*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
March 20, 2019, 06:41:31 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 161 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: Quixote & Coyote: A Game Concept  (Read 7329 times)
Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


WWW
« on: October 22, 2002, 07:19:58 AM »

[Just so you know, I envision the title being pronounced "Kee-oh-tay & Kai-oat," just to keep it from being too silly]

This game concept is inspired both by Willows' Torchbearer concepts and the things Pale Fire's trying to do with his recent Ygg developments.  Basically, they're trying to do similar things, creating a way for humans to do mythic over-the-top things without resorting to the zany wuxia of Exalted or the everything-is-a-miracle mechanics of Nobilis.  Other important inspirational sources include Daniel Quinn's writings (most notably Ishmael, The Story of B, and Beyond Civilization), which deal with systems thinking and humanity being trapped in the myths that we've created for ourselves.

The title comes from two important characters and the concepts they represent.  First, Don Quixote's delusions of being in an adventure much more interesting than actual reality is a key element.  We will definitely be tilting at windmills.  The second, Coyote, in the myths of the Native American peoples, was a trickster and storyteller, intermixing straight-up lies with more subtle fantasies.  Exploring the distinction between lies and story is the second main component here.

As for Daniel Quinn, one of his main points is that humanity needs to find "a new story to be in," that is, a new mythology about how humans relate to the world.  His point is that our current myths are not all that helpful or fulfilling, and it is by creating new myths that our society (and the lives of the individuals within it) can really be changed.

So those are the concepts.  Here's how it might work:

Quote
PLAYER: Okay, I'm going to put on my coat and leave the apartment, heading downstairs and outside.

GM:  Sure.  You stumble downstairs into the freshness of a chilly winter morning.  There's some traffic congested on the street in front of your building and-

PLAYER (interrupting): That's not a street.  It's a river.

GM:  Really?  That's what I thought I said.  Oh well.  The river in front of your building is clogged with the vast number of boats trying to force their way upstream.

PLAYER:  I draw my sword and leap onto the prow of one of the boats.  Screaming with rage, I take a swing at the captain.

[some conflict resolution]

GM: You cut a thin gash across the captain's cheek.  He screams at you, "F--k, man!  What the hell you do that for?!  Crazy mutherf--ker!"

PLAYER:  "You thought you could escape me, Baron Von Dark!  But thanks to Fate you have once again been delivered into my hands.  Prepare to die!"

GM: Von Dark turns to his chief retainer, who hands him a gold-handled rapier.  He smiles wickedly, "I hope you are prepared as well, my dear enemy, for if I fall today... I will not be the only one!"

[conflict continues]


Basically, I envision a system (maybe the "dice cache" rules I developed for The Pale Continent, or maybe something like Universalis) that allows the various players (and the GM, if I end up even having one) to take Author Stance and redefine parts of the existing story environment.  In effect, the players would be constantly involved in making the story more interesting, adding flavor and strangeness.

However, when a certain random-but-regularly-occuring event took place (say, a player rolled a "1" or met other conditions), the players would be forced back into the real world and have to decide what was REALLY happening underneath all their fantasies.  Were they assulting random strangers on the street?  Were they scaling up the sides of office buildings?  Were they street surfing on the tops of mac trucks?  Then, in all likelihood, the characters are going to have to rebuild their fantasy (or create a new one) in order to get them out of the situation they're in.

In some ways, I'm also drawing on elements of Power Kill, playing with social responsibility and the interaction between fantasy and reality.  In effect, the characters could be a delusional pack of LARPers descending on a city.  However, it's certainly true that the characters' belief in the myth they are living empowers them to do things not normally possible.  It's doubtful that they'd normally get very far if they tried to scale an office building.  Still, living the story allows them to succeed in an abnormal fashion.

This concept is still in its infancy though, so I'm not completely sure where I'm going to go with it.  Maybe it would be better as a Universalis variant than as a full-blown game of its own.  What do people think?

