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Dead Scribe

What is "narrative gaming"

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I've seen this a bit and when I ask or get examples, it basically always comes down to competitive gaming but with a back story or something.  The NOVA has a narrative event going down, and it looks like its tournament style gaming with their back story behind it and some non official scenarios but with optimized army lists still.

What is "narrative gaming" exactly?  If all it is is adding some kind of back story to an army, why does narrative gaming need its own mode of play?  Can't you do the same thing with competitive/standard version of the game and just slap a back story on it?

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Narrative gaming in my mind tells a story through the battleplan (not around it).  A great set of examples are the original Realmgate war campaign books.  They don't use "balanced" armies, but use victory conditions for balance.  

Here could be an example:  An advance force of stormcast were stealthily scouting ahead and were discovered.  They fell back but are surrounded by a larger force.  Can they hold out till reinforcements arrive? (4 battle rounds).  For this you wouldn't see an optimized list since a star drake would not be stealthy.  Nor would the armies be the same "size" since one was smaller but all it has to do is hold out.  

Can the stormcast scouts hold out and rely the critical war information to the army's general?  Can the forces of <insert army> capture the scouts before their plans are ruined? Etc...

This could just be one in a larger series of battles.   Maybe the next battle if the scouts are saved, the stormcast army has a bonus of moving 6" after being set up.  Where if the opposing army wins they get that bonus..

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Narrative games can have wildly unbalanced armies as the traditional sense of victory isn't usually in play.

The focus is more on the journey and not the result.

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I think that you should check site of the NEON group https://wearetheneon.com/ and RAW tournaments 

. They often utilize new custom rules and warscrolls (for example during RAW18 every player has to bring converted miniatures depicting alchemists and their labs. NEON tournaments used even custom ships and naval battle rules!) During narrative tournaments the outcome of battle always affect the story You can read some short stories written after Coalescence tournaments on NEON's site.

Edited by michu
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To my mind at least, narrative play is an approach that emphasises the role playing side of Warhammer. It places the story telling aspect of the battle plan above balance. This can be as simple as giving your two matched play armies a backstory, but it can go beyond that. For instance, we might devise a last stand battle plan where the armies are deliberately unbalanced and victory for one side is inevitable, so it becomes about the manner of defeat and how long you can hold out. You might play a map based campaign where the strength of your army is based on the resources you control, and several players have to ally to take down a stronger opponent. It affects your own army selection too. If I'm playing a fast moving raiding force for a specific scenario, I'm not taking my slower heavy infantry and artillery even if they'd normally be an auto-include, because they're way too slow to keep up. Of course, many people still use points to get a rough balance, but the emphasis is on making sure the forces are roughly even, not winning as much advantage from list building as you can. 

Another big part of narrative play is the emphasis on playing in character. This makes some moves that are very shrewd and perfectly valid in matched play major faux pas in narrative. Examples for a Khorne army would include adding an allied sorcerer lord, conga lining your bloodreavers to get in range of your secrator or hiding your hero behind some terrain rather than charging into a disadvantageous combat. Playing the rules rather than the story is the antithesis of narrative gaming.

Ultimately the main reason it's a separate style of play is because players' expectations need to be managed. Perhaps the biggest difference is that in matched play if the game is completely unbalanced then it's on the rules writers, in narrative it's on the players. If you shut your opponent out of the game in matched you've done a good job, whereas in narrative you've missed the point.

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That makes sense.  Why then though when I read the army lists that are playing in narrative events that they look similar or the same to what I'd see in a matched play tournament?  Wouldn't bringing those lists break the scenario since the idea of list building in a matched play game IS to unbalance the game through having a superior list?

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I wouldn't think they would.

Narrative games have sides built to fit the narrative of the game at hand.

Edited by Mr. White

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Narrative and Competitive don't really "mean" anything considering that the whole focus of the game is still competitive combat. A narrative list can be identical to a top tournament list. 

The real difference is that the narrative game might not give you equal points; or might give you unique mission objectives; or just give you random things happening in the battle. IT might have a growth system so some units are retained in a series of games and might get bonus abilities if they survive battle to  battle etc....

