Space Madness or Ressurection

Started by anansi, April 08, 2012, 09:10:12 PM

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I have two ideas that are standing out for me so far. Let me show you them.

But first! The Ingredients I got:

UNSUNG and The Rule of Jared -
Disease mechanics -
Otherknight, a game about honor and kings and stuff from Germany kind of -
Big Brother Zombie, a reality show about trust, betrayal, and a Confessional mechanic -

• Coyote
• Doctor
• Lantern
• Mimic

Idea #1: Space Madness

Moon, Solaris, Sunshine, Event Horizon, Alien, 2001 Space Odessy, Sphere, etc...

ingredients to use
Big Brother Zombie Thread (for the confessionals)
Disease Mechanics Thread (for the madness)

reference - designing on top of google + twitter

Basic Idea
Players are on a mission in space to save the human race. The earth's last chance rests on their shoulders. But there was no way to prepare them for what was about to happen. They encounter the UNKNOWN and it breaks them down as they begin to turn against each other and themselves. This game is an exploration of the space madness genre I love, and how to play it in a one shot.

Idea #2: Ressurection

every game i've ever played, greek epic poems, stories of redemption, endings

ingredients to use
Unsung Thread
Otherknight Thread

Basic Idea
This game is the chance for you to play that one character that got away. The one that didn't get the proper ending she deserved because your game just kind of trickled out and ended. Players will pick any of their previous characters from any game and end their story like it should've ended. Create an epilogue to put your character to rest and finally experience some catharsis. I'm not sure how this one would work, or where it would be set, but it sounded fun.

I'm leaning toward the Space Madness one because it deals with a lot of stuff I'm already interested in, although the Resurrection of old characters seemed like it would be an instant like for lots of people and lots of fun. Any thoughts, master chefs?

C. Edwards

If I get a vote its for Space Madness! That theme plus the Mimic ingredient brings Pandorum to mind. Looking forward to what you do with this.


+1 for Space Madness. That sounds really cool.


Sweet. Thanks for the feedback. After sleeping on it, I think I AM going to go with the Space Madness idea. Now... to the writings!

Jonathan Walton

I've been trying to write a space-madness game for years and would love to see yours. On my shelves at home it's like: Sunshine, Supernova, Event Horizon, the Aliens films, etc.


My musings got dark. Here's what I've got in my google doc so far. Not sure if this is the direction I'm heading, but this is the way I'm starting. We'll see what happens!

Questions for you lovely forum readers if you care to feed me feedback:
1. Is it too dark to be fun?
2. What do you think about my "what this game is about" section? Do you think, based on the ideas I'm talking about, I've made the right summaries and picked out the correct key points of the game? (you know how sometimes you think a piece is about something, but it's actually about something completely different that you didn't see? Yea that, want to make sure I'm on point).

The earth is dying. Overpopulation, natural disasters, pollution, wars, disease... one of these have overwhelmed us. Destroyed us to the brink of extinction. Our last hope is The Lantern, a spacecraft on a mission to save us all. This mission is to travel through the black of space and bring back our only salvation. But the dark is far worse than we could ever have imagined, and the things that lie dormant in our minds are easily as dangerous as the things out there trying to kill us all.

What this game is about:
Exploring identity by accepting our weaknesses and finding the courage to become something new.
Making difficult moral decisions under pressure.
Dealing with loss.
Telling a story in the space madness genre.
(I'm not sure this is true, but I'm working off these assumptions to start with)

How it will accomplish this:
Weaknesses will be represented by diseases or mental conditions players have when they start play. Everyone has one. As the game progresses, you can either choose to give into your weakness, thereby strengthening the madness, or make a sacrifice or difficult decision and lessen the madness. Madness will have side effects which are pre-determined on a scale, including seeing ghosts, seeing other characters, seeing horrific things.
Difficult decisions under pressure will be some kind of timing mechanism. Maybe playing in real time, maybe some kind of time economy, or turn economy, a la Burning Empires.
Loss could be dealt with two ways. 1) When you start the game, you have a bunch of things important to your character that you'll have to give up in order to accomplish things 2) something to do with fear and denial, and confronting the truth even when you're being tempted by madness

The subtext:
Space madness is a fictional disorder, a trope used by movies, tv shows, and novels ever since our first paranoia about travel in rocket ships began. Psychologists have analyzed astronauts and found them disappointingly stable, so there is actually no factual basis that there is a disorder with symptoms similar to space madness.

