Mastering RPG Storytelling With ‘Triniton’ (Sponsored+Giveaway)

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Image: Triniton
Image: Triniton

Every new Game Master must face a trial by fire the first time they sit at a table, surrounded by eager players. Designing a campaign, or storyline, for the party has many pitfalls. Challenges include setting the mood, making the world come alive, and challenging characters to make meaningful decisions. Other storytelling elements a GM should understand include tropes, ethics, morals, and consequences. To highlight these challenges, we’ll explore the Triniton adventure, specifically designed for learning to play tabletop RPGs.

To start on a clear battleground, we’re putting spoilers on the table. This article is for GMs, rather than players, so we’ll be exploring how to use the Triniton adventure. Players should skip to the bottom for the giveaway and let the GM deal with this content. Players should read our first post about Triniton, to learn more. We’ll assume the GM already has a group etc. and focus on telling the story instead of playing the game.

Just for the DM

From the back cover of Triniton
From the back cover of Triniton

Set the mood.

After the rule book, the most important tool a GM has is a space to play. The tone of your story is often strongly affected by the environment. Make sure you have enough light and space, so players can focus on the game rather than discomfort. If you have background noise to mask, or your space is just too quiet, the Triniton soundtrack is perfect for setting the mood. The manual also indicates which tracks are great for different regions of Arbes. These little things bring your players’ senses into the game, making the world more real.

Bring the world to life.

To make the world come alive, the best thing to do is to be prepared. Start by reading the full adventure. Triniton has 9 chapters of story, which allows players to explore any part of Arbes in any order. Being familiar with the whole adventure means your players can explore if they want. This way, if you flounder a bit and the players decided to go a different direction, you can just move along with them.

If you want to redirect them, use tricks to point the player in the right direction. In Triniton, different factions are talented at redirecting characters. The Silent Sisters, for example, use magical portals and stealth to plant messages on unaware players. This is a great built-in tool to help you get the players where you want them to go, by adding to the story instead of taking away. If more muscle is needed, the Rulers might send Enforcers to bring the players in kicking and screaming. This is a form of taking away because you remove the players’ choice in the matter. Use this lightly, lest your players feel railroaded. Introducing these tropes, rules specific to the world the characters live in, fleshes the story out, making it feel more complex and dynamic.

Image: Triniton
Image: Triniton

Always feel free to drop details into the game. Players might find odd details interesting, only to chase them to a boring conclusion. This can make epic discoveries feel more meaningful. A great example is the Mullips, small critters that eat all manner of decomposing organic material but stool oil. Players who break into the brush instead of following the road might come across a pool of oil–naturally generated but still confusing to characters who aren’t from Arbes. For players who need to pick up the pace, the DM can increase the quakes, shaking the world around them. As players learn about the world, these extra tidbits create context for the story.

Challenge characters to make meaningful decisions.

As the players discover the world of Arbes, they will change the face of it forever. If players help the Tejan (adorable mushroom people) expand their territory far enough, they become significantly more intelligent and informed, as the Tejan are capable of answering obscure questions for the players. If the players manage to free the Isos, they will find themselves able to call on the aid of a great army in times of need and find fonts of wisdom at their disposal, as the oldest species of Arbes shares its extensive memory with the party. Bringing these consequences back to follow the players around means that they will feel more invested in the story. Players who feel some control over the world feel more heroic and are more confident.

But what if the players take another path? If players destroy the Tejan colonies, the world will permanently lose a species capable of great feats. If the players decide to betray the Isos in some way, they forsake the chance to learn the history of Arbes– critical to fully understanding the danger to the continent. These consequences can force players to reevaluate their priorities and make more cautious and productive decisions in the future.

From Chapter 3: Earth Photo: Rory Bristol
From Chapter 3: Earth Photo: Rory Bristol

What makes a player choose their path?

Players, and their characters, live in an enormous web of ethics and morals. These two story elements are fairly simple related terms, but they define every decision made and the reaction of the world and people around them. Ethics is the idea behind actions, and morals are the actions and effects of those ethics. Here are some examples of morals and ethics.

  • Seeing a dirty person lying in the middle of the street, a player helps them up. The behavior is a moral one, but that moral is driven by an underlying ethic. In this case, the ethic is Everyone deserves compassion, and the moral behavior is to aid.
  • A criminal kneels before an executioner. If he kills the man, he is behaving morally, under the ethical belief Criminals must be punished. If he spares the man, he is also behaving morally, but would be driven by another ethic such as Forgiveness over vengeance.

The point of these storytelling elements is that your players can (and should) be forced to evaluate which ethics drive them and how they can behave morally. Triniton does an excellent job of forcing players to choose their paths. As the party explores Arbes, they will be forced to choose between factions, decide who lives, and who dies. They will overcome world-threatening decisions and, hopefully, fall in love with the world of Arbes while they save it from the dangers it faces.

But when the players find themselves at the end of the adventure, they must choose between their lives and the lives of the universe. The Voider sleeping in the core of the planet will devour all of existence if it isn’t destroyed. But there’s a heavier factor than self-sacrifice. To kill the Voider, they must use the planet as a weapon. Destroying the world-eating behemoth will kill every ally earned, every child saved, and every struggle they’ve endured to reach this decision.

If players consider it long enough, they will realize Arbes will die either way. The planet will be the first snack the Voider noms as it leaves hibernation. They’ll also realize the true purpose of Arbes–it’s a failed cage, and the quakes are proof the prison is nearly broken. The only good the planet can do is save the universe–a noble but heartbreaking ending, to be sure. If players decide to delay the release of the Voider, they will have to consider the risk to the future. Some characters just won’t be willing to kill themselves, no matter the costs. It’s not selfish, it’s self-preservation. If players come up with a creative solution, such as surrounding the Voider with Mediators to freeze it in time, perhaps they can live long enough to find a better solution. At the very least, Arbes will continue to grow and might find its own solution, given time and understanding of the true problem.

In the end, encourage players to make choices as their character, not the player. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Would your hero do that?” Sometimes, the player realizes that the best way to roleplay is to make a choice based purely on the game, not their own desires. These moments make the world that much more tangible for the player in that moment.

With Triniton, a Game Master can practice the skills they need to play any game. Head over to their website to order the game, and be sure to enter the early bird giveaway below!

Giveaway details:

This early bird giveaway with feature 5 prizes:

  1. One full set (Adventure+Soundtrack+Short Story+Deck of Cards),
  2. One Adventure (Two winners)
  3. One custom deck of Triniton cards (Two winners)

Prize winners were selected randomly on Black Friday (11/25)!

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