 

Ergo it throws additional things in on top. 

 

IT can also be a game mode favoured by those who are not as skilled at the game and thus avoid tournaments. As a result their army lists might not be as competently built. It might also be that the narrative event puts limits on what you can and cannot take - this might be unique to the players taking part.

 

 

For example it might be a Skaven Siege on a Stormcast outpost. The Stormcast player might be prevented from taking cavalry and other fast moving models; but be allowed artillery at a cheaper price. Meanwhile the skaven player might be allowed WAY more clan rats than normal. They might even be undying in that if a clanrat unit is wiped out it reappears at the board edge to sweep in again to represent the charging hoards. Meanwhile the overall objective is to see how many turns they can make the game last. Will the Stormcast hold out until the bitter end of the game day or will the Skaven overrrun them. 

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Narrative games have sides built to fit the narrative of the game at hand.

I've never seen a narrative game at an event have pre built sides.  They let people make their own list and come to the event and play, and the lists from what I have seen are almost if not exactly the same as you would see on the tournament side of the hall.  Thats what always confused me about what narrative gaming was since it seems like its just matched play powered lists where they use unofficial scenarios and have a backstory.

I know both Adepticon and NOVA anyway have narrative events that that neo group runs and thats how those have been run anyhow.

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Where do you find army lists for narrative events? I can't find any. Maybe you think about GW events - they are not the best examples of narrative events. Read this tournament pack for Malign Portents Coalescence event - it had it's own army building rules and custom battleplans. It should give you idea how narrative armies look.

 

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A narrative game can very well just be a "regular" game with some background to add some story flavour. The thing is, there aren't a specific series of checkmarks absolutely required to qualify as narrative (or any other "mode" for the matter, if it is even a thing to categorize games in such way...).

Fairly evident that narrative stuff do actually have some common ground such as adding a background to an army or playing special scenrario as part of a larger story. Yet the elaboration varies widely. From a purely rpg/storytelling based with big maps, special scenario rules and little regard for "offical balance" to more balanced torunaments (game-wise) where each scenario follows a story progression and it is required to have a specific background to illustrate a larger story throughout the event. Different approaches, both with narrative flavour.

Games incorporate different "types of play" depending on whatever people feel like playing, without being mutually exclusive or mandatory guidelines (though recurring patterns may show up of course...).

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42 minutes ago, Dead Scribe said:

narrative events 

This is the issue, I think. While some places advertise "Narrative" tournaments, they are still tournaments and often still use matched play composition rules. It's just that there may be "flufflier" battleplans or an attempt to tell a loose story through the battleplans etc. 

I don't think it's really accurate to call these events "narrative play". It's competitive play with a narrative flavor.

True Narrative Play is not something you are likely to see in an event setting, simply because you can't run an event and have rich, narrative scenarios that will work for whatever armies people happen to bring. To really build a full narrative scenario, I think it helps to have a Dungeon Master/Players type approach where someone (even if that someone is the actual players) goes through the work of building and developing the narrative setup for that particular game. It helps if the players themselves are invested in the narrative to the point where winning and losing are not real considerations. 

Basically, I think that most events are going to be competitive play even if they are dressed up as something else. It takes a lot of work and buy-in from the players to really do a narrative event. At the club or home-game level, however, narrative play is absolutely real and doable. 

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Narrative games are about making a story. Everything feeds into that purpose. They could well be very competitive or balanced but that will be to feed into the story only. That said most good stories require tension and drama so some semblance of Balance (not the same as equality) will be necessary.  Man with sword vs 100 ghosts  is unlikely to be an interesting tale to play out.

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37 minutes ago, Dead Scribe said:

 

 

I've never seen a narrative game at an event have pre built sides.  They let people make their own list and come to the event and play, and the lists from what I have seen are almost if not exactly the same as you would see on the tournament side of the hall.  Thats what always confused me about what narrative gaming was since it seems like its just matched play powered lists where they use unofficial scenarios and have a backstory.

