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Theme Chaser: first game

Started by Tony Irwin, November 15, 2002, 10:55:57 AM

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Tony Irwin

Tried a first play test of Theme Chaser last night. Its a story telling game but I've tried to just retell the bare bones of it so you can see how the mechanics played out. Each act was actually quite lengthy, full of colourful descriptions, character dialogue, and plenty of humour. However you'll need to just imagine all the cool stuff for yourself Im afraid...

Players: Jules & Tony

Game world: Rather than get bogged down in world creation we set it in the "Legend of Zelda" computer game world. Anything appropriate for the computer games would be appropriate to our game.

Jules' Theme: Rising Ground, Falling Sky!
Trapping: A view of a field and the horizon where the ground and sky meet.
Painted Stage: Link, a small boy with fairy powers.

Tony's Theme: Who ate all the pies?
Trapping: Pie crumbs.
Painted Stage: The bakery

Act 1 (I started)
Time: Lunch time, Location: At the Deku Tree, Characters: Trammo (another fairy child) and the spirit of the Deku Tree.
Trammo is very upset because somebody has eaten his lunch! He was looking forward to eating a delicious pie, but its gone missing. He's at the Deku tree and tells his woeful tale of grumbly bellies to the spirit of the tree. However the spirit of the tree has his own problems, he also has a belly ache deep within his roots under the earth. He needs a hero to investigate - Trammo bravely volunteers.

Act 2 (Jules)
Time: 8pm the previous evening, Location: Link's tree house, Characters: Link, Navi (a little tinkerbell kind of fairy), the old Seer (a prophet kind of guy).
The Seer has terrible news for Link, he has seen the end of the world! Unless it can be stopped, the ground will rise and the sky will fall and everything caught in between will be crushed! Our hero Link promises to stop this disaster, his annoying little friend Navi also agrees to come along.

Act 3 (Me)
Time: an hour after lunch, Location: In the roots of the Deku tree, Characters: Trammo and a fire spider
Exploring the dark, dank roots of the tree, Trammo spies a fire spider. Perhaps this is the cause of the Deku tree's distress? The chittering creature attacks Trammo and a bitter fight ensues. However Trammo is slowly being overpowered by the arachnid's scorching heat and webs. Trammo's thought's flash back to a conversation he had with his friend Link (Link has been painted by Jules' theme, so by introducing him I'm giving her the opportunity to take over the telling of this act. However she wanted to see what I was going to do with him so lets me continue). The other week Link and Trammo had been practicing with their swords out in a field. It was a beautiful day and you could see right to the horizon where the sky meets the ground (this is Jules' trapping which Im obliged to incorporate now I've used Link - notice how it becomes an ominous reminder of Jules' theme! Cool eh?!) Link showed Trammo a special fighting technique. Trammo uses that same technique now to kill the spider.

By letting me incorporate Link into my story, Jules' theme strength increases by one. She can now paint another stage with her theme and come up with another trapping. She paints Navi with her theme, and chooses "Loud creakings and groanings" as a trapping.

Act 4 (Jules)
Time: Morning, Location: A field, Characters: Link and Navi
Our heros are running through a field on this sunny morning. They're heading towards the town - they fear that the tallest buildings of the town may already have begun to be crushed in between the ground and sky. Discussing options as they run they eventually reach the town and go straight to the bakery. (Jules needs a new location to continue her story - there isn't that much more to do in the field. By asking to use my bakery she gives me the option to take over the act, but Im curious to see what happens next). The bakery is mysteriously empty, the fearful customers must have fled from the ground and sky. Link and Navi are on their own. (Introducing new characters would end Jules' act. She can't borrow any of mine because I don't have any characters painted with my theme for her to use, but actually that suits her story anyway) Even more mysterious is that there is no food in the bakery! Usually its teeming with freshly baked goods. Link and Navi do some investigating and find a trail of pie crumbs that leads out the back door (my trapping that Jules now has to incorporate)

Act 5 (Me)
Time: an hour after lunch, Location: Tree roots, Characters: Trammo and a treasure chest
After defeating the fire spider, Trammo finds a treasure chest. Lying within is the "Chain Shot", a cool weapon/device from the computer game.

