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Tell me about... your unfinished game ideas

Started by Rich Forest, April 05, 2004, 05:30:38 AM

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Rich Forest

Over here in the RPG Dreams thread,
Quote from: LxndrParts of Fastlane came to me in a dream and/or hypnagogic state; same with good portions of Shangri-la and Mudsylvania, neither of which have been released yet.
(Emphasis mine)

Alright, now I have to know what Mudsylvania is. Just have to. Must. And in the spirit of Jonathon's post, The Wishlist , about what you'd like to see from people, here's a place to talk about what you'd like to see from yourself.

So what about the rest of you? What games do you have that you'd love to design and write but (for whatever reasons) you just haven't done it yet? What are your unfinished, unstarted, or even half-assed game ideas, and what makes them cool? Join the fun and share your game ideas with no pressure to actually follow through and make them!

Here are mine:

Fist of the Assassin: This is one of my (many) martial arts rpg ideas. Here's the intro pitch:

On the frayed margins of society, there's another place, where virtue, murder, and kung fu reign supreme—the Jianghu World. It has always existed, just beyond the reach of civilization and law. It is present at crossroads; in quiet, windswept deserts; under the light of the moon; and in storms and rain.

This game is about the people who live in the Jianghu world, making their own rules and fighting their own wars. Inspired by Shaw brothers films, Wuxia, Samurai Jack, and Quentin Tarantino, this game is about the heroes, masters, and boxers; the cultists, revolutionaries, and vigilantes; and the villains, demons, and ghosts of the Jianghu world.

The system is a modified version of the card-based system I used for Shotgun Musashi. I have some ideas for emphasizing "Step on Up" in the game, as well.

Ghoulville, U.S.A.: Pure psychobilly. This is your standard, 1950s rockabilly and teens gone wild! film-influenced game crossed with classic movie monsters. Get a little rockabilly, a little Misfits, some tongue-in-cheek attitude, and mix. Take your high school and home town, turn the clock back to the 50s, and throw in tons of movie monsters, haunted houses, ghosts, etc., and remember that ghosts and monsters aren't scary—they're cool.

I had a rough version of this sketched out years ago when I was in high school, but only character creation, which was based on taking one word from list A (adjectives) and one word from list B (nouns/occupations) and combining them. All the characters abilities came from the combination. List A has words like "Cold-hearted, Cool, Rockin', etc." List B has things like "Zombie, Rebel, Frankenstein, Go Go Dancer, etc." Nowadays, it looks like it would make a nice little octaNe supplement rather than it's own game.

Devils of the Deep Blue 1930s port town with fishermen, merchant marines, etc. Except there are sea monsters out there, big ones, and the fishermen are out fishing for monsters. Working on cool subsystems for running crews of ships versus these great beasts of the deep, and making the time out on the waters atmospheric and interesting. Ideally, I'd like to force the fishermen to balance their needs to go out for long stretches to protect their community by holding back these sea monsters with the need to be with their loved ones. I'd have systems to balance time spent away from the family with stuff going on back home that you can't do anything about. It would be mechanically difficult, but not impossible, to do both—but I'd like to skew the odds so that choosing the sea (and she is a fickle mistress), choosing the family, and choosing to balance the two are each valid options to try. But with no guarantees.

Proving Ground: This is another martial arts game, this time inspired by my intense fandom for mixed martial arts (UFC, Pride). The core martial arts rules are a strategic but not too fiddly system that takes grappling into account. Beginning characters are professional fighters, sportsmen. But everything changes when they find out that there is a secret world of truly amazing martial arts secrets and mysteries, one where men can punch through walls and leap atop buildings, defeat gangs of foes with simple movements, and perhaps, even... fly. Subsystems include the martial arts rules, but also a set of subsystems for dealing with the classic "convince the master to teach me" routine. This is a huge deal because the PCs know how to fight, the masters know the ancient techniques but are frail and many have not long to live, and almost no one in the modern world has combined them. The PCs will be on the vanguard of this, and the small worldwide community of those in the know will be in an all out war to become the best and learn the true techniques and take themselves to whole new levels. This idea is heavily influenced by manga like Shamo, Grappler Baki, and Garouden, if you're familiar with any of them. They may not be available in English, though.

Sorcerer and Suspicion: This needs a title, but it's an idea for a Sorcerer mini-supplement. Basically, it's 1950s, red scare paranoia with aliens. And none of these "grays," either. We're talking 1950s aliens, bug-eyed freaks, tentacled monstrosities, robots, and so on. The characters are part of the problem and maybe part of the solution—scientists, military types, and government agents who are knee deep in making deals with the aliens. Demons are aliens. You got alien weapons as passer demons, alien symbiotes as possessors, etc., man, this part just writes itself, really.

