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I made a science fantasy RPG that’s playtesting now! If you’re a Roll20 Pro subscriber, you’ve already had over a month to check out Burn Bryte, the new RPG that I created with Jim McClure, Kat Kuhl, and Darcy Ross. Today I want to talk about one of the most important pieces of any Burn Bryte player character: the story path.
What are Story Paths?
Advancement in Burn Bryte isn’t achieved by gaining experience points. It’s achieved by gaining experiences. During character creation, you choose a starting story path for your character. Each story path is five open-ended events that your character experiences over the course of the next several sessions of gameplay. When combined, these events create a story arc for your character. Once your character interacts with all five events on their story path, they choose a new story path to start on.
Story paths have broad names like Create Masterpiece or Student. You can take the Create Masterpiece story path to determine if your character wants to create a beautiful work of art, be it a painting, a novel, a recipe, or a dance routine. You can take the Student story path as a formal student studying at a university, or you could take the story path if you are traveling with a wise mentor who is teaching you their original method of biohacking. Keeping story paths broad allows them to fit players with specific story desires, while also allowing a character to take the same story path multiple times (should they wish) without play becoming repetitive.
Each time your character completes a story path event, their character advances. They get better with one of the game’s core eighteen skills or gain a special or nova ability either from their species or an ability that can only be gained via the specific story path. For instance, the first event on the Create Masterpiece Story Path is for the character to find a tutor or institution to teach them the subject they wish to learn. When this event is complete, the character gets to choose a special ability from their species and focuses on achieving the second story event, “Learn the Golden Rule… the Hard Way.”
Not all story paths in the game have such a linear structure. Some, like the Love and Mystery Story Paths, have a middle sequence of three events that can be completed in any order. While something like creating a work of art of learning a new subject has more rigid sequence of events (you can’t paint a picture without inspiration and you shouldn’t take the final examine before you know the basics), other stories require more flexibility (the course of true love never does run smooth and no one knows exactly how a detective will attempt to solve a mystery). We wanted to make sure players and GMs have the tools to tell the stories they want to tell with their characters, so every path is built in a way that serves the broad narrative of the story.
Story paths do not have predetermined outcomes. There’s no way of knowing what an artist will do with their art (sell it, keep it, or give it away) and there’s no guarantee a character playing through the Student Story Path won’t fail to learn the subject they choose. Story paths account for these differences by providing branching rewards. Pass your final examine as a student and your character gains an ability. Fail, and they gain a different one. Both experiences are valuable life lessons that allow your character to grow.
There are only five story paths in the playtest (Create Masterpiece, Discovery, Mentor, Student, and Temptation), but the final core rules of Burn Bryte will have forty.
Story Paths are Good for Players
Story paths are good for players in the narrative side because they are less restrictive than a longer class or path. These short bites of advancement allow you to tell the story you want to tell. Starting out as a student who then fails their final examine because a rival set them up presents an interesting bevy of choices. Will you take the Student Story Path again and double down on hard work? Will you take the Rivalry Story Path and battle it out in your chosen subject with your rival to prove you are superior? Will you take the Redemption Story Path to redeem yourself in the eyes of those who saw you fail? Will you take the Revenge Story Path to cause your rival pain? Or will you go a different route and choose the Love Story Path because your rival is actually kind of hot? All are possibilities, and with shorter paths, you’re not restricted with what you do next.
Story paths also give your character something to work towards. In the short term, you know what story path events you need to achieve, so you are never at a loss for motivation. Don’t know where to go or what to do next? Take a look at your next story path event. It serves as a guiding star.
From a mechanical perspective, story paths are good for players because they make tracking your advancement easy, and because their combinations are nearly endless. With forty story paths, you can get deep into the mechanics and create the exact character you want to play. Even if you’re more into mechanics than story, story paths are a boon. You can read over the paths, find the advancements you want for your character, and start making it all happen through narrative.
Story Paths are Good for GMs
GMs will love story paths too. First of all, story paths are a great collaborative storytelling tool. Each time your player chooses a new story path, they are signaling the story they want to tell with their character, even if the player doesn’t realize it. Story paths are a way of checking in with your players every few sessions to see how things have changed for their characters and what they’re driving towards now.
Story paths also make session planning easy. Take a look at the events your player characters have to achieve in their paths, write them down, tie them into your game’s overall story and bam, you’ve got a session ready to play. Didn’t have time to prep? Have no fear! Ask your players what their character’s next story path events are next in their story, write them down, and in five minutes you’ve got the basic skeleton of an adventure and you’re ready to rock.
Story Path Thoughts
In a nutshell that’s story paths. What do you think? For those of you who are Roll20 subscribers, have you enjoyed playing with story paths or not? (Please let us know in the Burn Bryte playtest survey!)
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