Advrom Preliminary Ideas

October 6, 2007

Emily and I talked about writing freeform games to playtest at the next JiffyCon in November. And then Elizabeth and I talked about collaborating on a game called Adventure Romance (“Advrom” for short), an action game with lots of thrilling fights and stuff, but where the system measured changes in the status of relationships (as in Breaking the Ice) instead of injury and fatigue and special abilities and stuff (which were all just color). So here’s my notes from talking to Elizabeth about this project.

CHARACTER CREATION

I said:

    One thing about these stories, I think, is that the romantic couple (or group of romantic rivals) is established very early on in the story or quickly becoming obvious, even when it isn’t necessarily obvious to the protagonists (I’m thinking, like, The Horse And His Boy). So that needs to be part of character creation, not something established in play.

    I’m kinda on the fence about how many players such a game could be for. I can see it working really well for sexy two-player games, but I can also see the fun of having other players represent antagonists, rivals for affection, comrades, or even other distinct couples. Like, say, in Twelfth Night or As You Like It, everybody ends up paired off at the end, after a bunch of jockeying around.

Then Elizabeth said:

    The first thing that comes to mind– only thing, really– is kind of the “Signature Style” thing from Exalted. The thing which really flavors the dynamic of any adventure romance is the Adjectivey (or Verby) Noun of the protagonists. Roxanne: the guy is the Eloquent Mutant, and the girl is the Independent Scientist. Princess Bride: the guy is the Passionate Adventurer, and the girl is the Faithful Princess. Shaolin Soccer: the guy is the Crazy Rake and the girl is the Quiet Mutant. Maybe we could come up with a list of archetypes, or a system for making archetypes (that sounds more hippie and indie), and the archetypes would heavily color the combat and romance mechanics.

    Due to the transforming power of mush, ZOMGlove could (should?) shift a character’s adjective. Usually something fundamental changes at the climax of the story– the Humble Protector becomes the Rebellious Protector when the object of his affection is forced into an arranged marriage by the Sultan! etc.

So then we came up with some archetypes:

Adjectives
– Arrogant
– Liberated
– Clueless
– Humble
– Bumbling
– Absurd
– Shy
– Passionate
– Fickle
– Spoiled
– Misunderstood
– Rebellious
– Doomed

Nouns
– Prodigy
– Innocent
– Youth
– Messiah
– Rapscallion
– Protector
– Artist
– Mutant
– Magnet
– Sinner
– Mouse
– Superstar
– Zealot

Then I started thinking about defining characters not by their traits (things that they are) but by their behaviors (ways that they do things).

– Stubbornly Avoid Dealing with Your Growing Infatuation
– Assert Control/Affection in a Passive-Aggressive Way
– Be Unthinkably Cruel to the Object of Your Affection
– Make Them Work for It
– Do Little Nice Things to Make Them Notice You
– Make Them Jealous by Courting Their Best Mate
– Get Yourself into Trouble So They Have to Show They Care
– Be Distracted by the Hot-But-Wicked Side Character

MEASURING CHANGES

To start out on this issue, I said:

    I was thinking that there could be a gradual shifting of attraction over time, which the players could totally see coming but the characters themselves might not be totally aware of (like, say, in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Have you played The Mountain Witch or Cold City? They have really interesting Trust mechanics that have the relative amount of trust between characters shift as the story goes on. I was thinking that something in that vein would be cool.

Then, more recently:

    I was also thinking about the different states the relationship can start in. “Unrequited” seems common, but there’s also, like, “Engaged” and “Married” like in Hook and Pirates 2. Sometimes a marriage is in trouble and you go on an adventure to save it. (Elizabeth says: “Hate! Hate is an important one, or at least, vehement dislike with lots of sexual tension.”) Right, it seems like emotions are unrelated to the official status of the relationship. Like, you can hate someone and still be their fiance. But clearly the relationship’s Emotional and Official and Physical status may be important, like “have they kissed yet,” “have they admitted their love,” “has he been slapped.”

And then I brought up the Intimacy Ladder from Bliss Stage, which measures the developments of a relationship by landmarks, in a manner similar to what we’re describing here. We’re still talking about what ladders/scales to have and how exactly to measure relationship developments, but something that mixes Bliss Stage with Breaking the Ice sounds cool.

Lots more still to come later. We haven’t even begun talking about how fights work, really, though it probably has to do with the behaviors that I mentioned above, which are basically Burning Wheel-style “Martial Actions” but based on emotional manipulation. They’re “Love Tactics.”

One Response to “Advrom Preliminary Ideas”

  1. dissolvegirl Says:

    Oh oh oh.

    And don’t forget your important observation regarding frenemies:

    Jonathan: Also, check me on this:
    in Pirates, Jack Sparrow is a villain
    in that his purpose is to antagonize the lovers

    Jonathan: yeah, I was actually thinking that all the other characters, really their sole purpose is to antagonize the lovers
    even if they’re trying to help them.

    me: I like that a lot.
    It does seem that the #1 obstacle to TRUE LOVE is always other people, even when their intentions are good.


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