Later.
Jonathan
Logged

szilard
Member

Posts: 260


WWW
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2002, 07:30:53 AM »

Jonathan -

Quote
However, when a certain random-but-regularly-occuring event took place (say, a player rolled a "1" or met other conditions), the players would be forced back into the real world and have to decide what was REALLY happening underneath all their fantasies.


Would the player who was thrust back into reality decide this for him or her self? It might be interesting to limit the players ability to take the Author Stance to their fantasies. I suppose it would depend upon the tone you are going for here. I was envisioning something like Gilliam's The Fisher King in which there were almost certainly reasons for the characters to avoid a grim reality that they couldn't shape.

~szilard[/quote]
Logged

My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2002, 07:53:00 AM »

Interestingly, I've long said that the entire movie of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is best explained by EXACTLY the type of thing you describe above...
Logged

Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


WWW
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2002, 08:04:44 AM »

Quote from: szilard
Would the player who was thrust back into reality decide this for him or her self? It might be interesting to limit the players ability to take the Author Stance to their fantasies.


Hmm.  So you're suggesting that the GM should step in and take Author stance for the real world?  That would make sense.  It would also set the GM up in a somewhat adversarial relationship with the players, which could be good or bad, depending on the framework.

In fact, your response brought up another rather interesting question: what happens if individual players (and not the entire group) was forced back into reality for a while?

I guess I was assuming (though I didn't say this) that the whole group would move in and out of their fantasies together, so that no one would really know, for instance, how they managed to get to the top of the skyscraper or get out of that mental institution, because they would have all experienced the same fantasy.  Still that wouldn't be the only way to do it.

Still, having individual characters trapped in "normality" and watching the other players to zany and rididulous things somewhat ruins the atmosphere of magic and mystery, at least a little bit.  Is there another way to solve this problem, besides forcing the characters to share a group fantasy that waxes and wanes?

Quote
I suppose it would depend upon the tone you are going for here. I was envisioning something like Gilliam's The Fisher King in which there were almost certainly reasons for the characters to avoid a grim reality that they couldn't shape.


Something else to think about.  I'm not sure (at least at this point) whether I want to describe a distinct tone or whether I should offer a list of options for why-things-work-the-way-they-do.  For instance, a few possibilities might be:

1) A situation similar to Changeling or Mage, where the characters have the power to transcend the oppressive reality of the banal.

2) The characters are really insane, and are escaping into their delusions because of some dark things in their past.

3) Think "Fight Club."  The characters refused to be limited by the restrains of post-modern society and do whatever the hell they please.  In this kind of game, the fantasies might be believably realistic, but still amazingly coincidental and unthinkable (like stealing fat from a liposuction clinic).

And there are probably others too.  Would leaving the background of the story openended weaken what I was trying to do?  Maybe.  But it would also allow different groups to tailor things to their tastes.  Perhaps I could include a list of different types of "stories to be in," and the players could decide, as part of the initial social contract, what the limits of their character's delusions would be (the coincidental, the bizarre, Tim-Burton-style weirdly-dark fantasy, Neil-Gaiman-style mythic reality, superheroics, high adventure, reality-bending godlike narcissism, etc.).

Later.
Jonathan
Logged

Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


WWW
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2002, 08:09:56 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Interestingly, I've long said that the entire movie of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is best explained by EXACTLY the type of thing you describe above...


Hmm.  I hadn't considered that before, but this DOES have a lot in common with improvizational theater or comedy, in that the various characters would be playing off each other's delusions, continuing them and altering them without simply rejecting them.

Players would be banned from saying "No, that doesn't happen," and this fact alone leads to a kind of mismatched cooperative Authorship.  Very much like the way Monty Python worked, I imagine ("Hey, let's do a song about manly lumberjacks!"  "Even better, let's do a song about girly lumberjacks!").

Nice point.

