League Play and Narrative

A Blood Bowl league I’m running at mt FLGS is finishing up and I’ve been reflecting on the role narrative has played (and could play!). But first,  what do I mean by narrative? In the context of a gaming league, I’m meaning narrative in the sense of a shared continuity with some, minimal storytelling elements. For this league, we had a fairly formal structure with group play spread across divisions that led to a tournament for the top teams in each group. Along the way, we made sure to highlight stories of epic plays (like having one of my players killed by a blitzing, frenzied werewolf on the first play of the first game) and key games. Emphasizing these narrative elements provides a number of benefits, including:

  • Motivation – Having stories that players can share helps to motivate players to play and to make plays that might be riskier, but are more “fun.” Fundamentally, a big reason we play games is for the experience and memories that we create. Creating an event that encourages memory creation keeps players coming back for more.
  • Building Partcipation – It also helps to attract more players! The act of sharing the sorts of stories that arise in these games helps to pique the interest of other players. After the first round of group play in this league, we had to create a rule to allow “official” league games for teams that weren’t actually part of the league formally, but wanted to get in on the action!
  • Creating Bonds/Rivalries – These stories also create stronger bonds among the players. The sense of shared experience is a powerful one and players will generally talk about leagues wuth narrative elements for years. One map-based campaign for 40K that I ran over 10 years ago still generates comments when players from that group come through.

As successful as this last league was, there are a few extra things I want to try for my next league (Shadespire if you’re curious):

  • Newsletters/Posts from the Front – For this league, I did a brief write-up of the action following each round of play. I’d like to expand on this in the next league by providing a bit more analysis of the week’s action.
  • Battle Reports – I love reading battle reports in White Dwarf and No Quarter – and I don’t even play the games! I’d love to do some short form reports of key games in this upcoming league to see how the players respond!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Faust says:

    Narrative is a big draw for me. I know some people treat Blood Bowl as a rather dry game of Chess, but for me it’s the stories that really lure me in. It’s one of the reasons why I loved RPGs so much as a kid, and why keep talking about stuff that happened in them.

    Liked by 1 person

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