Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Professional Storytelling Part 1: Getting Started Storytelling

A Triumphant Return to Blogging

This is my first post in a very long time, but for good reason. Since September of last year, I have been working diligently in the field of Storytelling. My ability to pursue it full time is due to the generosity of my current patrons, and for that I am grateful beyond words. At this point, I will be writing a series of How To blogs, from getting started as a Storyteller to more advanced topics such as how to market yourself to your community of choice.

Every Journey Starts With a First Step

The first thing to do as a Storyteller is learn a game system. This requires investment in some literature and time to read and understand its mechanics. Once you have done this through a time or two, move on to practical experience.

Storytellers will never really "know the rules" until they are applied. 

Don't get bogged down with the idea of rules knowledge perfection. Storytelling is a performance art, and improvisation and creativity are just, if not more important, than system knowledge. If there are players that have invested energy into being a wealth of rules knowledge, allow them to assist you when necessary. This validates their own efforts and helps you to make more consistent and satisfying rulings.

Remember the Golden Rule

A Storyteller provides a service with value. That value is derived from the level of entertainment that is received from their players. As an example, part of the D&D Adventurer's League mission is to "foster a welcoming atmosphere focused on fun."

When people have fun, they'll seek you out to run games for them in the future.

This isn't to say that all players will have the same goals, and you will have to adjudicate conflicts of personality between characters and players alike. In the future, I will be sharing some of my personal strategies for resolution, and when all else fails, a compromise.

An Army Marches on its Stomach

Next, Storytellers must be prepared. This comes in a couple of different forms since there are both in-person and online games.

In most cases, you need to be ready to provide everything.

If you are just starting out and really want people to give you a shot, you'll have to make sure there are zero barriers to entry. Run pre-published material to get yourself comfortable with performance. World building and writing are exciting ideas, but they are really a whole other skill that must be learned alongside the performance aspect of storytelling. Reading a module will give you an idea of how professional publishers structure their adventure material. This will give anything you do publish in the future a better chance of meeting the expectations of seasoned roleplayers.

Ask for Feedback, Don't Expect it

After you have done your best to facilitate fun and adventure, be sure to thank all of your players and persuade them to share their thoughts about the game. They may have insights into how you can improve as a Storyteller, and they also may be able to bring to light conflicts between players. Most of these conflicts should be mediated and resolved to really enhance the value of your services. This is the point I feel is most important for the growth and improvement of the skills of a Storyteller, and I will be writing multiple articles on aspects involving feedback and iteration/improvement of one's storytelling style.

Nobody Walks Alone

The very best way to expand your audience and improve your performance craft is getting involved with a large roleplaying community. My personal favorite is the G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games Community. Its moderation is superb, and its discussions are kept constructive. It also hosts Giant Dragons Gamer Chat on most Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons which is a semi-open forum for talking about gaming events going on, gaming products new and old, and gaming philosophy discussions. If you are interested in this type of interaction, please contact +Jonathan Henry and let him know! He'll add you to his list of invitees, which already numbers in the hundreds.

UPDATE (02/16/2019): Tenkar's Tavern Discord is really a great place to be! Check it out here:

With Google+ going away, the G+ community is using MeWe as a lifeboat, and possibly a new home:

Thank you for taking the time to peruse this article. You have plucked my words out of an endless sea of data, and I am honored to host your attention, if just for a few moments. Go forth and game with passion! 

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