Storytelling Tools


I was having dinner with some friends last night. Everyone at the table was a tabletop roleplaying game geek – including me. If you're unfamiliar with the hobby, it's a form of organized collective storytelling. One of my friends took a quick poll, asking what game system he should use to run a game he was working on.

I've had to answer this question for many of the game's I've run in recent years. Not so long ago, this wasn't a question. If you wanted to run a game in the Star Trek universe, you used the official game and rules set. Over time, this has changed. Today, there are a number of 'generic' systems available, designed to let people tell stories in a variety of genres and settings.

So, the real question isn't "what system should I use?" The right question is, "What kind of story do I want to tell, and what tool (i.e. what rules set) is best for telling this story?"

This reminded me of a comment that author, writer, director, & actor John Sayles once made. He was asked, that since he wrote novels and movies that he directed, how did he know which form the story would take. I'll paraphrase his answer. He said that the story dictated the form. Some stories are best told in a novel. Others are better as movies. This may well explain why so many people are disappointed with movies adapted from novels. They're two very different types of storytelling tools.

It also occurs to me that the shift in roleplaying game systems and web apps share a similar trajectory. When my volume of projects exceeded my ability to keep them all in my head, I set out to find a web app that would help me keep everything organized, let me prioritize what I was working on each day, and schedule out extended projects. There are a ton of great organizing apps out there, but I was looking for the right tool for my specific needs. A month into it, the tool I chose was already producing results. It's lowered my stress, helped me be productive, and hit deadlines.

In one of my previous posts I showed off The Writer Emergency Deck. It's another great tool for writers, helping us tell better stories. I'm stoked to be a storyteller working today. I tell stories in a variety of ways. Thanks to the evolution of storytelling tools, I'm able to tell better stories than ever before - whether that's collaboratively with friends, or professionally for my clients.

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