This post was edited to include option 5.
One of the things I want to include in Spaceship 47 is that over the course of the campaign the players will be completing a story arc for their individual characters. I have come up with four five methods for player stories. Please let me know if you have any other ideas!!!
1) Goal-Driven Story Arcs
The method I am leaning towards at the moment is to have, say, 5 goals for the player to accomplish over the course of the campaign. Each goal would be on a separate card, with a bit of story on them and then the stated goal. The player has to complete the first goal before moving onto the second goal etc. The goals will gradually re-frame how the character acts over the course of the 10 sessions, culminating in the final goal needing to be completed in the final mission. So for instance a selfish character might start off with a goal of taking more loot than any of the other characters and then the final goal will be a selfless act. I would keep the arcs very simple as I don’t think I would be able to do justice to anything more complicated.
2) Secret-Goal Driven Stories
A slightly different way of doing Goal-driver Story Arcs is instead of setting the player a goal which they have to achieve before moving on to the next goal, is to instead have a card for each mission, which the player looks at AFTER the group has completed the mission. This then rates the player depending on what they did during the missions. The massive disadvantage of this is that the player doesn’t know what they need to do to score well before the mission starts. So I think this is a non-starter.
3) Choose Your Own Adventure Style
The one thing that the Goal-driven arcs lack is player choice. I suppose, yes, that the player chooses when and how they complete any particular goal, but they will be tied in to a particular story. Personally, I think if they want something a bit more free form in terms of player growth they should be playing a RPG, not a board game. But maybe there is an argument to be had for allowing this sort of player choice in a board game.
One way that this could be achieved is by incorporating a choose-your-own-adventure style path for the character. My experience with playing the Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger game means I can see how that could be incorporated into the game, but I am not sure whether I am capable of writing multiple good CYOA style stories for the characters. I will keep this option open if the rest of the game system starts veering in a direction that would allow this to be a possibility.
4) Pre-written Stories
The final option and the one I am not going to do unless something drastic changes, is just have a pre-written story for each character that unfolds over the course of the 10 sessions. This would be the easiest way of doing character stories, but also does not allow the player to influence the progression of the character’s story in any way shape or form. I think some players would actually like this. Seeing what is happening to their characters as the game progresses, but I want them to have some influence over what happens. Making sure their actions and decisions during the game matter.
5) Story as Scoring Goal
This would see each player have a card stating what actions result in points. So for example, for each loot they have taken, they score 2 points. These goal cards would change over the course of the campaign to reflect the character progressing through their arc. The advantage of this is that I can trigger the changes in the goals whenever I want which means I can make them change when they are most appropriate for the character’s story. It also means the pacing would be more consistent. With option 1, you could have a scenario, where the player has blazed through the first four goals in the first four missions and then has to wait until the final mission to complete the story arc.
The other advantage of this is that it really gets to the crux of personal versus group goals. The player wants to score as many points as possible to make sure they win, but also realise that they need to complete the missions or they won’t survive to win.
So there you have it, four five options for me to incorporate character stories over the course of the missions. Three of which I like (goal driven, story as scoring goals and CYOA) and two of which I don’t like (pre-written stories and secret goals). I will almost certainly implement goal-driven stories, but I am not averse to CYOA stories, just averse to the amount of work they would require!