fort experiment

Story Mode Beta Intro

Head over and check it out. It speaks for itself!

But I'm also here for a bit of an introduction and to go over the format a little, because it's different to other RPGs.

Story Mode started over 3 years ago, in response to taking way too long to get a friend set up to play 5e. I immediately wanted a game which was quick to get set up with in order to play games which tell awesome stories. All of the OSR games with speedy character creation I tried were great, but they still didn't have quite what I needed. What I really wanted was a guided experience for players which takes the weight of prep away from the GM.

So that's what we've got. When you open the Story Mode website on your phone, when you get together with your mates and someone says "it'd be great if we could just play now" you're welcomed with a choice: GM or Player. In each of those options is a guided tour of the game for each of those roles, to briefly teach or remind you the outline of the game and then give you the tools right there on the same page to get you playing immediately.

It definitely helps if the GM has read the full rules before hand, but if it's been a while the quick start guide is there to refresh their memory. A similar guide gives the players all the information of the rules they need. Just a flavour and some rules terms so they know what's going on when the GM prompts them.

Then for the GM is an adventure all laid out and ready to go. It's designed to last about 1.5-2 hours. More than long enough for someone's first TTRPG game. Then there's a follow up adventure, and we'll be adding more as time goes on.

For the player is a character sheet embedded right there on the page. Just hit 'generate' and you've got a ready to go adventurer with unique skills and tools. There are thousands of entries in the generator's coding, to allow for millions of unique characters. That's crucial, because Story Mode is all about telling a unique story. It means that in multiple run throughs, the GM is highly unlikely to encounter the same events or choices by the players. Each group will have different tools and therefore approach each problem differently.

Each character is brutally simple. HP, Willpower, some abilities, some items and a name. There are no stats or ability scores, that's just one more thing to learn about. Bonuses and penalties are baked right into the unique abilities in plain English. Your character sheet tells you almost everything you need to know to play, without referencing any tables or flicking through a rule book. That brings me to Skill Checks. If the outcome of an action is uncertain, roll a d20. Results of 10 or higher succeed. That's it. No need for the GM to work out a DC to beat. No scrambling around the character sheet to find modifiers. It's all on the table for everyone to see and cheer or groan at.

The game is designed for one shots, single adventures played in a single session, which has allowed for some of the more exciting elements of the design. First up, it doesn't need to be balanced for multiple sessions or a long campaign, which means some of the abilities and spells are pretty whacky. There's no character advancement. These guys aren't going to be around long enough to go on a second adventure. If you want to play again, just roll up a new character and tell someone else's story. It also means that the design is framed around resource attrition. Things get harder and more tense as the game goes on and you use your abilities. Mechanics like Willpower are very important to this and I'll talk in a future post about some of these mechanics specifically.

The game is in 'beta' which means it's very close to what we believe the final design will look like. We've come a long way from the initial concept games which were played with some strangers and some hastily made printed character pregens with googled art (maybe I'll show you those some time). It's developed a lot since the 'alpha' play test version. We've cut, changed and added stuff both as we've played and found what's fun, but also as our understanding of game design has developed. There's some work still to do, but we're on the home stretch. I'll be looking to iron out rules wording, website presentation and coding bugs to make the experience as smooth and fun as possible.

Eventually, I'll create a more classic PDF book version of the game, but the whole point with this is for it to be a guided web-based experience, to combine my love of that with my love of tabletop pen and paper gaming. Think of this - everyone always has their phone in their pocket and I want to make sure that they therefore always have everything they need to play a fun game with friends.

So please let me know if you try the game and any feedback you have over on Mastodon or using the Story Mode feedback form. I want this to be the best it can be and I can't do that with only my opinions to go on.

Peace! Harry