PTG188 – The Hero’s Journey

Phil and Senda answer your questions about RPGs from two different perspectives — with some panda silliness!
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PTG188 – The Hero’s Journey

Post by EpisodeBot »

Show us how you implement the hero’s journey in one shots and campaigns! Phil and Senda talk about this classic story structure and ways you can make it work in games vs. static media. Also, Transit AI, Ancillary Justice, and WHATEVER SENDA IS READING. Bonus outtakes for Patreon backers...

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Re: PTG188 – The Hero’s Journey

Post by tomes »

Was just listening to this one, and yah, I almost exclusively play one shots due to reasons (mostly adult life). Although I don't specifically try to do a "hero's journey" in the traditional sense when running or playing games, the transformation of competency in a one shot is difficult to portray and have realized.

Mechanically, in the most basic sense, for example when running Dungeon World, you can remove some elements, such as experience points, and instead have the characters "level up" midway through the session. In a similar vein if you are a story gamer, you can have the players start with a (e.g.) 4th level character, but as they are going through and choosing the traits and powers, have them fill in some flashbackup or info on how they came across such powers or learned such skills.

Narratively, I think you can hit some of these notes with some flashbackups and hard scene framing. Something as simple as seeing the character do something competently (either because of their superior powers, a good roll, or just giving them a success for a task that's in their wheelhouse), and then have the player do a very quick flashbackup that shows how they failed a similar task in their earlier career. You can use these flashbacks as a way to inform the story, or not, but either way you get some cinematic fiction around growth.

The MC/GM can always use some of these flashbackups when useful to flavor the game itself, whether that's by using some of the referenced scenes, ancillary characters, etc. in the current story.
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Re: PTG188 – The Hero’s Journey

Post by dnaphil »

Great points Tomes!

I have in games that have an easy leveling mechanic done a quick level up in the middle of a one-shot, before. In fact, I have also done it in Dungeon World, because leveling up is so easy. I think that PbTA games are likely the best for this since either Advances tell you what you can take, or the players just have to pick a new move.

Once in a Fate game, I had a player gain this great power as part of the one-shot, and I had a handout that contained a set of changes for their character, for them to apply, and a summary of new rules/stunts they could use in the final encounter. It worked pretty well.

I think you are on to something with the narrative suggestions. For sure, those flashbacks and scene framing would work best in 4-hour game, and with a smaller group, where you could focus a bit more on each character.

You are tempting me to come up with a good Heroes Journey one-shot now. :)
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