What are you willing to sell out your fellow man for?

Fighting Game RPG with no title: As anyone who's seen me post much knows, I've played more Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game than any other RPG. This is either my Street Fighter Heartbreaker or another cool fighting game RPG. Actually, in its current state its more of a collection of ideas about how to very closely model the pace and strategies of the fighting game in another medium—it's more like a board game than an RPG. It might even stay that way. But yeah, another martial arts RPG.

Anno Domini: This may need a different title too, as does its Japan set counterpart (I had been calling that Daisho, but apparently there's a 1PG game that uses that title now?). The Japanese version started out as Tenchu: the RPG (and all the playtests have been of that). But it's sprawled into a grand idea for a strategic, card-based RPG that spans across society from the lives of the peasants to those of the lords, with both Japanese and medieval European settings, and with character ability heavily weighted over tools. Powerful niche-protection is central to the game, and it will/should allow for the creation of entire villages/communities/manors/kingdoms at various levels and also allow these to interact mechanically. I'd have to write it in chunks, say each as a sort of "semi-stand-alone game." For example, one chunk would be "Toil." It covers the life of the medieval peasant and poor city dweller. Characters have to plant and bring in the harvest, try not to get killed by pissing off knights, and struggle for prominence in the community. Resources are limited at all levels, so characters are competing for these limited resources, both physical and social. Another chunk would be "Skullduggery," which covers banditry and criminal activities in the medieval town. And so on, and so forth.

Ghosts of our Fathers: This is a rewrite of Shotgun Musashi, actually, that I'm musing over. There are a number of things I'm not satisfied with about Shotgun Musashi, and this would be an attempt to correct them while also replacing the japanophile sword-gun-fights aspect with a different shark-with-laser-beam: spirits, ghosts, and pissed off ancestors. Feuds and the struggles of country trash and the good country people are still front and center, perhaps more front and center, in this version. Sort of a somber, ghostly, spooky atmosphere would be what I'd go for in the text. We'll see.

Most of these games have been ideas I've had for years. I don't know if I'll ever finish any of them, but they all call to me on various days.

How about you? Tell me about your game ideas that may or may not ever see light of day.



I am still working on the Dictionary of Mu, a mini-supplement for Sorcerer and hope to have it finished this year, hell or high water.

And I have an unfinished, unnamed super-hero RPG that I'd like to get around to posting up here some time.

Jonathan Walton

Jesus H. Christ, I have so many...

Argonauts needs to be finished and then published.  It's a game about tragic Greek superheroes meeting their Fates and dying horribly.  The first RPG to specifically do tragedy, as far as I know.

After that, it's Humble Mythologies, this game Eero helped me brainstorm on.  It basically tries to show that a shared symbolic language and really aggressive scene framing are enough system to run a game on.  Oh, and it's about discovering the little beauties in existence, in a "magical realism" kind of way.

Then it's probably Beneath This Facade, which Ramon Perez is doing art for.  It's a game about the masks we wear and all the different layers of identity that stack up to make a person.  Except these "people" in question are individuals that hack in stories, take on the roles of the people/places/things in them, and ride the story until it crashes, trying to keep in going.  They take on a bit of every person/place/thing that they become, make it a part of their personal identity and then move on.  It's an experiment in character development over character advancement.

Then there's Fingers on the Firmament, which I've promised Shreyas I'll finish.  It's basically "narrativist Continuum without limits."  The characters can reach out, grab hold of a star, and pull themselves towards it, up through space and back through time (because the light reching us left its home millions of years ago).  In this way, they scramble across the heavens like rock climbers, shifting hand and footholds on the stars and exploring themes of awe, fear, and especially loneliness.  Probably will be written specifically for a PBeM format, which might be another first unless somebody else beats me to it (like maybe Michael's HeartQuest Online, Neel already beat me to a Wiki game with Lexicon).

Oh yeah, and there's also We Regret To Inform You the Gamemaster Is Dead which I plan to playtest with the Forge guys whenever I actually make it to GenCon.  You play a group of characters trapped in a roleplaying game world after the GM has died, killed by one of the PCs (who is controlling one of the characters)!  An excercise in mind-boggling absurdity.

Besides that there's the basketball-based game that I want to write.  Sports RPGs just HAVE to happen.  They'd be so cool!

Also, I have this weird idea for a d20 product in which everyday people gain crazy powers by playing roleplaying games (specifically, D&D).  Maybe this should just be a weird Urban Arcana game, or something, but I think it'd be cool.

