- Moss ScheurkogelCanada
I had the opportunity to play Story Realms at PAX Prime this past August, and I was really impressed by how accessible the game is. Below is a review I wrote for The Games Shop in Melbourne. The full article, with pictures and additional content, can be found here:
“It’s clear that the girl before you is the giant’s daughter,” says the storyteller. This plot is all laid out on his game cards, but he knows it by heart. “She is struggling to escape from the shadows but she’s weak and faint. You need to get her into the light!”
“Umm,” says the little girl across from me. She is five years old, and she scans about her colourful character sheet for ideas of what to do. Her unique inventory card shows that she has some smoke bombs, a slingshot, and a few other troublemaker’s implements. “I shoot her from the slingshot.”
“You… shoot the girl from your slingshot?” The storyteller takes a moment to clarify. “She’s very large, you know. Even young giants are giants.”
“Yep, I pull it back real hard and I shoot the girl into the light.”
The storyteller glances at me. He won’t contradict his players, but he’s wondering if I might.
“I am completely in favour of this plan,” I announce. I’ve saved up two bonus dice from my previous adventures and I push them into the centre of the table. “Let’s sling this giantess. I conjure up the spirit of the west wind to help guide her.”
“I’ll help pull the slingshot!” offers Justin. His trait card is “Helpful,” so he gets a bonus for assisting his friends.
“I’ll conjure a ramp of dirt for her to sail off of,” says the other guy. I missed his name when we sat down, so I just think of him as the Protective Riftwalker.
The dice are cast, the successes are tallied, and a moment later a half-unconscious girl who measures seven feet in height is sailing into the light, propelled by the imagination of a girl for whom kindergarten is still a fresh and exciting experience.
Story Realms, by Escapade Games, is a roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons or the myriad of other tabletop RPG’s that fill the genre. But Story Realms differs from a game like D&D by offering both more structure and fewer rules, if that makes any sense. The game is packaged as a board game with beautiful artwork adorning an intriguing board and a variety of unique player cards. Everything you need to play is included, and there’s no need to bring a pencil and eraser – all the game’s mechanics are tracked by tokens and even the inventory items are listed on self-contained kit cards. The game feels more sturdy than the transcendental world unlocked by a typical roleplaying sourcebook, and the game comes with several prescribed adventures as well. By simply reading cues off of story cards, a player can become a storyteller without any prior experience running a game like this. There is a preset campaign that takes the players throughout the world of Storm Hollow, and in many ways it feels a bit more like a choose-your-own-adventure than an RPG, since very little needs to be imagined by the storyteller.
But not needing to imagine doesn't prohibit one from doing so. While the world of Story Realms is all laid out for exploring, the ways in which players do this is highly subjective. Instead of restrictive ability scores and mathematical equations, each player is given a few skills that feel more like suggestions. My character, a Talespinner, was great at talking (go figure) and weaker in the old forearm region. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t throw a punch if I wanted to. The classes in Story Realms are completely unique and offer a lot more appeal than the static old Cleric/Fighter/Mage/Rogue archetypes. Characters have titles like Stormchaser, Whizbanger, and Sparkcaller, and when we had to choose roles I was a little paralyzed by all the fantastic options. These characters are supplemented by an inventory kit (I chose the daredevil kit, which gave me things like fireworks and a hang glider) and a trait card that suggests a certain direction to move in while roleplaying. I had the trait “Tricky,” which rewarded me for being crafty and also for employing the power of the wind. Which brings me to the magic system in Story Realms. My character was pretty good at magic. That’s the system. There are no spells, no predefined uses, only what the imagination can offer and the dice can support. I rolled three dice for magic, with each die offering a 50/50 chance of success. If I did wind magic, I added a die that favored me 75% of the time. I only needed one success to make something work, but more successes would mean greater effects. If you do the math you’ll see that my wind spells were pretty darn reliable, and that’s one of the interesting touches in Story Realm’s design. Since every action serves to move the story forward, success tends to be the norm. To fail a roll is surprising, and failure never ends the game. A setback may occur, an NPC may be kidnapped or a player may be wounded, but the characters can never be eliminated. It’s like watching a TV show or reading a book where you know the hero won’t die, but the fun is in seeing how much trouble he or she can dig their way out of.
The previous statements about never dying and succeeding in most rolls may make the game sound too lax. But the thing to remember about Story Realms is that it’s supposed to be fun, light, and accessible to beginners. Swinging fruitlessly at a goblin as a tree chokes you to death is one of the questionable joys of Dungeons and Dragons, but repetitive frustration can turn new players off of roleplaying entirely. Story Realms offers a comfortable way to enter the genre, and a typical adventure plays out in an hour which makes it much easier to play casually. Being a roleplaying game, Story Realms does have a fair amount of flexibility in its design though, and if a storyteller wants to heighten the challenge it’s an easy tweak. But in its default state, Story Realms is a game that can be enjoyed by adults and yet comprehended by children. In fact, as my earlier narrative implies, having a child on your team can be pretty handy when you need to just imagine up a storm and get it done!
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- The Soot Sprite(spritey)Australia
- A well written little review. Thanks for sharing it.
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- Mike P(Muhlakai)United States
- To me this review highlights not only that kids really can play it (not that anyone has been in any doubt) but also exactly why it's fun for adults. Who the hell wouldn't want to play a game where slingshotting people (even giants) is not only possible but attempting to do so gives you a bonus for the Right Tool For The Job? Thanks for this one. I've been chuckling about it all day.
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- Christi M.United States
- This is the review that initially sparked my interest in Story Realms. Well done!
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