Been a player, but new at being a creator

I am working on a game that takes place in modern times, but where magic has (for unknown reasons) began to spring up in all humans. It has gotten to the point where at the age of 6 all children must undergo what is called “The ritual of marking” at a place called the Ministry of Magic. This ritual brands their skin with a mark of what magic their bodies are strongest in, at surface level this appears to be a way to classify magic, and send children to the correct schools so that they may harness their power correctly, but its actually a way to keep tabs on the children and gauge their strength throughout their lives (more will be explained depending on the choices the player makes)

I wanted to avoid the sometimes cliche “amnesia” and give a little more strength in the players ability to shape their characters life from start to finish. What I am having trouble with is actually the start, I personally feel it would be a tad bit boring to have them go through birth and all that and I wanted to be tossed into this strange life starting at the age of 6 and have them work throughout their lives making choices that can potentially net them in a bad situations (or good). The main problem I am having is setting up the deck in at the start. Should I just use one storylet with multiple branches? I’m just at a bit of block, I have story lines written for after the start, but its just figuring out this one point that causing me problems.

Currently I have it set up with like this:
Age 6 -> The ritual of magic -> and that’s where I’m stuck i’m unsure if I should if I should use a bunch of rare events for each class of magic, or if I should do a bunch of defaults and have the player choose. I like the randomness of the rare event but I want it to be fun for the player. Any suggestions?

I would strooongly encourage you to give the player as much choice as possible in deciding who their character is. The underlying contract in StoryNexus is something like:

  • Players get to decide who THEY are;
  • Creators get to decide what happens to the players’ characters.

You can do something funkier, but – take it from experience – players will want to pick the class of magic they like best. And if they can’t, they’ll want to remake their character over and over until they get what they want. And if they can’t, they’ll pester you to let them. The easiest way to do it is let people play what they want and support all the options with equally interesting plot. (And if you can’t: why are you making them in the first place? :) )

Thank you for your reply, and that’s just why I wanted to check to see what other creator would say before I did something like that. Taking what you said into consideration I’m going to go the route of making just default paths, thank you again for your quick response to the question.

No problem! Good luck! :)


I came in for a read because I’m trying to work with a more “fixed protagonist” model.

I think making the outcome random sounds awesome, because it highlights your concept perfectly. (But I can see why it make lots of players crazy.)

My protag, for example, has to tell one of two lies in the intro. I figured players might not want to lie, so I made the intro already have happened. It’s in past tense, even though you make decisions during it. Then, as it becomes stuff you’re doing now, the player is never forced to lie again - unless they want to, because there are rewards.

I dunno. I read all the stuff about keeping the protagonist as ambiguous as possible - and I am, like people should be able to play as male or female or neither without picking either or ever feeling wrong about their gender. But, I also wanted to break the rules and give the protag lots of fixed quirks. Like, there is a real danger of “dying” of thirst because the protagonist can only drink on trains.

That probably sounds crazy. But, I really like that the model allows for some experimentation.


I am also doing a “fixed protagonist” which I hope doesn’t turn off people who like FailBetter games. I think if you’re going to let the protagonist be a range instead of a fixed point it changes the type of story you have to tell. In the above example, I would guess that the plot follows a main arc, but having several different types of magic you can cast would require several setpieces that can be traversed in different ways using the various branches of what the character can do - in that case magic type you get. Otherwise if the story branches too much you get combinatorial explosion that the FB team warns about.

I think in some cases it might be better to limit your story strategically. Just because in the world the children could get multiple different brands, there’s not a reason why you couldn’t tell a compelling story about your favorite of the choices. In fact, if the parents do the magic-branding, why would the player get to choose, as it seems to be out of the protagonist’s hands.

That said, perhaps you could structure the game around having a school of magic forced upon you, and let it be random each time. That could frustrate an experienced player who wants to replay the game as a specific thing. Perhaps at the end of the game you could set a persistent quality that allows a player to make specific choices in the beginning only if they’ve been to the end at least once.

^ Or, you could (somehow, without thinking it through) let the persistent quality rule out the one school already played. I think that would work if it were a short, playable thing. It would encourage people to replay? If it were very long, maybe. Not sure.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “fixed protag” or “arbitrary class choice” but, probably, if you’re going to to it, you have to do it well. My protag has a history, family etc which pop up from time to time. I’ve been trying to make those moments meaningful. He/she also lies, but I suspect when I go over it with a critical eye, I’ll need to flesh this out a lot, otherwise, why include it?

As for the explosion branching thing. I’ve found limiting the scope really useful for a first try. I’ve gotten rid of all the sometimes cards so I can have greater control over how the story progresses. I might try more of a Fallen London model next, but I’m still finding that hard to conceptualise.

Also worth remembering: giving your players a lot of divergent options (“do I play the Barbarian or the Accountant?”) will quickly multiply your workload. Giving your players X different divergent character options means writing X different divergent storylines. It seems like it’ll also significantly increase your mechanical complexity.

If you’re determined to give your players different magic schools as per your post, I might suggest starting with just one option and testing the game that way. Adding more later could be free or Nex-locked, but you’ll get your game out the door faster the more you streamline your opening workload.

Do I play as the barbarian or the accountant? I want to play that game! ;)