Thoughts and ideas expressed here are subject to change on the owner’s whim.
The views and opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the owner.
This is not a definitive guide to Storium behavior.
Thoughts on Etiquette and Gameplay by RobJustice
The nature of Storium is very open to interpretation. Every narrator and player seems to have a different vision for how the game works or should work. This is one of the great strengths of the game, but it’s also a crippling weakness. When you find people who agree with how you see the game working it’s fantastic, but when you butt heads…
To help prevent disagreement and argument I’ve decided to put together my Philosophy document. This lays out how I interpret the game and conduct myself while playing or narrating. This way you know what to expect from me and the games I run. While I use broad generic terms all of the details I outline below are only personal beliefs and not a de-facto guide to how to behave on Storium.
In my view these are things that Storium games need in order to be successful. There are a lot more elements in play on Storium than what’s listed below but these are often components that are left unspoken.
Since both Narrators and Players have narrative powers it’s paramount that everyone playing the game can trust each other. This will come up more when I discuss some of the liberties taken by Narrators and Players. The thing to remember is that everyone in your game is here to tell a story and have fun. Everyone also has a responsibility to everyone else’s fun. If what you write diminishes or eliminates someone else’s enjoyment of the game, don’t write that.
This isn’t to say there should be no conflict between the characters, just that there should be no conflict between the players. There is an important separation that needs to take place between Characters and Players. if Characters are going to argue, scream, and fight then the Players need to have an understanding. Nobody wants hurt feelings from a game and it’s the responsibility of those involved to maintain Player friendship during Character drama.
Before discussing the roles people play in the games lets talk about what Storium is and isn’t. Storium is a collaborative experience first and foremost. This is the single most important element of the game. While the Narrator has authority over the direction of the game, the players should be an active participant in the way it unfolds. Narrators interested in “telling their story” have no place in a collaborative medium. Likewise, players who refuse to participate also don’t belong here.
Every single person on Storium should be working to contribute to the story being told. For Narrators that’s setting things in place and moving things along. For players thats making decisions and responding to the Narrator and other Players. Storium is not a one person show.
In a traditional table-top role-playing game the Narrator would be called a Game Master, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Keeper, or a dozen other titles. The role of the person in this position is pretty similar across the board. They lay out the basic structure of the story, introduce non-player characters, set challenges and obstacles in front of the players, and are responsible for dictating the events of the game world.
To me a Narrator is a director, producer, and writer. On Storium it’s the Narrator’s job to have a vision for where the game is heading but not a pre-set story that’s being told. The primary job of the Narrator is to set scenes and lay down challenges but they are also responsible for ensuring the tone, mood, and context of the game is consistent. Their ability to issue Revision Requests is how they ensure the game doesn’t go off the rails.
At times it may be necessary for the Narrator to write about the player characters. Some players find this to be a violation of their creativity. After all, their Character is their only conduit to the game. There is an art to writing for the player characters without violating the creator’s vision. A narrator should be careful to ensure that nothing said or done forces a character into a specific action or direction.
Narrators need to be aware of how they write their Outcomes. These are often the only prompt the players have for what direction you might be trying to take things. Players are given narrative control for completing challenges and you should let them run with the ball when they win it. If they are off base, feel free to reel them in, but it’s always better to talk with them first before saying no. If a Player does something that doesn’t go with the game’s vision, ask them for clarification and explain your stance.
When creating a game the Narrator sets the game’s Speed. Storium presents a handful of options but that doesn’t solve every problem a group could run into. When running a game it’s important that Narrators keep the Speed they assigned to the game. This sometimes means ending scenes before all the players have had a chance to act or all the Challenges have been completed.
Pacing usually becomes an issue when a player drops out of a game without warning and the others are left waiting on their move or when Challenges go unanswered for too long. A Narrator should never wait for less than half the players to make moves. As long as the majority of the players are active and contributing the game should push forward. This might feel unfair to players who haven’t had a chance to contribute but the Narrator is responsible for the enjoyment of the whole group, not an individual participant. Games that wait on a single player or two risk dying out as more active players become bored with the delays.
This isn’t to say Narrators shouldn’t Poke or Comment to inactive players or move the game faster than the agreed Speed. If your speed is Normal (2-3 Scenes\Week) then give everyone 2-3 days to reply before moving the story on. If you notice a player hasn’t moved and you’re getting close to the deadline for the Speed limit, Poke inactive players or @mention them in the Comments first. Make sure you give everyone a chance to contribute but don’t hold up everyone’s fun for a player or two.
In most games players have one mode of interaction with the story, their character. In Storium, that isn’t totally true. Most of the time moves should be framed from a character’s perspective but when a player wins a challenge they have the ability to contribute to the narrative. In this situations its more than acceptable for a player to narrate in details of the story. If they don’t fit with the Narrator’s direction, or play into the Outcomes presented, Players should expect a revision request.
Whenever I play a game I hold to the rule that “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” The Narrator has the ability to request revisions and when they do I shouldn’t be offended. There is nothing wrong with players throwing out an idea and seeing if it sticks, as long as you’re not upset if the Narrator turns you down.
Everyone seems to have a different perspective on what is the proper response to a Challenge, or winning an Outcome. Players will throw cards at a Challenge that aren’t supported in their narration or write Outcomes that don’t address the prompts they were given. I’ve found that, at best, these behaviors come across as rude but at their worst they can be disruptive to the game and story.
Personally, I only use cards and address challenges that I can support with my narration. I don’t “game the system” to get more Wild cards or refresh my cards quickly. I treat each of the cards as a reminder to round out my character. I want to have Strong moments and I want to have Weak moments. I want to progress my Sub-Plot and if I win an Outcome I want to contribute to the full story.