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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: JohnG on August 25, 2005, 11:46:55 PM



Title: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 25, 2005, 11:46:55 PM
Ok I'm in the earliest stages of work with this game which is the latest incarnation of a game I've been working on for the better part of two years.  I thought I'd bounce ideas off of people now so I can have a bit more than my own opinion of what I've got.  So here we go.

Game Name: Ember
The world was a paradise that has suddenly become a shadow of its former self, much like a fire that has been unexpectedly extinguished, but a small spark of hope does remain.


Genres:
Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
Nearly all of the gods have died except for those who have become twisted and evil.  Kingdoms are in ruins and warlords wage constant battles for land and resources.  Once lush lands have become nothing more than fields of ash, and the mortal races have been forced into a nomadic lifestyle simply because it's too dangerous to stay in one place for long.

Wild Magic
Unlike high magic and low magic settings that I've run into so often, the world of Ember's magic is a potent and untamed force.  When the gods died, there was no longer anyone with the power to regulate the flows of magic in the world.  This has allowed the powers of magic to run rampant throughout the world, created strange creatures and wildly altering the landscape.
 
Magic tends to gather at places of turmoil, chaos, and upheaval.  For example, some of the largest battles of the warlords have attracted so much magic that they've created great magical storms that ravage the area.  These events also produce the most magical items, in fact very few magical items have actually been crafted by magic users.  Most magic items were carried by someone present at the site of a great catastrophe.

Very few people actually dare to use magic, but those who do can gain great power.  The only problem is that the study of magic is so new, and its ebs and flows so unpredictable, that many would be wizards end their careers with a loud explosion and a closed casket funeral.  Those who are born with a natural ability to manipulate magic, often either find themselves hunted down by those who want to use their power or study it.


Races: I have concepts but no names, so don't mind the question marks for names.

Humans: Of course.  The humans of Ember were created by the gods for two specific purposes.  To protect the temples and cities of the gods, and to keep the peace amongst the other mortal races.  This means that the humans excel at one of two things, combat or diplomacy.  They had no lands of their own, and eventually took on the job of transporting news and stories with them.  Humans can still follow any path that they want, but unlike other games they do have specialties. 

?????: A race of scholars and teachers, they were created by the gods to be the religious and secular teachers of the other races.  Before the death of the good gods, their universities were found in every city, and they were the caretakers of the temples of the gods. 

?????: A race of craftsmen and merchants, they were created by the gods to build many different things.  They taught the other races their crafts and trades, and ended up creating currency and the concept of trading goods and services for money.  They were still among the finest craftsmen in the world, but they soon found themselves more interested in commerce than construction.

?????: A race of hunters, created by the gods to protect the woodlands and teach the other races how to hunt and gather for what they needed.  With the destruction being wrought upon the world, they find themselves with very little nature left to protect, but many many enemies to unleash their vengeance on.

The Sacred: A new self-named race, born to human mothers but not entirely human.  They all seem to have been born with great knowledge and wisdom that they try tirelessly to spread to the other races.  Some think that they're a trick of the corrupted gods, others think they're crazed results of the wild magics and ruined world, and a few think that they might truly be the prophets that they seem to be.


Conflict:
The world has become a wild and unpredictable place, and the only people with enough power to bring any order to the chaos are either evil gods, or power hungry warlords.  Everyone else has been forced into a nomadic or incredibly harsh life, where they either stay on the move to avoid the evil gods, or they live in the worst of conditions so the warlords won't want to take their land.

Characters are often simply people trying to survive in an incredibly harsh and hostile world.  There is also the possibility of players trying to rise up and strike back against the evil gods or the warlords.  Some warlords are better than others and players might find work in their armies, trying to build a new kingdom.  Perhaps they're sick of seeing their people stolen away by the worshippers of evil gods to be sacrificed and they've struck out to put an end to it?

There are also a few remaining cities and forests in existence, perhaps the characters live there and they've dedicated their lives to protecting their homes.  This can involve anything from slaying a monster who's taken up residence in the woords, or even outwitting a slimy politician that they find out is a cultist of a corrupt god.


Lands:
For the most part the world is an untamed, savage, and devastated wasteland.  Very few woods remain in existence, so lumber is incredibly valuable, the idea of burning it would mortify most.

