A Closer Look at Story Realms Game Play

Geek Culture

The game board is a map of Storm HollowThe game board is a map of Storm Hollow

The Story Realms game board is a map of Storm Hollow.

The Springboard powered Kickstarter campaign for Story Realms concludes this week. While the final numbers aren’t in yet, the project looks to be a complete success, having raised over $50,000 dollars with several days to go. The folks at Springboard have a whole slew of stretch goals ahead of them. I am eager to see what they do if they surpass them all.

As the Kickstarter finishes up, I wanted to take a moment and delve into the nuts and bolts of the game play, something we have yet to cover on GeekDad. The basics will be familiar to anyone who has played a role playing game. The Storyteller describes a scene or presents an obstacle to the players, who respond by telling the Storyteller what they hope to accomplish. Then based on their desired tasks, the Storyteller asks the players to make a series of dice rolls to determine if they succeeded or failed in their attempts to accomplish their goals.

The Teller's TomeThe Teller's Tome

The Storyteller’s board has lots of tips and reminders to set up a good tale.

One of the things Story Realms does exceedingly well is take that basic mechanic and bring it down to a level that even young children can understand it and use it to tell a story. To start, the dice are strictly six-sided, and success or failure of a roll is quite straightforward, a simple matter of counting up the number of successes vs. the number of failed dice. In some situations, the number of successes needed is determined by the Storyteller based on the difficulty of the task chosen. However, in most directly plot-related tasks, such as stopping an enemy, Story Realms offers a large amount of guidance to the Storyteller about just what constitutes a success.

Preludes DicePreludes Dice

Mock-ups of the dice included in Story Realms: Preludes.

Rolls are modified in two ways. First they may be modified by changing the number of dice rolled. The various skills of each character help determine how many dice a character may roll for a given task. As in most storytelling games, this promotes teamwork among the players as each character has different strengths and weaknesses. As a player is damaged in the game, they may be asked to roll one or more black dice. These dice only roll a success on two sides, whereas the standard dice roll a success on three sides of the dice.

Riftwalker boardRiftwalker board

Player boards are double-sided for girls and guys: pictured is the Riftwalker character.

In Story Realms, each player takes on the role of what amounts to a pre-developed role-playing character. Besides having varying amounts of skills, characters also have several other distinguishing features which make them unique in the means by which they can help their team. Players also have innate powers which allow them at any given time to do things to assist. For instance, a Talespinner can sense more about the friendly characters the players encounter. In practical terms, this means the Talespinner can read any of the story cards in the game relating to the friendly characters included in their current scene. Characters also have other powers. These powers require them to spend a boost token in order to use them. Each player has a limited number of boost tokens during each round of play. Characters also carry special items called artifacts which also give them advantages in certain situations. The items carried can vary from game to game, depending on how the player sets up their character.

Story Realms artifactsStory Realms artifacts

Examples of Artifacts players can use in the game.

My favorite part of the Story Realms characters are their individualized packs containing all sorts of goods not usually found in role playing games. These items reward creative problem solving and tend to lead away from the traditional hack and slash storytelling of most traditional role playing games. This kind of inventiveness can be strongly rewarded by a good Storyteller on the look out for the creative use of what is available in those packs.

One more feature of Story Realms characters should be mentioned before we move along to the actual flow of the game. In Story Realms the traditional character’s health measurement is represented by “oomph.” Unlike traditional RPGs, if a character runs out of “oomph” in Story Realms they do not die, but their ability to help their team is greatly limited until they recover.

A round of Story Realms takes about an hour to play and is divided into a series of scenes. There are three different types of scenes in Story Realms. One type of scene is a dialogue scene in which the emphasis is on gathering information for what is to come later down the road. Here players interact with characters who are often friendly and helpful in giving them information they need to proceed forward in the game.

The next set of scenes is task-oriented. In these scenes, characters have to use their storytelling ability to weave a way around large obstacles which block the progress of the story. This is where the packs, special skills and items come into play along with really creative storytelling. These tend to be my favorite scenes because they reward creativity.

Story Realms trackersStory Realms trackers

Various progress trackers and markers for Story Realms.

The final type of scene is a more typical fighting-the-bad-guys-with-weapons kind of scene that one finds in most role playing games. Story Realms uses some unique methods of determining the outcome of these scenes, with a series of tracking charts to tell players which way the battle is going. One chart tracks the strength of the enemy as compared to the team. Another chart tracks the progress toward the mission goals outlined for the scene. These charts help players visualize when they are doing well and when things are going poorly. The bad things don’t tend to be too bad either; often the scenarios allow the Storyteller to spread out the damage, keeping one player from being picked on the whole time. Unlike in most role playing games, the battle scenes in Story Realms are only one component of the storytelling and as such they don’t tend to last horribly long either.

In Story Realms the quality of the game is in many ways in the hands of the Storyteller. I found it easy to get hung up on just how many successes should be rolled for the players to succeed at their tasks. Once I understood that Story Realms was much more about weaving an interesting story rather than worrying about the minutiae of just what constituted a win, I was much better at creating a positive, creative experience for my kids. If I were to say one thing to Storytellers, I would encourage them to reward creativity and work against the lazy and the obvious. The fun of the game is to weave together a creative tale, not simply to roll the dice and get as quickly as possible to the end.

Story Realms’ Kickstarter campaign will be finishing up in just a few days. It is a fabulous vehicle for entertaining your children and sparking their creativity at the same time.

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