Search for Haven

Started by android_iv, September 12, 2010, 09:50:51 PM

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Hi. I'm new to the forge. Failed to deliver in a "dogma contest" earlier this summer (at a Swedish rpg forum), hoping to reclaim my honour with this competition.
I'll start off with what I've got so far. It's small pieces, barely strung together. I'll hopefully write some sort of a coherent "introduction" or "initial design thoughts" tomorrow morning to better communicate my ideas. For now, you'll have to do with fragments. Interpret in any way you can, find inspiration in what you may, question/criticise what you want. Please do!

Search for Haven.

This is Oasis. The only city in this scorching desert. The only city you've seen, the only city you've ever heard. The only city.

Every human carries the divine spark. If you don't, you're nothing but a skin. A filthy, amoral, godless skin.
Welcome 'Skin', filthy figure of a human. Less than human, less than cattle. Less worth than the bullet it takes to kill you.
Living on the Edge, between city and desert, your kin is in constant danger.
The City, human city-dwellers, harass and hunt you. Traffic you, sell you, slave you. The Desert scorch you, bury your crops in sand, kill your herds, vaporise your water. The Skins turn on each other in desperation. Fight other tribes, fight within the tribe, fight within you.

Create the world, find your place in it.
Create characters. You're all members of the same family.
Create the rest of your family, 5-10 members per PC. Mind map > relations.
Create the tribe, 5-10 families.
Imagine your first Haven.
Create your keepsakes. 5 each.
Create your tribe supply. 10 pieces.

Start of session.
GM rolls a City Dice, a Desert Dice and a Skin Dice. The number shown is the value of your people that will be claimed by the oppressive City-dwellers, the unrelenting Desert climate and by your own (or other) Skin tribe(s). Yes life is harsh, suck it up.
As a group, decide who will face the consequences of the savage surroundings. Which of your characters' relations will die (and how), unless you find a way to deal with it? Or will you seek for a new haven?

Play out family scenes.
GM (and player) ask questions > play out scene > develop family relations > gain family point.

Strengthen your positions? Survive!
Use skills, keepsakes, family points and tribe supply to fight for the survival of your closest kins. Who can you save and how?
Scene framing! Jump to the conflict / the most interesting parts! Speed!

Trade family for stuff.
Spend family points to let them teach you skills, give you new keepsakes or contribute to the tribe supply.

Mourn the dead.
Your sister has died. Hold a funeral service, mourn; tell the story of her life and death. Get closure and move on.

Each new session the City-, Desert- and Skin Dice increase by one. Add the numbers of the dices, decide the casualties. How many sessions will you endure before a new haven is a must?

Flight to a new haven.
You escape the casualties shown by the City-, Desert- and Skin-dices. Next session, all dices are reset to one. But soon enough you'll be searching for a new haven, again... and again.
The search for a new haven is perilous. What keepsakes and tribe supply will you loose and why? How will the though road strain your family?

Yeah, thats for now. Time to sleep.
Oh, game mechanics you say? Well, don't really know. Something simple and fast. Roll a die > add bonuses from skills/keepsakes/family/tribe supply > get more than the opposition > narrate.
Since this is already turning out to be a somewhat dark and sad game, I think I want to add a way to loose what you use to boost your rolls. "You need to use it to save your family, but by doing so you risk loosing it". No easy choices. Rock on!

// android IV

Jonathan Walton

I like the family-based development system.  It feels a bit like the classic Oregon Trail video game that a lot of folks grew up playing here in the States, where you play the patriarch of a pioneer family trying to cross the American West. But your game sounds much more settled, in an actual city, though still very dangerous.  Very cool.


Thoughts and basic ideas for the game.

Focus on essential conflicts, life and death conflicts. Fighting, harvesting, bartering; it's all the same. The outcome will be the difference between life and death.
Focus on family relations. Flesh out your own character and family relations in game. Initially they'll be just "names", through play you will decide and narrate their bakground, feelings, thoughts about life and relations to other characters.
Driven mostly through angst. The aim of the game is not to become omni-potent, to score wirth some chick or to build an empire. It's t survive. To make your family survive.
And I want the game to be full of difficult questions. Six persons / family members might die; is it better to evacuate to a new haven, even though we have no idea what might happen along the road? In what order will we try to save them? Maybe we won't be able to save them all..

So the game is somewhat depressing. You'll be playing people of a tribe despised by all society. Compared to the hindi society, you'd be lower than the cast less. Not allowed to live in the city, not allowed to have names. It's not a crime to kill one of you, and if you fight back you can be sure to get punished.

So what we'll be driving the play and the characters is not their own survival, but rather the survival of your family and relations.
Each session, a number of them will die, unless you're able to fight it.

For example, in the begining of the session it is established that three family NPCs will die from famine, someone has stolen your cattle. How will the characters see to that this doesn't happen. Find the cattle? Steal new? Grow more crops to make sure you get the food you need? Each way is just as good as the other, but they all focus on some sort of conflict.

You win the conflict > they survive. You loose > they die. Simple and harsh.
In order to make you prevail you need to use skills (skilled hunter, never gives up, long and strong arms...), keepsakes (a rusty gun and a couple of bullet, my totemic luck charm, fine quality silk clothing), tribe supply (herd of goats, supply of decent timber, stitched tents).
All of theese skills/items are powered through Family Points. Family points are collected by playing out family scenes, developing your own character, family NPCs and their relationships.

Example. Player A decides to play out a family scene with her youngest daughter, Sparrow.
Player A: describes her roughly, apperance and what her task is in the tribe.
GM (and not directly involved players): Make a statement and ask why/how, "why is she slightly afraid of you?", "You haven't seen her in a long time, why is that?"
Player A: Answer the question
(GM/Players: ask more questions if necessary "how does this make you feel?")
What will you do about it? Or how do you interact with your daughter? Roleplay the scene.
No conlict needs to arise or be solved. When you feel the scenes is done, when you feel you know more about the characters, all involved PCs get a family point.

This is also a way to get the game more dramatic and emotional. You just developed and interacted with a family member who might very well die from famine. The stakes of the near future conflict just grew higher.

The Journey. Staying in one place is dangerous. The sandy soil becomes even less fertile, the water reservoirs smaller, neighbour humans and skins become more voilent. But the search for a new haven is a perilous search. The hard road and uncertain search increase the tensions in the tribe and the family. Keepsakes and tribe supply might get lost or damaged.
I want his choice to be hard. Like taking a gamble and something that should just be done every session. Only when the death toll has risen to high. When it's just too hard to survive in the same spot.

So, any thoughts on this? It might really be a little to dark... But I like dark and melancholic.
Not sure how to make the option to journey for a new haven a slightly risky gamble.
And I'm not really sure how to create the conflict mechanics.
An maybe I need to put some more light in there. So it doesn't always feel like an impossible race. I mean, new NPCs should join the tribe, be born, find their way back after being lost for years..


Quote from: Jonathan Walton on September 13, 2010, 01:11:10 AM
I like the family-based development system.  It feels a bit like the classic Oregon Trail video game that a lot of folks grew up playing here in the States, where you play the patriarch of a pioneer family trying to cross the American West. But your game sounds much more settled, in an actual city, though still very dangerous.  Very cool.
Never played it myself, I had to check it out on youtube. My game design is not really the same thing... Not really.. not at all as a matter of fact.
The Family-development is somethign I kind of thought of for a game idea I had earlier (which never mounted to anything at all) and some sort of Apocalypse World ask-question-mechanics (I think, I've never played it, just read actual plays about it).
Thanks for the reference anyway, we'll see in what way I'll be able to use the Oregon Trail.