Storium Basics: Card Spending and Refresh

This post originally appeared at Gaming Creatively on August 3rd, 2017.

Welcome back – today, as we continue discussing the basics of Storium, I’m going to spend a little time on the concept of Refresh.

First, though, a bit about card spending: As you play Strength and Weakness cards, you’ll notice they become unavailable for selection on future plays. Even once you reach the end of a scene, you’ll find you won’t have the cards that you already spent available to play again.

This is how Storium manages helping you tell the ups and downs of a character’s tale. As you spend Strengths and Weaknesses, they become unavailable for use. You don’t get any of them back until you’ve spent all of them. That is, you have to spend all your Strengths and all your Weaknesses before you get any of them back.

This is another reason I’ve said it is best to not play Storium tactically—the system is geared towards storytelling, and in storytelling, characters have ups and downs. This is actually really cool for developing a character arc, but that’s somewhat beyond the basics – for more on that, see the links below.

So, say that you’ve spent all your Strengths and all your Weaknesses…now, it’s time to Refresh.

At the beginning of the next scene, you’ll get to Refresh your cards. When you click the button to do so (which replaces your button for writing a move), you are presented with a list of all the Strengths and all the Weaknesses that you’ve played in the game so far. You select some of each, and those become your new hand of Strength and Weakness cards. Simple as that!

Note that the number of cards you get to refresh is determined by settings for the individual games

But though it’s a simple concept, don’t just rush through.

This is your opportunity to define what is important in your character’s story now. That may not match up with what was important in the beginning. Refreshes are a great way to show how your character has changed, or to show what elements of your character are stable. Pick the cards you want to focus on for the next chunk of the story.

Take some time to really think it over – what is important now? What do you want to say about your character now? Who is your character now? That’s what a Refresh is about – not who you’ve been, but who you are now. Who you are going to be as the story moves forward from this point.

So…sure, who you are now might be just who you were in the past – you might just pick your starting Strength and Weakness, maybe something closely related to them too, and call it a day. But maybe things you’ve revealed about yourself since then have become more important. Maybe your Toughness was central to your character at the beginning, but since then, you’ve become focused on Leadership and Empathy, like I mentioned last time.

This is the point where you get to show that…so take some time to think it through.

And remember: As with character creation, pick cards you want to play…not just cards you’re willing to play. Just like at the start of the game, you want to pick things that excite you about using them. These cards are the things you will have in your hand, so they’re the things you will have to play before you can Refresh again. So make them things that you want to play, not just things that you grudgingly put in your hand again.

For more on Refresh, see the below posts – but please be aware that since I wrote some of these, the Refresh rules did change somewhat. The philosophy still applies, but some of the mechanics will sometimes be a bit different. In particular, I believe you can now pretty easily choose to get rid of your starting Strength / Weakness in a Refresh because – if I’m recalling correctly – you can now choose any card multiple times in a Refresh. In the old days, that wasn’t the case, so you’ll see references here for how it will take multiple Refreshes to get a starting card out of your hand.

Similarly, these were written before custom card settings were a thing.

Still, I believe the philosophies discussed here can be helpful: