Good introductions to story gaming

edited March 2007 in Story Games
Hello all,

First off let me apologize if this topic comes up way too frequently - I tried searching for something similar but found nothing. On to the topic: I currently have the opprotunity to intoduce two of my close friends to story gaming. We were all going to play in a friend's game of D&D, but it is looking like his schedule is not going to be able to fit a game. Knowing that I run games frequently they bring up the fact that I could run, but I am not really good at running D&D so I tell them that I could run something else instead, which they show interest in.

I briefly explain to them what I like in gaming, and talk to them about what they want to do. One has only played D&D, and he has played it several times. The other does not have very much experience with roleplaying at all, aside from a few one shots here and there. They both are very keen on fantasy, and seem a little weirded out by no-gm or rotating gm styles of play. Joining us will be one of my other friends who has had experience playing all sorts of games with me. After talking for a while we decide to go see 300 and talk about it more tomorrow.

So I guess what I want to know - what story games have people had good experiences with when introducing them to players who have only had D&D or little rp experience before? Are there any pitfalls I should look out for? Any tips or ideas I should keep in mind before heading into this?


  • One thing I would avoid is hitting anybody with "theory talk" or drawing any great distinctions between "the games you guys know" and "the cool games I'm about to show you." Nobody likes that. The specific advice would vary from game to game.

    Right now I'm in a (somewhat) analogous situation: there's a new player in our group who has only played traditional games. But he's a longtime Forge reader so he already gets that there's a different style.

    I would recommend hitting these guys with either Donjon or Shadow of Yesterday, if you've got 'em. (I think these are available at CRN Games as .txt files if you poke around long enough. The subject matter is pretty close to what they're used to, and the games work pretty well without requiring a "paradigm shift" on the part of D&D players. Burning Wheel might be another good choice--though the time investment is so high that I wouldn't use it for people who weren't already committed.

    Another good, light choice is Primetime Adventures. Everyone "gets" it right away, though it requires a lot of OOC meta-game discussion which might be jarring to people not used to it.

    I would stay away from the more radical Story Games, both in terms of structure (Capes, Universalis, Polaris), or in terms of outlook (Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Trollbabe) until you have a better sense of what they like.

    It can be frustrating to have all these new toys, but not be able to share them with people right away. But I think it's better to go slow. Nothing's worse than provoking a negative reaction because of your over-eagerness.
  • edited March 2007
    To dog pile on James' response, start with a GM-centric game. The only perceived difference should be how the dice play out and how to motivate your character. If they are fantasy folks, any of the Heartbreakers should work. I agree with the suggestion of The Shadow of Yesterday (TSOY) and would also suggest Zorceror of Zo because I can't get enough of the PDQ system.

    Once they are over the system shock and play a session or two, then introduce new indie ideas if they fit. For example, in TSOY, let the players take their XP when they fulfill a key instead of doling it out. Use poker chips in a bowl and let them reach out and take them when it is appropriate. This will get them used to "taking hold of the spoon" and will make it easier when you want them to go all indie and start spoon feeding themselves. (FYI: the poker chips for key XP was completely lifted from Jeff of Sons of Kryos, much thanks to his wonderful advice on the podcast)

    Lastly, don't hand hold them too much. Tell a good story, get them excited and the system will fall away when the awesome begins.
  • There's some good related advice over here in this thread.
  • I think Dogs is a good introduction. It has the advantage of accessibility, character creation is pretty fast and the GMs role is clearly defined.

    If you want something with a little more granola try Burning Wheel. It's story games potential is real but subtle. It feels like a traditional game but plays like awesome.

    The Shadows of Yesterday and Spirit of the Century come up again and again. It's not just because they are good (very good) but also because they are easy and again GM driven after character creation (yet subtley manipulated by the players in a very satisfying way).
  • I think The Shadow of Yesterday or Spirit of the Century are among the easiest to GM, and on the plus side they retain a lot of structure from traditional games (such as having a GM, etc.) that can make it easier for players to grasp.

    Alternatively, InSpectres is somewhat radical in structure, but it is dead-simple, character creation is super-fast, and you can easily run a complete mystery in an hour or two, with no preparation.

    Or, if your players have a competitive streak, you might try Agon. I ran my first session of it last night, and it was a lot of fun.

    But probably I'd stick with TSoY or SotC.
  • Consider Spirit of the Century or Dogs in the Vineyard my votes.

    Trust me. Do not hit them with theory. It will end in flames. I speak from experience.
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