Story Games

I love games, and how tactical decisions affect the outcome of a scenario. Creating or experiencing a great story makes me tick, so it is to no surprise that storygames had me at hello. On top of that, I had always drawing stuff, creating and dreaming up things, so tinkering with my roleplaying games as a kid early became a passion. I was always pondering on what type of secrets would get players going. What mechanism would serve the secret best? Stuff like that.

When I’m not doing design during the daytime, I’m doing game design in the evenings. In the last few years, I have traversed from playing and hacking traditional tabletop games, to designing storygames, especially since I ran into The Gauntlet and started to play online with them. The joy of allowing the story to become the center of attention, and instead let the mechanics to support it, was almost like a revelation to me. Storygames just fit my taste of how to run games. Before delving into game design, I always hacked the games we bought and played, made my versions of them. There were still one or two mechanisms that bothered me or one that branded the game, so everything was about that specific mechanism. I always wanted to move from that, and focus more on the things that mattered to me. Like the story, the investments characters do in the world around them, and the nuances in their development.

Today my designs are mostly built on or influenced and inspired by mechanisms…

Games Powered by the Apocalypse, or PbtA, is a game framework built on the mechanics of Vincent and Meguay Baker’s story game Apocalypse World. The framework has established itself as one of the more important platforms for indie games today, regarding influencing other game designers, and has become the foundation of hundreds and hundreds of published story games.

Forged in the Dark is the label for the game engine created by John Harper and used for his game Blades in the Dark. While it is considered to be a game heavily influenced by mechanics from Apocalypse World and thereby making it a game Powered by the Apocalypse or PbtA, it is redesigned from the ground up and has thereby often seen as a stand-alone product.

Fate Core and Fate Accelerated are roleplaying game engines created by Bill Hicks and Rob Donoghue. The system is known for using the fudge dice and aspects of the world. Between 2009 and 2016 I developed Fate of the Remnants, a dark fantasy game about survivors of a cataclysmic event and the war that ensued, and Fate Core used as the rules for it. Fate of the Remnants was discontinued in 2016.

Powered, Forged, Inspired, or Influenced by…

So, what does that mean? It is my full conviction that design needs iterations to bloom fully. By tapping into the inspiring work of others and collaborate on projects, I supercharge my creativity and productivity. I love what the above creators have done for the gaming community, and what their work has made possible. By being powered, forged, inspired, and influenced by something, it’s possible to draw upon the full power they have accumulated over all their iterations and collaborations. And that is just fucking awesome.

For me, it comes down to a few things; first of all, the PbtA framework, or Powered by the Apocalypse, is a very well-tested and proven foundation to design games on. Second, games powered by the apocalypse have a beautiful failing forward mechanism that allows failing to be cool, it creates a middle-ground where success also can create complexity and danger, and it deliberately distributes the narration between players and the gamemaster in these situations. Finally, it is easily adapted, with only a few mechanical aspects you need to consider. With it, you can add or hook in functions that meld really easily into the basics of it.

The FitD engine, or Forged in the Dark,  evolved from the PbtA framework but was created more granular and team-oriented. While the mechanics are really tight and well designed, they are a bit too complex for my taste. What I truly enjoy is the simplified dice pool that is just so elegant, and pips instead of numeric modifiers. A small thing, but it makes all the difference for me.

Fate was the first story game I ran into, sometime 2012 I think. It made character creation fun again to me. Quick, vivid, and intuitive. Even though I loved how it dealt with descriptive aspects of the world, the rules didn’t stay with me. I built a game around it but almost burned myself out in the process. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I learned a lot.

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