Episode #8 - Storytelling Lessons Researchers Can Take from Table Top RPGs
In this episode of the MRX Lab podcast from FlexMR, we dive into the niche world of table top RPGs and what they can teach us about telling more engaging stories. The episode focuses on the role of the Dungeon Master, the primary narrative function in these pen and paper games, and the methods they have developed for keeping players interested in tales that can last multiple months.
The first question we answer is seminal to the entire conversation – what exactly is a table top RPG. A term coined in the mid-19770s, a table top RPG is a type of game played with pen, paper, figurines and the theatre of the mind. Blending traditional role playing with rule-based representation, Dungeons and Dragons was born. Since then, the category of games has grown and now commands an estimated 25 million players worldwide.
In one of these games, there are two have two roles. There is one dungeon master, or game master. And then four to six players. The players each choose a class and race relevant to the setting and then attempt to navigate the story that the dungeon master lays out – in scenes that include conversations with characters, battles, stealth, decision making and more. In the remainder of the podcast, we hone in on the role and storytelling hooks of the Dungeon Master.
The ten pieces of advice that I outline are all drawn from personal experience and real conversations. They are designed to engage audiences in a way that movies, books and other mediums are not able to. To understand why, you need look no further than the length of these formats. The average book takes 6.25 hours to read, the average video game borders on 20 hours – but a table top RPG campaign can span 48 hours or longer over the course of multiple months, or even years.
This is much more akin to the kinds of stories and narratives that researchers must engage stakeholders in. It’s not just a single debrief that matters, but the change that takes place over much longer periods of time. Take advertising measurement for example. There is pre-testing, in-field results and long-term analysis. It’s not a story that can be wrapped up in a matter of hours. In fact, many projects go on to spawn new ideas and lines of enquiry of their own.
Throughout the majority of the podcast, we discuss tactics for engaging stakeholders in these environments. Advice ranges from how to start a story, to the importance of understanding audience motivations, even to what happens once the tale is over. Listen in to find out more.