I thought I’d set out a post to share the visions and goal for Story Mode.
First, to get you excited for what’s to come and to give some context for the decisions which you’ll see when it is published.
Secondly, as a means to keep me accountable.
It’s very easy to be blown by the winds of creativity on a project like this and before you know it, the project looks nothing like what you set out to create.
When I started making Story Mode, I did so will a simple goal:
To create a simple tabletop roleplaying game which can be played for 1-2 hours without any preparation or experience.
From there I did a bit of research about other peoples’ design process and found a list of 19 questions which one could use to pin down what they’re trying to create.
The answers to the following questions are what I wrote, within 30 minutes or so, not stopping to think too hard. This is the gut reaction to the problem I first saw, and has formed a solid basis of the solution I’m making.
1.) What is your game about?
Simplified roleplaying in a world of the GM’s design. In the first instance, high fantasy adventures rife with magic and monsters, but with scope to expand into other genres.
2.) What do the characters do?
The characters roam the world in search of adventure. Seeking fame, glory and riches. Looking to right wrongs, save those in distress. Or do what they can to rid the world of the nasties that haunt it. This really is up to the GM and the players.
3.) What do the players (including the GM) do?
The GM describes the world, the players describe what they want to do and the DM arbitrates those actions.
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting can be largely defined by the GM, with helpful prompts from the game resources. These will encourage a world of high fantasy, so that the players clearly understand that anything can happen and the story could be about anything they find exciting.
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
There is no character creation, the players are handed a simple character card either at random or of their choosing. This takes away one huge barrier and element of choice, to enable players to quickly immerse themselves in the in-game world and start telling stories.
Players are encouraged to give their characters a name and using prompts, decide on the character’s attributes to aid roleplay.
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
The game rewards extravagant thinking and expressive story telling. It won’t punish, but is designed to steer players away from rules minutiae and spending lots of time checking the rules.
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Bold story telling will be rewarded with an in-game bonus like inspiration or bonus actions.
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The GM will be largely responsible for directing the narrative, but based on the wants of the players. Everyone is responsible for making the world feel real, but the GM should be prepared to work with the players’ wants in order to keep it feeling real.
9.) What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
The characters should be relatable and based on widely understood tropes, so that the players can find one they engage with. The world should contain elements which are easily understood, based on widely understood tropes and ideals.
The plot hooks should be simple, so that they give the players a lot of scope to shape the story as they find exciting.
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
The GM has the final say, but should make rules decisions based on what would be most fun for the group.
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
It keeps down time to a minimum, so there’s no opportunity for the players to leave their immersion whilst they all check the rule book.
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
No, this game is designed for quick pick up games. Players can play the same characters again, but they are designed to be mechanically static. Magic items allow a measure of advancement, but only by providing new abilities.
One idea would be for an expansion pack to allow to additional actions and bonuses, to enable longer campaigns.
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Not having character advancement encourages players to look away from the complex rules and towards expressive story telling and roleplay.
14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I want this to bring people together and feel like they’ve had exciting shared experiences. At the end of their play session, they should feel like they created something together.
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Locations, monsters and NPCs. Giving the GM strong and believable world elements to work with with make the story feel more real and therefore exciting.
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
The simple player characters. Making these characters fun to play will stop players noticing their lack of choice and instead get them excited to play together.
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
It allows them to sit down and within a few minutes be playing a game that they had never previously thought about. Spontaneous ideas and creativity. It’ll also allow less creative people to be part of a creative process where they might feel uncomfortable doing so normally.
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
First to publish a written rules book with everything a GM needs to run a game.
From there, I have heaps of ideas, but I won’t spoil them all at once!
19.) Who is your target audience?
GMs who find that character creation and mountains of rules stops them from playing with people who would otherwise be interested.
Groups of friends, colleagues or classmates who have never played roleplaying games before and want an easy on-boarding experience without finding an experienced GM.
I hesitated before sharing these answers, not wanting someone to come along and steal my ideas. But I was intentional when I started this project – it will be one to enable collaboration at a table, and I want the process to be the same.
Also, for me, sitting down to pen these blogs is as much a part of the process as creating the game itself. It can feel like a bit of a slog continually working on the same document, so writing here provides some punctuation to the process.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the above, to help make the game as robust and enjoyable as it can be. Come and let me know what you think on twitter @harrythegm, and if you’d like to share some longer thoughts you can email me – email@example.com.
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