# Formats and Templates

Story Synth has several different game formats, each with their own template you can use. Here’s an overview of each format, its influences, and a link to the template spreadsheet.

# Shuffled

Shuffled Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format is inspired by Alex Robert’s game For the Queen (buy (opens new window)) (SRD (opens new window)).

Games following this format have:

  • A series of instructions, spread over short cards that appear in a fixed order
  • A number of storytelling prompts that are shuffled in order
  • A final card that brings the game to a close, which is always the last card
  • An X-Card (opens new window) for safety

Unlike For the Queen, there are no Queen cards to choose from and the final card is always last, rather than shuffled into the deck.

The default template has just one shuffled deck of prompts but Story Synth can handle multiple decks. Each deck (except the instructions) will be internally shuffled but the decks will be served in order (i.e. all of deck one, followed by all of deck two). This enables you to play games in the style of Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year (buy (opens new window)). Check out the Sequential Shuffled Decks template (opens new window) which shows off the multipack capabilities of the Shuffled format.

The broader format of ordered instructions followed by random prompts lends itself to a wide variety of games that stray far from For the Queen.

# Timed

Timed Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format is inspired by Jason Morningstar’s game Find/Fix/Finish (buy (opens new window)).

This game has a shared timer and private prompts are sent to players at specific times. Players can pause, unpause, and restart the game at any point.

Unlike Find/Fix/Finish, there aren’t any decision points where a player can choose from different options and which result in different content later. There also isn’t space for links to reference material, though you could include them in the prompts.

# Secrets

Secrets Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format is similar to the Timed format but prompts are tied to each turn instead of a timer and turns are manually advanced.

In each turn, each player will receive one public prompt (seen by all) and one private prompt (seen only by them).

# Monster

Monster Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format is inspired by Randy Lubin’s game Dawn of the Monster Invasion (play online (opens new window)).

This format has:

  • A series of ordered instructions at the beginning of the game
  • A series of rounds, with each round containing several prompts to choose from
  • The prompts are fixed to the specific rounds (i.e. not random) and players will face the same options each playthrough

# Slot Machine

Slot Machine Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format has:

  • A series of ordered instructions at the beginning of the game
  • A series of cards that each randomly draw elements from a number of categories (e.g. one from category A, one from category b, one from category c)
  • There's no limit to the number of cards or categories

This format might be useful for those who want to generate random encounters, random locations, random characters, or a any other random prompts that are created from several categories.

# Phases

Phases Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

This format takes place over rounds, where each round has a series of phases that happen in order. For each phase, a prompt is drawn from the corresponding phase deck.

A game about travel might use phases: new mode of transit, trouble on the road, new location, and trouble in location. In each round, each phase will be visited once in sequence and a random, relevant prompt will be show.

# Generator

Generator Template Spreadsheet (opens new window)

Generator Demo (opens new window)

This format shows randomly selected options from different categories over a customized layout of rows and columns. Players can regenerate the entire group of selections or individual categories.

This format is great for generating multipart scenarios, adventures, or locations.

Key options:

  • upperText – custom text that appears above the generator
  • lowerText - custom text that appears below the generator
  • showGameTitleOnCard - adds the game's title to the top of the card
  • generatorRowLayout - how you specify the layout of the generator; input how many columns per row with each row separated by a comma. You can use 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 columns per row. (e.g. "2,1,4,3").
  • styleTemplate – use this to specify an existing style template. Options: cyberpunk, vaporwave, fantasy, dark, light.
  • showSummary – let players switch from grid view to the concise Summary View
  • showFullLists – let players switch from grid view to Full List View, which shows all possible options per category

# Hexflower

Hexflower Template Spreadsheet (opens new window) Hexflower Demo (opens new window)

The Hexflower format creates a grid of hexagons in the shape of a larger hexagon. Each hex contains a summary and is clickable. Clicked hexes can have additional information displayed below the Hexflower by using the fullContent column.

You can use the background column to specify a backgaround image or css webcolor name or color code (e.g. #ABC123). There's a hex image template for Affinity Designer (opens new window), make sure to hide the grey guides before you export. Use a service like https://freeimage.host/ (opens new window) to host your image and then paste the image url in the sheet.

You can also control the probability weighting for each hex's movement, making it more or less likely for it to move to specific adjacent hexes – see the note in the sheet for more information.

Key options:

  • hexOrientation – set to flatTop (default) or pointyTop to change the orientation of the hexes by 90 degrees
  • hexWarp – set to TRUE if you want random movement to be possible off the edges of the hex flower and wrapping back around (wraps are only vertical or diagonal)
  • randomizeHexes – set to randomNoCopies to have one of each hex but in a random location set to randomWithCopies if you want to repeatedly select randomly from teh entire list of hex options
  • startingHex – (for random options) if used, the set number of the intial hex location that's selected on hex generation, otherwise the starting location is random
  • startingHexFixedTile – (for random options) set to TRUE if you want the starting hex tile tile to have the same information each time (must be used with startingHex)
  • fogOfWar – some hexes start hidden and are only revealed when you move either onto them (revealOnMove) or next to them (revealNeighbors)
  • initiallyVisible – sets which hexes start visible in fogOfWar

Hexflowers were popularized by Goblin’s Henchman (opens new window) and the Hex Flower Cookbook (opens new window) has plenty of examples and thoughts on how to make and use Hexflowers. I also recommend checking out Emily Short’s blog post on Narrative States (opens new window) as she has great insights on interactive fiction that translate well to Hexflowers.