Storium Basics: Multi-Card Moves

This post originally appeared at Gaming Creatively on August 17th, 2017.

Welcome back to Storium Basics, where I’m covering general aspects of Storium play that I think are helpful to know as you get started. Today, I’m going to cover a slightly more advanced element of Storium. Today, we’re talking about multi-card moves.

I’ve already gone over the basics of making a Storium move with a single card back in Storium Basics: Challenges and Cards. For a quick refresher, you’ll select a challenge, select a card, and then write a move that demonstrates how that card’s trait comes into play and affects that challenge, based on the type of card that you’ve selected, the challenge, the possible challenge outcomes, the card’s description, and the current status of the challenge and scene.

When you’re making a multi-card move, all of that still applies. There’s nothing that different about making a multi-card move than making a single-card move…it’s just that now you have more than one trait to play to during the move.

If you’ve played two Strengths, say…Determination and Quick-Thinking…you write it like you’d normally write a Strength move. You just play up both traits – show how your determination and your ability to think quickly help you move the challenge in a positive direction. Now, bear in mind that you’ve taken up two challenge points and have moved the challenge positive by two Strengths, as well, so you probably want to make this feel like a stronger impact than for a normal move too – but what matters most is making sure both traits feel like they impact the scene.

If you’ve played two Weaknesses…say, Hotheaded and Easily Mislead…it’s the same thing, just in reverse. Write a Weakness move, but play up both traits, and make it a stronger impact than you would for just one card. You’ve just pushed the challenge much closer to a conclusion and pushed it much closer to the Weak outcome. Show that.

Where things get fascinating, though, is when you mix card types. Those moves can be some of the most fun in Storium.

What if you have a Strength and a Weakness? Maybe you appear to make things better for a moment, then lose your own gains. Or maybe you slip up and start to make things worse, but manage to turn things around and start clawing the situation back out of the very hole you were digging. Or maybe you make things worse in one way, but set things up to turn around in another. You can write some very, very complex and cool moves by playing multiple cards.

Neutral cards are loads of fun to throw in this way too. Your Subplot in particular can be quite a powerful storytelling device when used with a Strength or Weakness – you can show how your subplot influenced the actions that express the Strength or Weakness, for instance, or show how your Strength or Weakness had effects and ended up impacting not just the situation, but your views of yourself or what your subplot is all about. This can work similarly with Goals.

And Assets? Well, you have a magic sword, sure, and sometimes you might want to highlight that on its own…but it can be very cool to play it with a Strength card and show how your ability to use the sword well or intelligently matters, or a Weakness card and show that despite the magic of the sword, you still get yourself in trouble…or maybe even because of the magic! Are you Overconfident? Maybe you rush ahead because you have a magic sword, and things turn out badly. Are you Inexperienced? Maybe you try to use the sword’s powers and make a mistake, hurting your own side’s chances.

And it doesn’t stop at just two cards. You can play up to three cards per move with the default settings for Storium – and with custom card settings, it might go even further! Just remember to think of the number of cards you’re playing, and how far you are pushing the challenge forward, when you play these sorts of moves.

Now…I want to also put in one word of caution. Multi-card moves are an option in Storium, but different games, players, and narrators will have different feelings about them. If your narrator specifies any kind of restrictions on these, or preferences for you to play single-card moves in general, or what-have-you, follow those. The rules of your individual game are as important or more important than the rules of Storium. And even if these moves are allowed (they generally are), it’s best to be careful with them – if you’re pulling these out all the time, you can shut other players out of playing on challenges at times, and that can be bad for game morale and a collaborative spirit.

I myself like to play these sorts of moves on longer challenges, generally – those I won’t just wrap up in one move by playing multiple cards. I will sometimes pull them out in shorter ones specifically to take the challenge, but in those cases I’ll generally check first (or be working in a scene where the narrator has made it clear that’s exactly what he expects).

If you’d like to know more about multi-card moves, and Storium move philosophy in general, you can take a look at these articles: