Story Design

Sojrouerner Tales offers you not only the opportunity to enjoy storytelling adventures but to create them as well. Here is the basic structure of a Sojourner Story Module (SSM). More detailed structures and tools will be available to our Licensed Creators in their exclusive pages on this website.

FIRST RULE OF SOJOURNER TALES: Any complexity is in the Sojourner Story Module, NOT in the play of the game. The design of the SSM requires some planning and may seem a little daunting at first but we will provide you with the basic tools you need to create your game. As you get familiar with how Sojourner Story Modules are designed, you'll soon find ways of 'pushing the envelope' of the design in new and exciting directions.

Basic SSM Organization

The Sojourner Story Module described here is the ebook format which may be in any viable format including PDF, Kindle/mobi or iPad-Nook-Kobo/epub. Print versions of the SSM use entry reference numbers in lieu of links with the same effect. The SSM text, of course, may be organized in whatever form the Creator (writer/designer) needs but the basic format is as follows:

  • TITLE / SETUP: The cover art (if any), SSM Title and any special setup instructions for this particular game are placed here. We like to provide a pair of links close enough to the beginning of this section so as to appear on the first displayed page that take the players to the INTRODUCTION and the MAIN MENU. If there are instructions for setup of the game that are specific to this adventure -- or which supercede or modify the standard rules of the game, these are included here.
  • INTRODUCTION: This is the text read aloud to all the players after the game setup and just before play begins. This text should set up the premise of the game and bring the players into the story that is about to unfold. The challenge here is that the text needs to be extremely concise: preferably fit to one display page. It ends with a link to the MAIN MENU.
  • MAIN MENU: This is the page which contains the main links branching to the three story systems in the SSM: LOCATIONS, TWISTED TALES and EPIC STORY EVENTS. This page also contains a link at the bottom to the TITLE/SETUP page as a reset for the game if needed.
  • LOCATIONS: These include the four corner locations of the board as well as the center circular space. Each location represents a general place related to the story genre where groups of people might be found. What happens when a player lands on a LOCATION is entirely determined by the designer. It may be as simple as as a d6 results chart or may be a complex mini-game or it's own matrix. The results often involve movement bonuses or penalties (e.g. move to any Chapter Disk on the board, loss a turn) or involve the use or acquisition of Destiny Cards. It may just be a free space, if you choose. The point is that whatever these location spaces represent is ENTIRELY found within the SSM -- thus allowing you to create whatever subsystem works for your story. The limitation here is that a Location which requires a move to another Location ends that player's turn.
  • TWISTED TALES: This is essentially a 10x10 matrix resulting in one hundred possible results from the combinations of the Twisted Tales cards numbered from 00-99. These are organized around ten general themes with a range of ten encounters for each theme. These one hundred story events should be organized by their themes (the ten Twisted Tales in the 'Betrayal' line, for example, would all have something to do with someone turning on you). As with locations, each of these Twisted Tales entries can be as simple or as complex as you like. It may be as simple as a statement that results in the giving of a Destiny Card, it may be a set of riddles or it may be an entire self contained matrix of choices. Again, the level of complexity is entirely up to the Creator.
  • EPIC STORY EVENTS: This is the heart of the game where the continuous story takes place. Two tokens on the board keep track of the course of the Epic Story: the CHAPTER MARKER and the SCENE MARKER. These are both located on the STORY TRACK on the board and generally both start at the '1' position on the board. (This is not required of the SCENE MARKER; if you wish to use a random starting point for your SSM you may place the SCENE MARKER on any of the five locations and cause modify your Epic Story Events to correspond.) How EPIC STORY EVENTS are triggered is covered in the rules for the game -- but for design purposes what you need to know is that (A)  the position of the CHAPTER MARKER and the SCENE MARKER determine what next EPIC STORY EVENT is read to the currently player and (B) that after the description text is read to that player, they will engage in a process to determine what the next EPIC STORY EVENT will be the result of which will be reflected in (C) a new position for the CHAPTER and SCENE MARKERS. This is how information is passed between the book and the board: the position of the CHAPTER and SCENE MARKERS at the beginning of the encounter determine the EPIC STORY EVENT encountered in the SSM and the results of the EPIC STORY ENCOUNTER in the SSM is reflected in new positions for the CHAPTER and SCENE MARKERS. What process you use to determine the change of the CHAPTER and SCENE MARKER positions is entirely up to you as the designer of your SSM. Generally this is as simple as presenting the player with two or three options.


An example EPIC STORY EVENT might be as follows:


You stagger onto the wreckage of the engineering room. The air is getting hard to breath. Strange tentacles are stretched between the darkened control consoles. A single, red button flickers in the darkness. You see an airlock on the far side of the room.

Do you...

A. Take a look at the strange tentacles or...

B. Push the red button or...

C. Try to make it to the airlock?

If the player chooses:

A. Chapter = 3 / Destiny = 1

B. Chapter =3 / Destiny = 2

C. Chapter = 3 / Destiny = 3

Each LOCATION, TWISTED TALE or EPIC STORY EVENT entry always ends with a return link to the MAIN MENU.

If you would like to learn more about the basic structure of a Sojourner Story Module...

Laura and I invite you to sign up on this website. Not only will this allow us to keep you updated as the game goes through its final revisions but it will allow you access to areas of this website which only signed-in members are able to see. This page, for example, has content which is not available for your viewing until you are signed up and logged in with your account. 

11 thoughts on “Story Design

  1. Jason Susavidge says:

    im excited for this…its almost like a choose your own adventure novel by tracy hickman lol

    • Yes, there is something of a ‘Pick-a-path’ feeling to this game … what we’re planning on doing here is teaching you how to write your own story-adventures to use with the game and even offer the possibility of selling them to other players on this website.

      • T. Rob Brown says:

        The class at Gen Con was very helpful on understanding the story path structure for Sojourner Tales, as well as playing the game Thursday night at the con.

        To fully understand the path structure, I’d love to look at one of the story files to see how it’s constructed. That would be a big help toward smoothing out any questions I might have as I start writing adventures for the game.

  2. Any chance of a video covering the Story Development event from Gencon?

    • Unfortunately, no one video taped that presentation. However, I do still have the powerpoint for the presentation which I could make available in some form here on the website. Let me look into how best to present that to everyone here.

  3. Would it be possible to have a means for those who purchase modules from your site to rate and comment on them. I know comments open up the door for the Trolls, but a star rating system or only allowing those who purchase to comment may allow for good feedback for designers and better purchasing info for consumers.

  4. This sounds really cool. Is this something a beginning writer could do? Or do you need some experience with these types of games?

    • Melissa, this really is something that a beginning writer can do. I’m working on the Sojourner Designer’s Guide right now. The beauty of this design is that it accommodates everyone from beginning writers to experienced game designers.

      • This is what I like to hear! I am a novice writer with lots of story ideas, and I’d love to take some of them and make them into interactive stories that me and my friends can play with Sojourner’s Tales. You and Laura have created something truly unique and cool. Thank you, Tracy!

  5. I am deeply regretting the fact that I only heard aboutthis a couple weeks ago. This game seems so original and I want to play it so thatI can geta feel for how it works. I have what I feel is a dynamite book idea.