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Author Topic: The Kap - A premise too far?  (Read 18108 times)
Mithras
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« on: January 24, 2002, 02:23:06 PM »

Is my premise good enough? I've wanted to do an ancient Egypt game for years and failed on more than one occasion. The big problem is premise. Egypt is so tightly wound up you can't go adventuring in the common sense, rogues, misfits, freaks, foreigners, people with (urrgh) weapons - are deported, or have their noses cut off!

But I recently found something that might give me that rationale I've been searching for - the Kap. This was a royal school attended by princes (their were lots of princes at a time). And gifted or promising commoners from across the kingdom were invited to attend too. These grew up with the princes and became life-long friends and colleagues (one hoped) that could later be depended on should any of the princes inherit the throne. This sounds like a great place to start up player-characters!  Companions of the Prince.

In my premise, priests could have visions, and in dreams identify crucial men for the next generation, the invisible pillars upon whom the state must rest. They are invited to attend the Kap as little boys and are bound by oath of fealty to the new pharaoh of that generation.

I reckon there's a lot to do if your an insider (for a change, most rationales seem to run PCs as outcasts of one flavour or another). At this period why can't everyone work magic associated with their professions (farmers healing herbs, painters paint curses and wards etc.)? I know that in the Old Kingdom priests were part-time. We can envisage everyone being a part-time priest. Grow in your profession, grow in your priestly status, duties and powers. The chief scribe of Egypt was the high priest of Thoth, for example. By extension that painter might develop his powers and skills to become high priest of Ptah.

As a setting premise, I see these Kap recruits fighting any hidden enemies of pharaoh and the state, from snake cults to nomad incursions, corrupt officials to gangsters, royal feuds to demons, ancient curses on villages and so on. Maybe a little like Feng Shui's Secret War (yes, including lots of unarmed combat, stick fighting and melee combat). As an incentive, maybe the health of the pharaoh and the health of the kingdom are the same thing. And the 'power' of the player characters is bound up in there too. Egypt suffers - pharaoh suffers - the PC's suffer. Ouch!

In the final analysis the PCs become loyal, unswerving servants of pharaoh, growing in power, status and responsibility while they fight every possible enemy of Egypt. Success brings character growth and long life. Failure brings material poverty and spiritual powerlessness. Their ability to fight the terrors has gone. Pharaoh is dead, his replacement is on the throne, he has his own Companions looking out for him and his land.

Is this premise strong enough? I know its wordy enough!!
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2002, 02:29:20 PM »

Paul,

You've got plenty of setting and situation, both of which I like a lot. You don't really have much "premise" if we're talking about the highly focused version of the term used in Narrativist play.

Think in terms of human passions and conflicts that cannot help but arise in such a setting/situation. Notice the important issue inherent in the setting: the students at the Kap include commoners. Class issue strikes - you're "elite," now, right, as a Kap student? Or is this the only way that the lowlies can get any slack at all, if the Kap grads stick up for them when it comes to policy?

Immediately we see each Kap student buffeted by this choice, which of course no one mentions or perhaps even comprehends, but which is going to be the issue at hand in all concerns.

Individual takes on the issue, per player, are welcome. Different permutations on how it is expressed (local situations; conflicts) arise based on what character creation and GM ingenuity yield.

Best,
Ron
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Epoch
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2002, 02:30:12 PM »

I'd play it in a heartbeat.
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2002, 02:30:55 PM »

I like it. I'd play it.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2002, 02:34:44 PM »

Sounds quite intresting...

What is the PC's each independly create their characters, describe their backgrounds (son of a soldier, priest acolyte, sorcerer in training).  Next, they each describe a what it is about their Prince that makes them loyal to him.  From these independently arived at angles, the prince can be created.

The Soldier apreciates the young prince's Valor and Strength, the Priest his ability to Convey Truth, and the Sorcerer his Whiles.  

You already have the outline for a Clever, Brave and Honest guy

The Prince gets 1 Virtue which attracts his followers (the PC's) and one Flaw- an area each PC can help him imporve in.

So in addition to the above, the prince might also have:

Acts First, Thinks Later
Dobts the Gods
Fears the Unknown


Warrior - Teach the prince level headed thinking in crisis

Priest- Teaches the prince to trust the state religion, so one day he might lead it

Sorcerer- introduces theprince to the mysteries of the universe, and shows him that Knowledge dispells fear.




As for mechanics, ZENOBIA has a very tidy resolution system which I am quite fond of.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2002, 02:38:20 PM »

Quote from: Mithras

Is my premise good enough?


Awesome, baby! At least I think so. (Certainly not the Arnhem of Premises)

I can see a lot with this. Is your intention to go Narrativist? Or no? Right now I'm seeing one of your classic Sim Premises, something like "Adventures of the Aristocracy of a Magic Egypt." Very Scorpion King. Lots of gorgeous trappings.

For a Narrativist Premise, I'm seeing potential for "Do I dedicate my efforts to myself or to my state?" or "How much sacrifice can one reasonably make for the State?" I'd have stats for vitality for the player that would be donated to the state through action, essentially, to alleviate attacks on it in the form of curses, invaders, etc. But there would probably be a point at which a character would give too much and wither away. So the player would have to seek a balance between himself and the state.

Either way I think there's a ton of room there.

Mike
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Mithras
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2002, 02:47:08 PM »

I knew I'd come a cropper with 'premise'! Ah well!

Ron, your call to add that layer of emotional involvement is well received. The fact they are commoners is a strange dichotomy in a universe where royal blood is everything. My idea was to begin the game after 'graduation', but why? Aren't there great issues up for grabs in such a pressure cooker? The game starts when you join the Kap, not when you leave it.

Bailywolf - your idea of letting the players 'build the pharaoh' fits in perfectl with the concept. How can you not want to defend, support and assist your own creation. Now that's a personal stake!

And Mike - I wasn't thinking of a simulationist game this time! Gorgeous to look at, but yes, essentially a big balancing act of some nature.
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
contracycle
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« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2002, 02:25:43 AM »

Hmm, I like it lots.  The Kap might be exploited on a number of levels - surely, at least some of the previous Kap would return as ranking office-holders and teachers of the present generation of the Kap.  So you could actually have characters of distinct age cohorts interacting directly with another, which could be exploited for a Relationship Map and the extraction of personal dilemmas.  One might also expect a lot of politicking about the next batch of Kap selections - what happens if one brother is selected and another refused?  Are there graduation ceremonies?

While I would be distressed to see this idea turn into Yet Another Teen Movie, it would allow quite an age range of characters.
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Bailywolf
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2002, 05:18:42 AM »

I imagine that control of the Kap is a major political battle.  You control the minds of the youth, you control the future.
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archangel_2
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2002, 09:43:37 AM »

Also, what about your prince becoming Pharoah? You've mentioned multiple princes vying for the role, so how is one selected? There could be numerous advenures involving attempting to get your prince to the throne, and protecting him from those trying to kill or discredit him for his spot in line for the throne, as it were. I'd imagine that the closer a prince is to the throne, the more powerful his companions are (with the most power given to the companions of the actual Pharoah).

Just my $0.02 anyway...

Daniel
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Bankuei
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2002, 10:19:22 AM »

Great idea, also be aware that Khemet was also deeply involved in the tin trade between Greece and Eastern Europe, many countries of Asia Minor were also captured as colonies.  Plenty of room for war, strife and intrigue.  Also you may wish to look into the conflicts and conspiracies between the aristocracy and the Hykyos peoples who later moved into the area.

I could even see the priests or servants sent to acquire the new students being an adventure unto itself, even before getting to the school.

Chris
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Laurel
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2002, 11:01:14 AM »

I think a lot could be done with this setting.  How historical do you want it to be?  There's some issues to consider.

Student characters would be age 7 to 15, exclusively male.  I don't consider either of these to be bad things by the way!   Very strict discipline, lots of reading, writing and math and a sense that being there, no matter how much the tutors or other students abused you, would be a -privilege!-

What time period?  Amenhotep III's reign (1403-1354 B.C.),  was a 40 year old "Golden Age" and there's great source material out there.   Having the players model the pharoah might be fun, but on the other hand, providing some in-depth setting including signature characters like a "good" pharoah or "wicked" one could make it easier for people who don't really have a sense of Egyptian history.

One of my all time favorite books was Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game".  It was a brilliant portrayal of a boy's struggle/Rite of Passage genre and Harry Potter is another good example of what can be done with young male characters in a school setting.  

I think an exceptional, exceptional RPG can be made out of this.  I wish I'd thought of it myself!
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Mithras
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2002, 02:19:41 AM »

I've not considered specific period too much. Maybe the Old Kingdom (but the institution of the royal academy dates from much later), maybe a later more martial age. Not sure. With Egypt, though, a great many things stay the same no matter what the era.

Or I could portray the advantages and disadvantages of half a dozen different periods in Egyptian history, with GMs picking one that sounds like a go-er.

I know I told Mike it would be more N that Sim, but to be honest, half the fun of writing a game like this is providing huge dollops of shiny setting, lots and lots of fascinating, colourful background to a) get everyone into the spirit, b) get people playing in a different place and time from the ttraditions of today. There's no way I can't make it gloriously epic!!
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2002, 12:47:15 PM »

Nothing specifically against Narrativism in creating a detailed setting. In fact, I'd like to see a Narrativist game that was setting heavy. What you could do is figure out how to allow the stories created to be all about exploring the marvellous setting.

Here's an idea. Places have certain Significances. The characters gain vitality through experiencing the significance of places. Kind of a Narrativist vesion of the Feng Shui mechanic. These places can be the subject of Invasions, and plots dealing with guardians, etc. Instead of just trying to take over places, though, the character can only get the vitality bonus through having an experience related to the place's significance. It's up to the player to come up with an appropriate experience for their character, and get it played out.

So, forex, the GM comes up with an Oasis called the Well of Thought. The significance of the place is that it is where the Pharoh Aknatun came up with his idea for worship of the Sun god. It is know to inspire great thoughts, essentially. So when the players arrive (notionally to look there for an artifact called Ahmets Scarab), the players can come up with some sort of great thoughts for their characters to have while there in order to pick up the vitality of the place.

Create a jillion of these with preset significances, and the players can drive their adventures towards whichever site makes sense for their characters (Th phrase "Field Trip" keeps poping into my head). The Kap can then be a sort of campaign hub where characters always return so that interaction is continuous, and the political side of the game can occur. Perhaps the character cannot get the benefit of the vitality of a place until he has returned to the Kap to discuss its significance with teachers and other students. A mechanical system like this would drive the exploration combined with Narration.

Then you just have to pose threats to Egypt regularly, and the player has to decide how much his character will invest his vitality in defense. These are narrated as to how the "investments" occur. The total of all the players' donations (plus the Pharoh's standard bonus) decides the outcome of the threat. Have these threats ocur when the characters are out in the field so that you get instant juxtaposition of the exploration mechanic with the threat mechanic.

Play this like the board game Republic of Rome for a gamist twist. A character who gets to 100 vitality becomes the next Pharoh. That is assuming that Egypt isn't destroyed in the process, and the character survives to that point. Instant conflict between personal goals and group goals. For a more group effort, perhaps you can team up to put your own candidate in office or something. For a time limit on the campaign, assume that there is another student that will gain the required vitality after ten sessions or some such, requiring the players to get there before the NPC does. Make him a nasty bastard, to drive the competition.

BTW, as to era, I think that ancient Egypt is one of those places that would lend itself to a semi-historical syncretic vision. So, include everything you know from all eras. Have an upper, middle, and lower kingdom for conflict (perhaps each with a Kap, or maybe only one). Have this fictitious Egypt be bordered or have relations with by Kush, Ethiopia, the Chaldea, Assyria, Sumeria, Rome, Carthage, other ancient African, Mid-Eastern, and European countries.

Heck, go with Thor Hyredal, and assume that the naval adventurers of the day (supported by magic) have reached all the nations of the earth. Adventures could involve trade delegations to China, or South America.  Where these things overlap, just push some to the side, and make room for all of them on the map. Forget the actual history, and just inject all the cool things from ancient times that you've read about. Hanging gardens in Babylon,  Greek influences in northern Egypt, Karnak, Pyramids, Necropoli, all side by side.

Florid. Yeah, go with that. Expand the upper and middle classes unrealistically (but leave the underclass just as crushed underfoot, if not more so). Devalue gold worse than a Monty Haul D&D campaign. Cover everything wth it. And encrust everything with precious stone. After all, the game is not about individual wealth, but managing to keep the golden age alive for Egypt as a whole. Social problems, Political problems, International relations, Magical problems.

Any of this sound good?

Mike
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Mithras
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2002, 02:18:12 PM »

Steady on Mike - I'm supposed to be working on this thing, not you!!!

That's a lot to chew on. Combining lots of historical periods into one semi-ficticious era is a very good idea. That is one way for me to get everything in that I want. And peppering the setting with narrativist links is a good idea too, although not something I've done before.  So essentially, these places/situations are merely catalysts for personal elements that the player characters bring along with them?? On their own they may not be of any use, they 'come alve' when integrated with the personality, backstory and motivations of characters. Is this right? Sort of like Alexander the Great and his revelatory trip to the Siwa Oasis (he came away convinced he was the son of Zeus Ammon...).

Lots to think about!
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
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