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Storium Vs. Play-by-post

Storium Vs. Play-by-post

Is play-by-post forum role play the same as Storium?

No, they are similar concepts but at the end two very different things. Storium requires a GM/MC of sorts to keep the game running who goes by the title of Narrator. In play-by-post it all depends on the player. While the admin of the board can suggest something, it’s more of a one-on-one thing. Your characters can develop a relationship, which can be good or bad, but nonetheless there is action and reaction.

I like Storium but my problem with it was at the end, it was cold in that aspect. If the person running the game was smart, they would let whatever mission or conquest linger even after it was finished, which would force the players to interact or at times continue the story without worrying about mechanics. There were players that caught the hint and interacted so that in future goals the consequences would be, if anything, more dire. You wanted to succeed, but what if your rogue ended up leaving the bard in danger?  What if your rogue is the reason the bard is even in this trouble? They’re risking their lives and that might be why you choose a failing card because your character is distracted (also more interesting story wise).

My other problem with Storium was that people were hesitant to fail.There is a strategy where getting a ‘win’ means you have to spend two good cards and one bad to average it out,  so not much awfulness comes to you. On the other hand, people didn’t seem to know how to handle ‘losing’ and making it part of the story.

It’s a lot like rolling snake eyes. It sucks but you have to keep going. I like it when people fail, but some people aren’t good at it.  Unlike freestyle roleplay, where you choose to fail and thus following the results of it with a reaction. For example, in a Storium game we had a player that didn’t use all of his cards, he kept attempting to make his character look good and kept complaining that they were not fawned over. Instead of perhaps having that character feel frustrated and interact with everyone else, he instead left the game. Leaving a game is fine but not accepting what the Narrator gives you simply because you’re not constantly succeeding is boring.

Is one better than the other?

Some people really do like mechanics, structure, and rules. There are people out there who love rules. I’ve seen people argue about how D&D is better than Dungeon World based on the amount of rules. The crunchier the game, the better. Storium has rules. You throw down cards to show your character’s action.The results are not determined by the GM, but the players. Play by post forums in a general have rules of participation but not on how to play exactly. This does not diminish the value of either game, it just depends on players and their preferences. My preference can be different from another player’s.

I personally couldn’t get into Storium despite my hopes to do so. I am far too used to having characters interact. It makes for a better story if you and the other players have clear motivations.

Yes, Cassandra wants to lead the battle squad, but what if she doesn’t get along with Alex, the doctor? What if she can’t depend on her crew?

I like emotions in games. I am not saying fluttering, romance, or friendships, (which mind you are amazing) but also doubt, confusion, and even shame. What use is a story to me if it’s delivered cold and all I want is to win? It’s a game. It’s not like I can take the loot with me. Fuck, if gold poured out of my laptop screen, I’d play every game ever. It’s the conflict that gets to me, it’s seeing the reaction of the people I’m playing with.

It is the same reason I love games like Monsterhearts, Dungeon World, and Fiasco. You’re sort of set up to know your players, binding them to you in some awful way and if the dice goes wrong you might betray that trust. The worst things are said during these times, not because you necessarily hate your players but you’re conveying emotion, and it reminds you why games are so much fun.

You can be a fan of the characters, of what they can or will do. This touches the base that your characters are not you and it is fun to give a reaction that is unlike your own, that doesn’t touch the surface of your life. To see the world through someone else’s eyes through a game.

But the one thing I do like about the two? You’re practicing writing. My grammar is not spectacular because I lived in Puerto Rico, my mother’s native island, for 14 years. My English deteriorated because if there’s one thing the island is lacking, it’s libraries and a stable public educational system. I had no way of practicing despite being a bilingual child. Role play helped me get better in writing. I wrote with people who corrected me gently without anger and would later suggest bands and books to help me educate myself further. Role play kept my head up during depression by allowing me to write angsty teen shit that no one should read. Role play is how I met some of the best people I’ve known since I was nothing but a tadpole in the pond that is the internet. There were jerks along the way, but if anything I get to write them off the page.

All in all, both are good tools for writing and storytelling, but Storium and Forum Play-by-Posts are not meant for everybody.

Storium Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Game Mechanics: A selection of cards that can determine the actions of your character in the future.
  • Narrator: There is someone who at the end is guiding the group through the story. They don’t determine your character’s actions but what is the reaction to it.
  • Collaborative Writing: You are interacting with more than just one other person, which helps the story move along and gives different points of view.

 

Cons:

  • Game Mechanics: Some people do not know how to handle it once all their ‘good cards’ have been used. They feel that playing “Weaknesses” cards means they lost the scene. When players refuse to participate in failure, this makes storytelling boring. Who wants to read about the man who conquered it all without any hurdles or conflict? Playing games for easy solutions is boring. Also remember, no one is getting a trophy for winning a role-play game (note to self: start business to make role-play trophies when players win).
  • Lack of character development: The narrator needs to know player’s motivations. This helps them with the story. It can explain what your character would like to avoid. It doesn’t need to be romance. It can be the young space cadet starting to view the robot like a person, but is conflicted about erasing their memory after an adventure or using them like a shield from a blast. This would give a reason for a character to fumble or to think twice or maybe go back to retrieve the robot. When you work as a group you do develop emotions towards one another, either good, bad or neutral. The warrior could perhaps hate the ranger but sees their benefit and would rather keep them in the group than split up.

FORUM PLAY-BY-POST

Pros:

  • Lack of Game Mechanics: This allows you to create your own rules.
  • One on one gaming: Waiting for two or three more people can be daunting, if not excruciating at times. One on one allows you to know that once they have written you can continue on with the story.
  • Character Development: Since there are no mechanics telling you when to insert a failure into games, it allows you to decide. A lot of forum players are not afraid of this from my experience. They insert flaws, they make attachments and have arguments making success seem impossible and often difficult.

Cons:

  • Lack of Game Mechanics: Yes, you get decide how your character fails but this can feel wishy-washy to someone else. Maybe they think that hard fall your character took should have resulted in death. Some people like rules, others don’t.  
  • One-on-one gaming: Waiting for one person can be bad and can lead to insecurity. Think of it like waiting for a text back from someone you like, their lack of response feels like rejection when in reality of the real world has them busy.

 

These games can be a gateway into tabletop role-plays, with enough curiosity and exposure to them it can lead players to other games that are of similar in feel or genre. It can open up doors as well as close them if we as a community are not welcoming and caring for newcomers.

And remember, it’s a game. Have fun.

Interview with Shanna Germain, co-owner of Monte Cook Games

Interview with Shanna Germain, co-owner of Monte Cook Games

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