I am having a hard time coming up with my top 11 comic book stories. The list is too big and half the time I keep changing the criteria of "Best."
But what I have been doing is starting a Black Crusade rpg. And before that I was working on an Iron Kingdoms/WoW mashup epic saga. It has been ten years since I was in that seat, and I must tell you that my approach has changed considerably. I have softened where I used to be unyielding, and where I used to be merciful now I don't even care.
You read a lot in rpgs about ways to deal with problem players. I used to care about problem players. It drove me from the gaming table. Now I don't deal with problem players at all. They may still be there, the trick is that they are not problem players. They are just players.
I am not talking about the real problem players. People OOC rude or totally disruptive. Cheaters. the real villains. They get sorted pretty quick at our table.
No, I mean the Skulker/Wallflower. I mean the Combat Monster. I mean the Rules Idiot.
I used to care about the Wallflower who just listened. I used to stay awake wondering why the Combat Monster never wanted to engage in all this "talkie-stuff" going on. I used to try to fix it. This ultimately killed my game. All Storytellers just embrace this truth: Garbage In, Garbage Out. This is the way to sanity.
As long as most of the people are engaged and YOU are having fun, let the Skulkers skulk and Combats combats. To be honest, it is less work on you.
I admit, Rules Idiots will be the hard one. I bought them all books. The answer will be "page 342." if it is the same damn spell they ask me about every combat. Just smile and say "page 342."
Also lets say people who don't read the background or that won't get the nuances of the story. That is still ok, as long as the player is having fun. He thinks Africa is a country, that is all. Garbage In, Garbage Out. One man's Marvel Civil War, is another man's (a real man's) Infinite Crisis. As long as the Airhead, the Skulker, and the Combat Monster keep showing up it is all good. They are not hurting you or your game. They may be getting out of it exactly what they want from it.
As long as you get enough interaction to keep your imagination going that is all that matters. You got to have some stars. Also those one note characters can become stars at any time. Keep giving them doors, but only they can decide to step through them.
How I have softened is more about narrative control. I used to be able to pull off a really good con. You felt like you had control and the fights mattered, but it was really all prescripted. It is all about acting, and giving them enough side stuff that they do have control of. Stuff that feels really important to them, but has no meaning to saga they are caught up in. I am pretty sure this is how most games are run. And it is fun.
But I am now more about giving player much more control of the story. You are like the head writer of a comic book line, and we all get together to do JLA. My job is the Editor- gotta keep is all consistent. That's a game.
To facilitate this you have to provide an immense setting, you have to have generic plot hooks all over the place. You have to dream your Saga, but let them go wherever. If you know the setting well enough you can improvise. It is a ton of prep. Also just makes modular. It is simple to have the cult be whatever Inn the characters go to. You have to think modular like that but on a grand scale.
Luckily for me, published adventures are much better than when I was a kid. I know 40k well enough and FFG has a lot of good stuff on my shelves.
Eventually it should get to where the players are driving the story. The players should decide what they are gonna do and then I'll fill in the details.
This is not new wisdom, by any means. Well, maybe the stuff at the top is. Throw all that touchy-feely "try to engage the Wallflower" advice in the trash. You will be saner.
Words of Advice for younger people.