On Focuses, narrative arcs, and asides in the kitchenDearg introduces several additional rules, including the system of narrative arcs and that of the Focuses. These elements make this campaign a one-of-a-kind gaming experience, but they may also surprise the Players. Before we get into the bit about asides in the kitchen, here is how we define narrative arcs and Focuses:
- Narrative arc. A narrative arc is a story that focuses on one Character in particular, while remaining part of the overall plot. In addition to detailing a series of events that will form a great tableau, Dearg develops several narrative arcs. One of them embodies one of the campaign's major themes: Love. You can learn more here.
- Focus. Dearg introduces a new type of scenario: Focuses. Although the PCs are all involved in the same quest (the main story of Dearg), each member of the party has their own history and motivations. The Focuses explore each PC's intimate story. These particular scenarios follow a pattern different from a regular session: only one Player plays their Character, while the other Players play as important people in the PC's life, helping the Game Leader steer the story.
In Dearg volume 1, the birth of this system is described thus:
By convention, tabletop role-playing depicts the actions of a party of PCs, with the existence of each individual PC being less important than that of the group as a whole. This is because there is (usually) only one Game Leader: should the GL detail each PC's actions one after the other, the other Players would get bored and the story would move at a snail's pace. This is why the game focuses on the resolution of a scenario where all the PCs are involved at the same time, setting aside the PCs' personal stories. However, it is a fact that role-players love their Characters, and sometimes go as far as to write a thorough backstory, going over the PC's personal history, dreams, ambitions, wounds, etc. And of course, a Player loves nothing more than to see said backstory come up during the game.
Sometimes, during a game, a Player may ask to speak with the Leader alone to explain their Character's specific actions or to develop their story... which may have nothing to do with the current scenario. Who has not experienced something of the sort? The Leader takes the Player aside to answer their request in another room; typically, the kitchen. They are both aware that they must keep things short, as the other Players are waiting. These particular moments can be very exciting for the Player: after all, this is about their PC, and the story they have designed for them! It is understandable that they are at least as interested in this as in the ongoing scenario, which may be entirely unrelated to the PC's backstory. Unfortunately, the classic tabletop role-playing style does not lend itself to such moments, which have to be handled quickly... when they are handled at all.
Such experiences have given birth to this system of narrative arcs and Focuses. The idea is simple: what if we could turn these rushed asides-in-the-kitchen into the focus of an entire session? That way, each Player could, in turn, develop a story of their own, in fitting conditions, without it turning into a drag for the other participants. Meanwhile, the other Players could experience a new gaming style, halfway between improvisational theater and acting as co-Game Leaders. For a time, the focus would be on one member of the party rather than on the group as a whole, in order to explore the Character's inner world and personal story more deeply.
For more information about Dearg, please check out our Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1176616619/shadows-of-esteren-a-medieval-horror-rpg-dearg