Friday, September 9, 2016

Different: A Storygame of Alien Horror

I mentioned before that if I can't find a game that can help me tell the story I want to tell, then I'll make my own. Different is the latest example of that.

The story of Different is this: you are a high school student, and you're noticing someone acting a little, well, different. From this setup, you find yourself hip-deep in an alien abduction conspiracy. The particular details of Different change with each telling. Last session, the game took place in the 80's; next session will be in the 90's. In the previous session, the aliens were survivors of a crash landing and were looking to manipulate humans to help them repair their ship. That...won't be the case this time.

One thing I struggled with in making this game was in how "high schooley" I wanted it to be. Everyone is familiar with the tropes and stereotypes of a high school story, and I didn't know how much of that I wanted in this story. The answer I came to: not that much. The story is not so much about being a high school student, as it is about being a powerless person in the face of an unknown terror. This is a horror story, not a coming of age tale or a romantic comedy. So while the rules of my game were designed from the ground up for players to play as high school students, the whole high school bit is fairly transparent. On the upside, this makes the system a little easier to adapt for any future stories I want to tell...

The game I've developed to tell this story is very basic. As I mentioned in my entry yesterday, the sole purpose of rules in any game I run is to help shape the story in unpredictable ways.I'm not looking to simulate reality; I'm not even looking to simulate storytelling. I'm looking to actually tell a story, with the players' participation. The rules are there to keep us both on our toes, creatively. If you want to see what I came up with, the link to the 4-page game I wrote is right here.

That line about "simulating storytelling" is a subtle, love/hate jab at most of the storytelling games that are out today. In looking for games to write this story, I took long, hard looks at the hottest storygames out right now: Apocalypse Engine, Gumshoe, Fate Core. Those are all great games, but even those rules-light, narrative driven games can trip on themselves a bit. Determining what is or isn't an aspect, tasking players with co-running the narrative, figuring out what moves each player is doing or not doing....I've struggled with all of that, on occasion, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I wanted a game that was light and breezy, but that still more or less followed the age-old traditional method of role-playing games: you are your character. I am everything else. I have a story, complete with a beginning, middle, and end, and your character is the protagonist of that story. Your actions and your decisions will shape that story, and ultimately, the conclusion of it.

If you have any questions or comments about Different, please share below!

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