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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 32 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: In Dark Trees  (Read 1421 times)
trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« on: January 03, 2012, 10:58:17 AM »

hey all. i've been developing a pen & paper game for a few months now under Ron's guidance. i'm doing the game as my senior project for graphic design and i'm starting to run a bit behind schedule so, at Ron's suggestion, i thought i'd take the game over to the forge.

the game is called In Dark Trees and it's a surreal neo-noir mystery in the vein of David Lynch's films. it's still sort of abstract, but the basis of the game is that all the players create a mystery, then create a protagonist that is in some way tied to the mystery, and then create a "thread", which is some sort of negative emotion that is attached to an NPC. the game uses a deck of cards to generate surreal elements based on the protagonists' thread, including antagonists that are based on the thread, called "marks". in this way the mystery initially created starts to recede into the background as the game instead revolves around the protagonists' dark past.

the example i used to explain marks is Mal, Cobb's wife in the film Inception. Cobb's thread would have read something like "Cobb feels guilty about his wife's suicide." when it came time to create a mark based on Cobb's thread, the narrator of that scene would have created the sinister version of Mal that we see antagonizing him throughout the course of the film.

the game is kind of rule-lite at this point. one player gets to create a scene for his protagonist, while the player whose turn is furthest away acts as his narrator (the other players are free to contribute to scenes when it is not their turn). the game goes around like this, with a card drawn by the narrator each scene that adds a surreal element.

the only stats used to represent protagonists are "truth" & "lies", which are only rolled when the character is confronting some aspect of his past. a failure represents that character moving further away from resolving their past issues, while a success is them moving one step closer.

when the other players feel that a protagonist's thread is resolved, that protagonist no longer has cards drawn for his scenes is free to use their scenes to tie off their story or work more directly towards solving the mystery created at the start of the game.

so like i said, this is all a bit abstract and a lot of the game is more up to the players rather than the rules, which can make for a wildly different play experience depending what table you're sitting at. i'd love to get some feedback on this, i can answer any questions anybody might have and i can send the working document of my game to anyone interested.

thanks!

trevor
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Thunder_God
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Posts: 510

Still Here.


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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2012, 12:17:50 AM »

Trevor, it'd help to know what exactly you are looking for?

As in, are you bothered by the wildly differing experiences each game may have, the fact that you feel it doesn't have a lot of rules?

It'd be a bit easier to help afterwards.
An interesting game that came to mind as you've described your game which may help in providing some ideas is Paul Tevis' A Penny for My Thoughts.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
thiagoess
Member

Posts: 13


« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2012, 03:28:49 AM »

Hi, Trevor, so far i liked your idea. Can you post a link to your document?
You're looking for general feedback or are you stuck in some area?

Thanks,
Thiago Edwardo
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trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2012, 02:24:40 PM »

thanks for your responses. the preview version of my document can be found here:

http://students.purchase.edu/trevor.hock/indarktrees/

bear in mind that this is not indicative of what the actual book will resemble in any way. if anyone's interested, i'd be more than happy to share some page spreads.

as for what i'm looking for: i'd like playtesters, feedback, and suggestions. i'm not necessarily stuck so much as i feel that the game isn't necessarily hitting its goals as intended right now.

let me know what you think.

trevor
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JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 500

also known as Josh W


« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2012, 06:38:06 PM »

At the moment you've got a set of motifs in the centre, have you considered doing something with case notes and mixing them together?

I feel like it would be really great to have the first scene start with motifs and clues clearly seperated, and then start to blur them together, so that things that have no right to be important slowly become so. Perhaps you actually randomise the motif you have to include in this scene?

In fact I can't help wondering if this is backwards, what if instead you should start with the surfaces and strange obsessions, as Lynch seems to, and build up reasons for those things to go together.

Like say use index cards for the strands, but arbitrarily assign a few of them each to different protagonists, and randomly choose at the start of each scene one card to take details from and one card to add them to. If the current protagonist character has his name on the card, or if they're in the scene as a bystander, those details disquiet them, and they don't know why.

