$251,352. THANK YOU, BACKERS! Because of you, we get to bring Storium to the world. It’s a dream come true for us! pic.twitter.com/NaEKnQXtr7
— Storium (@Storium) May 9, 2014
[ED: Yes, this is now old news but lets see if we can get some stories – are people still using Storium? I remember it caused quite a stir at the time — Mark]
A few hours ago, the Storium Kickstarter finished up at over $250 thousand, beating its original goal by a factor of ten and funding all of its stretch goals.
This is a huge yes for the future of tabletop games, and it points to what modern tabletop players want: convenience and flexibility. Storium combines old elements into an entirely new kind of game, resulting in a satisfying adventure that even busy people with divergent schedules can play together.
How is Storium different from an old school play-by-post game?
It’s easy to describe Storium as a modern update on play-by-post gaming forums that were popular back in the day. “Back in the day,” for me, by the way, is middle school, when every girl was involved in at least three role play forums, in at least one of which everyone was a magic talking horse.
But Storium is not just a venue, it’s a system. It works really well with its slow-paced format, and it’s obvious that a lot of thought was put into the mechanic. In Storium, players are dealt cards to represent their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and assets. The GM (or Narrator, in Storium parlance) sets challenges, and the players place cards on these challenges in order to win narrative control, in other words, the right to decide what happens next.
It’s not just the mechanic the makes Storium unique. Narrators can also choose among a number of pre-made story worlds, and the Kickstarter’s success means that dozens of rich landscapes will be available come the official launch. These are not generic settings, but unique adventure seeds penned by a number of established authors. They come with their own sets of cards for players and narrators alike, so a fully-prepped Storium game can be loaded up in just a few minutes.
Winning narrative control
At first, it was strange for me to step into the Storium mindset. I’m used to rolling dice and waiting for the GM to tell me what happens, but in Storium, you narrate the action whether you succeed or fail. It’s only in middle-of-the-road cases that control goes back to the Narrator, creating a natural incentive for players to push for dramatic outcomes.
Once you’re used to it, narrative control becomes its own reward.
My game originally had three characters, two men and a woman. Once our Narrator got a hang of the system, he asked if we’d be okay with inviting more people, and we said yes. Suddenly, five new player-characters were in our party, all of whom were men.
Seven dudes to one chick is certainly not unusual in games, even if I don’t like it, but it felt especially weird to me in our chosen setting. The story is all about trying to negotiate peace between two rulers, both women, and we’ve met a lot of powerful female NPCs so far.
So on the next challenge, I seized narrative control by having my character fail horribly at his task. The guidelines for a negative consequence were “the wizard gives you a quest either epic or insane,” so I made the crazy old wizard order my character to steal his rival’s power through magical seduction. To “help,” he turned my character into a woman. Of course, said rival has been dead for generations, so it’s anyone’s guess how this quest will turn out.
And to their credit, my fellow gamers’ responses have been along the lines of “That was pretty cool” and “I think my character would make a good woman too!”
Ready for the future
I’m convinced that these kinds of advances that combine the inter-player dynamic that makes RPGs great with the on-demand convenience we need to fit our modern lives represents the future of gaming.
And speaking of the future, the most exciting Storium Kickstarter stretch goal of all has been funded, and it’s called “Storium for Schools.” It’s heartening to think that a gamer group will promote creative writing in the classroom, and I can think of a few teacher friends who would die for an online game that encourages literacy and storytelling skills.
So we’re expanding the hobby from both ends: bringing back former gamers who don’t have time to spend hours each week at the table, and teaching kids that games with storytelling elements are enriching and rewarding fun. I, for one, could not be more pleased.
Best line from last play:
“Stealing energy through seduction?” Pan gasps. “That’s not going to help. The Dragonslayer is dead, and—listen to me—I am, for the last time, not a woman!”
“For the last time indeed,” mutters the old man.