Later.
Jonathan
Logged

szilard
Member

Posts: 260


WWW
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2002, 08:35:22 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton


In fact, your response brought up another rather interesting question: what happens if individual players (and not the entire group) was forced back into reality for a while?

I guess I was assuming (though I didn't say this) that the whole group would move in and out of their fantasies together, so that no one would really know, for instance, how they managed to get to the top of the skyscraper or get out of that mental institution, because they would have all experienced the same fantasy.  Still that wouldn't be the only way to do it.

Still, having individual characters trapped in "normality" and watching the other players to zany and rididulous things somewhat ruins the atmosphere of magic and mystery, at least a little bit.  Is there another way to solve this problem, besides forcing the characters to share a group fantasy that waxes and wanes?


Well, if the fantasy is a group fantasy, one individual falling out of it might reasonably disrupt it for the rest to some greater or lesser degree.

If it was only a partial disruption, you could have the others try to pull the particular individual back into the fantasy. If it was a full disruption, then you don't really have to worry about it. I think it might make sense to make the level of disruption somewhat variable here.

You mentioned the Changeling analogy. It might be interesting to introduce something akin to Banality here. If an individual falls out of the fantasy and is horrified by his actions and, thus, tries to shun the fantasy, it might become increasingly difficult to reenter the fantasy.

~szilard
Logged

My very own http://www.livejournal.com/users/szilard/">game design journal.
lumpley
Administrator
Member
*
Posts: 3453


WWW
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2002, 08:40:45 AM »

Hey Jonathan!

Also read Jack Vance's "Eyes of the Overworld," if you haven't, although it's on the "having individual characters trapped in 'normality' and watching the other players do zany and rididulous things" side.

-Vincent
Logged
Shreyas Sampat
Member

Posts: 970


WWW
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2002, 08:58:02 AM »

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, though not explicitly about a shared delusion, certainly seems to have some of the feel you describe here.

"Hey! Look at that girl being chased by rats!  Haha!"
"You fool, she's their entourage, not their snack bar.  Respect the rat speaker."
Logged

Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2341


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2002, 09:01:08 AM »

Jonathan,

First off, very nice presentation in your post opening this thread. The "where I'm coming from" text plus the pseudo example of play is a quite powerful combination for initiating design conversation.

...what happens if individual players (and not the entire group) was forced back into reality for a while?

One solution would be that scenes involving multiple player characters are always consensual fantasy, and that any mechanics that thrust a character out of the fantasy also necessarily separate the character from the group. It seems to me that some of the thematic power of stories with protagonists who are sometimes lost in fantasy realities comes from scenes where they are the isolated emissaries of the fantasy reality in the real world. The Fisher King is a very good example of this.

Something else you might consider, is the Brazil effect, in which the imagery of the fantasy reality, and the ability of the character to be significant in the fantasy reality, is a reflection of the character's struggles in the real world. Translated: failures in the real world translate to weakness and confusion in the fantasy reality. The real world crushes your spirit. But if you somehow can transcend that damage as it manifests itself in the fantasy world, your power in the real world is almost mystical-seeming in its ability to affect others.

Would leaving the background of the story open ended weaken what I was trying to do?

In my opinion, it would be a huge mistake to invent an in-game pseudo-rationale. I think you already have a better answer to this question. It's the text in your opening post about the significance of new myths, prior to the example of play. You don't need to create suspension of disbelief for the game buyer by giving them a fictionalized rationale. You only need reveal to the buyer your notions of how the game (and your eventual mechanics for it) might deliver meaningful thematic narrative, just like you did in the opening of your first post.

Paul
Logged

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


WWW
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2002, 10:23:01 AM »

You guys rock.  Let me tackle your comments in order...

Quote from: szilard
Well, if the fantasy is a group fantasy, one individual falling out of it might reasonably disrupt it for the rest to some greater or lesser degree. If it was only a partial disruption, you could have the others try to pull the particular individual back into the fantasy. If it was a full disruption, then you don't really have to worry about it.