The lands are split up amongst warlords, and the territories of the evil gods.  These borders change on an almost daily basis, and no one bothers to keep track of them anymore.  Those lands that are unclaimed are the homes of most of the members of the mortal races who have no real direction except survival now that their gods are dead.

A few civilized areas do exist, as do a few unharmed forests.  These areas are fiercely guarded by the races occupying them, and visitors are only allowed to remain there for a brief time.  Outsiders are almost never allowed to join these communities without first proving themselves to the residents.

Why did the gods die?:
Characters in the game will have no idea why the gods died.  In fact the main reason why the world is in chaos is because the death of the gods seemed to happen overnight.  For the sake of this big cluster o' info however I'll give an explanation.

When the gods created the mortal races, they were forced to give up some of their own essence to create their creations souls.  This meant that they were spiritually connected to their gods, but it meant that the gods had to give up a bit of their divinity.  As more and more mortals were born, more and more of the gods' essence was drained away.  When mortals died, their souls lingered on as spirits instead of rejoining the essence of their god. 

The gods' power was not infinite, and they began to waste away.  Some sat back quietly and let it happen, while others did the only thing they could to maintain their power, they demanded that their servants sacrifice their fellow mortals in dark rituals so that the sould would not linger and would instead be consumed by their god.

This is why only the corrupt gods remain, and the good gods have seemingly disappeared.


What happened to the remaining power of the good gods?:
Once again, players will know nothing about this stuff, but I'll put it in here for the sake of getting input.  What remains of the power of the gods has fallen to the earth as shards of divine essence.  Those who know of their existence seek them out because they are rumored to grant great powers, including the ability to elevate a mortal to godhood.  Some of this essence occupied unborn children, and created the sacred.  They have such great knowledge and wisdom, because they inherited it directly from dying gods.


Without the gods to supply essence, where do new souls come from?:
New souls come from the fallen shards of divine essence scattered across the world.  While the gods were unable to maintain their own existence due to the incredible amount of power required, there is still more than enough essence in existence to create millions upon millions of souls.  Whenever the spirits of the dead decide to, they can become the soul of a new child and be reincarnated.  Luckily, the souls of the followers of evil gods are devoured by their own deity and are not around to reincarnate themselves.


So with all that spouted, probably more than I actually needed to, here's my questions.

What do you think of the setting so far?

What could do with changing?

What aspects do you like the most?

Are there enough/too many races?

Is the world unique enough to catch your interest?  (I know there's nothing new under the sun, but I'm hoping it's at least not overdone.)

And any other comments you'd like to give would be greatly appreciated!

Be gentle, this isn't even a rough draft yet haha!

Thanks!


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 26, 2005, 03:23:26 AM
Heya,

Welcome to the Forge!  It's great to have you here.  So far, it looks like you've put a fair amount of thought into your game.  You definately have a base to work from.  I'm going to ask you three questions.  I think you may have answered some of them, but I want to ask again just to be sure.  Try to give me just one or two sentences for each answer, then elaborate further down in your post :)

1. What is your game about?

2. What do the characters do?

3. What do the players do?

Those three questions go to the heart of the game.  They will tell me a great deal about your system, your goals, and your desires for your game.  The first question is really "why should someone play your game vs. the thousands of others out there?"  The second question is really, "all characters in all games roam about and have adventures; what makes what the characters in your game do that is special or unique?"  The last question is about how the players interact with the characters, GM, and each other.  It covers things like naration rights, teamwork, exploration of premise and so on. 

I think that'll get us started.  Again, welcome to the Forge :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Rorimack on August 26, 2005, 03:31:56 AM
Just a sidenote: "ember" means "human" in Hungarian.

Maybe you could use this also. ("To be human and remain human even when your gods have abadonned you" )


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Graham W on August 26, 2005, 04:26:03 AM
What do you think of the setting so far?

I think it's lovely. It's a setting I'd want to play in.

What could do with changing?

I'm a little concerned about the fact that the characters don't know how the gods died, but you've given an explanation. It reminds me of the White Wolf vampire games: where the characters don't know the history of vampirism, but all the players know, because they've read the rulebook. It takes the mystery away.

Personally, I'd prefer to just say that the gods have disappeared and nobody knows why.

What aspects do you like the most?

I like the idea of magic being an uncontrollable, dangerous force that people fear. I'm interested to know how you're going to handle that mechanically.