And that "RPG about everyday people" that so many of us keep requesting...?  I'll write it if no one else does.


What, no interest in what Shangri-la is?  Heh.  Anyway, I'll post more ideas (and more about Mudsylvania) tomorrow because it is late here and I am tired, but the basic concept of Mudsylvania could probably be summed up as follows:

"You, the players, play the player-characters in a fantasy universe that pretty much mimics the stereotypical MUD - you know the sort, with the invincible shopkeepers and monsters that reappear after a certain period of time.  The kind that has instant resurrection, but you have to go back and get your stuff off your body.  It'll have tropes and ideas stolen from MUDs across the world - cliches, and so on, but (and this is important) it's not a MUD.  It's a real world that just uses MUD-style physical laws, all the way down to killing-and-quests being the only methods to get XP, which is then spent in ways that we would consider nonsensical.

"In addition to taking on various player-characters (and players have multiple PCs in their "stable", although they may only use one PC at a time), players also embody, more ephemerally, a 'Builder' - one of those who crafted the descriptions and objects and themes of the world in which they play."
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Andy Kitkowski

From this thread at RPGNet, posted by Rafael Chandler (Dread RPG):

wrecked: after a bloody rebellion on a slave galley, a group of africans took control of the ship and tried to make it back home. they were yanked through a portal connecting our world with another. a few years later, the same thing happened in another part of the world: a chinese junk was transported to the same alien land.

now, over two hundred years later, you have been transported to the same world, a place of glowing emerald mists and three blue suns. the continent of arcadia is ruled by a council of humans: noble men and women of mixed heritage. however, they speak perfect english, and worship the departed spirits of father yared, mother ming-wa, and brother ambrose. they make ceaseless battle with the monstrosities that emerge from the lightless blood-pits of the north. they welcome you to your new home, for there is no known way to return to earth. they feed you roasted ox meat and honeyed wine. they hand you your spear and your amulet, and they tell you that if you want to live, you must learn to fight. they say this kindly.

Unfortunately, Rafael has dropped off the face of the earth to pursue his writing.  Awesome for him, sucks for us, cause he's a fucking brilliant fiction writer IMO.

So I'm gonna do it instead.  The rules are simple, and involve rolling 4d8 for all actions.  The rules will be like Dread, with shared successes like Sorcerer.  Simple, simple, simple.  It's to be an "Out of the Box" game.

Hoepfully, between other commitments I'll have it done by December for PDF release.  Out of respect for Raf, I'll throw it his way when I'm done to see what he thinks. :-)

The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.

John Harper

I'm still working on Danger Patrol -- my retro-sci-fi pulp adventure game. Running into the Forge has slowed down development considerably while I get a real education in game design and theory. The game will be much better for it, though.

Also in the works:
The Company -- a super-spy mini-supplement for InSpectres. Inspired by watching way too much Alias.

SPECOPS -- a gamist little number about special forces operations. Inspired by Rune and Ghost Recon.

Narc -- a mini-supplement for Sorcerer that does away with the metaphors and magic and cuts straight to the bone. Inpsired by the films Narc and Training Day, both excellent Sorcerer movies.

Those should keep me occupied for the next 3 or 4 years. :)

edit: darn BBcode tags...
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!

Ben Lehman

Currently in the pipe:

Already Discussed in Game Design:
The White Hart


Shadowlight -- not so much an RPG as an RPG-playing structure, designing to provide useful psychological insight through a Jungian framework.

Chorus -- A fantasy setting with a truly syncretic, rather than pastiche, mythology and cosmology.  At least, I hope so.

Other things on the edge of sight:

Prophet -- A single-player multiple GM game about the one man who can change the world.


Okay, I'm going to just let out all my ideas out now so I can feel gulity about 'em later. In the works:
* my moby dick - SpacerPunk, by my vision (trying to coherentize an incoherent vision...)
and in the brain:
* Glyph: a wierd MMLARP where we stomp around in trenchcoats and draw chalk circles, and totally fuse with IIEE
* Red Mars for Dust Devils (writes itself), Renegade1990 for octaNe (fight Ross Perot's fascist army!), Vengeful Maker for Sorcerer (gunplay vegeance blood opera), Radical Schools for Active Exploits (kung-fu labor unions unite!)


ok, here's a round-up of all the ideas I've been working on in the back of my brain that will eventually see some form of publication:

Lux and Hyle is the tentative name for the gnostic RPG that Jonathan Walton wanted me to write. the basic mechanic is finished, actually, and I have a huge batch of gnostic quotes to use; but, as I said, I set it aside when it started to spook me...

Hughes High, a teen romantic comedy rpg, is something I plan on sticking in the GMless techniques book as a sample rpg.

Malignment is a sort of twist on the D&D alignment system in which there are only two alignments, Legend and Dream (instead of Good/Evil or Law/Chaos) ... and, although each has its benefits, both have a distinct dark side. this one uses the same basic mechanic as Hughes High and is a rewrite of the mechanics in Empedocles; I keep resolution simple and  add detailed alignment and taint rules. this game is mostly setting and is kind of on hold until I develop the art assets for it.

Empedocles (formerly Daemons of Strife and Love) is actually going to get the same treatment as Malignment, pretty much, once I've finished rewriting my house system.

another game using that same house system with setting-specific modifications will be that Barrooms & Braggarts (or Level-Up, or whatever I wind up calling it); it's a game about what goes in in a heroic fantasy world in between adventures, with a focus on social esteem issues; all the dragon slaying and goblin wars occur off-screen. and, again, I mainly want to develop setting material on this one, so it gets set aside until I actually get Court of 9 Chambers tested and written up.

damn, I know there were others. I should probably do something about Troubadours of Verticaille; I'm kind of annoyed at the resolution mechanic, actually. and I'm annoyed at Talk Trash 2Nite; I feel I should totally rewrite both of these.
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects:

Shreyas Sampat

The Secret Life of Grapes: Or some other interesting food; this is my anthropomorphic, silly food game which might be written out as a TQB supplement.

Four: You can see through time. Discussed in IGD once upon a time; I'm still trying to wrestle the ideas of social-combat, timesight, aggressive scene-framing, and mad Gamist action into a coherent whole.

---.---mipmip---.-- I don't have a name for this yet; I've got a mishmash of crazy fantasy space ideas in my head. Picture this:

There are no stars; instead, prayer energy allows the gods to create glowing effigies of themselves that bring light to their worshippers. In the very centre of Cosmos lies the everchanging mandala that is the city of gods, a galaxy of sacred mansions, whose dances hold the universe in place. In their centre burns the great light of Day, toward which all the faces of gods are turned. Five great pentacles rotate through the worlds, the Houses of the 225 Constellations. On planets bare of worship, these provide the only light apart from that of Day itself.

Fragments of the broken worlds are scattered around the void in clusters, surrounded by pockets of air. Outside these havens, the drowning darkness consumes light and breath, and it cannot be travelled without a protected ship or magic. As the cosmos writhes in the grip of the External Void, these clusters shift rapidly; the sky is rarely the same from one day to the next.

Then, picture this:

A golden quetzal the size of a mountain leaps into the air; red mists of blood spray from its eyes. The screams of sacrifice propel it across the emptiness. Behind it, a legion of riders leap into the air, and their horses climb the Constellations whirling in the darkness. They are travellers.

It's tainted by Exaltedthink right now...but I want it to be a crazy Mayan astrological kung fu space game.

Tentacular: A jolly "I'll survive longest!" Gamist romp through undersea ruins, chased by something, big, slimy, and tentacular. (Is it worth knowing the secrets of the deep if it gets you and your friends eaten be something?)


After I finish my reworked heartbreaker E.rpg, I have a few ideas that may be developed into seperate games, or may be combined into a single design.

The Legend of Ballydowse
This would be a Nar/Sim rpg where you play robin hood-esque pirates in a monotheistic/ quasi-mythical/ steampunk/ celtic setting. It would probably explore issues along the lines of "What good can come from a broken/sinful world?" The setting would be on an island with alot of celtic symbolism. I REALLY like this idea/ setting, however, I may developed it into a story instead of an rpg. Another possibility would be to develop this as a suppliment for TROS.

My Gritty/ theistic/ fantasy setting (no name yet)
I have an idea for a setting, similiar to the Ballydowse idea, that would put a monotheisitc twist on traditonal fantasy. The setting would have alot of conflict between different group's understanding of the divine, "natural" magic, man's magic, & science. Would probably be Sim or Sim/Nar.

Mechanical ideas
I've also have a couple of mechanic ideas that I think work pretty good if I had a game to go with them. Most notaby is a playing card-based melee-combat system that produces IMHO a pretty good cinematic/swashbuckling effect.
--Timothy Walters Kleinert

Rich Forest

Alright, Lxndr, are you going to make me beg to hear about Shangri-La now?

Alright, ok, this is my abject begging: please, please tell me about Shangri-La!