In other words layer emotions like guilt and revulsion onto normal details, in the hope that you as a player can derive some kind of theme from it.

You could still have that mechanic about dealing with your thread, you just wouldn't know what it is, and presumably the truth part would have to include making some sense of the stuff on your cards? Maybe needs a bit more support though..

Not really sure how to do the case notes, but the basic idea would be some more structure to assist people in setting up the normalness of the case, categories of clues to investigate etc, all on fairly sensible lines. And then some way to start making the strands show up as clues, maybe shuffling them into the wrong piles...

Anyway, in less "crazy redesign your game" mode maybe one of the kismet cards results should be something like "everyone narrating a character in this scene should listen very closely to how they pronounce their lines as they say them, but when you do it, be very careful to use your normal voice". That should very quickly get people into that weird mindset. That "unusually cheerful" thing is great too.
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trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2012, 06:59:15 PM »

that's a really interesting idea. i had considered using a system of clue cards, which were similar in many ways to Strands. instead of just creating a mystery from scratch each player was given a clue card which had some player generated motif written down on it such as "shady dive bar" and then using those clue cards the players collaboratively constructed the mystery.

however, i like what you're implying, which seems to be a slow reveal of the mystery. if i'm understanding you correctly, the game would almost become trying to figure out what the mystery is rather than trying to solve it? if so, this is a pretty great idea and certainly very Lynch-ian. though i'm not sure of how Threads would function in this sort of game. how do would you think to implement Threads if the players had no knowledge of what it was?

thanks for looking over the document!
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2012, 12:08:45 AM »

Quote
when the other players feel that a protagonist's thread is resolved, that protagonist no longer has cards drawn for his scenes is free to use their scenes to tie off their story or work more directly towards solving the mystery created at the start of the game.
I think I'd probably treat the mystery as merely scaffolding for the building of the games events, rather than actually important in itself. I'd suggest something like if someone ties off their story, you roll with some chance of everyones thread being advanced. When the last persons thread is resolved, the mystery is simultaniously resolved (make up some reason why the thread resolutions of everyone, including the last protagonist, leads to the mystery unraveling).

I mean, the mystery really isn't what were there for, is it? It's just scaffolding, to use in building something and relatively disposable.
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trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2012, 06:55:28 PM »

i ran a brief playtest the other night which ended eventually over player confusion over the "interconnectivity" between characters as well as the purpose of the mystery. one player got very confused over the fact that none of the protagonists really interacted with each other and thought that the mystery felt superficial. me and the other players tried explaining that this is intentional, and i tried liking the form of narrative as being similar to films like Magnolia or Traffic.

the reason i mention this is because, as Callan pointed out and as one of my players put it, the mystery is essentially a red herring. while it's entirely possible for a player to actively pursue the mystery, it's supposed to become more of a background element as the game moves forward.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2012, 09:06:21 PM »

How did the characters develop - or more exactly, did they get up to choices they wouldn't normally make in their lives (I'm not sure how to describe it)

I mean, if you've got that, that's interesting and worth playing for. Them being interconnected is like a bonus, rather than a necessity and I'm sure would come with time, anyway. If you had the sort of character development I described, did that confused player enjoy that part?
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trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2012, 09:59:24 PM »

we didn't get to play further than probably the fourth round of turns, but we did have some interesting development for one of the characters. the problem, the way i see it, is that since there's no true mechanical way to enforce that characters reach flashpoints, it's something that really needs to be pushed by the players, similar to the way the crime caper is to be pushed in Fiasco.

1/4 players moving forward with their character isn't really great odds, but i think that if we'd been able to complete the game we'd have been able to see much more character development. my confused player was kind of thrown into the game without getting a chance to read through my text, so i think the theme of my game may have been lost on him. he didnt take the opportunity to push character development in his scenes or investigate the mystery and, since players establish their own scenes, it's difficult for the narrator to compensate for this.
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trevorhock
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2012, 07:53:43 AM »

i hate to be the guy that bumps his own thread, but i'm moving towards the point where i need to be finished with this game, so i'm looking for any last minute minor suggestions. thanks in advance.
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