D&D Doesn't Need "Your Story"

It has become maddeningly common to hear podcasters say, bloggers write and forum posters comment with the two words, "your story."  As if, "telling your story,"  describes what Dungeon Masters are doing and should always be doing in D&D.  It is possible that in the various ways D&D may be played, a DM may also be "telling her story" but D&D doesn't require "your story" to be great.

Dungeon Masters, You don't have to tell a story for D&D to be a memorable experience.  You can make up events and encounters that aren't connected and the players will create the story themselves after they have interacted with those events and encounters.  They do it all the time.  You do it all the time.  Outside of D&D, in your everyday life, you experience events and encounter other people.  When we have a life event that is in some way significant we remember it.  Later on we tell stories to other people about those events. You live and then construct stories about life events after they happen. People write book length memoirs, auto-biographies, bio-pics, documentaries which are narratives about things that happened and were not scripted and often quite unexpected.  Life happened and a narrative was constructed later.  No one is telling "their story" by having you live in it.  As a DM, you don't have to "tell your story" by having your PCs live in it.

Here' is what I do. I create NPC's, organizations, locations, strange phenomenon and monsters the PC's can interact with and problems they can solve or make a lot worse. The players decide what sounds interesting to them and adventure begins. It is up to the DM to make those parts of the world interesting and exciting. One of the best posts I've read on this method is from Justin Alexander entitled Don't Prep Plots. He goes into a considerable amount of detail about how and why to do this. One of the most attractive reasons that I can think of is that it actually takes less prep time for DM's than creating a large plot driven campaign. 

One of the other reasons to shy away from trying to tell "your story."  In a campaign is the temptation to turn it into a railroad.  Your story might not be that appealing to the players and so they go in a direction that you didn't prepare because some little throw away detail on a map or an offhand comment in a moment is more intriguing to them.  You've prepped a big plot and a major villain and it turns out that if you don't railroad your players, it won't get used. There is a big temptation here to railroad your players back to your story and they may resent it if the game doesn't deliver what they are looking for. If you decide not to railroad then you've spent a lot of time and energy on something you may never get to use.  Its a tough dilemma but you can avoid it if you don't consider your campaign means you "telling your story."  Instead, create encounters with interesting NPC's, terrible monsters and strange phenomenon and events which, taken as a whole, are consistent and loosely connected so that at the end of the campaign the players tell stories of their own making.