Gossip Girl: The Unauthorised RPG

Started by Thomas Lawrence, February 11, 2012, 12:27:09 AM

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Thomas Lawrence

Call it GG-RPG.

Here's the text thus far as a Google Doc.

If you've never seen the show or read the books, Gossip Girl is a teen drama on the CW which is set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. The characters are, near-universally wealthy, bored, under-supervised teenagers, and their dramtic entanglements are wha the show is all about.

The unique selling point of the show is a sort of web 2.0 angle - the character's movements are all tracked (in the show) on a site called Gossip Girl, which uses anonymous tips sent in by other teenagers, usually via mobile phone. Every character on the show is aware of and read Gossip Girl, and as such the characters exist in a kind of self-inflicted psuedo-Orwellian panopticon where nothing can stay secret for long and everyone gets to know everything more or less as soon as it happens.

The show is fascinating and I can actually recommend it wholeheartedly (or at least the first two seasons) if teen drama is at all your thing.

This RPG aims to simply capture everything that's great about the show in a relatively stripped down way.

I just wrote this today in one inspired six-hour rush and haven't playtested it even slightly. I'm not aiming this to ever be for paid-for publication (I'd need a licence first, although I guess filing off the setting's serial numbers would be easy enough) It's obviously rough, unpolished and needs more thought into layout and organisation of the material, and quite probably a good deal more stuff on how to frame scenes. But nevertheless there are a few areas I am looking for specific feedback on:

  • Keeping in mind the genre of the show, can you think of more appropriate motivations to add to the list?
  • Keeping in mind the genre of the show and the incentives I'm looking to provide, what extra "if" statements might be well added to the resolution checklist?
  • How does the resolution system look in general? Does it make sense? Does it seem like it would work to you?

Feedback on the overall tone and the writing would also be welcome. Am I too cynical about the show and its characters? It is written from a place of being a fan of the show, although not uncritically so. If you've never seen the show, do I give you a good idea of what kind of characters you're expected to create? What other advice would help? If you have seen the show, are there elements you love about it that I haven't seemed to capture, or that need more focus, or would benefit from advice directed toward them?

Thank you all for your time.


This is hilariously awesome!

And I hate that show ("Gossip Girl") so I don't think you're being too cynical. Playing this would be fun, however.

I wonder too about an expansion that would allow one to play "Revenge"...


This seems a good template, but to my eyes it needs more moving parts:

For example, the stuff about secrets, you said the more you hide it, the more likely it is to come out, perhaps you should have some mechanism that distinguishes between normal life and dramatic moments? How do other players events push on secrets and make them closer to being revealed? Perhaps you should increase the importance of a secret every time someone hides it, or when people tag it in conversations by having someone mention something related to it without realising it (and then the character squirms while putting a brave face on it etc). Then at the end of each session you could roll a dice against the value of the secret, and if it comes up, then you retcon in the reasons that someone found out?

The first impressions thing feels like it should have more oomph too, in that players might not be interested in describing what their characters are wearing or certain other things, so you probably need to beef that part up, working out what matters about those different things, and probably offering the scope to randomise them or something.

The systems for secrets and first impressions should probably play into gossip too, but this could also work to fill in gaps in the story where nothing is really happening, suggesting relationships between people or nefarious deeds, and you'd probably need to look at how characters react to this gossip. Do people try to proove it wrong by doing public things? Angst about it with other characters?

Oh yeah angst, a good angst system could be a goldmine, with different levels of angst and various platitudes set against it, preferably contradictory, or perhaps you could use this to set episode themes? Where everyone's platitudes follow the same (randomly determined) theme, and the challenge is to get the conversation to that result?

Love the conflict resolution, but I think you should take out the "concealing a secret" negative, as you don't want scenes of characters concealing secrets to get edited out. "The richest character wins ties" is hilarious.

You'd have to be very careful balancing "who will win" and "what should happen" in these situations, as there are events you want to encourage that will disadvantage certain characters, and those mixed outcomes are exactly what you want to encourage. As a quick fix, wherever a character would have a negative point on them thanks to another characters action, give the point to the acting character instead. Also give them a point if their action would pressure another character to reveal their secret.

I'd also change the assistance rules, so that people get bonuses if they let other characters down to further their own interests, and add double bonuses to the other person and themselves if betraying someone.

I'd love to see the notional angst system record these various betrayals as well as the stuff from end of session reveals or gossip, perhaps a list of things people can use against them in conflicts for bonuses, or maybe just acting as a reminder to players, that is ditched by angst scenes.

More generally, I think everytime you start handwaving and going "you know, that type of stuff" you would need to fill it in with systems or lists, probably by using a notepad and a DVD boxed set or two, perferably describing not the events themselves, but what they mean to the characters like:
"some ceremonial thing where everyone must be on best behaviour",
"peer character x's big event",
"something that is about peer character y but they don't want to go"
"time when everyone's trying to relax and a big reveal would sour the mood" etc
and then mix and match vague details on top of that to colour the preperation scenes.

The same probably goes for examples of what people can excel at.

There are probably some issues about numbers of characters vs players also, as you'll probably want more characters? Maybe you could have a stable of useless adult characters for use in big events and angst, with players swapping in to play them where appropriate? It still feels like you'd sometimes want about 2 young characters per person, assuming a group of 4-ish players, to have the appropriate level of social complexity, which might suggest passing characters back and forth every now and again. Not sure about that though.