Act 6 (Jules)
Time: an hour after lunch, Location: Deku Tree, Characters: Fire spiders, Deku spirit, Link and Navi
Link and Navi have followed the trail of pie crumbs, sensing that evil may be afoot - perhaps connected with the end of the world? They find a convoy of fire spiders feeding all the bakery's pies to the Deku tree! That greedy tree! "Oh Link I've done a terrible thing..." confesses the tree, and we discover that he has sent out fire spiders to steal all the cakes and pies they can find and feed them to him. Trammo may be in terrible danger the tree warns, if the fire spiders find him they will kill him.

Act 7 (Me)
Time: 5 minutes later, Location: Tree roots, Characters: Trammo & lots of spiders
A wave of spiders attacks Trammo, he escapes by firing the chain shot up at the ceiling and letting it pull him up out of harms way. The spiders slowly crisscross the room and walls with threads of webbing. Soon they will set fire to their own webs and Trammo will perish in the blaze.

Act 8 (Jules)
Time: Minute later, Location: Tree roots, Characters: Trammo, spiders, Link, Navi
Link and Navi arrive! A glorious but deadly battle ensues...

Act 9 (Me)
Time: Same time, Location: Deku tree, Characters: Deku spirit
The remorseful spirit of the tree has realised how selfish he has been. It was his own greediness that led to his belly-ache. Even worse, the enormous weight of all those pies was putting a terrible strain on the world. To counterbalance this weight the earth and sky were slowly moving to meet each other. The Deku spirit starts crying out of unhappiness.

Act 10 (Jules)Time: Minute later, Location: Tree belly, Characters: Trammo, Link, Navi
Having defeated the spiders our brave party have found the belly of the tree. They cut it open with swords and chainshots and thousands of pies come flying out! Fortunately they haven't been chewed or digested or anything so Trammo is able to enjoy his lunch after all! The Deku tree is returned to normal, and the ground and sky moves back into place. Hooray!


Mike Holmes

I've played so much Zelda, that I had no trouble imagining what this all looked like.

That said, the adventue sounded very much like a Zelda adventure. Are you concerned at all that the tropes involved with choosing the Zelda setting might have influenced play more than your mechaniocs?

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Tony Irwin

Quote from: Mike HolmesI've played so much Zelda, that I had no trouble imagining what this all looked like.

That said, the adventue sounded very much like a Zelda adventure. Are you concerned at all that the tropes involved with choosing the Zelda setting might have influenced play more than your mechaniocs?


Heh! Yep, we produced what we felt was a "good story" and had great fun doing it. However I recognise that's mainly because:

We like Zelda
There's plenty of Zelda material to draw upon
The computer games gave us a strong model for making a good/fun story.

So actually perhaps we could have had just as much fun using any system!

Fortunately my mechanic doesn't actually support story-telling by helping to produce a "good" story. It tries to provide a means whereby people can fairly share the role of story-teller and eventually bring about a convergence their seperate stories.

On these criteria I think it was a success - in Act 3 I was able to extend my own time as narrator and use Jules' character to help strengthen my story, but in doing so the system made me make reference to Jule's theme (sky and earth colliding). The fact that trappings are less "concrete" in nature than location/time/character meant I was able to incorporate it easily and in a way that added drama.

In Act 4 Jules did the same thing, she extended her time as narrator and used my location of the bakery to emphasise imminent danger for the town and add tension to the scene. Doing so meant incorporating my trapping (pie crumbs) into her story. She welcomed this as an opportunity to explain the events going on in her own story.

So yeah, I guess you could say that the fact we had so much fun is down to the good folks at Nintendo, not my system! But the fact that we were able to co-operatively tell our different stories and agree upon a level of convergence with the two tales is down to the system.

I had purposely chosen a nonsensical theme "Who ate all the pies?" to see if I could break the system. But it worked fine - Jules was still able to to have mystical seers, deserted towns, deadly battles and the threat of world destruction in her own story. And when she indulged me in letting me expand my story (as in act 3) with her resources it actually brought her story to the forefront. (Trammo's flashback to the field with the view of earth and sky is an ominous reminder of what is happening in her story).

What I'd like to try next is purposely trying to prevent story convergence. Having my tale take place "on the other side of the world" from the other players' might yield some interesting results for me to think about.

Thanks Mike, I appreciate your comments :-)