I am a table top RPG gamer. I’ve loved the hobby for as long as I’ve known about it and the obsession with the hobby ranks right up there with chess for me… and if you’ve read anything on this website, you know I’m a little obsessed by chess.
Table top RPGs, which I find tedious to have to specify “table top” because the loser video game players think “gamer” exclusively applies to them only, have grown way bigger than simple Dungeons & Dragons. If you also partake, then you know if there is something you want to RPG that there’s probably a book or system out there that will let you RPG it.
The hobby has become so popular that just watching or listening to other people do it has become a big deal. Twitch, which used to be exclusively video games has branched out into chess (suck it “gamers”) and table top RPG play.
But I’m not here to give you a history lesson or wax rhapsodic about how there are so many options. I’m here to expound upon the simple “play for others on Twitch” facet of this whole thing.
I also want to display what a great potential for storytelling opportunities we have doing such a thing. What you’re about to read is an example of what I think would be fantastic and I have to use an established property to keep from unnecessarily explaining too much.
Follow me, if you will.
Six friends have decided to run a live stream via Twitch of their table top RPG sessions and they’ve all decided to “go big or go home” with their storytelling. They all mutually agree on a system (for the sake of argument, this system will be Mutants and Masterminds) and have decided to tell a really big story about superheroes.
The agreed format for them is that they’ll all pick a superhero to create and each installment will focus on the one hero with everyone else playing their support structure. They’ve all agreed, also, that they’ll have a “heroes united” super session once all the players’ characters have been introduced.
Up first is Robert’s character of Iron Man. The storyteller (Stan) has set up a good introductory story (origin story) to introduce the Twitch audience to this campaign. Scarlett will play Pepper Potts, Robert’s love interest; Chris H. will play Happy Hogan, Robert’s driver and somewhat comedy sidekick; Mark will play Rhodey, Robert’s best friend; and Chris E. will play Obediah Stane, Robert’s business partner.
Yes, the events of Iron Man (2008) play out in game form, with Stan having Chris E. actually play the villain (unbeknownst to everyone else at the table). Everyone loved it and they can’t wait for the next installment.
This time Mark goes “up to the plate” and is playing the Hulk. Scarlett, though she’s feeling type cast at this point decides there are opportunities for her in the future, plays Betty Ross (Mark’s love interest); Chris E. will play Thunderbolt Ross, Mark’s main foil; Chris H. will play Mr. Blue, a scientist trying to help Mark overcome his character’s “ailment”; and Robert will play Emil Bronsky, the best agent working for Thunderbolt.
Once again, the events of the Incredible Hulk play out in game form, with Stan throwing in another huge twist having Chris E. not playing the true villain and allowing both Chris H. and Robert to be “double villains.” Everyone had a great time but there was a feeling that Mark’s character (including Mark) was more of a side character than a main player. The troupe moves on.
Stan decides to throw a curve ball at the troupe and goes back to the world of Iron Man for Iron Man 2… Robert reprises his character’s role, Scarlett gets double duty as Pepper and her new character Natasha Romanov (a super spy), Chris H. returns as Happy Hogan, Chris E. is handed Rhodey (because Mark wanted to try something different this time), and Mark gets to play the known villain Whiplash.
While the spark was “re-lit,” something felt off about the whole session. Mark did great as the villain but having gone back to Robert’s character so quickly felt a little cheap. Stan decides to push forward with the other origin stories for a “grand plan.”
Chris H. gets to play Thor, Scarlett plays Sif, Chris E. plays Fandrel, Mark plays Hogun, and Mark gets the part of Clint Barton. The events of Thor (2011) play out in game form and everyone is back to being energized about the possibilities again.
Stan has been seeding in clues this whole time with Nick Fury (NPC) and Agent Coulson (NPC), along with other little hints scattered about the games. The players are amped to do something of a “period piece” for Chris E.’s character.
Chris E. plays Captain America, a WWII super soldier; Scarlett plays Agent Carter, once again the love interest; Chris H. plays Bucky, Cap’s best friend; Mark plays Howard, scientist and Robert’s Iron Man’s dad; and Robert plays the Red Skull. This game session that turns out like Captain America: the First Avenger really gets everyone amped, especially the “end credits scene” that Stan has been planting all over the games.
Stan prepares a story for Scarlett but she decides that she isn’t sure she wants the spotlight and everyone is excited for the group to be united, so she opts to skip and origin in favor of their next session.
Everyone is back as their primary characters: Mark as the Hulk, Chris E. as Captain America, Robert as Iron Man, Chris H. as Thor, and Scarlett as Black Widow (Natasha Romanov)… as well as taking over control of Clint Barton. Marvel’s the Avengers plays out in game form and everyone can’t believe how great a story was being told. The kicker was Stan had everything they’ve seen and done weaved in, tying together all the loose ends, and even adding one “extra scene” to tease a potential foil for the whole group at the end of the game.
Without going too far into this, they eventually get some new players (Twitch steaming has made them popular and attracted some top notch players) to add to the universe. They keep this going until Stan’s master plan finale of Avengers: Endgame, where everyone plays the game. It’s a hit.
I’d personally like to have a group like this… one that works together, tells a collaborative epic story, and are all about making the outcome correct (for what they want and the game master wants).
Would the sessions end up being epic in every case? Not necessarily, but I even illustrated that maybe some players would help guide the direction of where the sessions would go.
I didn’t illustrate above that Robert’s character would cease wanting to be in solo projects after his “trilogy” completed. Chris H. wanted to see something more stylized for his character (i.e. Thor Ragnarok). Chris E. would end up telling super intricate spy stories and also allow his “trilogy” to include a mini-Avengers meet up. Scarlett would bring Black Widow to life in ways that didn’t make her the center of attention, believing her “origin” would slow the pace of the series. Mark also decided he didn’t want another spotlight so worked with Stan to create a nifty multiple session story that would allow him a little spotlight without derailing the whole process.
Vampire the Masquerade: LA by Night is an epic I’m currently watching on Twitch. The players, professional actors, are doing the epic that I would love to have… and though they’re staying with the single series approach, they could easily branch out in the future if they wanted. Geek & Sundry has also branched out, too, with Callisto 6 (which is a futuristic cyberpunk superhero game). That could expand into way more, too, and probably could have benefitted a little from the “slow build/multiple spotlight” approach.
I just wanted to talk a little about this… with Emerald Night coming up, I’m hoping that I can entice the group to do something like I described above… and don’t think it has to be superheroes, either. What about a “classic movie monster” universe? Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon… Universal Studio’s “Dark Universe” is a great idea, though the studio hasn’t done well in pulling it off. What about Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable Trilogy”? Unbreakable, Split, and Glass form a trilogy that no one was expecting. You could even link other genres together, or do a multiple approach zombie build up…
The possibilities are endless.
And one last note: this would be the perfect way to tell the “Heroes” story that was on NBC many moons ago. Done right, it could be far more epic than what we saw on TV and could avoid the terrible second season in creating a long term plan.
Bye for now.