Storium Theory: Making Everybody Awesome

This post originally appeared on Gaming Creatively on April 5th, 2016.

Philosophy time again, woo!

I’ve written before about techniques for working with your fellow players in Storium games–in particular, Leaving Things Open–but today I’d like to go a bit further than that.

Today, I’d like to talk about how we, as players, can make other players feel awesome.

It’s easy, particularly when playing by post (in Storium or otherwise), to kind of…get stuck into your own little world, writing your own moves and maybe leaving in some things for other people to use, but not really thinking much about what else is going on in the scene. We can pop on, read a move or two, get a general feel for where things are, and then write our move and go off to do whatever else we wanted to do.

And to be fair, that can work reasonably well. As long as you’re reading what’s going on and making sure your moves make sense, you’re in pretty good shape. But collaborative storytelling is about more than that.

Collaborative storytelling is about feeding off each other and boosting each other’s ideas.

Don’t just think about events. Think about what those events have meant to your character.

Feed off of the ideas your fellow writers have brought forth. Involve those ideas in your posts.

This means using the ideas that your fellow writers have left there for you when they Leave Things Open, sure…but it’s more than that.

It’s reacting to incidental things in their moves. Showing the emotional impact of what happens to them. Letting their bold commander’s speech charge up your timid soldier. Fighting hard to save their timid soldier’s life when he cuts and runs. Shouting back when they shout battlefield banter at you.

It’s about emphasizing how awesome, or intimidating, or shocking something was. Not just in comments, but in the story as well. Did the barbarian fell a giant? Be in awe of his strength. Did the wizard figure out a complex spell and unlock the portal? Congratulate him on his intellect. Did the young hero falter and get knocked aside? Shout encouragement to him, or check on his wounds. Did someone disappear in a shower of rocks, apparently dead? Scream out their name, dig through the rubble to save them, or fight even harder in their memory.

Let your character be impressed. Let him give a cheer. Let him lose it when something awful happens.

Even if those moves didn’t leave something open in particular–even if they seem “one and done,” as it were–involve those moves in your own. Call back to them. Acknowledge them. Emphasize their impact.

When you’re leaving those openings for other players…leave openings that can make them awesome. Make your character need someone else. Bring up something you can’t do that someone else can. Need saving every now and then. And when you are rescued…build up how much that’s meant.

I’ve been roleplaying, one way or another, for about…eighteen years, now, I think. In that time, I’ve found that nothing gets me invigorated in writing for a game like seeing that my actions are truly acknowledged in-game. I played on MUXes for a long time, and my favorite scenes to find on the game’s website were ones I wasn’t in…but that referenced my character anyway. It’s things like that that tell a writer that he made an impact.

Too often, I think, we can get so involved in thinking of what we want to do next that we fail to acknowledge the fullness of what has just happened. But taking the time to truly react to things, to show their impact, will bring the story to life. It will show the other players that what they write matters to you, that you take the time to read their posts for more than just the general details, that you’re thinking about every character–not just your own.