Good thoughts.  If I combined this with some of Pauls suggestions, I think I might have a working system.

Minor disruptions would destroy bits and pieces of the individual's fantasy, but the larger concepts of the collective fantasy would still exist.  This might even explain why the characters form collective fantasies in the first place, because they'd be sturdier and more stable than the ones they could build on their own.

Of course, if major attacks were made on the collective fantasy, it could drive the entire group back into reality.  Also, certain types of assaults might might cut individuals off from the group, causing members to drop back into reality and weaking the collective one by one.

In this way, the game would really start being about the collective and how to build fantasies as a group, which, I think, is a great metaphor for roleplaying itself.  Sweet :)

Quote
If an individual falls out of the fantasy and is horrified by his actions and, thus, tries to shun the fantasy, it might become increasingly difficult to reenter the fantasy.


Your and Paul's suggestions are really running on parallel tracks, but they're coming from slightly different perspectives.  I think it's definitely true that the more the characters are involved with reality and the more they allow themselves to be governed by its rules and limitations, the harder it is to re-enter a state of fantasy.

Hmm.  I'll have to be careful to not let "Q&C" cover too much of the same ground as DeadpanBob/Jason's "Incarnate" concept, though "Incarnate" is more of a Mage-style empowered-manipulators-of-reality concept, while "Q&C" seems to be more about fantasy/reality distinctions.

Quote from: lumpley
Also read Jack Vance's "Eyes of the Overworld," if you haven't


I've been meaning to read some Vance, so I might just start with that one.

Quote from: four willows weeping
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, though not explicitly about a shared delusion, certainly seems to have some of the feel you describe here.


Very true.  Neverwhere is what would happen if there was a clear dividing line between the shared fantasy and reality, and you had to be on one side or the other.  Neverwhere also definitely gets points for being a somewhat "subtle" fantasy (clearly based on things that actually exist) and not world-altering insanity.

Quote from: Paul Czege
One solution would be that scenes involving multiple player characters are always consensual fantasy, and that any mechanics that thrust a character out of the fantasy also necessarily separate the character from the group.


Sweet concept.  Then you really would get the feeling of being "alone in the normal," while all your friends were off having zany adventures.  Actually, it kinda reminds me of how Richard feels at the end of Neverwhere (*spoiler warning*), wanting to be a part of the fantasy world again, but not knowing how to find the others.

Quote
Translated: failures in the real world translate to weakness and confusion in the fantasy reality. The real world crushes your spirit. But if you somehow can transcend that damage as it manifests itself in the fantasy world, your power in the real world is almost mystical-seeming in its ability to affect others.


Expanding on this a little bit, and working backwards, you could begin to see how the characters might go about building fantasies:

1) Life in the normal world.  Boring.  Seemingly random.  You win some, you lose some.  That's the way things are.

2) Something happens that makes you believe there's something more to it.  Perhaps you succeed surprisingly well at something trivial.  Perhaps you see something that inspires your imagination.  Whatever.

3) You extrapolate from what you've experienced.  You begin to believe that you will always succeed at that trivial action, because you are a master of it.  You think you actually can do kung fu like those people in "The Matrix."

4) If you try and fail, reality smacks you back down, preventing your fantasy from coming to fruition and burying you in normality.  However, if you try and SUCCEED, you have now entered into a fantasy and can proceed from there.

How does that work as an outline?

Quote
You don't need to create suspension of disbelief for the game buyer by giving them a fictionalized rationale. You only need reveal to the buyer your notions of how the game (and your eventual mechanics for it) might deliver meaningful thematic narrative, just like you did in the opening of your first post.


I think I'd rather leave things open-ended anyway.  After all, it doesn't really matter HOW the players enter into the shared fantasy (whether they take mind-altering drugs or are insane or can manipulate reality or whatever) because the EFFECTS in all cases will be exactly the same.  The players are free to invent their own thoeries or simply be agnostic about the whole fantasy process.

