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Author Topic: Setting Invasion  (Read 826 times)

Posts: 51

« on: September 24, 2011, 05:05:16 PM »

This idea is too short to warrant a link, all of the information is here.  I hope you all enjoy it, steal it, run with it.

Here’s how it works:  There are a ton of great RPG worlds out there, right?  And I’m sure you’ve all got old, deceased characters hidden away in a shelf somewhere for many of these worlds, right? Characters of which you’re actually rather fond, thinking back, and which you wouldn’t mind returning to some time?  Well, here’s your chance!  Hold on to your hats, folks: It’s gonna get metaphysical up in here. 

(…and here the narrator’s voice deepens considerably, and acquires a dramatic reverb.)

In the spaces between the worlds, there is a trembling whitewater of consciousness, of surging souls being borne from one reality to the next, to reawaken and to explore new planes of existence.  This is evolution on a scale grander than that of any one world, but, as is true for any world, evolution is rife with chaos, mistakes.

One world in particular reached such an enlightened stage that its denizens transcended into a virtual Culture, a pure exchange of abstract information.  It was only a matter of time before it managed to live its way out of reality entirely, and fall into these whitewater soulstreams, becoming a conceptual fleet of self-sentience on the raging rivers of flux-purgatory.  Naturally, it wished to make port as soon as possible, and so it latched on to the nearest nexus of reality it could find, and clung to it viciously.

After a time, and, having grown accustomed to treading spectral water, this exiled Culture began to peer into its chosen buoy, and its fascination slowly but surely grew, as it followed the intricacies of the biosphere, and the dramas of its inhabitants.  Culture soon learned that this world was called (insert world name here), and that (world) was, in contrast to Culture, woefully primitive.

It was a fledgling world, but its origin was not physical.  Couldn’t be!  Where was the source?  No dark matter, no gravitational core, the sun seemed more like a reflection of the idea of a sun in the solitary green planet’s ionosphere… no laws at all, it would seem!  Just a biosphere, nurtured out of nothing, unsupported by any galactic forces whatsoever!  Rather, its foundations were dreamed up, presumably by the first souls to colonize the elevated space it now occupied between soulstreams.  Hence, it did not follow the physical protocols of a purely physical realm.  However, evidence of a flawed, subjective system of physics suggested to Culture that (world) was modeled, at least in part, after such a purely physical system.  Who, then, was the modeler?

Culture assembled an inventory of anomalies, the most intriguing of which was what appeared to be a sentient membrane surrounding the whole, only visible in reflections of astral light, when glittering souls osmosed in or out of (world).  Had it not been for a catastrophic natural disaster at one point during surveillance, sparking a mass exodus of souls out into the streams, the membrane might have gone unnoticed indefinitely.

It took some time for the Culture to establish communication with the membrane, crunching probable methods of communication by observing the denizens of (world).  Finally, in sloth response to a multifarity of broad-spectrum hailings, the membrane replied, identifying itself as God.

“God of what?”
“God of (world).”
“Oh, good.  I would have hated being passed off to some celestial secretary.  So you cooked up this nifty little place, did you?”
“Um, yes, yes I did.”
“And where are you originally from, then, God of (world)?”
“Errr… Ellenton, South Carolina.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Nobody has.”

The Culture took the briefest of moments to ponder its next course of action.  Having come to a decision, it spoke once more.

“Right, well, I’m moving in, so shove a bum.”
“The hell you are!”
This elicited an exasperated sigh from Culture.  “Look, you don’t really have much choice.  I’m moving in, and I’m streamlining your world into something presentable, so… shove a bum.”
“Look, you can’t just come in here and mess with my creation!  I’ve put a lot of work into this!”
“Ah, yes, and you’ve found yourself an admirable, dry and cozy location within the soulstreams.  You know what they say in the business; location, location, location...”

As though to prove it meant business, Culture turned its attention to another little burst of watery light as it osmosed through the membrane and out of (world).  With an odd little sound, rather like a droplet of water being hollowed out, Culture flicked the light back in through the membrane.

