An Introduction to Mind's Eye Theatre

This game is probably different from anything you've ever played. In some ways, it's not really a game at all. There is no board, there are no dice, and there is no set way of winning. The Masquerade is more concerned with stories than rules. In fact, this game has more in common with childhood games than with Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly. This game allows you to confront the Beast Within; it enables you to assume the role of a vampire.

If you have never played in a live game, be prepared for a departure from the realm of boardgames. Even if you've been playing tabletop roleplaying games for years, you will find that live gaming feels different. Rather than the game existing solely in your mind, it comes to life around you. The rush of adrenaline and the feel of "being" your character is much more intense. We have a name for this style of game. We call it Mind's Eye Theatre.

The Art of Storytelling

Before you become engrossed in the rules..., remember that The Masquerade is a storytelling game. The story should always come first in your mind. If everyone involved in a dispute can agree on the outcome, ignore the rules. Rules are a safety net for when players can't decide what should happen in a situation.

Mankind has been telling stories since the time when cavemen sat around fires. Since that time, we have explored incredibly diverse types of media to tell our stories. Books, radio, television, and even computer networks have carried our tales to others. Live-action roleplaying grew out of the roleplaying games of the seventies. Roleplaying games in the nineties no longer have an emphasis on looting strongholds for treasure and fighting so-called "monsters." Instead, they focus on telling stories in a unique way. Therefore, we call these diversions "storytelling games."

Storytelling games allow people to work together and weave a tale. This interactive type of storytelling is beginning to appear in other media as well. Various theater groups are experimenting with new types of interactive drama where audiences can be involved in the plays they watch. Cable companies are investing heavily to research networks supporting interactive television. We are changing not just the means by which we tell stories, but the methods as well.

The Live Gaming Paradigm

Tabletop roleplaying, however, still leaves most of the story under the control of one person. The Storyteller has to describe the entire world and any additional characters that the rest of the gaming group encounters. The Storyteller has total control of nearly everything in the world and creates most of the story, with the players contributing their parts.

Live gaming is starting to break the standard roleplaying mold. When a hundred or more people are telling a story at once, the Storyteller does not have to describe the entire world. The Storyteller creates ideas and goals and describes the world in terms of rules and descriptions to players. The players then act out their characters and create the story with small amounts of input from the Storyteller. Designing a live roleplaying story is not really like creating a traditional story. Rather, it is more like a chemistry experiment. You mix plot elements and see what happens. The story begins to take on a life of its own, with elements provided by all the players.

Another major shift that live gaming brings to the art of storytelling involves escaping the limitations of the medium. The game is no longer limited to words and imagination. Costuming, props and other visual cues can be an integral part of a live game. Instead of a Storyteller describing two people talking across the room, the players actually see them standing in the corner whispering. When you play a live game, you must keep in mind an old writer's adage: "Show, don't tell."

History of Live Roleplaying

Live roleplaying is actually not a new idea. Various groups have been experimenting with live games since the early 80's. Because many of these groups worked independently, three main traditions of live games have evolved. There are many variants to these three types of games. Innovative groups have run many new and unusual live gaming experiments at conventions over the last few years. These groups have only recently come together to exchange ideas.

Tabletop Variants: Many of the earliest live games appeared in Australia at various gaming conventions. Most of these games used simple revisions of tabletop rules or no rules at all, augmented by elaborate sound and dramatic techniques to amke gaming more atmospheric. The method of telling the story is still the same one used in many roleplaying games. Descriptions of places and events still come from a single storyteller. Sometimes the players discover a story that has already taken place by investigating old documents and newspapers.

Live Fantasy Gaming: In the late eighties, several groups originated in different parts of the world to play live fantasy games. Many of these groups used systems involving foam weapons as part of their combat rules. One particularly interesting aspect of these games is that people were creating their own characters. Early efforts were very similar to the dungeon crawls of early tabletop roleplaying. However, some groups got large enough to populate entire fantasy villages once a month. Because of the combat system (swinging around padded weapons), many games of this variety take place outdoors.

Interactive Gaming: Other groups have merged the two traditions, creating short single-run games with elaborate characters. Instead of contact weapons rules, these games use ad-hoc rules for each story, covering skills, combat and magic. Unlike the early live experiments, stories happen during the game. Interactive games are currently very popular at North American gaming conventions, where large groups of roleplayers gather together.

Mind's Eye Theatre is almost a direct descendent of interactive gaming. Mind's Eye Theatre games share common rules so that storytellers can concentrate on ccreating the right "chemicals" for a good story.

TriangleByNight Productions * 5910-129 Duraleigh Road #123 * Raleigh, NC 27612

This page is an excerpt from The Masquerade, Second Edition copyright 1994 by White Wolf, Inc.