The main job of the Narrator is to facilitate the game play by narrating the setting and interpreting rules. But these are not the only jobs as the Narrator is also the host, the researcher, the scheduler, and the rule clarifier. There is a lot of responsibility for the Narrator but there are also tools and processes to help Narrators manage it all.
To help explain how to tackle this, the jobs have been sorted into two categories: Hosting and Preparation. In addition, there is a section dedicated to first-time Narrators with suggestions and proposals to make starting easier.
Each time the players get together to make progress in the story, it is called a session. The session may or may not be at the Narrator’s home. Regardless of location, the Narrator is considered to be hosting or facilitating the session.
There are two modes to a session: “in play” or “out of play”. While “in play”, the players and narrator should be mostly focused on the game, the story, and the imaginary world. When “out of play”, everyone is back in reality. Groups will have different ideas and rules regarding when and how strict of a difference “in play” is to “out of play” but generally speaking, when the session is “out of play” the players and narrator are free to speak without affecting game play or the story. And even while “in play” everyone should be cognizant of the real world, their personal safety, and any reasonable obligations.
Hosting a Session
When players come together for a session, the Narrator facilitates the event. No session is the same nor is every group the same: groups will have different styles, goals, and time frames. However, the following agenda is a suggestion based on best practices; consider it a template that can be customized for your needs.
|1. Housekeeping||out of play|
|2. Review||in play|
|3. Player Warmup||in play|
|4. Facilitating play||in play|
|5. Break||out of play|
|6. Facilitating play||in play|
|7. Wrap up||out of play|
Housekeeping is the time to play “host” – inform guests about snacks, get drinks, and check accommodations (perhaps a player would like TV tray?). This is also the time to make announcements. These announcements might be about timing (“We have to cut this a little short today due to an appointment.”) or noteworthy info (“So it sounds like Mavis got engaged. Congrats!”).
The Review at the beginning of a session is used to clarify rules from the last session and recap the story. Clarifying rules is as simple as stating the issue that happened, explaining the rules for that situation going forward, and opening up the topic for discussion. As far as recapping the story, it is recommended to ask players to tell you what happened. Have them relive the experience. It helps if you have an outline of the previous session in front of you. This exercise can be awkward for the players at first – but that’s all the more reason to do it as they will need to be warmed up. Transitioning from reality to imagination isn’t easy for everyone and this will help the players get game-ready. Also, this is a good time to subtly remind them of any important details from the last session that will be important for their upcoming adventure.
Facilitating play is the bulk of the session – it’s the reason for gathering. This is where the Narrator introduces scenes to the players, answers their questions, interprets draw results, clarifies rules and describes how the world reacts to the protagonists’ actions. While the rules for all of those things, for facilitating game play, is detailed in the rest of the book; it is also important to note that throughout the session, the Narrator should remain aware of the time and assess player fatigue/interest/confusion. The latter can be difficult to intuit but is important to gauge. Be sure to remind players that if they need anything that they are free to say so.
Breaks are really important and easy to forget. If your session is planned for 4 hours, schedule a break at the 2 hour mark for snack refills / bathroom visits. Don’t skip the breaks. It’s okay to take a break a little early or late depending on how the play is going. If the session is longer, it is good practice to schedule a 10 minute break every two hours. If possible, ensure that there are plenty of snacks and drinks on hand.
The Wrap up phase is where you pause the action, describe where things are at and then schedule the next session. Be sure to settle on a date, time, and length. You can also either discuss deliverables for the next session – perhaps a protagonist just befriended a wolf and the player needs to invent a name for it before the next session. This is a good time to assign those types of tasks.