As a writer (not in Mr Moorcock's league) I'm often hard-pressed to explain exactly what an RPG umpire ("GM" if you must) does. It's not exactly storytelling - or at least it shouldn't be. Umpires who turn up with a prepared plotline and expect players to jump through their story hoops are missing the whole point of roleplaying. If I want to do that, I can go watch a movie or read a book. In roleplaying, the player-characters are the protagonists. That means they have to be the major actors driving how events unfold. If you just want to tell stories, read to your kids.
"You have to have a formula that's absolutely strong enough to hold anything. That's where people like me are very fortunate. I have a kind of innate sense of structure, which also makes me a good mimic. It's very close to mathematics. When I wrote a computer game a few years ago, it was in some ways the easiest job I'd ever had because it's all structure, and the guys know it has to be. If you're talking to a Hollywood person they never know what they're doing structurally. They ask for changes and everything falls apart, but game people are just perfect because they know the purpose of every element."
- Michael Moorcock interviewed in The Guardian
And yet storytelling skills are used in preparing a game, in much the same way that storytellers are employed on reality TV shows: to create the possibilities of a plot that the players will inhabit and bring to life. If you're running an RPG, you should be laying the tracks just half a step step ahead of what your players are coming up with. Always fly by the seat of your pants, you'll have more fun that way.
My wife Roz, who I actually married first in a roleplaying campaign - not quite as sad as it sounds as we didn't actually meet through gaming - runs a script- and novel-mentoring agency and provides first-rate free story advice on her blog Nail Your Novel. She recently published her distilled wisdom in book form and you can get an online preview here or find the print edition on Amazon. You have no reason to trust a husband recommending his wife's book, of course, but I can testify on oath that I am not the only member of my gaming group to find it extremely useful when creating stories.
Okay, enough nepotism. Tune in tomorrow for the biggest news of the year. Yeah, I know it's still only February, but trust me. This is a bona fide scoop and you will not want to miss it! You want a hint? It's only a dice roll away.