I was thinking this morning that this kind of setting presentation provides a great opportunity to teach real history. We can have the Red Army conscripts join the Jiangxi Soviet under Mao and resist the military campaigns against them organized by Chiang Kaishek and the National Revolutionary Army. And basically run through the years immediately preceding the Long March, the Japanese invasion, and the Second United Front. That’s pretty cool. Players could walk away with what amounts to a Wikipedia understanding of the First Chinese Civil War.
Archive for December, 2006
me: yo, can i dork out some ideas at you?
Shreyas: yeah sure
me: so I’m thinking about bailing on Gridiron Gods for now and writing the Chinese Civil War game for the setting contest
Shreyas: uh huh
me: because it’ll be short and sweet and it’ll continue the chain of Short Games About China that I’ve done for contests. because, like Heavenly Kingdoms, 5K, and Waiting/Tea it has pregenerated chars, strongly constrained input methods, pre-established situation, plays in 2 hours, and is basically an effort to build a vocabulary for casual roleplaying games
Shreyas: i like short games about china, in general
me: okay, so here’s the premise. i think the game’s called “Red Star, White Sun” and the plot goes like this: there are four people from the same village, two men and two women. they have preestablished relationships
me: maybe they’re married or siblings or lovers or relatives of some kind. and the Nationalists come through and draft the two men to fight on their side. and then, months later, the Communists roll through and draft the women into their Female Soldiers Detachment. and, eventually, both sides learn of this and are sorta trying to rescue each other, despite being on opposite sides. and the game ends with some sort of dramatic showdown where several of the characters probably die in trainwreck heartbreak fashion. and the ending moment is the announcement of the Second United Front, which means the Nationalists and Communists are going to work together to fight the Japanese
Shreyas: cool, i like it.
me: so it kinda renders any violence that preempts that sorta ironic and meaningless. so let me tell you how this is gonna work, because that’s the cool part
me: so imagine a bizarre cross between Exalted charm trees and Waiting/Tea’s action trees and the somewhat tree-like loresheets from WotG. each player has a list of what are basically scene concepts. and these concepts are arranged in trees. and the trees interconnect with each other and are conditional with related scenes and the like. but there are clearly branches of the trees that share similar themes or plot certain paths. like, maybe there’s a branch where one of the women is pregnant and there’s all sorts of complications related to that. or maybe one character becomes a spy for the opposite side or the Japanese and that leads to all sorts of things
Shreyas: mhm, so it’s got all these alternative paths plotted out
me: but then what if she’s a PREGNANT SPY! then there are all sorts of possibilities in the middle that interconnect them
Shreyas: with complications and so on
me: right, but you don’t have to head down any particular path. you can sort of work partway down one branch and fork off to the side. or you could do a little bit of several branches
me: so there are a limited number of options, but near infinite combinations, especially when you’re playing with all four characters. and so the scenes are sorta like Keys. you do one and that opens up future possibilities. but it also puts limitations on things or maybe gives you abilities or takes abilities away. so there could be like a Sniper branch that you progress down to increase your skills as a sniper. but it requires bad things to happen along the way. or just things that are not necessarily good. they’re sorta like fixed keychains in that way.
Shreyas: that sounds pretty fun
me: but they form a web that you can travel as you please. yeah, and it sounds really close to the way we might want to present 4N. or at least one possibility. a web of predetermined choices. or at least steal the structure but allow more madlib stuff where the players can have creative input. “Write down your greatest desire here.” and then, several scenes later… “To advance to this stage, sacrifice your greatest desire.”
Shreyas: oh yes, variables. i love variables
me: anyway, that’s the plan. and the hardest part sounds like actually writing the web
me: i guess I should just start with something simple and complicate it.
Shreyas: yeah, if you design it so it’s modular
me: like how they write Choose Your Own Adventure books or Lone Wolf
Shreyas: then you can just attach new bits to it as they come to you
me: which is something else this is very reminiscent of. so here’s my next problem. what system do I use for this? 🙂
Proving my ability to simultaneously work on N+1 design ideas…
I had a subway revelation about Vesperteen, based on the chakra progression in the Avatar season finale (which I suspect was directly inspired by similar things in Alan Moore’s Promethea, which in turn draws on Kabbalah and Western mystic/occult traditions).
Instead of having the Squick Chart, which defines the “Lines and Veils” (WARNING: Ron Language) of the campaign before play begins (which is weird, since players are gonna becoming more comfortable exploring squicky things with each other as play goes on) and which also sets limits negatively (“I don’t want to deal with squicky subject X”)…
Each play group creates a (for lack of a better term) Path To Power for each of the seven deadly sins. The path is composed of a series of mystical chakras that have to be opened by performing sinful acts in order to move up the rankings in the mystical-social order of teenagers. Not all the steps along the path are determined before play begins, just the ones that get the characters up to their starting sin levels (determined during the initial Truth or Dare game) and maybe a few future chakras to give them sins to wrestle with and explore (“Will you betray your best friend for more power and status?”). The higher level chakras require monstrous acts that risk destroying a person’s life and sending them to join the true monsters of society.
So yeah, Vesperteen is turning out to be a bizarre Sorcerer/Roach/Little Fears crossbreed, but that’s pretty hot.
I was thinking recently about a “3-hand” breakdown, but one in which you’d only end up rolling two of your 3 dice pools.
So you’d have Line, Run, and Pass across the bottom of each team’s sheet. And players would divide all the dice on their team (either their Offensive or Defensive positions) into those three categories. And both players could watch each other and adjust, just like atheletes adjusting on the line before the ball is snapped.
Then, once those dice were placed, both players would reveal which play they’d called (by flipping over a card?). These would work sorta like weapons, adding dice to particular pools or moving existing dice around. So like, a passing play would add dice to Pass or some Play Action might take dice from Pass and put them in Run.
Then you roll for the Line. I’m not exactly sure what this does yet. Maybe it prevents your players from taking a pounding. Maybe it sets the limits on potential yardage that can be gained in this play. Maybe a really bad roll gets you sacked (if you’re the Offense) or adds additional yardage to your opponent’s gains (if you’re the Defense).
Finally, the player on Offense chooses whether to Pass or Run and rolls those dice vs. the Pass or Run of the opposing player. Usually, the play you choose predetermines whether you’re going to roll Pass or Run, but you can probably spend some resource points to go against that, assuming that the dice are stacked against you. Or try to call a penalty against the other team.
Before you roll any of your pools (Line or Pass/Run), you can choose to narrate in one of your Unquantifiable traits and add that die to your pool. If you lose the roll, however, that trait is impaired.
I think you should be able to learn or invent new plays as your team grows in experience and skill. Perhaps the game only comes with a dozen or so basic plays and, after that, teams have to invent their own, according to established guidelines. So if you want to mimick real plays and write rules for a Double Reverse, that’s cool. But if you want to write Glorious Prismatic Spectral Pass Deflection, that’s cool too.
So Jruu pointed me at Strat-O-Matic sports sim games, which are basically wargames for sports junkies. Really, really interesting. The one that’s closest to Gridiron Gods is their college football game, which is still a bit too complex and non-narrative for what I’m trying to do.