Weave Review

Theme and What is It?

Weave is a dice-driven narrative storytelling system that enables groups to role-play with minimal preparation time published by Monocle Society.  Weave features a companion app which helps to spur creativity as the improvisation between players and storyteller create a unique story in a variety of settings.

Gameplay Mechanics

Weave is a game for two to five players, though ideally you will have a full group of five encompassing one storyteller and four players.  All players will need access to the free Weave companion app. Devices can be shared, but for best results each player should have their own device.  The app contains the settings that will be used for a given storytelling session or campaign. The setting you choose will inform how the story cards are interpreted and what options they give to the players during character creation and to the storyteller during gameplay.

In character creation, the storyteller will assemble four challenge cards, one for each of the four elements, and the players will draw one randomly giving their character a specialty element.  The four elements relate to the stats you might be familiar with form other role-playing systems: Stones is for physical actions; Gales is for dexterity and agility-based actions; Flames pertains to intelligence, knowledge, and memory; and Brooks handles charisma, charm, intimidation, and coercion.  The players then use the app to scan in five randomly drawn story cards. Each card will give a range of options pertaining to different elements of character creation. From the story cards, players will choose backstory, talents, flaws, a signature move, and some starting inventory items. Similarly, the storyteller will scan a few cards to generate a theme for the adventure, a villain, and a starting location.  All of this should take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how quickly players make their selections and share them with the group.

During gameplay, the players and storyteller will work together through improvisation to act out scenes with the players acting as their characters and the storyteller handling any non-player characters (NPCs) in a given scene.  The storyteller will have a hand of four challenge cards and two story cards. Any time the storyteller plays a card, they will replace the card with a new card from the appropriate deck. Story cards can be used to introduce new items, NPCs, enemies, plot twists or change the location either during or after a scene.  During a scene players may face either encounters or challenges. An encounter is a specific incident of conflict that affects all players and plays out in rounds. The players will determine an order of action and each player will take turns describing their character’s action for that round. An action is anything that the player character could conceivably do in about 10 seconds.  When an outcome has been determined for each character or event, the encounter is over.

Often during an encounter, or even a general scene, a player will attempt an action that could be met with resistance or complications.  In this case, the player will face a challenge, the suit of which will be identified by the storyteller.  Every challenge starts at a difficulty of one, but the storyteller may play a challenge card from their hand with the matching suit to replace the initial challenge level.  Players will determine success or failure in a challenge by rolling the Weave dice. For any challenge, the player starts with three dice, they may add one die if their focus suit matches the challenge suit, and may add an additional die for any character quality that both the player and storyteller agree would apply, and finally the storyteller may award bonus dice at their discretion.  

Having built their dice pool, the player then rolls all dice and results matching the suit of the challenge count as successes.  Dice showing the Weave symbol count as a success and may be rolled again for additional successes. There is also a strike result on the dice.  If a character fails a challenge and rolled one or more strikes, the storyteller may assign a strike to the character that impacts one of their non-focus suits.  If a character ever receives three strikes, they are unable to act for the rest of the scene. All strikes are removed at the end of the scene. If at any time the storyteller does not like the cards in their hand, they may make a challenge automatically succeed and then discard their challenge cards and refresh their hand.  Similarly, they can offer an enticement to a player by playing off one of the character’s flaws, explaining how that flaw might affect the outcome leaving the player to accept the enticement and automatically fail, or try to resist the enticement and try to succeed at their original action.

If a player accepts an enticement, they fail at the action they were trying to achieve and receive the challenge card from the storyteller.  This card can be redeemed later to heal a strike from their character, add an additional die to a roll, or reduce a challenge of the same suit by the amount shown.  However, if they refuse the enticement, the storyteller will reveal the challenge card and the player character must first face and succeed at this a challenge, before attempting their original challenge in the usual manner.

Weave also includes the concepts of both an epic pass and an epic fail.  If a player succeeds at a challenge by two or more, this is an epic pass an their signature move (a powerful player action that is usually only available once per session) is refreshed and able to be used again.  If the player fails by two or more, than it is an epic fail and they may receive a consequence in addition to earning a potential strike from their failure. A consequence is a negative quality that last with the character for the rest of the session, such as a broken limb from an epic fail pertaining to a jumping challenge.

To add additional depth to the system, the elements may be used for skill checks, which are an opportunity to spice up the storytelling.  The rules within the app give some guidance for these, such as using Flames for a knowledge check, to see if a character recognizes an NPC for example.  Skill checks are always a challenge level of one and use a dice pool of three, plus one if it is the character’s focus suit. Skill checks should be used to enhance the narrative, but generally do not carry punishments for failure.  If the outcome of the action is particularly important to the narrative, the storyteller should make it a proper challenge.

Play will continue under this format until the story reaches its conclusion.  Weave can be used for single session adventures, or to tell multiple stories with the same characters in a longer adventure or campaign over multiple sessions.

Initial Impressions

When I first saw Weave on display at GenCon 50, I knew I had to know more.  The companion app seemed really interesting and the promise of getting from character generation to gameplay in 20-30 minutes was very appealing.  As a reader of RPG systems, I was also intrigued by the potential to take Weave beyond its initial presentation and really push the limits of the system.

Game Build Quality

Weave comes in a small-form box with six custom dice, 56 challenge cards, and 22 story cards.  The dice have a great feel to them and the custom faces are clear and easy to read. The tarot cards are of sturdy quality and will hold up well through repeat use.

Artistic Direction

The artistic design in Weave is amazing.  The iconography on the dice and the challenge cards are clear and easy to read, but the standout here are the 22 story cards.  Each cards features a title and full picture in a unique style. The challenge for the art in Weave is that because the cards will have different applications or meanings depending on the setting, and indicated within the companion app, the art needs to be evocative while at the same time independent of the various setting materials.  It looks great on the table as you build the tableau representing the current state of the game narrative.

Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion

Weave is a light roleplaying framework for group storytelling.  The box indicates ages 14 and up, but really any person capable of following a narrative can play.  Character creation decisions are informed by the cards drawn during setup, rather than choosing from a large list.  Sometimes this can lead to characters with varying skills that may not seem to work together, but this is where strong improvisational skills can help.  Also, the storytelling falls on the group as a whole, which can help carry players who may not be as comfortable improvising. The Weave app has ratings for the kinds of content that players can expect to encounter in a given setting which can help you play in an age-appropriate setting.  Additionally, because the narrative evolves from the group, the players have a lot of influence on how mature or age appropriate an adventure becomes.

Final Thoughts

Weave is a narrative storytelling game and will work best for groups that are comfortable with improvisation and working together to tell a story.  It can function in a more traditional approach, with the storyteller providing the bulk of the narrative, but this runs counter to its objective of being a low-preparation system.  If you have wanted to try role-playing or group storytelling, Weave is about as easy as it gets. The app holds all of the information for the setting you decide to use and character generation could not be easier.  The rules can be found within the app and do a good job of describing how the game functions mechanically, and Monocle Society has been producing videos of sessions with Geek & Sundry that provide excellent examples of the system in action to help you grok the system.  

Weave does rely heavily on group improvisation, but a strong and encouraging storyteller can do a lot to coax people into the narrative gameplay There are currently four settings that range from cyberpunk, to golden age science fiction, to kids on bikes a la the Goonies or Stranger Things, to high school drama.  Monocle Society has plans both for future free settings and a marketplace for new official material, perhaps a licensed property, as well as user-generated adventures. Weave is an amazingly accessible system for those interested in group storytelling and I highly recommend checking it out. It was our game of the con from PAX Unplugged and an honorable mention in our Top 10 games of 2017.