I came across a board game similar to Once Upon A Time called Storyline. Picture Once Upon a Time and Apples to Apples having a baby. That is how Storyline do. To get into more detail, whereas Once Upon A Time plays as long as you want until you get to the ending, Storyline runs for 15 rounds, where the winner is determined through how many points they secured via tokens that they have to grab face down.
Storyline comes in two flavors: Fairy and Scary Tales. Obvious differences are obvious. But, this had me thinking of how to turn the assets into a driver for solo play, not unlike how I used Once Upon a Time as a makeshift Driver for solo.
Of course, this means creating a set of rules to make it solitaire friendly, since the game was intended to be played for three-to-eight players. Thankfully, I got the hard stuff out of the way thanks to overhauling Once Upon a Time.
To set up the game, draw the first five Narration cards, the cards that tell a story, then fill in the blanks by drawing five of a certain type and picking which one to play for each blank, then either discard the unused cards or put them at the bottom of the deck.
Example: The first five cards drawn result in “Once upon a time, there was a [character] who lived in a [place]. Unfortunately, our hero had a problem. They were very [feature]. Our hero wanted to [action] the problem. So, our hero took their favorite [object] and set off on a journey.” I draw five characters, five places, five features, five actions, and five objects, then pick one from each category.
Afterwards, mark the overall goal as a Thread. If you use Mythic GM Emulator, note it as a thread that cannot be closed. Then, write up a little bit about the character, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, etc. Each of the five cards must factor into something about them. You may feel free to use an RPG system with this. When you’re done, we then get into…
With the character and goal established, play out the narration in a solo game, with an added caveat for when you create NPCs.
When you create an NPC (read: a character who isn’t your character), unless directed otherwise from later Narration cards (i.e. when the card has [character] on it), you draw two cards, a Feature and a Character card. That’s your new NPC. Then, grab a face down token and reveal it. If it has a number, it indicates the importance of the NPC (feel free to also interpret that as being stronger or weaker than the protagonist).
- A character with a 1 token is unimportant and only exists for that scene. If they manage to extend past that scene, it doesn’t take much to knock them out of the story. (Example, a fox reappears after its debut scene even though it has a 1 token. However, the protagonist simply tosses a ball at the fox and it goes away and chases it.)
- A character with a 2 token is a recurring character. If they do not appear within 2 scenes (or when you feel like they’ve been absent for a long while), then they will reappear next scene. (Example: A hunter antagonises the protagonist and is a 2. He didn’t appear after a lengthy trip to the farm and so he returns afterwards).
- A character with a 3 Token is a main character. They appear in every scene or at least close to…
On top of that, there’s also special tokens that you draw that dictate a change on top of being a point token.
- Bear Trap: A Random Event occurs. Draw another token.
- Boot: Kicks off the next Act as soon as possible. This acts as a 1 Token.
- Scales: This NPC also has a [Place], [Action] and [Object]. This acts as a 2 Token.
- Crown: You gain control of this character on top of the protagonist. This acts as a 3 Token.
When to Discard and Redraw Cards
Sometimes you need to discard your cards because the plot says so.
- Characters: When a character dies or is otherwise written out of the story permanently. If this happens to your protagonist, game over.
- Place: When your character leaves the current place tied to them.
- Object:When the object is either permanently lost or destroyed.
- Feature: When the character loses that feature permanently.
- Action: When the character is unable to preform that action permanently.
Rarely, you are able to draw new cards in place of the discarded.
- When your character meets a new Character (see NPCs).
- When your character goes to a new Place.
- When your character gets a new Object.
- When your character has a new Feature.
- When your character is able to do a new Action.
Onto the other Acts
Once you preform each of the narrated aspects (You don’t need to follow them to the letter) and have played for at least three scenes (or three of however you wish to use for time), you are now able to go to the next act.
Once the time comes, draw three cards from the Narration deck and, like with set up, draw five cards for each category mentioned and play one to each Narration card. Any use of [Character] in the narration card is treated as a 3-token character. Like before, play out the narration in solo play.
Ending the Game
Depending on how you play, you can end the game one of three ways:
- Character Death: If a 3-Token character (note this also extends to characters mentioned in Narration Cards or having the Crown Token) were to die or otherwise be written out of the story, then the Storyline is fractured and the game concludes. The only loophole is if the character is to die in that Act’s Narration.
- Problem Solved: If the story’s problem is solved before the conclusion of the story, then the Storyline is fractured and the game concludes.
- The End: And, of course, there’s playing the story to its conclusion, in which case the Storyline is preserved and the game concludes.
You may have noticed the italicized words. That’s the two endings you could get.
The Storyline has halted completely, as though its own pages were torn out. Draw the rest of the Narration cards, complete with drawing cards, but instead telling how, because of the absence of the protagonist (or whoever/whatever triggered the Fractured Ending), the story has changed. You are encouraged to play it up as the worst-case scenario.
The Storyline is preserved and is told for generations. Feel free to draw closure to any of the 3-Token or 2-Token NPCs if you wish. You are encouraged to play it up in a best-case scenario.
And that’s the rough draft of how to play the game. Of course, I need to playtest these rules and tweak it (which I will do soon), but for now, enjoy and Bon Voyage, Gamers.
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