What is Storium?
Today I’m going to talk a little bit about a website called Storium. I discovered it way back when it was but a twinkle in the eyes of its creators…by which I mean I backed it on Kickstarter.
But what is it, exactly? Storium is a web-based only storytelling game — think of it like a tabletop RPG, but with less dice rolling and asynchronous moves. Basically, it’s a way to get together with strangers on the internet and write together.
How does it work?
I’m going to copy and paste a little bit here, because I’m lazy:
Every game is moderated by the player who starts it, who is known as the narrator. The narrator creates the game and sets the initial conditions for the story you’ll be telling together. They also keep the action moving by setting each scene and giving the other players challenges to overcome.
Everyone else is a player. Each player controls their own character. A character is exactly what it sounds like: a person who plays a major role in the story. If the narrator chooses, each player can control more than one character.
The outcomes of challenges are mediated through a mechanism of card plays. Each character starts out with a certain set of strength, weakness, and subplot cards; through the course of the game they can also acquire goals and assets. They then play these cards on challenges to affect the course of the story.
Playing these cards helps overcome the narrator’s challenges, but it also earns you the chance to win control of the story. This means you can write how the challenge in question turns out, using “outcomes” written by the narrator as a guide.
Finally, once the challenges in a scene have been met, the narrator can close the scene and move on to the next.
There are plenty of other complicating factors — limits on the number of cards played per move and per scene, for example — and individual narrators may tweak the mechanics to suit their games. But that’s the general idea.
Every Storium game plays out in a world. Worlds give you all the components you need to tell a story in a given imaginary setting or style. It’s easy to create your own world in the course of play, but Storium’s Gamma comes with a diverse set of starter worlds that you (the narrator) can choose from when starting a new game. From sci-fi adventures to medical dramas, there’s already a wide range of genres and styles available for you to use. You can customize these worlds, use them verbatim, or create your own from scratch.
There are currently about 8 or so worlds available to play in; on deck are over 60 new worlds, some designed by really cool authors (Elizabeth Bear, anyone? Max Gladstone?). I think there are also plans to make a sort of “app store” model for worlds, where people can create their own and set the price, and the majority of the sales will go toward the creator.
Currently, Storium is still in beta test. (Well, they made a significant overhaul to the site engine and introduced a ton of new features, so they’re calling it “Gamma” now. Point is, it hasn’t officially launched). So there are a lot of features and worlds and things that are not yet available.
My Kickstarter backer level allows me to beta test and also gives me one year of free membership. I’m not sure what the membership costs will be like; hopefully I can afford it because I’m having a lot of fun.
If you want to check out the site, you can pay $10 for beta access on their website, or I can invite you (for free!). I assume that this access will end when the site officially launches to the public.
And no, I have no idea when that will be. (I think it might be scheduled for some time this fall? But not sure.)
Pros and Cons
So. After nearly a year on the site, how is it going?
- Asynchronous posting means I don’t have to be free at the same time as my fellow players, or even in the same time zone!
- The game mechanics are clear, easy to understand, and seem to work well.
- There are some really great writers on the site.
- It’s a lot of fun!
- Biggest con? The lack of face-to-face interaction or prior relationships means that unannounced bailing on games is unfortunately common. I get it, real life trumps silly online game, but it’s still upsetting to have a really fun game go stagnant.
- I’m starting to get impatient with the limited world choices available…although the truth is that you can build your own custom world, so if you’re willing to put it a bit of extra work you can run any kind of game you want!
In Part II I’ll talk a little bit about the games I’m currently running/playing, and how I think my time on Storium can improve my writing.
And if this piques anyone’s curiosity, let me know and I can see about getting you an invite. Honestly, a game with excellent writers who you know won’t bail unless they really have to? WOULD BE AWESOME.