Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.
Recently, Elizabeth Bear introduced me to Stephen Hood, the creator of Storium, a play by post roleplaying system currently being funded on Kickstarter. Stephen was kind enough to answer some questions about him, and Storium.
Paul Weimer: Who is Stephen Hood?
Stephen Hood: Thanks for having me! I’m the co-creator of Storium, the online storytelling game. I’m a technologist who has spent most of my adult life working on startups and tech companies, including Yahoo and social bookmarking pioneer Delicious. I’m a gamer and a lover of science fiction and fantasy (among other things). I live in the San Francisco Bay area with my wife, two dogs, and two cats who think they are dogs.
Paul Weimer: How did you get into gaming, especially play by post/play by email games? Do you do other sorts of roleplaying?
Stephen Hood: I started gaming at a very young age and played everything I could get my hands on. I started with classic tabletop roleplaying games like D&D, Traveller, and Champions. On my trusty Apple II I played Wizardry, Ultima, and Bard’s Tale. Later on I played BBS games, MUDs, and MUSHes. In retrospect these were all games about storytelling, so I suppose that was an early sign of things to come.
Paul Weimer: Do you prefer to GM or to play? Why?
Stephen Hood: I enjoy both because each lends itself to a different creative challenge. I’m also excited that more and more games (including Storium) blur that traditional distinction and allow everyone a greater role in shaping how the story unfolds.
Paul Weimer: What’s the elevator pitch for Storium?
Stephen Hood: Storium is a new kind of online game where you and your friends tell any story you can imagine, together. It works by turning creative writing into a multiplayer game.
With just your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can choose from a library of imaginary worlds to play in across a wide range of styles and genres. You can also build your own worlds. You and your friends create the story’s characters and decide what happens to them, scene by scene. Storium uses familiar game concepts inspired by card games, role-playing games (both tabletop and online), video games, improv, and more. In each Storium game, one player is the narrator, and everyone else takes on the role of a character in the story. The narrator creates dramatic challenges for the other players to overcome; in doing so, players win control of the narrative and can move the story forward in new and unexpected directions. Everyone gets their turn at telling the story, and you can tell any kind of story that you can imagination.
Paul Weimer: How did Storium get started?
Stephen Hood: I was lamenting how much I missed playing tabletop games with my friends. When I went off to college years ago, my old gaming pals scattered to the four winds and I never rebuilt that network. I lost out on a powerful shared creative experience and found that I missed it dearly.
In reflecting on this, I realized that there was something universal in these games: a set of tools and techniques for helping people work together to tell stories through play. If these could be brought to much larger group of people, we could make a real difference by helping people express themselves in new ways. After all, stories and games are both part of what makes us human.
So I decided to go for it. Myself and a small team of allies left our jobs and made Storium our lives. We’ve been working on Storium for 14 months now and have play-tested it with hundreds of people. The game continues to evolve but already we are seeing very positive buzz. Perhaps most exciting is that it’s not just traditional “gamers” who are playing — writers of all kinds are teaming up on Storium to tell stories in new ways. It’s a thrill to watch.
Paul Weimer: You have a lot of genre writers hooked into Storium [Like our mutual friend Ms. Bear]. What subgenres do you like to read yourself?
Stephen Hood: I’m very proud of the writers who have joined up to create Storium “worlds” (reusable storytelling playsets) via our Kickstarter campaign, including the aforementioned Elizabeth Bear, as well as Chuck Wendig, Mur Lafferty, Saladin Ahmed, Tobias Buckell, Lauren Roy, Fran Wilde, Magdalen Braden, Ursula Vernon, Maurice Broaddus, Nancy Holder, Delilah S. Dawson, Stephen Blackmoore, Karin Lowachee.
Speaking personally, I’m a fan of fantasy of every form, and I’m continually drawn back to cyberpunk and dystopian themes. Also, my love of space opera cannot be contained by any means currently known to human technology.
That said, we’ve worked hard to assemble a group of authors who bring depth and diversity to the Storium library. It’s deeply important to us that Storium be welcoming to a wide range of ages, interests, and backgrounds. I’m proud to say that we have worlds spanning everything from classic space opera, to a fascinating take on the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance, to Jane Austen-inspired romances. And there’s more to come.
Paul Weimer: What else would you like our readers to know about Storium?
Stephen Hood: That we need your help to bring Storium to the world! We are currently running a campaign on Kickstarter, with the goal of funding the work that’s needed to launch Storium to the public. The more we can raise, the better we can make Storium, and the faster we can do it. Our stretch goals are also unlocking all of the “worlds” I mentioned above — over twenty so far, with many more in the works. We’ve just announced a new set of stretch goals, including Campbell-nominee Max Gladstone and Scott Sigler.
Backing us at the lowest backer level gets you instant access to our current beta test, so you can check out and play Storium today. Please take a peek, and thanks for supporting us or spreading the word!
Paul Weimer: Thanks, Stephen!