Why Destiny’s ‘Grimoire’ being outside the game wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

This is a talky one, and if you have never played Destiny you might get a little lost.

The ‘Grimoire’ is a collection of background information that was presented to players through cards they collected in-game, but could only read on the Destiny website. Understandably, some people disliked this system, but I think it has a lot of merit for those that are interested in the lore.

Destiny 1 had a lot of flaws. Hell, Destiny 2 has a lot of flaws. I don’t think anyone invested in the franchise would dispute that, even today; most die-hard fans have taken breaks, berated certain periods of the game and almost universally recognise the lacklustre content that appeared in September 2014 when it first launched.

However, as many issues as there definitely were, I really don’t think that having the deep lore of the Grimoire outside of the game itself was such a bad idea.

Now, to clarify, I am definitely not saying that the narrative content we ended up with in 2014 was enough – far, far from it. It was meagre at best and realistically there were chunks of lore that were relegated to the offline Grimoire, chunks that really could have been used to flesh out the in-game narrative; some explanation of the lore of the Vault of Glass and why Kabr’s shield relic is so gruesome (and awesome), or how important the Black Garden is to the overall Vex narrative that we embark on in the vanilla game and why killing the Heart of it was so huge. The reason why a lot of the players of the original base game were so lost playing through the campaign, and why some of you reading this won’t have a clue what either of those two references meant, was not because the narrative you saw was badly written, it was just incomplete in very peculiar areas.

Forcing players to exit the game they are playing, breaking their immersion, in order to understand your story – bad storytelling, especially for a video game. Pushing players to explore more of your lore in a different setting, though, once the main narrative is clearly explained and understood through their regular gameplay experience – now that, in my opinion, isn’t such an issue.

I fully embrace that I was and am one of those that was willing to look outside the game for this content; I am a writer today because of the love I found for storytelling and world building through Destiny’s universe. But that community, the one I find myself in today – that’s kind of my point. The way that Bungie decided to present their wider universe fostered a huge group of players that were bound together by the content it created, by people like My Name is Byf and Myelin Games, and by the communal nature of their storytelling.

I understand that many traditional writers might see it as lazy and I can completely accept their reasons why; having players fill in the gaps with theories and tell each other your narrative for you is in many ways a shifting of the workload. But isn’t it impressive that they managed to make an entire world that engaged so many people, they started telling its stories and legends to one another like the myths of our real world?

I’m fascinated with how Bungie managed to break through the fourth wall into the collective consciousness of this lore community – to the point that we treat the campfire tales told to the Last City’s children as our own legends and fairytales. You might not be a part of this community right now, but I promise you it’s out there and is a fantastic example of engaging your players outside of the confines of just the screen they play on; all because of the Grimoire’s extra-curricular nature.

It might have taken them a while to get going, but Bungie played the long game right from the start and they are now in such a strong position with their narrative that I think only the likes of World of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls have the scale and history to match them. They probably didn’t plan it, granted, but with the direction that Shadowkeep is going in, it seems like they have taken up the reins of that rocky first act and are determined to make the most of what it turned into.

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  1. I was right, but I also admit I was wrong – Destiny’s Story, Post Grimoire – Thom Lingard

    […] the early stages of running this website, I wrote an article discussing why I thought Destiny 1’s Grimoire system was a functional and innovative method […]


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