Monday, January 01, 1990

Storymap Preparation--Create the Priming Event

Every story starts somewhere. Something sets the tangled web of relationships and emotions spinning into motion. This is called the priming event. This event is what starts the story. For example, if the central conflict is the defense of a village against dragon cultists, the priming event could be the first attack on the village or even the spotting of the column of enemy troops. Whatever it is, the priming event must occur just prior to the events of play. It establishes the immediate situation, provides the context for initial character actions, and places strain on the relationships sketched out on the storymap.

The priming event has a simple purpose in a storymap. Like a detonator attached to a stick of dynamite, the priming event triggers the explosive conflicts bound up within the storymap. The one feature that all good priming events share is that they must require the characters to take some sort of action. Notice that the priming event should not require a specific sort of action. Rather, it should require the characters to make their first decisions. For example, the priming event in “Blood of Haven” is the arrival of the tortured farmer with the news of monsters in the mountains. Uriel’s hand has been tipped. How will he react? Victor and Jochebed have decisions to make as well. Do they realize that this is Uriel’s handiwork? If so, do they attempt to reconcile with Uriel? Do they rally the villagers? Do they try to murder Uriel before he can attack? And who says that they need to pursue the same action? If one seeks to reconcile with Uriel and the other wishes to see him dead, conflict arises between them, which is intensified by their common bond of having lied to the village by banishing Uriel instead of killing him. All sorts of possibilities unfold from a simple event.


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