CJ Bernstein

CJ Bernstein

Interactive Storytelling, Trust Levels, & Joining The Magiqverse:

We recently relaunched ads for the first time since 2017, and now hundreds of new readers are experiencing The Guide to Magiq and the Magiqverse for the very first time! Because we have so many new readers, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at two significant parts of experiencing the Magiqverse, one that’s been around since the beginning (way back in 2016) and one that’s a relatively new development: Interactive Storytelling and Forum Trust Levels.

Interactive Storytelling

I’m the author of the Magiqverse. I have a ridiculously big plan. I have a story that I want to tell you, one that will span several series, dozens of books, and years and years of live, interactive storytelling. A story that has twists and turns, both firm conclusions and open ends, and endless places for collaboration and shared storytelling.

I once described how we do interactive storytelling here as coming to a house. And inside that house I’ve built and designed a room I think you’d really like. But instead, you decide you want to explore this other door that leads to another room in the house. So I build that room instead. And though some of the design and furnishings may be the same as the first room I created, I’ve created a new thing based on your curiosity and imagination. You have helped shape the story. And if I do my job well, you never know that what you experience isn’t the exact story I wanted to tell you. (That works about 75% of the time.) I am telling you a story, a story with rules and laws, walls and doors, but you are helping to shape my story with your ideas, imagination, and pondering.

Some new readers will join, hear “Interactive Storytelling” and think that it’s more improvisational. And there are some places on the forum where you can go wild, even in-world (The Magic Affinities Topic springs to mind.) But when it comes to the main narrative (Think The Monarch Papers, The Secret Society, or The Search For Magiq) I’m ultimately in charge simply because I couldn’t keep track of the thousands of new ideas that you wonderful people have every day. You all have ideas about magic and fantasy and books and stories, and I have built the Magiqverse to tell a particular story, with your help. Your ideas shape the world, and your actions sway the direction. You are joining a community where you and your fellow believers are experiencing and unraveling a narrative that I am working hard behind the scenes to build and rebuild based on what I want to tell you, how you’re experiencing it, and what you’re creating within it. I’ll give you one example of what works really well in the Magiqverse main narrative and what isn’t as successful.

In the Secret Society narrative, Saberlane (my in-world alter-ego) was temporarily “inhabited” by a ghost from a pocket-world called Neithernor. Saberlane was suffering from this other set of thoughts and emotions in his head, all the while trying to solve a set of clues that had stumped him and readers.

While we toiled away on the mystery at hand, Robert came up with the idea to possibly try the grounding hex we’d used on a character way back in Phase Two of The Monarch Papers, in the hopes that it would keep Saberlane safe, and possibly separate the two consciousnesses living inside him. So, behind the scenes, I went to work making that grounding hex a new roadblock to the success of the story. Sabes couldn’t survive to figure out the mystery until his mind was cleared with the grounding hex. That’s a great use of using what you know about the Magiqverse and using it collaboratively to help shape the story. Robert didn’t propose it as “I have the solution!” because what if for any of a hundred reasons we couldn’t integrate that on the backend of the story? Instead, he suggested, “What if the grounding hex we used could help Saberlane?” I liked that idea more than my own and decided to integrate it, making it so that the readers were responsible for saving Saberlane.

If Robert had said, “Wait! I’ll be right back. I have the solution. My great-aunt gave me a powerful spell book before she died and there’s a spell in it that I know will save Saberlane.” Well, that doesn’t work as well in the main narrative because, for one, that makes Robert the hero that saved the story for all the readers and all the fictional characters. It also writes brand new canon about magic and how it works in the Magiqverse. Who is this aunt? How did she have a spell book when magic was all but eradicated from this world? There are places both in-world and out-of-world where that is okay to do, but in the main narrative it’s hard to accommodate every backstory and idea. It’s more collaborative. This is why I URGE you to explore the rules and history of the Magiqverse before you earn Trust Level 2 and can contribute to the interactive narrative. It will definitely make it more fun and exciting for you.

Basically, think of this community, combined with your own imagination and what you know about the Magiqverse, as possible keys to unlock the continuing narrative I am building for you. And with time and experience, you’ll be able to build your own corners of the Magiqverse. And I’d love to explore those corners too.

Now, a lot of you have asked about trust levels and how to “rise in the ranks” so I thought I’d share some thoughts about those now that you understand what we’re doing here and how we’re doing it.

Forum Trust Levels

This community is like no other on the internet. It is kind. It is nurturing and supportive. It is creative, and it is collaborative. And we are strict about keeping it that way, “we” being the leaders, moderators, veteran readers, my assistant Catherine, and myself. We work hard to ensure that those who understand what we’re doing have a home here, and those who are disruptive, cynical, or rude are politely drowned out by our vibe. A community like this doesn’t happen accidentally. It takes hard work on the part of the community and the admins to keep it that way. And trust levels are a big part of that.

Trust levels are in place to do a few things. They create a series of gates so that new readers have time to understand the rules and energy of the community, as well as catch up to the complex, ongoing narrative that’s always playing out here. And they also weed out people who don’t want to play well with others. 🙂 The Forum Primer has all the information you need about what trust levels grant you.

Some may be inclined to try and rush or “game” the trust level system, but it doesn’t work like that. The trust level system is a mix of automated and moderated steps that allow new readers to catch up to the current narrative and also learn how the community here works before diving into the deep end. This isn’t like other online forums or forms of social media.

And this isn’t a video game where the narrative revolves around one individual and their brilliant ideas and heroic decisions. No one person is the hero here. We are the heroes in a very collaborative, communicative, nurturing environment, and we work hard to maintain that. That might feel jarring just because it’s not like other online communities, many of which value low-level participation, where snark and cynicism reign. We like to have fun, and we may disagree and have a good-natured jab at one another now and then, but at the end of the day, we’re a family, and we’re protecting our house. And we really want you to join the family!

Where To Explore and Contribute When You First Join

If you’re itching to create something right off the bat, the brand new Creationary is an out-of-world place where veterans and newer readers alike can explore the Magiqverse, others worlds, and even mash up the two! Have an idea for a new kind of story? Want to play with merging two magic systems into one? Want to write about visiting Hogwarts? The Creationary is the place to explore all sorts of worlds and ideas with the community.

And once you’re Trust Level One, The Guilds in-world category is the place to explore your guild, meet fellow members, and get your feet wet with in-world contribution!

I’m so excited to have you here and can’t wait to see what you create, and how you shape the story.