Moving Through Space and Time

General Flow

Games (using the CQ StoryHammer role-playing game system) are played in a series of scenes facilitated by the Narrator. The Narrator sets up a scene by explaining the sights, sounds, characters, and actions that the protagonist(s) would naturally perceive. Control is passed to the Lead(s) who decide how the protagonists will proceed through the scene. Based on the protagonists’ actions, the Narrator explains how the story changes and leads them into the next scene.

Scene Facilitation typically flows in this cycle:

  1. Establish the Scene
  2. Navigate the Conflict
  3. Resolve the Scene

Time, Space, and Measurement in StoryHammer

As a narrative unfolds, time is often stretched or squashed to keep the plot moving. It would be rather dull if it didn’t. Imagine how boring a novel might be if each scene included every moment, explaining in great detail the nothingness that happens. As the protagonist sleeps, for instance, paragraphs might go on and on to explain how he didn’t move or didn’t wake. It might be humorous at first, but reading the same thing page after page with no change in plot would quickly become tiresome. To mitigate this problem, time needs to be inconsistent when telling a story. Instead of pages of pages of “the detective slumbers without stirring, again”; one sentence could say “The man slept through the night without incident”.

Likewise, time is stretched and squashed in a game using the CQ StoryHammer role-playing game system. A story might feature a scene about a several-minute conversation and then the next scene skips a few hours, bypassing events that are unimportant to the plot. During some scenes where the protagonists are trying to overcome an obstacle, time is tracked more meticulously to focus to the logistics of the event. StoryHammer has specific rules for these types of scenes which are referred to as conflict.

StoryHammer games rely on players’ imaginations. As such, tracking the passage of time or visualizing space and dimension may be difficult to convey and keep consistent. The following sections introduce key concepts regarding the navigation of time, space, and dimension within StoryHammer.

Macro Time in StoryHammer

Units of time in StoryHammer are somewhat abstract. Rather than measuring time by seconds or minutes, time is based off of events. These measurements are like containers that can stretch and shrink to fit the number or mass of the events within. A story contains one or more acts. An act contains one or more scene(s).

The Scene

The base unit for measuring time is the scene. A scene serves as a container for one or more continuous events within the story and has a distinct setup and resolution. Scenes are sequential and form the building blocks of the game. There are several types of scenes and each can vary in length or size but each scene tends to have a description, setting, and a resolution. In game terms, conflict (including combat) will happen within a scene.

The Act

An act is a unit of time that contains one or more scenes. Acts vary in size but their purpose is to resolve one movement or objective of the story. In game terms, an act should take one gaming session to complete (or 2 – 3 hours).

The Story

In CQ StoryHammer, a story refers to the adventure that the players are trying to complete.

Traits of a story:

  • Has a beginning and an end
  • Has an overarching theme
  • May have multiple objectives
  • May take multiple game sessions in order to finish
  • Is made up of one or more acts.
  • The protagonists seldom change throughout the story.

Stories are referred to as “campaigns” in other role-playing game systems.

Micro Time in StoryHammer

Often, time needs to be more concrete in StoryHammer. Particularly during conflict when multiple characters or a time-sensitive objective is involved. During these events, time tracking becomes more nuanced. A scene may contain conflict which may be broken down into a series of rounds. Each round is broken down into speed stage(s).

The Round

A round is a unit of time that represents about 5 – 7 seconds within the story’s world. Rounds only come into play during conflict. During a round, every active character gets a chance to perform an action, which are typically resolved during one of the round’s speed stage(s).

The Speed Stage

Each round is split up into speed stages. Every action a character performs is assigned a speed – which is resolved during one of the designated speed stages. Generally, quick actions are resolved during the quick stage, regular actions are resolved during the regular stage, and slow actions are resolved during the slow stage.  This is explained in more detail in the Ordering Actions section.