Retrospective: Beasts of Eden

July 7, 2008

Here’s an old game I was working on right around the time I discovered the Forge. This particular one was something I was planning on pitching to Skotos for them to use as an online MUSH. I was just pondering it while raking up some brush in the yard, so I delved into my old computer and rescued the notes. Maybe some stuff worth saving here. I can almost envision playing it using the rules from Dogs in the Vineyard, since it focuses on similar themes of community vs. violence.

The Courts of the Animal Kingdom

Land (Tooth & Claw)
Lord: Behemoth
Meeting Grounds: the Den (of Behemoth)

Water (the Deep)
Lord: Leviathan
Meeting Grounds: the Trench (of Leviathan)

Air (Clouds)
Lord: Dragon
Meeting Grounds: the Floating Gardens

Soil (the Cave)
Lord: Wyrm
Meeting Grounds: the Cave (of Wyrm)

Arctic (Ice)
Lord: Wendigo
Meeting Grounds: the Cave (of Wendigo)

Nocturnal (Night)
Lord: The Dark
Meeting Grounds: the Grove

1) Describe your game in broadest terms. What is it about?

“The Beasts of Eden” is the Judeo-Christian creation story done backwards. Forget about Adam and Eve; forget about humans altogether. What was Paradise like for animal-kind? The animals were created by God and placed in the garden long before humanity. What was it like in the earliest days, before humans were made, when all the animals lived in harmony (or not) within the Gates of Eden? How did they learn how to “be animals” without any parents or instructions? Then, when God created Man and declared humanity to be the lords of all Creation, how did the animals feel? What did they do about it? Had God abandoned them? Later, when Man ate from the forbidden tree and was cast out, did some of the animals chose to follow him and leave Eden? Did some stay? What did the animals think of the Serpent’s own involvement in the incident? How was it that all the animals eventually made their own exit from Paradise and went off to “be fruitiful and multiply”? These questions, and many more, are the focus of my story.

2) What makes your story unique and exciting?
Well, this would be the first role-playing setting (at least, as far as I know) to act out a creation myth. Players would be transported to the primordial days of time, just after the creation of the world itself, and be active in the earliest struggles and joys in history. Beyond that, “BoE” will borrow from “Bunnies and Burrows” and “Animal Farm” in allowing players to take on the roles of non-anthropomorphized animals. More than that, the players would be involved in creating a complete and vibrant animal culture, totally separate and distinct from humanity. Additionally, “BoE” will deal with religious and spiritual themes that few games come close to approaching directly, and certainly not from the angle that this story will take. After all, what is the animal conception of God? Not anthropomorphic, certainly.

3) What is the setting or locale for the game? What is the time period?
The Garden of Eden, right after the creation of the world. Play would start with the creation of the animals and go on indefinately, maybe even up to the story of Noah. Eden itself would be a very diverse environment, containing the natural habitat for every animal present. You could imagine it as a completely natural zoo/aquarium/aviary, with no bars and only an outside wall. There would be an extensive series of underground tunnels for subterranean creatures and expanses of sky and sea for those that prefer to fly or swim. Those are, of course, in addition to the normal habitats of forest, rivers, lakes, mountains, arctic areas, plains, and swamps. Exploring all of Eden will be an adventure in and of itself.

4) What type of characters will people play? Why will they interect with each other?
The majority of player characters will be the Beasts of Eden themselves. In taking on these roles, players will not merely be assuming the persona of a rabbit or a whale, but that of Rabbit or Whale, the primarchs of their entire species. Interaction among the animals is going to mostly revolve around solving the various problems that occur in Eden, where a diverse animal population seeks to organize itself, provide food and shelter for all, work together with God and the angels, avoid the tricks of demons, deal with humanity, choose leaders, divide up territory, and so forth. The key means of problem solving, before The Fall, will be discussion and debate. Afterwords, violence and terror will become viable options.

5) How many players can your game support at one time?

Plot & Conflict
6) What is the underlying plot of your game? (basis of motivation and environment)

The underlying plot of the game is based on the tradition accounts in the Book of Genesis and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” God creates the Animals and then Man, whom he places in a superior position (to the disgruntlement of all animal-kind). Man eats from the wrong tree and open’s a figurative Pandora’s Box, releasing violence, evil, and disease into the world (and also allowing demons easy entrance to Eden). Man is cast out from Eden, but animal-kind is left to make its own decisions for the future. Meanwhile, everyone, man and animal alike, suffers for the actions of Man. This is the larger plot of the world and will be walked through very slowly, the greater plot advancing only every month or so of real-time. Events such as the Creation of Man or The Fall will be huge and dramatic occurances, maybe even lasting multiple days of real-time.

