What really defines story games comes from Ron Edwards’ essay, “System Matters.” Traditional RPG’s offer “physics engines” as their rules. If a story happens, great, but the rules don’t have much to do with that. Story games quite explicitly drive a story forward.
In Primetime Adventures, each character’s “screen presence” has a tangible effect of driving nested characters’ story arcs forward. In Dread, everything you do requires you to pull a block from a Jenga tower, and when it falls, the character who pulled that piece dies–which builds a palpable sense of impending doom perfect for the thriller and horror stories Dread focuses on. In Burning Empires, the three phases and scene economy likewise provide the beginning, middle and end of a sci-fi story.
For The Fifth World, I want a game that will help us rewild by giving us the tools to renew our oral traditions. I’ve made some progress codifying an animist ontology into the rules, but now I need to figure out the rules that propel the story forward. To do that, I need to figure out the principles of oral tradition the way literary theorists have figured out the principles of written stories. And then, I need to figure out clever rules to emulate that experience.
Picking from the other end, I think the post-colonial perspective of magical realism also presents some fertile ground. Spiking oral tradition with magical realism ought to get the perfect flavor of feral, as opposed to wild, storytelling.
Obviously, I’ll need some help here.
I’ll post my thoughts on this thread to keep you up to date, but if you think you can identify common characteristics of how oral stories flow, or how magical realist stories unfold, those observations can really help us out here. And if you think you know of some clever mechanics that would propel players down those paths, those would help, too.