Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

In Terras Incognitas

Started by ejh, December 07, 2004, 10:09:21 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


So I have a spiffy idea nagging at me for an RPG, and I thought I'd share it at this totally embryonic stage, to see if either I get some good advice or somebody rips off the idea and does their own version of the game and I can play it, which I would consider a win for me. :)

In Terras Incognitas will deal with the following skeletal narrative:

The Hero has certain advantages and flaws.  He is perhaps a bit roguish, a bit picaresque.  He is on a quest: there is a final goal which motivates him in the background through a variety of adventures.

The important bit is this: the game is about travelling through a variety of strange and unusual lands, mostly unknown to the hero before he enters them.  In each of them he faces conflicts, and may change and get closer to his final goal.

The goal is such that he cannot get to it except by travelling through these unknown lands.

It may be that he has crashed on a strange planet and he needs to get to a signalling tower halfway around the globe to make a call for help.

It may be that he has been picked up by a pelgrane and carried halfway across the Dying Earth and he has a long way to go to get his revenge on Iuconnu.

The important game mechanics that are stuck in my mind are these:

Each adventure is a new "world."

Before the adventure the player gets to name up to three Qualities which will be important in the next world.  The GM is free to make up the world but must use those Qualities in it.

There is somehow a pre-set quantity of adventure, set mechanically, in each world, much of which is allocated to the player-chosen Qualities.  Cf. Budget in PTA, the dice in Orx, and the pre-set success totals you need to complete an adventure in InSpectres.  The player is stuck in one world unitl this set of resources of the GM's is exhausted.

After each adventure, the player has the option of adding something to his character based on the Qualities of that world.  This must be manifested in some concrete way -- there must be a very concrete narrative takeaway, either some kind of initiation or teaching to add a skill, or else it could be an item or even an ally.

There will be some kind of endgame rules too, which allow the final conflict which results in the fulfillment of the goal to be played out.

Some other stuff I've been tossing around, not sure about, includes --

There are a series of explicit barriers to the achievement of the final goal, defined before play begins.  One of the things that you can do at the successful end of an adventure is to eliminate one of those barriers.  This might be one of a series of choices you can make as to how to "advance" after a given world -- increasing your own personal power, adding a Quality-based boon based on the world's Qualities, eliminating a Barrier, and so on.  It also might be possible to "cash in" advantages for other advantages -- raise a barrier against yourself, and get an extra bonus Quality in exchange, or let one of your Quality-based allies leave you, but it also removes a Barrier.

That sort of thing.

OK, that's my brain dump.  Had to get this out there because I want this to happen and talking about it helps commit me to it.

Comments would be gratefully accepted like biscuits to a panting puppy dog.


I like the idea, but I can't think of anything helpful to tell you, other than to encourage you to pursue the project.

But you should be aware that a game called Terra Incognita already exists.



I want this game.

If what follows isn't useful, ignore its content and just take it as me gushing:

I wouldn't make barriers to completing the final goal, other than the worlds themselves. Have there be a set number of worlds between here and there. Like InSpectres again: a set amount of challenge per world, a set number of worlds to the end.

Maybe allow the player to do digression-worlds too in order to get some advantage or other; these wouldn't count toward the goal.

How much resource per world? Some constant amount, flexible at the player's option with reward proportional to challenge, flexible via borrowing from or lending to future worlds, or flexible as a consequence of events in past worlds?

For instance, just as you have the player giving the character goodies at the end of each world, you could have the GM keep goodies at the end of each world. Recurring villains, curses on the PC - these would be extra resource that the GM could spend only on challenges related to that particular goodie.

How many worlds per game?

The GM needs a process by which to spend resource to create challenges. The process needs to be easy, quick and fun. The challenges need to be concrete (meaning, the GM knows how to apply them and can do so seamlessly), detailed (ideally startling, I'm thinking of the floating boat with Nissifer and the mimes from Cugel's Saga), and exciting (meaning, relevant to the player and the PC). There should be a customizable mix of violence, intrigue and "human interest" - monsters who want to eat you, human enemies who want to kill you, political groups who want to rally behind you, secret societies who want to use you against each other, broken people who want you to fix their lives, honest people who want you to help them accomplish something worthwhile. Nail this process and it's certain to be innovative and freaking cool, it'll be the soul of your game.

"Concrete" means, further, that the resource contributes in understandable ways to conflict resolution. I'd suggest having each point of resource do double duty: 1) it gives you concrete/detailed/relevant options, plus 2) it gives the challenge its dice or modifiers or whatever your conflict resolution rules call for.



Thanks guys!  Especially for the interest & moral support.  muy valuable.

The name is flexible, obviously -- now that I think about it "Per terras icognitas" would be more accurate anyway.  But whatever, it's up for grabs.

I *like* the idea of the concrete takeaways from the world giving you new options (defined in-game) as well as bonuses.  So that there's an explicit game-mechanics effect and an explicit in-world effect.

As for basic conflict resolution mechanics, I have to think about what I like.  My problem is that I have *read about* many more conflict resolution mechanics than I have *played,* so I have a large number of options in my head based on *theory* but a small number based on *my experience*, and something tells me the latter is more what I need to know.

The thing that has made me happiest recently in actual play has been the technique from Questing Beast, where the player gets to specify what his character wants to happen, and what his character wants *NOT* to happen, and gets to narrate either one on a very good or very bad roll, but on a middling roll the GM decides and narrates.

Eh, I should start with the simplest possible way of doing things and complexify only as necessary.

OK, y'all have inspired me.  I will bang out a draft of this ASAP.


Rather than "set number of worlds" I kid of like the idea of leaving it open, so that it's up to the player at any point to decide, OK, that's it, I'm done -- give me the big finish.  The GM would be given resources to create the Big Finish proportional to the player's current status, so you could go for a finish fairly quickly or just save, save, save it up, until you're a worldshaker and can take on a worldshaking final episode...


The title "Strange Lands" is already taken too, I discovered, after writing this up, taken by a d20 supplement.  Ah well.  I'll keep looking for a good title.

Here's a draft.">Strange Lands

Hoping I can playtest it tonight.


I notice you don't touch on the disruption the characters tend to leave behind. Possibly this can be handled purely in terms of narration, but it might be nice to codify in the system -- possibly to get a Quality from the society you have to destroy it? Or, um, possibly when the players narrate how they travel on, they have to also narrate how things are changed for them having been there? (This last leaves out the possibilities of the occasional rest stop in timeless Shangri-La, admittedly, but most of the time the characters do slash and burn)
Dan Shiovitz


"slash and burn" might be a bit extreme, but you're right, I haven't considered what a character does to the setting.  That's something to consider.

Simon Kamber

Quote from: inkypossibly to get a Quality from the society you have to destroy it?
I don't like this idea. It makes it too tempting for the player to have the character destroy the world for the quality. I think it could risk creating a "by default, you destroy the world you come across" mentality.

I think dealing with the aftermath in a more neutral fashion, i.e. with no system-effect on the character, would be preferable.
Simon Kamber


Quote from: get a Quality from the society you have to destroy it?

Do you mean destroy the society, or destroy the quality as it exists in the society?
"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker


Quote from: Vaxalon
Quote from: get a Quality from the society you have to destroy it?

Do you mean destroy the society, or destroy the quality as it exists in the society?

It seems like it could be either -- I would think that most of the time the Quality is going to be the linchpin of the society, so the PC's removal of it will either cause the society to collapse, or cause it to reform around some other Quality or linchpin.

Incidentally, one cool variant of this game would be to have the PC travelling forward (or backward) through *time* so they see and interact with the same society repeatedly, but of course it's changed some every time they encounter it.
Dan Shiovitz


Since by acquiring a Quality one can end up "going native" and never leaving the Strange Lands it seems unlikely that acquiring the Quality must destroy that Quality in the society.



Here's what I want. Disregard, naturally, at will.

- The "I'm the GM - what on earth do I do?" rules I've already described.

- Something on my character sheet, even if it's just a word or three, and I want it to figure in resolution - I think that your thought about Identity manifesting itself is a very good one.

- The opportunity to roll more than once per conflict. Some kind of back-and-forth. Something geared toward pacing, suspense, investment, trade-offs, brinksmanship ... or something. There are lots of possibilities. Something stronger anyhow than "I spend my point for a reroll."

- (A modifier or bonus dice rolled at once, instead of rerolls, but maybe that's just my taste.)

- A divorce between who narrates and who wins. Sometimes the loser should narrate. Or even better, shared narration, maybe along the lines of "the winner says what happens and the loser contributes a 'yes, but...'"

- The GM to sometimes keep the Conflict Point when the player wins and sometimes lose the Conflict Point when the player loses.

- Reward rules! Some sort of immediate positive feedback for contributing well. Maybe ... well, here's a brainstorm:

Call 'em "Opportunities." You win Opportunities for doing something I dunno what, but they're good for one specific one-time use, and you write 'em on your character sheet to spend when you feel like. "Opportunity: an NPC does exactly what you say." "Opportunity: by accident you find the desired thing." "Opportunity: an NPC falls for you head-over-heels." "Opportunity: the monster's willing to strike a deal." "Opportunity: you bear an uncanny resemblance." "Opportunity: you kill it without hardly trying."

You could reward them to characters who interact especially well with the current land's Qualities, maybe. Who take a strong position relative to a Quality, either in line with it or opposed to it - that's one possibility.

Your Identity could manifest in a couple of starting Opportunities! Or an Opportunity at the start of each land!

Anyhow here's me barking up a tree. Let me know if it's a right-ish one.

I really, really, really dig the going native endgame and all the stuff about characters being together or apart.



OK.  Wish list noted and I'm gonna go down it when I do my next revision of the rules.  I have the insanely lucky circumstance of some folks I know on a different BBS volunteering to blind-playtest the rules next week, so I'm going to wait for their feedback before adding anything.

But I like the ideas on this wishlist. :)


Very cool. I for one would be interested to hear how it goes for them!