Within (world), the miraculous resurrection of a crucified thief in the little nation of (nation), and his subsequent discovery that he had a working knowledge of particle physics, marked the apocryphal advent of an era of dubious demigods and feats of hyper-evolved madness.  And that’s Setting Invasion.  Flick your characters back through the membrane, give them each a new high-tech knowledge base, power, or item, and GO!

The Intricacies

Culture can have as much or as little power over your setting as you want.  This section is simply a loose gathering of thoughts and suggestions for implementing that power in a way that is congruent to your system. 

On one end of the spectrum, Culture cannot penetrate the world creator’s membrane, and is capable of no more than flicking souls back into their bodies, and perhaps granting them a touch of power in that moment of contact.  The GM doesn’t have to even consider the Culture as a game element beyond the function of character resurrection.

On the other end of the spectrum, Culture can hack the membrane, implant avatars into the world, rearrange the physics of the place, and take over completely, with lord knows what kind of decadent intentions.  Such extreme circumstances are, naturally, a great plot generator; the races of the world will probably have to take sides in what could become a war between a world’s deities and the invading Culture.  However, it’s a heck of a lot of extra material for a GM to get a handle on.  So here are some elements to consider when looking for clarity.

1)  What kind of deity system or cosmic arrangement is present in your setting? 

A pantheon of gods, a big bang, multiple planes of existence, a sadistic demon overlord, or do gods perhaps walk the earth in mortal form as emperors or as magical beasts?  More importantly, how will the heavens react to the Culture?  For example, some entities within a Greek-style, drama-wracked pantheon of deities might actually side with the Culture and try to use the new state of affairs to rattle their esteemed colleagues.  (The Goddess of the Moon is gone mad!  Werebeasts roam the hills unchecked!)  A malicious, totalitarian über-god would totally go to war against the Culture, even at the cost of his own people.  A more benevolent god might find ways to warn his people, or begin creating his own avatars and emissaries on mortal soil.

In the case of multiple planes of existence, it might be assumed that Culture has a very hard job of it, having many fronts to attack and guard at once.  Perhaps he only manages to get a real grip on one plane of existence, say, one of the elemental planes.  What kind of ramifications would this have on the spellcasting of an elemental sorceror?  Would a water-healing spell plant nanocameras in the target’s bloodstream, as an insidious method of infiltration and surveillance on the part of the Culture?  Would the blueprints for a steam engine or a large hadron collider be found in the burn-markings of a fireball?  Would wind patterns code themselves and develop artificial intelligence?  Would the earth mould its own robotic super-cities under metal-rich mountains?

2)  Deus ex machina, and pre-game prep
Even though this whole concept is pretty much one big exercise in deus ex machina, it’s no fun if the players just think “it doesn’t matter if I die again now, I’ll just come back”.  (Granted, it could be fun if the characters thought that.  I digress.)  The GM and the players should be in agreement on what is to be expected from this exercise.  Some might just want a funny little diversion, a killfest with dusty old characters, a walk down memory lane as it were.  Others might be interested in exploring the endless possibilities of having a setting taken over by a virtually omniscient, spectral hive-mind.  Still others might not know what to expect.

You as the GM have to decide to what degree you want to savvy up your players.  Are they to know that they can be resurrected again and again?  Or can they even?  Will the Culture and their deities reject them outright, or force upon them gruesome changes as part of some kind of grand manoeuvre?  Will you let the players decide for themselves how much Culture tampering a character is to undergo?  Should one player be aware of what another player has up his sleeve in the way of changes?  These are all important things to consider.

As a simple measure against impunity in the face of character death, it might be wise to employ a give-and-take system.  “Yes, you’re back, and with the ability to hear the exact layering, in Hz and amplitudes, of even the most complex sound waves, but your Constitution is halved, and, having witnessed the totality of existence for a brief second, your face is permanently frozen in a hilarious rictus of terror.”

3) New, unfamiliar items and powers: The gamist’s bane.

