Saturday, March 23, 2013

Providing a Structure for the Beginning of RPGs

I'm currently building my own fantasy world, named "Kakusaretta Sekai" ("The Hidden World" in Japanese). I've decided which races are going to be in the game, languages, figured out it's basic cosmology, and am still working on mythology. As I was working I realized that I hadn't defined what types of stories I wanted to tell with this world, and what the basic point I wanted anyone to get from playing/reading/interacting with this world. As I sat there, I realized that I hadn't really read anything that dealt with the concept of theme other than "pick one". There certainly wasn't any advice on how to build up a framework that allowed players to make a coherent story. Now, to all the Wheel fans who are going "that's crap! They give you lots of advice!" the answer is no, not really. The Adventure Burner gives you plenty of advice about how to use the system on the player's side, tells the GM to throw the players into harm's way frequently and (sometimes) viciously. And it does offer some structure that you can throw at players (Is it a Journey, a Struggle, or an Intrigue?), but that's about as far as it goes.

So I decided to make my own little structure. I wrote it down, and was going to post it, but I thought I'd contact Andy first and...well... he gave me a better idea. Although it's not as rough as my original idea, it's definitely still in need of polishing.

Step 1: Who's Your Nemesis?

Pick One

Nature: The forces of nature has moved to destroy everything you hold dear. It's the stand in for an impersonal enemy that you can't destroy, so you must learn to endure, to survive til the very end.

Drama: The enemy is of a more mundane nature, but he is personal. Very very personal. You can interact with him, and possibly convince him that he's wrong. Or maybe not. Maybe you have to kill him.

Horror: This is where you fight your demons, your homunculi, the things that are most definitely not human and freak you out because you realize a part of you agrees with them. There is no negotiation with these creatures, because their view point is that you and everyone you hold dear should suffer what fate they have in store for you. Kill it with fire!

Metamorphosis: You are one who is getting in the way, the one who is the threat. Your flaws and failures, regardless of how well-intentioned they are, are a threat, and you come to grips with yourself and change. Even if that means that what you love the most must die as well. It's the hardest of the bunch to pull off, but it's the most satisfying, in my humble opinion.

Step 2: What's Your Method of Overcoming the Nemesis?

Destruction: Something needs to go, it's that simple. You can get help in this endeavor by accruing weapons, damning evidence, or maybe the Ultimate Nullifier.

Conversion: Maybe your enemy doesn't need to be destroyed. Maybe he isn't bad, maybe he could-should- come to your side. Allies would be people who think he can be changed.

Perseverance: Your enemy only has so much ammo to throw. At some point he'll stop, and won't be able to continue. For whatever reason you think that it's better to just ride it out.

Step 3: How Desperate are the Consequences?

This is a sort of a sliding scale of how bad the fallout from your actions are. Obviously at the beginning the consequences are a bit smaller (if I hit someone with a sword they'll probably recover) to severe (oops! there goes their head!). While you obviously should take exceptions if a player murders someone, it's a good general rule.

So if I sat down with my players and told them: "We're going to play a low-fantasy game with a horror-based ultimate bad guy, with the preferred method of of overcoming being perseverance, with world-ending consequences should you fail to outlast the horror". I think that'd be a good starting point for the beginning of the conversation. The players could then make their characters around those "buzzwords" and add their own input with a general concept.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Any feedback? Please don't forget to give kudos to Andy for taking my terribly rough idea and making it... plausible.