Bhaloidam is a tabletop storytelling platform by Corvus Elrod. It’s designed to help people trade off control of a shared story, tracking the ebb and flow of Will (the ability to affect the world) and Ego (the ability to withstand incoming changes) as well as styles of interaction with the game universe.
That’s a broad enough description that it may be challenging to guess what it means in practice. Fortunately, the Bhaloidam website goes into a lot of detail, complete with some sample play sessions and imagined story worlds. I particularly recommend the discussion of how Bhaloidam might be used for a Cthulhu game and the sample play session for a story about three siblings gathered at the death of a parent.
It’s the word “platform” in the above description that has me interested, personally. Bhaloidam is not exactly a game in itself. It’s very broad in design, it doesn’t come with specific premises or goals or hooks, it doesn’t offer a skill breakdown or a list of things that your character can do. It leaves a fair amount open for the players to be the designers of their own experience (or use additional rulesets and source books, or pick a “Weaver”, which sounds like a GM-equivalent).
So its rules (as far as I can tell from reading a good bit of the Bhaloidam website and following comments and discussion, but never actually having a chance to play myself) are designed in large part to solve a social/metanarrative challenge rather than a direct narrative one. How does control flow back and forth between players? If you’re doing shared storytelling with a low degree of challenge and system constraint (in contrast with e.g. a hardcore D&D session), how do you stage-manage conflict and failure alongside success?
Another appealing feature of the system is that it treats failures as valuable narrative events. Playing an interesting loss outcome can be as rewarding as succeeding at something. In my opinion, any time you’ve got a narrative system heavily reliant on dice or randomization, interesting failure becomes more or less mandatory. So if you attempt something in Bhaloidam and roll a failure, you still have the opportunity to work out how you failed and justify the effects predicted by the system.
Like I said, I haven’t played myself and don’t know how this will work out in practice, but it looks intriguing. The Kickstarter project has options to preorder materials for just one player or for a whole gameplay group, as well as to make a charitable donation of gameplay packs or get involved at a higher level.
4 thoughts on “Bhaloidam on Kickstarter”
Seattle has a fantastic meetup group http://www.storygamesseattle.com/ They meet every Thursday night and play games like this. Fiasco, Lady Blackbird, Love in the Time of Seið, Ribbon Drive, and lots more. Highly recommended.
Cool — thanks for the recommendation. I’ll try it out!
Thanks for such a generous write up, Emily. I wanted to make sure that you and your readers saw my new post about online Bhaloidam demos so you can try it out first hang via Google Plus Hangouts: http://bhaloidam.zakelro.com/2011/10/17/online-gameplay-demos/