   Let’s say your system is a really well-balanced, gamist dungeon crawl; the system’s mechanics, and the skills, talents, traits, spells, powers, etc are all designed to complement each other and offer the players an even field.  Unless you as a GM are very careful in how you construct new Culture elements, things could get tense when one player gets one thing and another gets something different.  People will say things like “that’s totally broken”, or “this is pointless, I’m going to win hands down now”.  In such a situation, it might be best to restrict the Culture-granted edge to things like theoretical knowledge, or even give all the edge to the opponents, dungeon bosses, etc, if you’re playing with an experienced and resourceful group that’s looking for a more challenging obstacle to overcome.  The looting of Culture tech from the charred corpses of the opponent will be much more satisfying to a gamist group than the granting of said tech at character resurrection.

4)  …and this is as far as I’ve come.  Ideas?  Suggestions?  Criticism?

Posts: 68

« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2011, 10:56:47 PM »

Hey Rubbermancer,

First: yes it's short, but I'm very certain Mr. Edwards'll still want an external link. I made a wordpress.com account for my own thread, it's a free and straight-forward solution. Copy-paste your post there and that'll satisfy the restriction. Fair warning is all.

Whoa! I am still reeling from trying to keep up with your post. I really like your vocabulary and the fictional account that you started off with. But it's hard to understand exactly what you're proposing here. I'm anything but a paragon of clarity with my writing, but I have to tell you that you should be careful with how you organize your post and phrase your ideas.

What’s Going On?


Let me try to re-phrase what I think you’re proposing.

People with gather to play an RPG where all but one person will play as players and one will play as a GM. The GM RPs all the NPCs and is able to invoke a powerful dues-ex machina called Culture. Culture is the game’s explanation for Character Creation “CC”

Culture can be as weak as a CC mechanic or as powerful as the justification for hordes of Culture-crafted avatars.

Advice: explain your idea in simple terms first, then add a fictitious narration to add some colour.

My Reaction

I don’t see why old PCs from different games are all that important. The game will focus on one planet with one game system. Old PCs could be used as inspirations… but that’s no more important here than any other RPG. It’d be insane trying to translate stats from one game into this one every time a new PC was made.

 What are you trying to do with this? Is it going to be adaptable for different settings? Or are you wanting to craft your own?

I like the mess that Culture could make, I also think it’s a cool “deity” super-power that can (as you said) invoke some very very interesting conflicts with other gods.

I think this is the seed for a great game!


I’d like to write more… but I don’t want to proceed till I’ve cleared my head on what you’re suggesting here.

Correct me if I was wrong, and provide some feedback to help me orient myself! I would really like to learn more about what you’re doing here.

Hope this helps,


Posts: 51

« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2011, 12:49:30 AM »

OK, here's a link:  http://rubbermancer.wordpress.com/

Thanks for the wordpress tip!  I hadn't ever gotten around to making an account, and this forced the matter nicely.  ;)

Advice: explain your idea in simple terms first, then add a fictitious narration to add some colour.

Good idea.  I can see that I haven't managed to communicate to you the concept properly with its current format.  Perhaps I posted somewhat hastily, as this isn't really meant to be a massive thing, just a fun little twist.

Here's where we got derailed:  This isn't a game in itself.  It's designed to latch onto another game, hopefully any other game.  I would have called it System and Setting Invasion, were it not for the fact that it doesn't really have to invade the system in order to work.

Posts: 51

« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2011, 01:12:49 PM »

OK!  I haven't been following this up too well, as this is sort of a goofy little sideline to my main project, but the basic concept is:  Sit down with your gaming group with the purpose of playing D&D, or Shadowrun, or World of Darkness, or whatever floats your boat. Drag some old, deceased characters out, and then imagine that a superior entity of spectral consciousness called Culture has latched onto your gameverse, started a tongue-in-cheek philosophical argument with its cosmic forces, and then decided on a whim to resurrect your character.

Is that succinct enough for an introductory note?
D.R. Clifford

Posts: 6

« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2011, 08:01:45 AM »

This link may interest you.


Posts: 68

« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2011, 09:22:11 AM »

Dr. Clifford,

Thanks for that link. I suspect you're right and Rubbs will find it interesting--or terrifying because someone else is inside his head stealing, organizing, and publishing all of his ideas...


Posts: 51

« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2011, 12:59:54 PM »

Hehehe, as long as they get out there.  That said, the concepts aren't quite the same.  Very cool link though, I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this John Wick fellow.  If only to eventually hunt him down and eat his brain.
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