I know both Adepticon and NOVA anyway have narrative events that that neo group runs and thats how those have been run anyhow.

Narrative events at tournaments are for many people competitive games without the pressure. I only have limited experience, but it was a narrative campaign where you fought for your Grand Alliance and everyone's results furthered the story.

Narrative gaming at home and at local gaming clubs is often totally different. Short, 3-5 game campaigns, sometimes enacting situations where the game is hopelessly one-sided but you want to see how things play out, or longer campaigns between two factions, with limitations as others have pointed out.

I'd say Narrative is probably AoS at its finest, and if Games Workshop had to pick an intended way for it to be played, I'd go so far as to suggest it'd be that.

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2 hours ago, Dead Scribe said:

What is "narrative gaming" exactly?  If all it is is adding some kind of back story to an army, why does narrative gaming need its own mode of play?  Can't you do the same thing with competitive/standard version of the game and just slap a back story on it?

Because the more context GW gives, the less creative people will be with the rules. So it's a blank slate. Make the story you want to tell and add the rules that help that. That's why it needs to be separate section in my opinion. In that sense Open Play always felt a bit stuk in the middle to me. You can both describe it as Narrative with added elements from matched play and describe it as Matched play but with the option to drop rules. 

2 hours ago, Dead Scribe said:

it basically always comes down to competitive gaming but with a back story or something. 

So my personal example i'm preparing for is a expanding Skirmish Campaign with my girlfriend to give her a sense of the hobby. The first scenario she starts with a couple of Daughters of Khaine searching for a lost relic. I'll add three clanrats in the middle and if she kills them i'll add more. 
Somewhere along the line she'll run into a fight between stormcast and Kahadron. Depending on who she sides with she'll have a few helpers for the rest of the campaign and be granted a relic/weapon.

In another mission she'll have the chance to earn an extra prayer, bepending on her choices. 

Also depending on what happens a nemisis will rise (probably). All enemies that she has some struggles with will get a nam and return. (first 4 missions will be a Skaven Stormvermin champ, warlord, warlock engineer, assassin)

Starting after game 1 Allegiance abilities will be in effect. Although Skirmish doesn't allow battle tome allegiance abilities. I'm not using points for balance as it will be a learning experience. 
Hopefully building up to smaller games where again I will be judging balance and leaving points out of it. Adding stuff where ever I see fit. 

That's what Narrative is to me. But again it's very open to personal experience. (and in event form probably more regulated). :) 

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1 hour ago, Dead Scribe said:

 

 

I've never seen a narrative game at an event have pre built sides.  They let people make their own list and come to the event and play, and the lists from what I have seen are almost if not exactly the same as you would see on the tournament side of the hall.  Thats what always confused me about what narrative gaming was since it seems like its just matched play powered lists where they use unofficial scenarios and have a backstory.

I know both Adepticon and NOVA anyway have narrative events that that neo group runs and thats how those have been run anyhow.

I'd say there isn't a clear line between narrative and competitive, it's more of a spectrum. Events tend to lie more towards one end. 'Pure' narrative in my experience tends to be more suited to the private gaming club and home game environment. It's also worth noting that GW have done a great job in giving armies that better fit the background in terms of selection and play-style advantages through synergies, allegiance abilities and the like. That said, I've played some great apocalypse style games at my old FLGS where players were told something along the lines of "bring three units and a character, we're playing the Siege of Praag." The trouble with narrative at events is that it's hard to discuss clearly between all the attendees the exact types of armies you'll bring, whereas two experienced players who know each other well can easily work such things out.

 

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Narrative Play Games are 1 of the 3 ways to play. It is detailed on page 278 to 305 of the AOS Core Book.

 

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Narrative gameing is all about the story. Whether it be the story of your Army and the characters within it or linked group of historical games. 

For me it’s all narrative I have an ongoing story for my Orruks that is formed from the games I play. It doesn’t matter if it’s Open style or Matchedplay it’s still narrative. 

