Letting your Players Play

The Saga Zine December 2022

Originally published in the Saga, Dec 2022

We all know about zero sessions and how important it is for character-building. The goal is always to let players have agency within the world. But once the adventures start, I often forget that we need little pauses in the middle as well. I just wrapped up a very exciting story at my table, spawned directly from player stories that spawned in an interlude. 

In our Into the World article this month, I discuss some Holidays in the world of Atheles. Candlenight, a new year celebration, is a time for people to reflect on the past year, the future year, and the people important to them. I ended one session by telling my players that the inn they were staying at would celebrate Candlenight the next time we played. If they wished, they could write up a story their character would share about an event or important person in their past. Knowing some of my players are a little squeamish about being “in character” at the table, I also said they could type up a story, and I would read it. To my surprise and delight the next session everyone had a story and was going to tell it to the table in character! The stories were great and everyone had a fun session. While one story told of how a character lost their foot in a Kielbasa incident (we were all laughing hysterically), two other players had a serious story that intertwined. It told the tale of a hero in their tribe who disappeared and reappeared throughout their tribe’s history. It was wonderful character building and gave me so much more to think about for their characters and stories. 

Fast forward to a year later, and they found themselves running into this heroine, but this time they saved her. As the story unfolded, it was discovered that this mythic hero was a sort of time traveler, and it was revealed she was the mother of one of the player’s characters! It was a very touching moment. The whole table gasped and then became emotional as we played out the scene. And none of this would have happened if I had not stepped back and allowed an interlude to the grand adventure I was building in the campaign. 

While I feel I am there to guide their story at the table, it is always so much more rewarding when we can all weave that story together.