This game, beneath the surface, is about that dichotomy. Our desire to believe that there is awfulness out there, in isolation, in the black, when in fact there is nothing to be afraid of. The truth is there isn't anything out there that will drive us to madness. It's the classic fear of the unknown, eating at us. We can overcome it if we want to, or we can succumb to the stories our culture wants us to believe.
(is there more subtext here? maybe something to do with status quo, or accepting cultural norms for identities? something to do with the stigma attached to madness, or morality?)


Jonathan Walton

Yes, please. That sounds fantastic.


Sorry for a short, incomplete reply:

Quote1. Is it too dark to be fun?

I can read that sentence, but it doesn't make any sense to me.
How can something be too dark to be fun?

: )
sure of ourselves, aren't we?


Quote from: anansi on April 10, 2012, 04:00:01 PM
1. Is it too dark to be fun?

That is dependent on the crowd you are attempting to reach. I mean, Call of Cthulu is too dark for me. Mostly this is because there is no real hope in the game. If I have the chance to achieve my goals, even if it a slim chance, I feel a lot better. however that could be part of the problem...I guess you just need to set the expectations properly for the players.
My blog, my designs, stories, what have you

The Jake, the great and powerless

David Berg

Anansi, is your formulation above meant to imply that madness results from a failure to face facts, make tough decisions, and accept sacrifices?

So many indie RPGs put emphases on "which will you choose, what decision will you make?", whereas I think avoidance is under-addressed.  A game that produces interesting consequences for refusing to make tough decisions is something I'd find interesting.

As per your subtext notes about how a popular trope is secretly bullshit:
I quite like the idea of priming the characters to accept the idea that madness is a huge risk, then handing the players the ability the ability to pretty much avoid madness at will, and seeing how "roleplaying my character" addresses that gap.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


If you need a break from seriousness, there's the Ren & Stimpy episode "Space Madness". It's still on-topic.

This is a rich premise. Any mechanics/implementation thoughts yet?


Sweet. Thanks for the feedback on the darkness of the setting and game and the ideas I've had so far. Encouragement and support are probably the BEST motivators for me. That and questions are great cause they help me work shit out.

On the topic of what David has said:
Quote from: David Berg on April 11, 2012, 10:53:12 AM
Anansi, is your formulation above meant to imply that madness results from a failure to face facts, make tough decisions, and accept sacrifices?

So many indie RPGs put emphases on "which will you choose, what decision will you make?", whereas I think avoidance is under-addressed.  A game that produces interesting consequences for refusing to make tough decisions is something I'd find interesting.

As per your subtext notes about how a popular trope is secretly bullshit:
I quite like the idea of priming the characters to accept the idea that madness is a huge risk, then handing the players the ability the ability to pretty much avoid madness at will, and seeing how "roleplaying my character" addresses that gap.

I think that madness might come from denial. Like... you want to accept the status quo, or what the situation is feeding you, give in to your Weakness. The clever part about the choice that I'd like to present is that there isn't a correct one. Madness is equally as valid a choice as Sanity is (if that's the dichotomy I'm going to work with, although it's forsure treading on Cthulhu ground if I do.) I get what you're saying about "what decision will you make, choose your destiny" being an indie game essential. Maybe the no good choice thing I'm thinking about makes it more interesting, like you're suggesting?

I'm not sure how this dynamic will work with your subtext idea though, because the gap is TOTALLY what I'm aiming for, the Madness/Sanity thing is just a veil or vehicle for that discussion to occur. I think this is something that will come about once I begin needling into to design a bit more. Which leads me to...

Quote from: DevP on April 12, 2012, 03:40:52 AM
This is a rich premise. Any mechanics/implementation thoughts yet?

Gah, no. I've been pondering how to do this. This is my weak point in my attempts at game design so far. I get this really neat idea, set up a really cool conflict, make it pretty accessible and something I would want to play, engage the themes and imagine how play would happen... but then I get trapped in "shit, should I use 2D6 and not even worry about the mechanics, or should I make it this really clever combination of wordplay choices, should there be careers, what would the character sheets look like" and I get totally overwhelmed and hesitate. I realize that the simple solution to this might be the same one that I use in my artwork... make something, anything, and creative magic will start to happen. I feel like maybe it's my newness at trying to make game systems that chokes me up though. I have a BFA in artmaking, with all the history, mistakes, practice, and formal training that goes along with it. I have a hobbyistic obsession with gaming, and none of the support my art knowledge affords me.

