Plotting Multiple-Path Stories

by Rommel

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A storygame is defined by the branches given that can change the story. What will you do, take shelter in the distant gully or behind those nearby boulders on the wastes of the Daziarn plane? Will you bribe the guard or will you run the blockade? These decisions are directly related to gameplay and will serve to bring the reader into the story. It is their choice whether to use a fireball or smoke.

Okay. So you're making a storygame. Your first thought is "These guys are going to find this impossible!"

Wrong. Your audience is not an enemy to be beaten. If you follow this path you'll end up with something out of Fighting Fantasy, where a player has to make 10 or 20 attempts and usually resorts to cheating. Feel free to try this of course, but don't start out with a competitive mindset and make things so hard there is no way they can figure out the correct choice outside trial and error. Leave clues as to what path should be picked. And for the love of Dever, try and make the outcomes of the path relevant to the decision made. Unless that is your aim, don't have random occurences that kill the player with no warning, because you cannot expect them to figure it out on their own. If you have a platform that kills those who step on it, have a few warning signs, a plaque in an ancient language, charred bones and carbon scoring... Just give them due warning of what the choice may do and give them a logical outcome

If you're trying to give the reader the chance to really affect whether the character lives or dies, you must give them enough choices. At every point where a wrong step could cause death or injury, add a choice or a chance element. Or, if you feel like doing some work, add both. One of the biggest mistakes I've seen is giving the player a choice, then when the branch comes to a life or death situation the player automatically succeeds or fails (failing is more annoying). This is annoying because the decision the player made earlier on made no reference to what lay ahead. To slip off an ice bridge because you decided to cross a glacier is annoying because there was no reference to the ice bridge in an early decision. Imagine in real life if you had to jump off the cliff just because you went to the coast, as opposed to inland. Imagine yourself just walking off the cliff and know what it is like in a CYOA with poor decisions. Even the most epic pieces of writing fail on gameplay because of this.