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Story Design

Sojourner Tales: The Legend of Wild Bill Hickman

Wild_Bill_CoverThis next week, Laura and I will be at our annual family reunion. We join our entire extended family -- my parents as well as my sister's and brother's families -- all onto a houseboat with provisions, board games, cards, books and medical supplies (including sunscreen and aloe lotion) sufficient to support us for a week of wake boarding, swimming and working together. It's an annual pilgrimage which forges the bonds of our family in the back of beyond on the most jaw-droppingly scenic lake I know.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, Laura and I are anxious to show off our game to our family now that it is done. And what better way than to write a Sojourner Story Module just for our family reunion. I wanted to write something that celebrated family and decided to feature one of our famous ancestors.

Well, the problem was that our famous ancestor turned out to be infamous.

William Adams Hickman -- 'Wild Bill' Hickman, as he was called even by contemporaries -- had what might claimed with understatement to be a colorful history. Stories told about him (some claim BY him, some out-and-out lies) included that he was a horse thief, a body guard for Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith as well as Brigham Young, a polygamist with at least nine wives,  a raider who raided and burned down government wagons, an associate of Mountain-man Jim Bridger as well as Orrin Porter Rockwell, a sheriff and county prosecuting attorney, assessor and collector all rolled into one, not to mention a an assassin. There was a book written about his exploits at the time (alleged to be written by him but by and large concocted sensationalism by the guy who actually penned it) entitled: "Brigham's Destroying Angel: Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman, The Danite Chief of Utah."

Well, at least I suppose I see where my roots in writing fantasy spring from my family tree!

William Adams Hickman was my Great-great-grandfather. Ask about any Hickman in the Western United States if their related to 'Wild Bill' and they will almost certainly answer in the affirmative.

So the question became: how do I make an entertaining game based on this sometimes-notorious and often mythic life?

Why, you EXAGGERATE IT, that's what!

That's how I cam to write 'The Legend of Wild Bill Hickman: A Sojourner Tales Adventure as told by Himself." It's a 'tall tale' of 'Wild Bill' trying to win a bet with Orrin Porter Rockwell back in the late 1800's right around the area where Lake Powell exists today. As our good friend, Carmen Deedy likes to say, "Oh, honey, it's not JUST true ... it's BETTER THAN true!"

So, if you would like to see an example of the kind of game you might make for your own family -- no matter how bent the branches of your family tree -- download this Sojourner Story Module. If you've got your own D.I.Y. version of Sojourner built, you might even play it. It's presented to you in EPUB format for iPads and Nooks, and Kobos; MOBI and AZW3 formats for Kindles old and new. Perhaps not all of the names and places will have the same depth of meaning they have for my family, but I think you'll enjoy the ride.

After all, what's a family tree if it doesn't produce a few nuts now and then!

You will need to be logged into the website to download the 'Legend of Wild Bill Hickman' ebook files.

If you are not yet registered for the site, you may do so here for free.

Sojourner Adventure Dice

One of the stretch goals for our Sojourner Tales funding on Kickstarter was to include special, custom dice in the game. Of course, for our creators who are writing their unique Sojourner Story Modules, it is essential that they know just what these dice will be and what capabilities they open up for their adventures.

Sojourner Adventure Dice

So, may I present the Sojourner Tales Adventure Dice -- the custom faces which will appear on the six dice included in the game that will ship to you this year. These faces feature the numbers 1-6 (which are all that are used in the basic game) but also feature additional symbols which may be used in ways customizable to each adventure

There are two triangles, three corner arrowheads, three corner stars, two circles and one hexagon. The meaning of these symbols are completely definable by the Creator of the individual SSMs. For example, you might define the arrowheads as 'Melee Attack Success', the circles as 'Defense Success', the triangles as 'Ranged Attack Success' and the hexagon as 'Critical Hit/Defense' and the corner stars as 'Discovery'. You could roll these dice individually for these results or designate a number of dice for an 'attacking player' to roll at once and a 'defending player' to roll a number of dice for their own defense. The attacking player might total the number of 'arrowheads' and then subtract the number of 'circles' rolled by the defending player to determine an amount of damage done. This is just one example of how these dice symbols might be defined.

Furthermore, as a Creator, you might also designate success on a roll of either diamonds or circles (4 in 6 odds) or any arrowhead (3 in 6 odds) or any triangle (2 in six odds).  A horror story module might define hexagons as 'fear' symbols and, for example, and a 'Twisted Tales" entry in could be written, 'The current player must roll a number of dice equal to the chapter marker number. If any 'fear' is rolled (hexagon) then that player's turn ends at once."

These dice open up tremendous capabilities for advanced game scenarios. How will you use them?

Sojourner Custom Modeling

BatmobilerLast month, as I was caught up in the holiday spirit, I decided to try writing that Christmas Sojourner story module that I had had on my mind. Between my overwhelming work schedule and the crush of the holidays, I wondered if it would be possible to find enough time to write this little gift.

As it turned out, I was able to do this in a single day.

This extraordinary feat was made possible because I modeled an existing template. Rather than try engineering a completely new matrix, I took the existing matrix for our first Sojourner tales module, replaced the descriptions, location titles, introduction text, and the choice descriptions with text for the new story, and then exported that into the e-book and Kindle formats. Creating, testing, and especially wiring (i.e. creating the internal hyperlinks that allow the player to interface events in the game properly with the e-book) is an arduous, painstaking task which can take a week or more to design and build. However, as any custom car-maker will tell you, it is far, far easier to put a custom body and interior on an already existing chassis, frame and drive-train than to build a vehicle from the ground up. You can purchase your very own replica Batmobile but it will come on the frame of a Ford Lincoln fitted with a superb but off-the-shelf engine and drive-train.

With that in mind, one of the things I'm working on early this year will be an EPUB template for a basic, generic Sojourner story module which you could easily edit into your own game. As more of us gain experience in creating Sojourner story module's, I could even see a market for selling or exchanging such templates to other creators for the game. A variety of such templates would richly add to the variety of the game while making creation of Sojourner story module's ever so much quicker.

Laura and I will be opening all of the creators storefronts within the next two weeks. We are so looking forward to seeing your adventures and playing them. We hope that making this template concept available to you will speed up the creation process and bring all of us fun games to play sooner than ever!

UPDATE: All Licensed Creators are now able to create their storefronts. Look for the tab under 'My Account' that lets you set up your own store!

Holiday Gift: To All a Good Knight!

Sojourn As a special gift to our backers from our Kickstarter Project and here on our website, I have put together a little holiday Sojourner Tales Module just for the holidays. It's a retrofit of our original module and I enjoyed writing the entries especially in a simplified format for family fun. It's now available for your download right here and can be played with your D.I.Y. version of the game.

You'll simply need to log in to this website and the download page for this gift should appear in the menu tabs above or you can download the files directly from this post.

I've been working on this all day for you, my good friends. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all ... and 'To All a Good Knight!

If you are registered for this website, please log in so that you can download this adventure from this same post! A copy of the Sojourner Tales Game is required to play this adventure. You can purchase a D.I.Y. copy for immediate download right here on our website.

Sojourner Designer’s Guide

SJ_GuidepageLaura and I are delighted to announce the release of our first Sojourner Designer's Guide. This is a work in progress but we have had such demand for a look 'under the hood' of Sojourner Story Modules that we decided to release what we had now and allow the Sojourner Community to be a part of refining it.

You can download the current version in PDF format by logging in to your account here and then selecting the Designer's Guide under the 'Story Design' tab on the menus.