Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Story Games

I owe Mick Bradley (of Harping Monkey fame) a good deal for introducing me to story games. One of the last episodes of the Round Table podcast provided a really great introduction to story games (season 5, episode 1), one that really inspired me and made me realize that the ideas underlying story games really dovetailed with the same ideas the Fifth World espouses, and that made me realize that I had to make the Fifth World a story game.

What does that mean, though?

Well, I certainly wouldn't call myself any kind of expert on the matter, but what I've come to see as the defining points of story games include:

  • Narrative focus. The game focuses on telling a story. That sets it apart from the power fantasy of RPG's, where you try to advance your character. Failure and tragedy arise in story games intentionally. Players have some distance from their characters, so the character's failure can still come about as the player's success.
  • Dispersion of authority. The GM doesn't have a monopoly on the imaginative reality of the game. Other players have ways of controlling the story, so the story really does become a collaborative product.
  • Story mechanics. The game mechanics don't just provide your stats and strengths, they tell your story. This probably makes up the most important point about story games: the rules don't just "get out of the way" when the story begins. You define your character in narrative terms. You make a character by telling his story.


Jordan said...

So, then, are the stories already laid out, in a skeletal structure, and one just plays out the details? Or does the story emerge out of improvisation, following ones needs and desires, to form an entire life?

Jason Godesky said...

One of the big selling points story games have generally offered has told GM's that they need much less prep time, because the GM doesn't outline the story ahead of time. Essentially, he just needs to react. Story games provide mechanics that really emphasize the narrative, so the story comes from the players around the table, spontaneously, without much at all in the way of preparation.

Willem said...

Jiminy christ. I've spent some time reading up on Story Games, specifically the Spirit of the Century and Dogs in the Vineyard. Leaping lizards! I had no idea that I'd missed out on a whole revolution in RPGs. Collaborative story gaming. Crazy.

This thread especially inspired me on the Forge forum:

"We were all new to Dogs, and the players are new to system-supported Nar play in general. Every scene, every conflict beginning and end, every NPC interaction -- one or all of the players would kind of push back from the table and go, "Oh man. I never knew it could be like this!" There was a palpable sense that we were getting away with something. Like we had eaten from the gaming tree of life when god's back was turned and were having more fun than we were allowed to have. It was Story Now, right in our faces."