I like the bit about the gods disappearing. A bit of blasphemy's always fun in a game.

Are there enough/too many races?

That doesn't really bother me one way or the other. (Except that I don't find "Humans" very interesting. I'd prefer to make players choose between the other races. But maybe that's just me.

Is the world unique enough to catch your interest?  (I know there's nothing new under the sun, but I'm hoping it's at least not overdone.)

For me, yes: it's not overdone and it's an intriguing setting.

Graham


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 26, 2005, 10:41:35 AM
thanks for the feedback, I've been beating my head forever over this setting and I've finally got it to a place where I want to work on it steadily.  Now onto answering some questions!

1. What is your game about?

2. What do the characters do?

3. What do the players do?

Those three questions go to the heart of the game. They will tell me a great deal about your system, your goals, and your desires for your game. The first question is really "why should someone play your game vs. the thousands of others out there?" The second question is really, "all characters in all games roam about and have adventures; what makes what the characters in your game do that is special or unique?" The last question is about how the players interact with the characters, GM, and each other. It covers things like naration rights, teamwork, exploration of premise and so on.

To answer number 1: the game is about the struggle to survive a harsh world as well as the internal struggle to remain good when everyone around you is becoming twisted and corrupt.  It's also a game of exploration, with vast areas of land uncharted and left to the GM's imagination.

Number 2: The characters have the struggle of simple survival to begin with, and after that they have a large amount of personal conflict over whether it's worth being virtuous and noble.  They can also adventure to find artifacts and relics, ruins with ancient knowledge, and other items that might give them a small chance at reclaiming their world piece by piece.  It also has the possibility of being a very mercenary game, where they adventure simply for the sake of survival.

Number 3:  The players take on the persona of their characters and interact with each other in the game world as it is described by the GM.  Much like the set-up for Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs, except players have a much greater chance to affect the world than they usually would.

The game is to be approached with a very frontier attitude, with the characters braving the untamed wilderness in the hopes of bringing back something to make their lives better.  OR maybe they're sick of travelling in nomad caravans and they want some excitement.

The world is a blank slate for the most part, and even the established borders of warlords tend to change constantly.  This has given players a near blank slate of the world so their characters can build something lasting.  Instead of opening a tavern in a town, why not gather others and make your own town?  I've always been frustrated with games where there's no opportunity to impact the world around me other than to kill the 300th lich who wants to do whatever.  Hording gold and gathering up +12 vorpal swords of everyone slaying is never as cool as the idea of being lord of such and such castle in my opinion.  Of course there's also the possibility of dungeon crawling and chasing down the 300th lich if that's what floats your boat.


Just a sidenote: "ember" means "human" in Hungarian.

Maybe you could use this also. ("To be human and remain human even when your gods have abadonned you" )

That is VERY cool, I will definitely use that.


What do you think of the setting so far?

I think it's lovely. It's a setting I'd want to play in.

What could do with changing?

I'm a little concerned about the fact that the characters don't know how the gods died, but you've given an explanation. It reminds me of the White Wolf vampire games: where the characters don't know the history of vampirism, but all the players know, because they've read the rulebook. It takes the mystery away.

Personally, I'd prefer to just say that the gods have disappeared and nobody knows why.

What aspects do you like the most?

I like the idea of magic being an uncontrollable, dangerous force that people fear. I'm interested to know how you're going to handle that mechanically.

I like the bit about the gods disappearing. A bit of blasphemy's always fun in a game.

Are there enough/too many races?

That doesn't really bother me one way or the other. (Except that I don't find "Humans" very interesting. I'd prefer to make players choose between the other races. But maybe that's just me.

Is the world unique enough to catch your interest? (I know there's nothing new under the sun, but I'm hoping it's at least not overdone.)

For me, yes: it's not overdone and it's an intriguing setting.

Graham

As far as the disappearance of the gods, I've only included it here so people could have a more complete idea of the world and give me more informed opinions.  The truth of the gods' disappearance will be entirely unknown to 99% of Ember's populace, and will not even be included in the main book of the game.  In fact I'll probably only include it in the "GM Guide" whenever I make one.

Onto the humans.  I do actually like your idea about limiting the races to only the non-human ones.  However, it might be a bit of a turn-off for newer roleplayers who don't like to venture too far out of their comfort zones.  I will be encouraging the use of non-human races though since very few members of any race have the drive or even the health to be adventurers.  This is part of the reason why I haven't made humans the 'jack-of-all-trades' race that they usually are.