It’s all about trying to make the miniatures more than just gameing pieces but rather make them characters with personalities and stories to tell.   With special characters this is easy to do as it’s been done for you. It is worth remembering that back in the beginning of the Warhammer games many special characters and events stemmed from the designers’ armies and games. Ghazghkull Thraka and Mad Dok Grotsnik were characters from Andy Chambers Personal Goff army long before they were special characters and Karl Franz’s wounding and being protected by Deathclaw at the battle of Blood Keep was an event from a White Dwarf battle report. 

Theres not really such a thing as a Narrative army list, it’s just an army list.  It’s the thought and story behind it that makes it Narrative. 

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Narrative gaming, as others have said, can only be done in clubs, in your house/garage, in LGS, with your friends/other people, and it tends to take a good bunch of hours, days, to create/Forge the narrative. You don't need a full 4-month campaing to have a narrative experience, but most "Narrative events" are just tournaments with flavour and some special battleplans.

I have worked as a "master" of narrative AoS events, most of them using the Hinterlands ruleset by Bottle, where I would plan the scenarios, create the narrative, and then offer choices to my players between battles and during the battles, create rules on the fly, etc... thats true narrative gaming. Basically, a mixing of RPG and Warhammer.

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For me personally, (and I routinely describe myself as a "narrative gamer"), this approach to play is more of an ethos than a set of clearly laid out play restrictions. I approach my gaming more in the vein of an RPG - i.e. there are no winners or losers, just a story that unfolds. 

I world build, create key characters with motivations tied into that world, craft scenery designed to represent specific locations and then play battles and skirmishes to drive that narrative forward. The fiction then adapts and evolves based on outcomes. Sometimes I'll use points as a guideline, other times only the forces that fit the current junction in the tale are involved. 

This is why I am very excited for the (eventual) AoS RPG by C7 - using role playing to bring the "in-between" stories from simply homebrew fan fiction to actual living gameplay. 

Mark 

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3 hours ago, Kramer said:

So my personal example i'm preparing for is a expanding Skirmish Campaign with my girlfriend to give her a sense of the hobby...

What a great way to introduce the hobby! I like the plan you have thought out

 Did your gf choose the daughters of Khaine as her starter faction?  

I might steal your idea to introduce some friends to the game and let them choose a Underworlds team to start with.  Could be an awesome way to spend a day.  Build, spray and slap on a few colors together before starting the campaign.  

Edited by MightyMetro

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Not really paying attention to these narrative tournaments, to me Narrative Gaming is when creativity knows no bounds and its time to break out all the supplements books. Especially when it comes to creating units or structure that don't exist in normal warhammer.

 

40k has some great examples like this Ork Train which IIRC was featured in a white dwarf or online article. I can't remember where.

1373084595796.jpg

 

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In addition to many of the other great answers above, in Narrative gaming, you and your opponent are telling a story together (playing to find out what happens) rather than fighting against each-other in a competitive fashion.  Winning the scenario is no longer the ultimate goal (it's still a goal), the primary goal is to have a good time and take home some fun stories.  

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6 hours ago, MightyMetro said:

What a great way to introduce the hobby! I like the plan you have thought out

 Did your gf choose the daughters of Khaine as her starter faction?  

I might steal your idea to introduce some friends to the game and let them choose a Underworlds team to start with.  Could be an awesome way to spend a day.  Build, spray and slap on a few colors together before starting the campaign.  

Exactly! Yeah I set up about 7 heroes from different factions I have and she like the Slaughter Queen the best.

Painting is not her thing so I'll be painting but it's a great joy to be able to paint several models from different factions just for this.

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I would say that Narrative gaming covers everything from the "classic" version of wargaming to the narrative tournaments. With classic wargaming I mean the style that was the norm around in 3rd or 4th edition Warhammer and still in historical games. So you have an umpire, custom made scenario and forces and the game is about telling the story, not so much about settling who wins. It also covers campaigns, where the games are related to each other by some means. This happens to be my favourite style of gaming. Then on the lighter end you have the "narrative tournaments" that are more or less regular tournaments where people are encouraged to bring fluffy armies and there might be some custom made / more special scenarios.

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