While running any role playing game, be it a tabletop live game, a play by email (or blog) game, or whatever, there are players, and there’s the GM.
The guy with the script.
There WILL be a script.
Whether the game he intends to run will be relentlessly structured with little room for wiggle (or originality), tight as a railroad…
Or whether it consists of no more than a written paragraph to kick things off; “You all meet each other, friends of long standing, at your usual table in the Pig and Whistle Tavern. Suddenly, a passing stranger gives out a groan of misery and collapses onto your table, knocking beer tankards aside in disarray. A knife is stuck in his back hilt deep.” and that’s actually all the GM knows, and plans to make the rest up as the night goes on.
Either way… there is a script. Even if he’s making it up on the fly, the GM is still making up a script as he goes, moment by moment, trying to take the actions of the now and see how he can fit them into something fun. “Something fun” meaning a story of some sort.
It’s the same as writing a story… but when you say the characters develop a life of their own… by God, you mean it!
Most GMs I’ve known lament over the destruction innovative players will cause to their carefully laid plans.
They’ll wax nostagically, wistfully over their carefully laid plans, their subtle undercurrents and subplots, their dramatic theme and awesome backstory that makes this the BEST STORY EVAR… if it weren’t for those damn kids.
Me, I come from the chaos school of role play. In California, we called it the Surfer Style RPG Kung Fu.
Come up with a story you think is awesome, spend lots of time on it, knock yourself out. But as soon as you start playing, always keep in mind, the players’ characters are what the story is really all about, those self centered little bastards, and when they do something completely unexpected, don’t just sit in shock and brainlock at them bringing in the Spanish Inquisition (nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!), take it as a direct challenge to see thier introduction of derailing ingenuity, and raise them a “What the hell? Holy shit!” shocking plot twist.
That’s why, when I see a comic strip like the one here at DM of the Rings, while I’m laughing I’m thinking “Oh, what a glorious bunch of bastards those players are… and how I would make them pay. And they’d thank me for it.”