Thanks for the help folks, keep it coming. ^^
John


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: greyorm on August 26, 2005, 11:57:28 AM
Query: Have you read Fantasy Heartbreakers (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/9/) and More Fantasy Heartbreakers (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/10/) by Ron Edwards?


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 26, 2005, 12:12:08 PM
I've read through them a couple times and I have been using the information in them as a basis to work with when self-criticising.  Which is one reason why I'd especially like to get opinions from people that'll help me make a game where the emphasis is more on the roleplay and less on the advancement of super uber orc barbarian.  For one thing I've kept a very level playing field between the races, and no race has any bonuses or penalties to attributes.  I'm also trying to avoid the concept of classes.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 26, 2005, 02:54:08 PM
A few more things I thought might be worthy of mention that I didn't put into the original posting. 

Without gods, is there Divine magic?:
Yes and no.  Corrupt gods can grant power to their followers, giving them access to divine magic.  Everyone else can only use divine magic by having a connection to the spirits and enlisting their aid.  This is similar to the Shugenja of Legend of the Five Rings with a few exceptions.  First there is no need to sacrifice something or appease the spirits, they will either help you or not help you based entirely on your actions.  Calling upon your ancestor's spirit to help you after you broke the fishing pole he passed down to you after he died, probably won't work like you wanted.

Second, the spirits only allow a character to use divine magic, they do not supply the energy for it!  This means that the energy of a spell comes from a character's own spiritual reserves.  Divine magic hurts, a lot!  Combine these two facts, and it's easy to understand why only the most dedicated and noble people take up this path.

Consequently, worship of the gods has been replaced in many cases by ancestor worship, and some people are trying to commune with spirits other than those of their ancestors.  This other path is much harder because the spirits are inhuman and difficult to relate to. 


What are most areas of the world like?:
Most areas are scorched wastelands, torn apart by magic or laid to waste by feuding warlords and savage raiders.  Some areas do exist that remain unharmed, and those places are a small sample of what the world was like before.  The woods are thick and vast, the water clear, and the mountains are tall and majestic.  Everywhere else, this splendor is a perverse shadow of its former self.  The trees are dying or dead, no good for lumber.  Lakes are stagnant, murky and choked with filth.  The mountains are covered in deep gouges and rockslides are common.


How can people survive in this world!?
Because they have to.  The alternative is wandering the world as spirits while they watch their world die away.  When the ground can be cleared away, farming is easy since the land has been unused for so long.  Wells can be dug to access clean water, and alternative building materials can always be found since wood is so scarce.  When the alternative is tortured eternity, living in a wasteland looks a bit more appealing.


How much interaction do people have with the spirits?
The spirits do not have a "heaven" to go to.  This means that they are forced to exist in the spiritual world.  Certain holy places, (old temples, ancient graveyards, etc), make it so spirits can contact any living being that enters.  Elemental spirits can do the same in places where their element is most potent, a fire elemental for example could easily communicate with anyone who happened to be climbing up the side of a volcano. 

In normal situations however, spirits cannot easily contact the physical world.  Only those born with the ability to percieve these spirits can communicate with them at any time.  No one's quite sure why anyone has this ability, though when an ancestor spirit reincarnates they are almost always born with it.  People able to percieve the spiritual world can do so from birth, no one has ever developed it later in life.


That's all I can think of to add right now, but if anybody has any specific information they'd like me to put up here about the setting, just let me know.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 26, 2005, 02:55:46 PM
err that should be; Forced to exist in the PHYSICAL world.  Sorry


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 27, 2005, 06:41:38 AM
Heya,

Quote
To answer number 1: the game is about the struggle to survive a harsh world as well as the internal struggle to remain good when everyone around you is becoming twisted and corrupt.  It's also a game of exploration, with vast areas of land uncharted and left to the GM's imagination.

-Okay, let's distill that down some.  To me (remember, personal oppinion here) the most compelling part of your game is the "struggle to remain good when everyone around you is becoming twisted and corrupt."  All that other stuff you put in your answer should IMO support that.  Therefore, I would recomend starting to think about mechanics that reinforce that as the main theme of your game and how to encourage the players to engage that.