And anyway, I wanted to say, there are some cool game ideas in here. Now I could list off the ones I really like, but man, then I'd have to go read through the whole thread again to make the list, and I'd end up leaving someone's favorite game out, and someone would be pissed, and I'm all about the love. The love.


Christopher Weeks

Revolutionary!  -- But I fear that I'll never finish it.  I think I'm not smart (or driven or focussed or something) enough to get it right or social enough to get you guys to do it for me.  It's a game in which the PCs are modern, every-day folks balking at the crippling oppression of The Man that everyone around them ignores and the players are pushing at story about the stress of their characters and whether they want to just sit back and take it up the ass or do something about it.  The notion that I have for the cover art is a guy in jeans and a ratty old army jacket (or maybe a 7-11 smock) looking into a mirror in a gas-station bathroom, from which a minute-man version is looking out.



Ninja Kitty, Samurai Dog: Anthromorphic oriental something...originally meant as a humor game, when I developed the mechanics, it lost that focus, and now I'm not sure where to go with it at all. Its been sitting and staring at me, screaming "Finish me! Finish me! Meow! Woof!" But to make it more serious and give it a new focus (something along the lines of duty versus freedom), I rally need to know more about traditional Japanese culture, and I know crap.

Dead Space: A gothic sci-fi horror game. Space is vast, empty, and black, and you and yours are utterly alone amidst the horrors that crawl the blackness between stars and writhe as endless armies upon dead worlds beneath black, dim suns. Man has travelled into the Abyss above searching for truth, and found the truth beyond Earth is terrifying beyond compare. No mechanics, but it does have a cover image in my gallery.

It's ultimately a science & religion game, and where they intersect (or don't)...subconsciously, I realized some of the ideas also come from this old cartoon I saw when growing up about a spaceship sucked through a blackhole (or something) into a solar system where the surviving crew had to face the trials of the Odyssey and creatures from the Greek myths.

A bunch of Sorcerer mini-supplements:

GoLeM: Based on Judaic myths about golems...the Qabbalh is used to summon spirits into human-shaped clay vessels, which grow progressively more powerful and free-willed (and dangerous) the longer you keep them around.

Dolls: The souls of aborted children are demons, you summon them into dolls. If that doesn't scare or worry you, then you're a sick fuck.

Drwyd: Sorcerer and sorcery among the ancient Celts. I mean, blood sacrifice, psychogenic drugs, sorcerers as the ruling cult (druids), and an endless number of spirits to be tamed, appeased, bargained with, and defeated.

Ancient Blood: Sorcerer as immortal gods, whose essence, power, and immortality are maintained by blood (sacrifices, drinking, bathing); takes a page from Aztec myths, and a number of others (even Norse), and even vampirism. I've remotely considered making this into its own game -- it even has a cover image "Anubis at the River" in my gallery.

Untitled: Demons are insanities, summoning them frees another human from the torture of a mental asylum but puts your very soul at risk, banishing them damns someone else.

Jesus Christ and Bhudda and other rare leaders of spiritual power had the ability to contain these beasts in other things...leading to hauntings, werewolves and supernatural effects. Saltwater destroys demons utterly, though it gives the sea their menace as they disperse into it.

The ideas for this one come from a number of sources, including Biblical ones, and Stephen King's "Storm of the Century."
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

John Kim

Quote from: Rich ForestSo what about the rest of you? What games do you have that you'd love to design and write but (for whatever reasons) you just haven't done it yet? What are your unfinished, unstarted, or even half-assed game ideas, and what makes them cool? Join the fun and share your game ideas with no pressure to actually follow through and make them!  
I have a bunch of old game ideas.  However, the process of developing my free RPG list actually disinclined me from making them publishable.  At this point I'm more interested in using and promoting other RPGs (indie or not) than publishing my own games.  That said, I do have various stuff sitting around...">Oneiros was an old game I ran in college using a highly-modified Ars Magica, but really should have it's own system.  The magic system is wholly unique and unrelated, and a terrific idea (IMO).  But I don't really have the passion to go back and develop everything that should be done for it anymore.">Star Fleet Command was the system I used for my two later Star Trek campaigns, after one which was a CORPS variant.  I think I'll be using a published system for my next Star Trek campaign, though.">Water-Uphill World was my latest effort at running a campaign using my own system.  It only a few mechanical distinctions: low variance, no attributes but instead two-tier skills, and a simple uneven dice curve (with a tail for critical success but no tail for critical failure).  

I have more conceptual ideas, of course.  There is of course my">Vinland setting, my old "Tolkien in the Old West" setting, and I've pondered for a while about doing a Land of Oz game.
- John