I think a good overarching goal of the characters in general might be to expand their collective fantasy to reach all of reality, therefor affecting reality itself.  In fact, it might be hinted at that what we call "reality" is just, in fact, the shared fantasy of humanity (what Daniel Quinn calls "Mother Culture").  By trying to build a new fantasy with the restraints of reality, they would be using the system to change the system.

How does that sound?

Later.
Jonathan
Logged

Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2341


WWW
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2002, 10:41:48 AM »

Jonathan,

Life in the normal world. Boring. Seemingly random. You win some, you lose some...

That seems like a very workable progression to me. Although my preference for the starting point isn't so much a boring normal world, but a somewhat more hostile one. Beautiful things are destroyed. Comfort is encroached upon: "Bothered by unsightly ducts?" Decency and meaningful human interaction are compromised by procedures and policy. Wondrousness is absent.

By trying to build a new fantasy with the restraints of reality, they would be using the system to change the system.

Exactly right. But it's important to note that it's a very grass roots, one-on-one notion of change, not at all on any kind of larger scale.

Honestly, I think it's a terrific genre to be working in. There are so many films, that potential players should be able to grasp the conventions easily. Joe Versus the Volcano is one: "These lights give me a headache. If they don't give you a headache, you must be dead!" The normal world makes you dead. The genre is about struggling to be "alive" and what it's like to be alive in a world of the "dead."

Paul
Logged

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


WWW
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2002, 11:03:17 AM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
"Bothered by unsightly ducts?"


:)

Point taken.  But I do want to avoid retreading the old WoD "gothic-punk" staple of "this world is like the real world except darker and more depressing."  My point is that the real world IS dark and depressing, it's just that people don't realize it or look at it in the proper light.  You're so used to having your freedoms taken away, that you don't even notice anymore.

The world really isn't out to get you, but it is out to socialize you.  It wants to put your behavior in a nice little box.  Reality doesn't like it when you scale office buildings or go street surfing, and wants to keep you from doing that by making you believe it's wrong or illegal or that people will resent you if you do those kinds of things.  But when you break out of reality's collective fantasy by doing things that are beyond the pale, you enter into a whole new realm of possibility (i.e. your own fantasy).

Of course, individuals groups could decide just how bad reality would treat them.  A neat idea would be playing characters that are more marginalized than the players: inmates, drug addicts, homeless people, minorities, the poor, and other people with less choices than your typical middle-class gamer (who has extra cash to blow on RPGs).  This would also enforce the point that society=reality, and those who are outcasts from society are more likely to become the outcasts of reality.

Quote
Honestly, I think it's a terrific genre to be working in. There are so many films, that potential players should be able to grasp the conventions easily.


A perfectly example that just struck me is C.S. Lewis' Narnia Stories, where the kids are occasionally escaping into this shared fantasy world (their fantasy would begin when they entered the wardrobe).  Other would be Edward Scissorhands (making suburbia stranger and stranger, Beetlejuice (showing how you could use the horror genre), or a whole ton of Roald Dahl books like James & the Giant Peach, The Witches, etc.  In fact, the entire Young Adult Fiction genre seems tailor made for these kind of stories, where reality and fantasy mix together.

Later.
Jonathan
Logged

Torrent
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2002, 12:41:46 PM »

First off, I really like this kind of idea.  The one thing that came to my mind in reading the premise was the MTV cartoon of the Maxx.  It was an animation of a comic book of the same name.  Essentially this guy gets trapped between the real world and a fantasy Outback, and has some wierd mental trips about the whole thing.  

There is a great scene where he is sitting on a little mountain in the Outback and "wakes back" into reality perched on a postbox.  Just the kind of thing you described.  His antagonist is really the only character that knows of both worlds as being seperate but complete.