Quote
Number 2: The characters have the struggle of simple survival to begin with, and after that they have a large amount of personal conflict over whether it's worth being virtuous and noble.  They can also adventure to find artifacts and relics, ruins with ancient knowledge, and other items that might give them a small chance at reclaiming their world piece by piece.  It also has the possibility of being a very mercenary game, where they adventure simply for the sake of survival.

-Okay, stick with the "large amount of personal conflict over whether it's worth being virtuous..."  All that other stuff about adventuring, looking for relics, and so on has been done and over done.  I am not saying it has no place in your game.  On the contrary, you can still use it.  BUT "adventuring" should not be a focus of your game.  Make it about the internal struggle the adventurers face as they adventure

Quote
Number 3:  The players take on the persona of their characters and interact with each other in the game world as it is described by the GM.  Much like the set-up for Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs, except players have a much greater chance to affect the world than they usually would.

-Okay, it seems from all three of your answer that the game has a strong exploration of character.  That means every facet of your game should point the players back to the situation of the game: "The temptation of the virtuous to do evil."

-Let me know what you think of this stuff and what your plans are for your system.  I'll probably have more for you then :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 27, 2005, 06:16:40 PM
Thanks for the info Troy, here's a little bit more information.

Divine Magic is hard and not nearly as powerful as Arcane magic and it hurts immensely to use it.  The only way to use it without suffering is to follow a corrupted god.  So right there is a temptation for any divine spellcaster.

The struggle to remain good in a bad world:  I was thinking perhaps players who perform evil acts or toy with dark artifacts could become corrupted somehow.  Something similar to Humanity in Vampire or Corruption in Lord of the Rings?  Though I'm not sure how I could do that without simply seeming like I'm copying those two games.  Any ideas?

As far as the system is concerned I've so far kept it as simple as possible.

Characters get Attributes rated from 1-5.  This determines the number of dice players roll when making checks.

Skills range from 1-3 [Apprentice, Journeyman, Master.]  For each level you have in a skill you can reduce the difficulty on a check by 1, or reduce the number of rolls needed for an extended action by 1 when applicable.

Characters roll a number of d6 equal to the attribute needed for the check.  They must meet the difficulty [ranging from 1-6] with at least one dice.  Difficulties can however go above 6 all the way to 10.  If a player must meet a difficulty above 6, they must first roll a 6 on one dice.  For every other dice that rolls a 6, they can add +1 to the first 10.  So if Jim rolls 6, 6, 4, 3.  His result is actually a 7.

Opposed rolls work exactly the same way  except skill ranks can only be used to roll additional dice.  The player who rolls the highest on a dice wins, if they tie, they compare next highest and next highest until someone wins.  If by some strange and curious fluke they tie on all the dice, the rollers can either settle the tie by comparing attributes or skills, or simply each tossing a die til someone wins.


The attributes are

Might: Strength and sheer physical power.
Agility: Speed and manual dexterity
Stamina: Health and toughness
Perception: Acuteness of the senses
Intellect: Capacity for learning and understanding
Cunning: Wits and quick thinking
Spirit: Comprehension of the supernatural as well as strength of will.
Charm: Charisma and looks

Casters must have their primary casting attribute maxed.  Wits for Arcane and Spirit for Divine.  Attributes are determined by the distribution of points, based on a chart the GM can refer to.  Less attribute points for low power games, more for high power games.

Skill will be determined by points as well, based on intellect.  Casters must first have a mastery of their basic skill, Divine Magic or Arcane Magic.  Then they can purchase spells as skills, instead of simply recieving a spell list to pick and choose from.

The restrictions on casters may seem harsh, but magic of any kind is meant to be very rare.  It's also meant to be weaker than most settings, since the idea of using arcane magic is bizzare and new, and the method of casting divine spells is demanding and rare.


There are special rules for combat and magic, but for now I figure this is a good enough run down of the basics.  I'm definitely interested in opinions, I'm going for a simple system where dice rolling is minimized and combat is dangerous.  In the interest of encouraging roleplay.  I've been working on the system for quite a while, but I'm very much open to changes to it.

Thanks!
John


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 27, 2005, 06:44:10 PM
the only thing I can think of, other than less dice due to lack of preperation of course, that would inspire ME to put off my own conflict til later are the following.

