Lessons from Storium

I’ve tried a couple games on Storium. I don’t like it nearly as much as MUSHing, but I think there are a few interesting takeaways when you contrast its play style with MUs.


Storium, like many play-by-post games, is sloooooooow. It’s rough to go from one scene a night to one scene a month. But even within Storium’s community, I’ve noticed that games with a good pace do better than games where things go idle. I think that same theory applies to MUs as well, both in terms of a single scene (not waiting 30 minutes for someone to pose … getting skipped isn’t the end of the world) and for broader plot pacing.


The most successful Storium games seem to be the ones where players have an inherent connection to one another. Not only does it give people ready reasons to RP together, it also introduces the potential for interesting backstory connections. I’ve found this to be true on MUs also.

Going With the Flow

Power-posing isn’t a faux pas on Storium - in fact it’s pretty common practice on many games. The first time somebody else incorporated my character into their move (aka pose) it really rubbed me the wrong way, but in time I got used to it. It’s almost like community character development.

Now I almost get tickled when somebody else writes little things for my char - especially if they nail it. And even if they don’t, I weigh whether it’s worth asking for a revision or just going with it. Most of the time it’s not that big a deal, and it helps move the story along more smoothly.

It’s a hard thing to get past, for sure, but I do think it has its merits.


Storium’s sole mechanic is “challenge cards”. For example: the PCs have been ambushed by ruffians. The ruffians’ challenge needs 4 cards to complete. Each card that a PC plays on the challenge moves it closer to a strong, weak or neutral outcome.

Codifying the challenges like this serves a number of useful purposes. It gets the players all working towards a common goal. It quantifies the potential outcomes. It rewards players for using their weaknesses, so it’s not Win Win Win all the time.

Sometimes it can feel like railroading a bit (which it totally is), but overall I like it. I wonder if there’s a way to do something like that in a MU setting without putting everyone off.

You Tell Me

The first few scenes I played, I had a hard time because it seemed like the narrators weren’t giving enough information to play off of. “How the devil am I supposed to write about interacting with the slug-aliens when you haven’t told me anything about them!?”

But in time I realized that I was looking at it wrong. The narrators didn’t want to tell us all the details about the slug-aliens, they wanted us to help define them.

While I think this works better in a small, narrator-led game than in an open MU, I do think it’s an interesting philosophy to take. When players feel like they’re helping to define the world and the plot instead of being spoon-fed the details, it results in a very different kind of writing.

It all makes me wonder what other tidbits might be gleaned from other online RPG play styles.

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The game I’m building is a massive experiment in this, deliberately crafted to have the vast majority of lore unknown both ICly and OOCly, with pockets that players can freely create. I’m pretty excited about it. We’ll see how it goes.

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