Any suggestions on how to get past this roadblock would be super welcome. In the meantime, I'll just keep writing and see what I come up with.


You already know what to do: "make something, anything", and you probably need less game than you think. Just enough that the game can be basically understood by someone who will, in all likelihood, have an understanding of how RPGs tend to work.

And this here: "set up a really cool conflict, make it accessible, engage the themes": that's basically your procedures of play. Definitely don't get stuck on the following: clever wordplay, dice types, math, layout. Pick a mechanic that's plausible and roll along. Most GC drafts - and certainly many great ones - don't come out 100% playable at first, but communicate the idea.

Some people find it useful to focus on a single concrete aspect, describe that, and then extrapolate from there. Either an imagined sequence of a how a scene will go, or the details on a character's sheet, or something like that. As I said before: you have the seeds of a procedure for play.



Here's what I wrote so far. I'm liking where this is going. It's a little different from some of my initial thoughts, but I think something is beginning to take form.

Getting down to the Mechanics

Weakness < ------ > Madness


Madness < ------- > Difficult Decisions


Madness ---- discovering who you really are and what you really care about ---- Weakness

Ok, enough theorizing. Game play.

4 players sit down. The scenario is explained to them, and the burden of the world put upon their shoulders. Next, they create the Setting for their scenario.

What ended the world?
What are you travelling into space to find?
Why is it humanity's last hope?

Once these questions are answered you have the main thrust for your tale. The why's and the where's. Now, it's time to answer the who's. Character creation.

First, players choose a Strength. What is their standout character trait? These must be a personality trait, an adjective that is the definitive way the character behaves. A behavioral definition. Here's a list of examples:

Detail Oriented

Now, take that word to the extreme negative end of the spectrum. Imagine that behavior if it was pushed to its extreme. What would that be? This is your Weakness. Using the examples above:

Honest = Rigid
Detail Oriented = Indecisive
Caregiving = Codependant
Romantic = Obsessive
Creative = Unrealistic
Intelligent = Cold
Patient = Distant
Communicative = Manipulative
Resilient = Unfeeling
Analytical = Narrowminded
Courageous = Risky

This is a bit interpretive. Imagine what you think is the extreme of that behavior. The idea is to have words that represent a Strength and Weakness for your character.

Now your Connection. The world is ending, right? Name someone you've recently lost who was important to you. Someone who has died, and how they died. Some examples of Connections:

Gianna - my sister, she died in a fire along with our entire caravan
Thom - my coworker, committed suicide rather than die in the tsunami
Hamid - my husband, he disappeared one night from our research lab
Carli - my daughter, I told her to run and never look back
William - my grandfather, froze to death last winter
Yifan - my best friend, he died defending us from the invaders
Sharon - my girlfriend, fell as we were climbing across an old bridge

The memory of this person is a traumatic loss your character endured. It's always there, just beneath the surface.

And finally, Who You Wanted to Be
This is the most nebulous of all your character's descriptors. It could be a career goal you wanted to achieve, or a trait you wish you exemplified, or a skill you wanted to master, or a legacy you wanted to leave behind. The most important thing is... you want this more than anything else, and even when it doesn't seem achievable, you're still going to try and get it. The sad part is, you can never be this, because the world is ending. That's beside the point. The point is, you still want to be that, in your heart of hearts. Examples:

The best pilot in the fleet
The most loving husband
The cleverest mathmatician
The most observant psychologist
The boss
The perfect daughter
The most self-less
The most competent
The martyr

A few more things on your character sheet I have yet to detail. Your Madness scope. Your gender. Your physical description. How others see you. Also, some kind of way to tie these things to fun dice roles.

The Dark of Space, or, the GM's role in the game.
How madness is a game of imperfect information (how it accumulates is dependent upon the players, it's recorded on the madness map which is a shared document in the center of the table, a la dread and ganakagok). The sweet spot of helping characters play their character as hard and fast as possible. Setting time limits. Creating the opposition. The madness map as a tool for uping the stakes. Ask lots of questions. Drive the plot forward.