1: The person who resolves their conflict first or absolute last could suffer some form of penalty.

or

2: If the game is a win/lose type of game, the player who resolves first or last loses.

Otherwise I'm having trouble imagining other ways to inspire people to not go first and not go last.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 27, 2005, 06:45:37 PM
disregard that last post, was meant for another thread.  Don't ask me HOW I ended up posting it here lol.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: greyorm on August 28, 2005, 08:44:20 AM
Heya John,

I do really like the setting concept...but I have conserns about the system ending up...well, derivative. To explain, you state you are avoiding classes and race bonuses and etc. so you don't look like a typical fantasy game. That, to me, IS the problem. You're avoiding doing those things, but it seems to me what you'll end up with is exactly that: a D&D-derived game that looks like it is trying very hard not to be a D&D-derived game.

I might be completely off-base here in that assessment, but that is the vibe I am picking up. What I'm seeing of the system is: standard list of attributes, skills based on intellect (etc.), a split between divine and arcane magic, "standard" fantasy races (ie: using the "these guys" split -- "Oh, these guys are warriors, these guys are tree-huggers, etc."). None of this really supports or encourages the idea you posed regarding what the game is about and what the characters do (avoid temptation, remain good, etc).

The initial setting pitch was really exciting: "the gods are dead, the land is in the grip of tyrants, all is apocalypse, magic is raw and untamed." Now go back to that and don't worry about all this "the spirits do this, and mages can't do this, and etc." stuff and focus your game on that core pitch and supporting that stuff in play. For example, if you make an equipment list and then ask yourself, "HOW does having an equipment list support what I want players to get from this game? How does it ENCOURAGE my vision of play?"

And listen to Troy (above), too. Think about what he asked and try to answer the questions he's asked.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 28, 2005, 09:13:19 PM
Okie dokie, as suggested I'll be returning to the basic ideas of the game and adressing other things once that's been worked out.  [Also I should note that I've removed Divine magic from the game, finding the concept of arcane and divine redundant when the only difference is the source and capabilities.  Especially since the spirit magic thing was sounding increasingly out of place the more I thought of it.]

The basic concept, as worded as simply as possible.

Most of the gods are dead, those that remain are malevolent and crazed.  Those who aren't willing to serve the corrupt gods must struggle, not only to survive, but also to not become corrupted as well.

So then, how will I address this idea so it becomes a major part of the game and insures that play will frequently have to refer back to it.  Here's what I'm thinking.

In all situations where characters would gather in a group, they would rarely face an outside conflict that doesn't involve the plight of others in some way.  They would also have ample opportunity to take advantage of others who are in need, an urge they should resist! 

When the opportunity to do evil arises and the character can improve their life in some way, there will be no roll.  If a player performs an evil act, they will simply mark off something along the lines of a "bad deed".  For each bad deed a character performs, he will be giving the GM a dice.  Once a character has given the GM these dice, the GM can make opposed rolls with them during sessions to force the character to perform the evil act.

This means that with each evil act the player performs, it gets a little easier to perform greater and greater acts of evil.  Representing the slippery slope of such activity and the corrupting influence of the ruined world.  But this doesn't fully represent the scope of the situation in my opinion.

So what then are the dangers of simply standing by while evil is being done?  Not only will characters recieve "bad deeds" for evil acts, but they'll also recieve "bad deeds" for standing idly by while an evil act is being committed.  The only thing I'm a little uncertain of is how harsh I should be with this.  I want players to feel conflicted, but I don't want them to feel like the GM is able to simply stick them in impossible situations where the choice is suicide or corruption.

In either case, characters will be able to redeem themselves by resisting the lure of that small hint of corruption inside.  There will also be other ways of gaining corruption, such as toying with unholy relics, arcane magic, or simply playing a character who is too greedy.

What do you all think of this idea?  And does anyone have any suggestions to further imprint the theme of the game into the "system"?


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Graham W on August 28, 2005, 10:18:58 PM
I like the idea that committing an evil act makes it easier to commit evil in the future. There's something very nice in that.

What I like less, at the moment, is a. that there's a fixed idea of what evil is and b. that it's the GM who decides what is evil.