The other thought for inspiration is actually the comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes.  A little different in that Calvin lives in both his own world and the reality simultaneously.  Note that Hobbes is alive to him but a stuffed toy to everyone else.  

I like the idea that certain rolls (bad ones or just randomly) cause reality to set in.  You would need some way to allow characters to 'get back' into the fantasy.  And decide what, if anything had changed.  Like, if they are climbing a mountain and wake up to find themselves on the side of a building.  If they went up the elevator and 'reentered' fantasy would they have made it to the top of the mountian.  If that is the case, do you want players to be able to do that.  If not, and I would say not, you might need some mechanics or guidelines to deal with that.

Just thoughts.  

Andy
Logged
talysman
Member

Posts: 675


WWW
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2002, 08:25:38 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Expanding on this a little bit, and working backwards, you could begin to see how the characters might go about building fantasies:

1) Life in the normal world.  Boring.  Seemingly random.  You win some, you lose some.  That's the way things are.

2) Something happens that makes you believe there's something more to it.  Perhaps you succeed surprisingly well at something trivial.  Perhaps you see something that inspires your imagination.  Whatever.

3) You extrapolate from what you've experienced.  You begin to believe that you will always succeed at that trivial action, because you are a master of it.  You think you actually can do kung fu like those people in "The Matrix."

4) If you try and fail, reality smacks you back down, preventing your fantasy from coming to fruition and burying you in normality.  However, if you try and SUCCEED, you have now entered into a fantasy and can proceed from there.

How does that work as an outline?


nice game concept, Jonathan. something you said in your outline suggested a strange idea to me... from the way you have been describing the game so far, it sounds like it will be somewhat rules-light, mostly concentrating on how to shift who holds Author stance. this contrasts it sharply with "realistic" games, which tend to have task resolution instead of conflict resolution, ability scores that translate into real-world numbers, strict time keeping, and so on...

what if you were to make the real world "realistic" and keep the fantasy world "rules-light"?

while stuck in the real world, players would roll for each task. tasks would be completed incrementally. this would help simulate the day-to-day drudgery.

then, when one of the players is able to slip into fantasy, everything becomes easier. if they're rolling dice at all, it's to resolve entire conflicts or to see how much they can bend the fantasy to their liking. great distances could be crossed, battles won.

with that kind of arrangement, players are going to want to get into the fantasy as often as possible, even to reolve issues in the real world. if you're late for work, dealing with the problem in the real world would require movement rolls to reach the bus stop in time, another roll to check for loose change, rolls to see how well the traffic is doing... in other words, you will be late. slip into fantasy instead, make a running leap onto the back of a waiting horse, and charge across the plains, firing your six-guns at the banditos following you. you charge into the fort just before the gates close... and punch your timecard, just in the nick of time.
Logged

John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Shreyas Sampat
Member

Posts: 970


WWW
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2002, 08:49:47 PM »

Quote from: talysman
what if you were to make the real world "realistic" and keep the fantasy world "rules-light"?

while stuck in the real world, players would roll for each task. tasks would be completed incrementally. this would help simulate the day-to-day drudgery.

then, when one of the players is able to slip into fantasy, everything becomes easier. if they're rolling dice at all, it's to resolve entire conflicts or to see how much they can bend the fantasy to their liking. great distances could be crossed, battles won.


I worry that this idea would lead to a painfully complex design, but in concept - the Real World provides us with complications for which Fantasy cares not - is excellent.

Maybe instead of a layered mechanic, one could represent the difficulty of Reality in another way - maybe every conflict in Reality has some base level of difficulty, while the Story has a sliding scale of 'resistance' to the characters based on the stability of the shared fantasy.  As the Story falls apart, it starts becoming more and more antagonistic to the characters, and finally it shatters, as maintaining the Fantasy in the face of this unsatisfying, maybe even painful, Story becomes too difficult.
Logged

Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!