionally failed/succeeded.
    • Having a conversation.
    • Acting in a way that another participant can build upon.

    By Interrupting
    • Escalating a conflict. (Dogs in the Vineyard)
    • Spent a resource to change fail/succeed.
    • Helping out; describing how you help out.

    Your Designated Domain
    Being assigned a role to describe:
    • "I describe all actions and surroundings" (traditional game master)
    • "I describe all magic use"
    • "I describe all your failed/succeeded roles" (Panty Explosion, where your best friend describes your succeeded roll, and your worst enemy your failed rolls)
    • "I know about this certain thing in real life"

    By Creating Conflict
    • Escalating a conflict. (Dogs in the Vineyard)
    • Make someone else's Interests your Interest (so they can have a conversation with you).
    • Spend a resource to create a conflict.


    I can probably brain storm more ideas, but the important thing is to think about, for example, how a failed action is described and by whom.
  • In DayTrippers, players receive narrative control for rolling "YES AND" or NO BUT" - they describe the AND or the BUT. They can also seize narrative control while inside a Dream World by succeeding in a Lucid Dreaming roll, wresting control of ontology itself from The Dreamer.
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