Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Story Short

As you may have noticed, this month I have been trying desperately to find a system with which to run a Fantasy role playing game of a very different sort from that embodied by the approach used in Dungeons and Dragons, it's simulacrum, clones and the seemingly innumerable games inspired by it.

I am not in the mood or mindset to run D&D. but boy, am I ready for some medieval fantasy.

At some point while contemplating this rather vexing conundrum and discussing it here, on a few forums and most notably in a private RPG discussion group I am a member of on Facebook, I remembered a pet project I had put by the wayside which could very well solve my problem.

Ever since I finished my Muppets RPG (finished is relative as I am forever tweaking it), I have wanted to create a variant that could handle some of the more serious and less overtly Muppety Jim Henson productions such as The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and one of my all time favorites, The StoryTeller


"When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for...The Storyteller."

For those unfamiliar with Jim Henson's The StoryTeller, shame on you. Shame! Leave! Go on, shoo! Never darken my doorstep again. You are not welcome here.

Oh, alright fine. Perhaps it's not your fault. You can stay but be on your best behavior and try to learn something. Neanderthals.

The StoryTeller was a combination live action/actors and puppet/animatronics series of television episodes that originally aired in 1988. It was an American/British co-production, originally conceived by Lisa Henson, Jim Henson's daughter.

Jim and Lisa brainstormed the concept of the series, basing all of the episodes on authentic folktales from a variety of countries and sources. Although all the folktales were Western European, many where considered quite obscure by modern recollections.

To me, there has never been anything else quite like The Storyteller. It is an amazing series and every time I think of running a Fantasy RPG, this show is what I am thinking of and hoping for.

As I have mentioned many times before, I did not read very much 'modern' Fantasy or 'Sword and Sorcery' growing up outside of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and a little Robert E. Howard. Much later I would read Moorcock, Lieber, Vance and others, but not until I was already 13 or 14.

Prior to that and even prior to playing D&D for the first time at the age of 8, I had read the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, the book Faeries by Alan Lee and Brian Froud and a number of other tomes of fairytales and folklore.

While I came to appreciate both types of Fantasy for their own individual merits, there is a game for one type and not the other.

So, what I am endeavoring to do (fingers, toes and eyes crossed) is create a StoryTeller RPG based on the sensibilities of the show and the tales that it told and using a slightly more 'grown up' version of my Muppets RPG rules.

Will it work? Will my current group understand it?

Only time will tell...

Barking Alien


  1. Huh. I grew up a Henson fan, but am totally unfamiliar with this show. Which is too bad, since my "fantasy youth," like your own, was much more fairy tale oriented, and much less pulp.

    Was Story Teller a series of shorts or was there an over-arching plot to the show? Do you want something dark, mythic, both, neither? Are you interested in stories of humans or fantasy creatures? Will there be dungeon crawling?

    Just curious.
    ; )

  2. I am happy to see you're curious. I hope more people are.

    In the United States, The StoryTeller was featured in the second half of a hour long television anthology/variety show called 'The Jim Henson Hour' that ran for only nine episodes in 1989. Several episodes were aired independantly as TV specials following the end of the Jim Henson Hour run.

    In England, the StoryTeller series was at one point run as a season fill-in. Each week only the StoryTeller episodes would be aired by themselves, including two episodes that did not air in the US at all.

    While the show received low ratings, certain parts of the show would receive numerous awards, accolades and spawn spin-offs and a love of critic and fan generated love. The StoryTeller was one such element.

    There was not over-arching plot. Each episode told a single folktale from a different country's folklore. For the RPG, I plan on having the characters and their person folklore be the only thing that is really carried over from session to session. At least initially.

    Do I want dark? Not especially. Nor do I want light. I want elements of both as fits the tales I will be telling.

    Do I want mythic? Well, yes, assuming I want to do adventures based around myth and folklore I would say mythic is a given.

    The both and neither thing confuses me. As if dark and mythic are opposites or things that don't go together.

    Many folktales tell of fantasic creatures but generally they are not the main characters. People are the main characters.

    The Heartless Giant had a giant in it. One with no heart in his body if such can be believed. The story is not about him though, or rather it is, but it's also about a little boy.

    The Luck Child features a lucky lad indeed, the 7th son of a 7th son and no luckier a person can there be. In this tale we meet a Griffon, a terrible, man-eating monster but it's not about that. It's about a boy and a girl and love and the black, black heart of a greedy King.

    Dungeon Crawling. Yeah...probably not. Believe it or not, Dungeons, during medieval times that is, were often in use by Kings and Queens to hold criminals and prisoners. Fancy that?