Okay, What Act Is This?

Are there any rpgs that you start playing, without knowing when in the story they’re taking place?

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I personally can’t think of any TTRPGs where part of the initial premise is that you don’t know where in the story you are.

This is a little hard for me to understand. To me, this feels like it makes an assumption that there is a SET STORY that you might be somewhere in the middle of. That part of the premise of the game is figuring out where in the set story you are.

If you are talking about an individuals character’s story. Many TTRPGs are setup where the default is that you are telling the beginning of the character’s stories. But even in those, there is some history for the character, we usually don’t play out the first years of life type thing, we sum it up and it’s the character’s backstory.

I love playing characters at the END of their story. Usually it involves them dying, but it can also be the person just fading away to do nothing else story worthy.

I will sometimes not know what part of the characters story I will be telling. I don’t know it’s the end of their story until I get there (most of the time). Some characters will end up having much more story in them than I initially thought.

Are you talking about your character’s individual story? Or something else?


Psi-run loosely has this premise. A threat is chasing you but you don’t know why and you’ve lost your memory. Isn’t the goal to try to figure out where in the story you are?

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This is a pretty interesting idea, and I’ve never seen it used in a game. I can’t think of any great ways to do this right off the top of my head, but it’s interesting to think about. As Yoshi says, it requires a game that’s “aware” of an expected “story arc”, which can be a tricky thing to design for.

Actually, this might be a candidate:

In In a Wicked Age…, when you play a character, you don’t always know whether this is their last Chapter or whether we will see them many more times. You can try to play it a certain way, but there are no guarantees. You find out over the course of many sessions.


Paranoia could easily start this way. I mean technically you don’t know whether and/or which iteration of clone you are.

A Penny For My Thoughts does this. When it is your scene, you start telling a memory. But there’s no guarantee that the memory you’re recalling now comes chronologically after the memories you recalled in previous scenes. And often, you won’t even know for sure the order that the memories go in until after you’re done with the scene. Sometimes you never know what order they go in.

You sometimes get something similar in the flashback memories in The Skeletons or in a game I’m working on called Rusałka. You have a flashback, but you don’t necessarily know how that flashback relates temporally to the other flashbacks that you have had. But in those two games, you have one ongoing storyline that occurs in chronological order, even though you have flashback that might be in anachronic order.


Well, can we agree that story in a role-playing game is a bit of a mixed bag? I’m not sure how to answer your question without writing something really long-winded.

In this post, I’m talking about the story, because I don’t feel the need to separate character growth or change, from story. I mean, it’s all a part of some big mess, right?

One example of this I’ve seen:

The GM gives everyone a pregenerated group and a mission. Unbeknownst to the players, the group is doomed and you play through exactly how that happens. Then you turn around and create (or are given) a new group of characters to either investigate, avenge, or follow up on the original group in some way.

I think if handled poorly this would feel manipulative and bad, but it’s possible to run this in a way that many groups could enjoy. This probably doesn’t work very well for systems that have a narrative or story focus (since players would be in the dark about an important aspect of the story) but works well with other styles of play.

Tangential, but a scenario framework I’ve used before. This is for our Neo Shinobi Vendetta game where the PCs are heroic anime cyber-ninja. The team’s called in by their cell leader and told that there’s an important and time sensitive mission. Just as I give them a general sense of their objective, I cut to black.

They suddenly find themselves in a completely different room, facing a group of foes who look disoriented. They realize that someone’s dropped a memetic EMP bomb, erasing the last several hours of their memories. Now they have to piece together where they are, what’s their agenda, what’s gone wrong, and how far along they are on that mission. When I run it face to face I hand out semi-randomized weird equipment cards. Between that and what they pick up on scene they have to figure out their mission and carry it out.

It shifts the structure a little and puts things in medias res.