Storium As A Campaign Chronicle

In a previous article, I talk about discovering Storium, an online narrative game that provides a framework and a mechanic for an online role-playing game with a play by post sort of framework. My own game is going on pretty well, if at a slow pace because of our time constraints, but it is really scratching my gaming itch.

Storium is about to move into it’s Gamma phase of testing, but it is available for early sign ups. As I was narrating a scene the other day, I had a brilliant realization:

 

Storium is perfect to integrate into your tabletop games as a campaign chronicle and an in-between session gaming platform.

 

Because of the pacing of Storium (GM narrates, players get an email and respond, playing their cards as they move along against challenges the Game Master sets up), it is a perfect tool to use to fill in the less action oriented bits of gaming in between sessions, especially if you usually only get to game once a month or so.  The scenario I envision goes like this:

  • The Game Master sets up a basic Storium world that is in line with their game.
  • The first session is done in person with whatever game system you are using.
  • The players set up characters in Storium that match their characters in the in-person game.
  • The Game Master narrates the events of the first session as a simple recap and then starts a new scene to do the denouement and set up for the next session.
  • The players all take their turns and make their actions, building the moments that lead them on to the next, more active session.

The normally “slower” elements of a game get taken care of outside of the precious and limited gaming time, the players get to take more time to act out their characters and develop their backstories and personal interactions, and the game as a whole comes together more smoothly.

 

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Defeating Planning Paralysis

If I were running a game of Shadowrun, often notorious for players getting stuck in planning paralysis, Storium would allow me to narrate the meeting with the Mr. Johnson and have the players do their planning/recon in a way that takes time and lets them interact with it as they will, but doesn’t take up time at the table. The players will get to “act out” their characters sneaking around, hacking into the building security, tailing suspects, and their actions will all be written down for later. When you come back to the table, you are ready to go for the action and adventure and can reference the Storium chronicle that is stored online. When that session is done, you write a recap of how it went in the scene and move on to the next scene which will set up your next game.

I’ve seen many games attempt to fill the downtime with journals from the players and emails back and forth to keep the action moving, but I’ve rarely seen it work well. Storium provides a perfect framework for this, creating a second game that integrates into the in-person game you play. What do you think of this method? Do you have your own way of keeping the action moving out of session?

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John Arcadian is a writer, gamer, art director, web designer, crafter, and kilt-wearer. You can find more of his writings on gaming over at http://gnomestew.com. For web-design projects, check out http://beezenwebdesign.com.
Comments
  1. Scott Martin     | Reply

    I’ve used wikis and email in the past, but I can see why Storium excites you for this. It’s got a loose enough structure that the characters can get accomplish broad sweeps of investigation and research without getting bogged down in die rolls.

    For a game like Shadowrun, I’d worry a bit about investigative characters being sidelined–since their skills cost character generation resources but don’t give them extra Storium powers. But you could solve that with either more Storium cards for those who are deep into those roles (to compensate for their reduced in session power), or just an understanding that out-of-session abilities will be handled via Storium, so don’t waste skill points on them.

    1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

      Yeah, I’ve used Wikis and emails as well, and this definitely does excite me. The thing that excites me most is that it is structured like another game that is fully narrative. I feel like it gives enough structure for the in-between game process to be useful and narratively sit alongside a game.

      You bring up a good point about character builds not being as effective with the Storium model. I think I would probably give extra cards or ask for rolls alongside certain actions. That would allow for character builds to still be effective in both of the games going on. Very good thing to point out!

  2. NissaCam     | Reply

    I love this idea! Though based on the one brief Storium campaign I played in, I’d be a little worried about the game falling out of sync.

    The biggest problem we had was people responding at different speeds – since Storium (currently?) doesn’t let you run simultaneous scenes, we’d get roadblocked whenever any one of us wasn’t available to contribute to the scene. Add to that the strict time restrictions of keeping scenes between sessions and I imagine you’d end up cutting a lot of the in-between content abruptly short and wrapping it up at the start of the session.

    But, hmm, if you keep it to mostly social stuff – meetings with NPCs, inter-party chatter, planning – that probably wouldn’t come up as much. Anyone who doesn’t participate can just be off napping, drinking, etc. And then you wouldn’t have to worry about system mismatches as much. Use cards for character-appropriate social perks, maybe? Particularly if your game system doesn’t have a lot of social mechanics… And then if you have to cut the scene short, well hey, it’s a busy world out there, people don’t always have all the time they want to sit around a table making plans.

    1. Scott Martin     | Reply

      You might also, strangely, have a vague scene: “Investigation Time” or something, with each person advancing their own investigations in their own ways. So instead of a concrete “place, description, scene: go,” each person would describe their individual efforts to research/investigate, across the city and in the net.

      It’d be weird, and not the norm for Storium, but it’d work from an advance the story between in person games and recording system.

  3. Rob Abrazado     | Reply

    This is a really interesting idea! I’m a big fan of Storium, and I often think about it in terms of comparing and contrasting it to tabletop RPG play, but I never thought about combining the two! Definitely something to think on. It would be really interesting if I could somehow get people on board. Inspired and inspiring idea.

    Also, unrelated, I caught the video of your recent interview with Brian Patterson and Tracy Barnett. Cool stuff!

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