MoonHunter Sayeth 20181102


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Techniques: The Narrator

We have all watched videos and heard "that perfect voice" do the voice over, narrating the scenes. We paid rapt attention to the right voice, with its perfect words, over those images. We have all suffered through the wrong narrator with the wrong dialog. We know the difference of perfect casting and good writing.

Most GMs do narration: The beginning of games, the beginning of scenes, during cut scenes, bits of description during the game, encyclopedia moments, and so on. This is different than just describing what is going on in a turn or scene; the interactions, where things are, who is where doing what, and such. These are big brush descriptions and details, with the occasional fine detail, all done at once so the players have to absorb it all before they can begin to interact.

In my opinion, narration needs to be done well or shouldn't be done at all. Thus why MoonHunter goes on and on about the riffing, the practice in front of the mirror, the planning for what is needed before it is needed at the table, how to embed description, short narrative bursts, and such, in the blog posts.
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Early on in my gaming career, my players realized something important. (Long before I did I confess.). My game had "a narrator". When MoonHunter was narrating, Hunter had a different tone of voice, a different syntax, maybe a bit of an accent, some very specific facial expressions and hand gestures, and so on. All the things one does when one is playing an NPC (and trying to make them distinctive). Without realizing it, I was playing an NPC... who happened to be the narrator for the chronicle.

Now I do "it" on purpose. The narrator for almost all my chronicles is "played by" Sir David Attenborough. I channel my inner Attenborough, copying as much as I can, when I am doing narration. This is The Actor Tool in action: find an actor and use them as a base for the character.

Now players know when I am narrating (generally useful) and when I am describing things or mechanics in play (using my Normal Voice).
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Did you notice the "almost all"?

I knew you did.

There was a period of time MoonHunter used James Earl Jones as my narrator. MoonHunter's voice was never "deep enough" to do it properly, but "My JEJ" made for a distinctive narrator. He did not stick around for long.

Personal preference was not the reason for a different narrator.

"That Perfect Voice" I mentioned earlier is the why?.

The genre, setting, the metaphor for the chronicle, tones and modes, all impact who is the best narrator for The Chronicle.

When I read horror stories and pieces (like Boo!), I often hear Vincent Price's voice. His voice is is permanently linked to the horror genre for most people. I use his voice and mannerisms during the horror segments of chronicles.

Rod Sterling is another great one for Horror or a game that is Out There.

Alfred Hitchcock (suspense), Patrick Stewart (anything really), Leonard Nimoy (any you are In Search Of), Jacques Cousteau (I am saving him for a Blue Planet or Dr Neptune run), Merlin/ Gandolf, Laurence Fishburne, Neo, Clint Eastwood (Westerns), Samuel L. Jackson, Stan Lee (for a comic chronicle), The Duke in an appropriate role, Common (rapper), Yoda, Dr Who (choose your incarnation wisely), are all examples of actors and/or characters that would make excellent narrators. Your list may vary, based on your play style and experience with various actors and NPC performance.

Authors also make good narrators. To keep the description consistent for the entire campaign, MoonHunter will often use a favorite author. One author forms the inspiration and the template for the voice of the campaign. Right before the game, I'll read a chapter or large chunk of one author, (Mercedes Lackey, Chris Claremont, Terry Brooks, Bendis, Joss Whedon, Peter David, Jim Butcher), so that I have an imprint on of how the author would describe scenes. It reinforces the "voice" of the campaign in my mind.

(The Author Narrator helps keep voice and style of the chronicle fresh in the mind of the GM.)

These Narrators do the The Big Cinematic Overview of the nearby environment at the beginning of The Session or a Scene. (Think of it as establishing shots that occur in TV and Movies, reminding the players of where they are and what is nearby. Yes Moon tends to use a television/ movie metaphor, so description is always in visual terms, like a movie shot. Note: the GM should always include some iconic element of the local setting and the name so it sticks in the players mind.) They do Encyclopedia Moments. They do summations (reviewing what happened in the last round (or few rounds) of combat or action. Narrators do have 101 uses; it is up to the GM to find the best ones for their chronicle.

Note: No matter what they do, the narration needs to be kept as short as possible, so troupe can focus on the chronicle at hand.
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The Narrator Technique is a great tool to provide a cleaner and clearer experience for players.
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