Peter's Game Thread

Started by PeterBB, September 13, 2010, 01:16:27 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


I reserve the right to throw out everything and start completely fresh, if this doesn't pan out. That said, here are my thoughts so far:

This year's ingredients have gotten me thinking about culture clashes, colonialism, code-switching, and that sort of thing. In the average RPG, your "diplomacy" skill is equally powerful no matter who you are talking to, with maybe a situational modifier of some sort. I'm thinking it would be cool to have a game where the mechanics support cultural differences and the "fish out of water" situation.

Basic thoughts:

-I don't want to directly pull from a real-world scenario without having a hell of a lot longer than a week to research, so I'm going to turn to the ingredients for the setting. I'm thinking big 18th or 19th-century city on the edge of the desert. The city aristocrats look down on the desert people, but need them in a lot of ways for survival. There's also probably a huge underclass of people living in the city caught in the middle. General aesthetic is stereotypical Persian.

-My general preference in fiction is for short-form narratives over long-form. Especially for something like this, it seems like interconnected short stories are a relatively under-explored and very useful medium.

-If that's the case, it might be interesting for the mechanics to change based on the framework of the new short story. If you're playing a high court drama, the rules are different than when you're out traveling in the desert. This could be a good way to enforce meaningful cultural differences.

-Another thought is that you could have separate GM-like roles for the two cultures. Susan GMs the desert stories, and Bob GMs the upper-class stories. Maybe a good way to encourage meaningful cultural differences? Or maybe just a pain.

-The resolution mechanics are probably going to borrow a lot from otherkind and/or AW. I like the whole exception-based-design thing we've been talking about in the AW forums. Not sure how it'll turn out exactly yet, but you're going to have a lot fewer options when dealing with others than when dealing with your own culture.


Quote from: PeterBB on September 13, 2010, 01:16:27 AM
I reserve the right to throw out everything and start completely fresh, if this doesn't pan out.

That's a part of the whole contest...I know a lot of people who have ended up submitting something other than their first ideas.

Still, those first ideas you've got seem to have some promise.
A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


Ok, so what I'm currently not liking is the setting. I've always been a fan of speculative fiction, because it allows you to deal with serious issues and interesting psychological/sociological questions in such a clear way without all the baggage of the real world. You can talk about the human fear of the unknown all you want, but if you read Isaac Asimov's Nightfall you'll see it in a totally different light.

My setting is way too real-world at the moment, which I feel would drag the game down into either a) nothing but depressing and self-aware social commentary or b) purely light-hearted stuff that wouldn't touch any of the social issues with a 10-foot-pole.

So, I need something a bit further out there. Current thoughts involve a seemingly unending cliff-face with a civilization carved into the side of the rock.


Ooh, or a generation ship! That's a pretty common SF trope that you don't see often in RPGs. I like that a lot.


I've got a lot more thoughts on my Praxis thread. Big concern right now is making the cultural aspect meaningful and trying to avoid caricature. Obvious way to do this is to stop thinking in terms of monolithic "cultures" and start thinking in terms of... what? Ways of life? Who is in charge? Elements of culture you may or may not have picked up in your life?


I've got a good conversation going at Praxis, but I know that a lot of people probably won't bother to click through, so I'm going to copy over my most recent post, which has a lot of good brainstorming.


I'm starting to drift away from "culture" as a meaningful concept for my game. It's still "about" culture in some sense, but it's more importantly about the values and styles of action that an individual person uses and respects. When a bunch of people in the same place have more-or-less the same set of values, that's the sort of culture I'm interested in. You're right that the differences are at least as meaningful as the commonalities, though.

This means that, instead of tying the available moves to the current culture, we should tie them to individual people (PCs and NPCs both), though there can be "defaults" for certain locations or professions. I'm currently imagining something like this:

There's a list of values (maybe I'll come up with a better word) that each character has certain relationships with. These relationships essentially detail how important that person considers that value. The list of values and the possible relationships are definitely subject to a lot of change, but as a first thought, the values can be Respectability, Official Authority, Faith, Physical Power, and Honor. The possible relationships can be Respected, Scorned, and Feared.

So, an aristocrat's character sheet might look like:

Respectability: Respected
Official Authority: Respected
Faith: Scorned
Physical Power: Feared
Honor: Scorned

While a monk might have:

Respectability: Scorned
Official Authority: Feared
Faith: Respected
Physical Power: Scorned
Honor: Respected

And a bandit might have:

Respectability: Scorned
Official Authority: Scorned
Faith: Feared
Physical Power: Respected
Honor: Respected

So far, that's a lot of words with no mechanical meat behind it. So let's talk about a possible resolution mechanic.

Each of those five things is also a way that other people can be manipulated. (Or at least, they ought to be. If not, I should change them.) So let's also make them our stats. Assign each one a number from 2 to 6. The lower the number, the more effective you will be in that arena. (These need not line up with the relationships. How good you are at manipulating someone via a value is different from how susceptible you are to appeals to that value.) Each stat will have a move, or possibly a variety of moves. They will look like this:

When you appeal to Official Authority, roll 3d6. Each die that comes up as your stat or higher is a hit. If you have no hits, it backfires. Otherwise, spend a hit to:

[list of options]

These options, however, will have prerequisites. The options will be different against people with different relationships to the values. If you're going up against a prissy aristocrat, appealing to your physical power over him is likely to be quite effective, while appealing to his faith might not be.

I'm not sure that's sufficient yet. There ought to be mechanisms for changing relationships and changing stats.

Also, it seems like tracking reputation might be nice. Part of the reason an aristocrat isn't going to bother with physical power is that he won't be respected any more, so it seems like maybe there should be a disincentive to do certain things, even if they would otherwise be effective? Have to think about that one. Maybe instead of static stats, your target number is determined by something you track? Sounds complicated. I'll think about it.