Choice plays a critical role in any story. Much of the meaning found in stories is exemplified in the choices characters make, as well as the consequences that follow. And yet, I feel that most characters make very few real choices over the course of their story. And I think that’s necessary. Too many choices can overwhelm an audience, just as too few often make for a boring story.
So far I’ve been discussing the experience of role playing, but for me there’s one distinction between tabletop role playing and larping, the tension. In a traditional “sit down” role playing session, players have time to think and react. The game master tells players what is happening, and one by one players choose an action, roll a die, and find out what happened. The fact that every choice has to be processed and resolved by the game master creates a natural staggering, which does not exist in larping.
One of the most basic forms of engagement is curiosity, what’s going to happen next? Surprises, judiciously used, can keep a story interesting, and prompt audiences to reconsider what they’ve previously read or thought. A surprise can either be a surprise for both audience & character(s), or a surprise for the audience alone.