7) What is the main conflict of the game (describe nature, sides, why they conflict, what they seek, how end)
The basic conflict is the animals vs. their situation. They were created by God and placed in the Garden with nothing beyond a few basic instructions. Having no ancestors before them, they must learn how to “be animals,” which involves a great many things (getting food, finding shelter, bearing and raising offspring) that modern beasts take for granted. There will definitely be divisions among them as to the “Best Way to Live.” Groupings will likely be based on environment, territory, physical similarities, philosophies, size, power, specific leaders, spiritual beliefs or other things. Some divisions will be already in place when the animals are created (a general structure set forth by God), but others will be up to the players themselves. Conflict will center around the various groups struggling to solve the same problems. An end to conflict could come through mediation, acceptance, messages from God, uniting against common enemies, etc.

8) What obstacles will the players face in the game?
Chiefly, each other. At first, the conflicts will only be social disagreements, but, after The Fall, feuds may turn violent. Other obstacles could include the standard problems of food, shelter, and protection, but also God and the angels (occasionally making questionable pronouncements, such as Man’s superiority to beasts), the occasional demon, weather problems (only if I can figure out a way to program storms and other hazards), diseases, and Man.

Players & NPC’s
9) What kinds of roles and actions will a normal player engage in for a few hours each day?

As animals in the garden most activities would include chatting with each other, searching for food, exploring Eden, bickering over social problems, playing games, searching for elusive and legendary creatures, sending grievances to God or the angels, and dreaming (something I will explain on the web page). Later on, additional tasks would be evading predators, hunting prey, exploring the vast plains outside of Eden, and interacting with angels, demons, and humans.

10) What are the different levels of play that people might engage in at different times?
Social interactions will be initial foundation of the game, but things will grow more and more complex as the things progress. Territorial disputes will likely arise at some point, seeing how that is a key point of animal interaction. Additionally, once some animals choose to become carnivores, predator/prey relationships will be critical (as they are matters of life and death) and very different from normal social relationships. For the herbivores (and that will be all the animals initially) scavenging for food will be a daily activity, vital for survival, like breathing or drinking water. Each of these different levels of game play will have its own sets of rules and understood cultural norms, many of which will be determined by the players themselves.

11) Who are the main NPC’s of the game? (overview, why important, how will they appear)
God will be a disembodied NPC/Admin that can typically be found by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain or simply by praying (sending Him a message instead of contacting Him directly). He will be the overall arbitrator of everything, but will not want to get involved in personal disputes. The angels who deign to come down from Heaven, most notably Raphael, will be involved in personal interactions with the players and will drive some plots, likewise with Satan and the demons. All of these will be played by Admins or StoryTellers/Hosts. The only computer-driven NPC’s will be the so-called “Lords” of the Animal Kingdom (something else I will explain on the web page).

Story Building
12) What portions of the world to you plan to build in order to implement the actual game?

We could begin Beta-testing (or even actually beginning play) with very little of the game built. Part of the idea is that God is in the middle of fine-tuning all of Creation, which would give us an easy IC reason for adding stuff as we go. That being said, just getting a portion of the garden in basic working order, along with the mountain of God, would be enough to begin having players in it. The rest of Eden could be could be built later on. Still, I would prefer to have most of the habitats finished before Beta-testing started, to allow for a more diverse body of creatures (birds, fish, etc.). Areas outside of Eden wouldn’t be needed until after the Fall, when the animals are able to leave the garden (an event that could be delayed until the outlying areas were built).

13) What quests, puzzles or plots do you plan to introduce to the game?
The overall story structure (the creation, man, the fall, exit from Eden, etc.) provides a great deal of plots just by itself (something that I will elaborate on; see the web page). Additionally, there will be a whole bunch of little minor plots for the characters to be involved in, little things that probably won’t have a direct impact on the overall story. These will include the tricks and pranks of Raven and Coyote, interactions with angels and demons, theological questions and disputes, quests for elusive creatures like Dragon and Unicorn, visions and prophecies received through the Dreaming, various games and competitions among the animals, natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, or blizzards that might temporarily (or permanently) change the landscape of Eden, and a whole host of other things, including player-designed plots, which I hope to be able to support on a wider range than is available in Marrach.

Staffing for the Game
14) How will you staff the game? Will you and/or your friends support the game?

“BoE” will be staffed by myself and some volunteers, i.e. friends from Marrach and other places with a working knowledge of Skotos games. I will probably end up asking the regular players of “BoE” to volunteer for the roles of angels, demons, and tricksters like Raven, Coyote, Monkey, and Serpent.

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