Story Through Gameplay

Started by CorvusE, October 12, 2011, 10:14:22 AM

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After running RPG campaigns for nearly 20 years, exclusively using my own systems, I've spent the last three years turning my homebrew into something I feel confident enough in to promote and sell. The prompting design change for the decision to publish came about when I first translated my character sheets into sets of hexagonal origami boxes and filled them with Pente and Go stones.

The next 2 years primarily consisted of examining every inherited RPG design conceit and figuring out if it really fit my style of play or whether it was something I held onto because it was "how things are done."

What I found most interesting is that the more I focused on how the game mechanics actually supported good storytelling, the more my system played like a board game. It's a very different kind of board game to be certain, and it all revolves around the big center piece of the players saying, "And then I do..." but the individual agency and immediacy of board games is certainly present in the design, as is the opportunity for meaningful individual expression through play.

As I explored the idea that games and stories are more closely related than many people (most notably many of my colleagues in the videogame industry) might like to believe, I found more and more anecdotal evidence that we've been expressing story through gameplay from the moment we first gathered into tribes.

I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on this and interested if anyone has links to other writing on similar approaches to narrative and game design in the RPG and tabletop game space.

As an aside, my project, which I'm calling a tabletop storytelling platform, is called Bhaloidam and I'm funding my first production run via Kickstarter.


Let's add some relevance to Indie Publishing to my post (aside from the fact I'm independently publishing Bhaloidam, of course).

Part of why I'm curious to find like-minded designers and design discussions is I'm looking for new venues of promotion and new opportunities for productive conversation. I've about 20% of my core network supporting Bhaloidam already and need, I suspect, to reach further outside (or deeper inside) the traditional RPG communities to get the kind of traction I'm going to need to hit my funding goal.

Ron Edwards

Hello and welcome,

I think you'll find a sympathetic audience here. Your inquiry about similar or parallel products should certainly turn to Zombie Cinema, which has a lot in common with your description. That said, however, I also recommend reviewing and perhaps refining what you mean by "story" (i.e. when you use the term here in writing), because people have deep and diverse needs about that term, to the extent of making it useless in isolation.

The best way to explain and open discussion about your game design ideas is to start a thread in the Actual Play forum, describing a real-life session or overall game experience which illustrates them in action. Or perhaps such a thread about some other game you've played in the past, which illustrated what you realized you didn't want in your game. Any presentation of this kind does wonders for the community appreciation of your viewpoint, and automatically generates a customer base insofar as anyone finds your ideas and descriptions compelling. I think that's especially important if you're using the Kickstarter model.

Here, in this thread, it'd be great to learn more about your practical decisions regarding publishing the game, i.e. product development as opposed to game-play development. I'm especially interested to know more about your experiences in videogame work and how they might have influenced your plans, in any way.

Best, Ron


Thanks for the guidance, Ron! I'll be back tomorrow to follow up with more thoughts in the appropriate forii. ;-})