What first got me excited about this game was the idea of a world where the gods have died. That raises the whole question of: who knows what is right and wrong, when there's no god to tell you? What do you do with your life, if there's no god to give you a purpose? And so on.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 28, 2005, 10:59:27 PM
Idea.  Perhaps each player could be asked to pick his character's moral code, with only a few acts like murder being commonly accepted parts of everyone's moral code.  These would decide which acts that the character would personally consider evil enough to be corrupting.  This gives the GM a solid basis for determining when to give out corruption so his own personal morals won't determine it, while still allowing for the moral dilemma faced by the players with no firmly established order and way of life? 

This also allows characters to, on an individual basis, work through their own perceptions of right and wrong.  Other characters moral codes will influence them, while they influence others, and thus right and wrong will at first be a shaky and uncertain thing.  If you consider the fact that in the 1800s a horse thief was hung, and now people shoplift and get a slap on the wrist, this evolving morality isn't too far fetched.

Also, instead of determining what they'd want their purpose to be at creation, I think characters should determine their purpose through their experiences in the world.  Perhaps adventurers are those seeking a purpose in a world where the only rule is survival?

Example: A farmer is forced to flee his village when cultists raid it for fresh sacrifices.  He falls in with a group of "adventurers" and begins to travel with them.  As they visit villages and do what little they can for others, he slowly realizes that if no one does anything, the cultists will never stop!  He decides that his purpose will be to protect innocent people from the cultists by hunting them down wherever they hide.

How does that sound?


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 29, 2005, 03:17:10 AM
Heya,

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Idea.  Perhaps each player could be asked to pick his character's moral code, with only a few acts like murder being commonly accepted parts of everyone's moral code.

Sounds a lot like Alignment to me.  Here's what I'd suggest instead.  Rather than evil vs. good have Selfish vs. Selfless acts be triggers for GM dice.  This way it is much more objective for the GM and other players to see when a character is acting corrupt or when a character is acting virtuous.

Okay, let's talk about reward systems real fast.  IMHO, there should be rewards for both selfish and selfless acts.  How would these things tie into the following:

1. Character advancement
2. Narration rights of both GM and Players
3. Conflict and/or Task Resolution

Those are very, very important to know.  And it may seem like I'm asking the impossible here, hehe, but I'd like you to be both brief and detailed about how you would address all three of those things in your system. :)

Also, let's talk about other aspects of a game design real quick.  The situation and perhaps premise of your game is "the world has become corrupt and the PC's are tempted to do likewise."  So, how does every aspect of your game point towards that situation?

-How does character creation set up the PC's to immediately face the choice of Virtue vs. Corruption?

-How does the combat system offer opportunities for Virtue and Corruption?

-How does the magic system offer opportunities for Virtue and Corruption?

-How does the setting encourage players to address the situation and provide the GM tools to assist them?

-And like I asked above, how do the Reward Systems reinforce that sort of play? (very important btw)

Every part of your game should be tied into what the main theme of your game is.  It should all point back and address what you think is the most fun part of your game: the gods are dead and the world is a mess, what ya gonna do about it?  I don't necessarily expect you to have answers to all those questions immediately, so take them one at a time if you wish :)  I have a few more questions, but I'll save them for later.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 29, 2005, 11:41:44 AM
Well Troy let's see what I can do here to adress what you've brought up.

I do like the premise of selfless and selfish acts.  To adress the moral code thing I was talking about, I actually had a new idea in regards to that.  Instead of picking a unique moral code, each character picks a SINGLE act that they consider evil, that must be different from each other players.  That way instead of having a moral code that simply acts as a different kind of alignment, they only have one act that they've deemed a corrupting action due to upbringing or personal experience.

I do hope you also enjoy the idea of standing by and not helping others when cruel acts are being performed?  It reminds me of a quote from "The Replacement Killers" where Mira Sorvino's character is talking to Chow Yun Fat's and she says "Standing by and doing nothing is just as bad as pulling the trigger."  or something along those lines.  That's when his character finally decides to stand up and do something.


As for wiring it into the reward system.  My idea for character advancement in the overall scheme is that characters will have one major purpose that they determine for themselves, and a cycling current purpose.  Each time they complete their current purpose they will gain XP, with no better term to use at the moment, not from killing monsters or digging up treasure.  This adresses their need to find a new purpose when their gods are no longer there to guide them.

So how do I add this into the reward system?

1: Surviving is hard.  Surviving while taking advantage of others is much easier.  Characters who gain corruption while performing their purpose would lose "XP."  While characters who avoid corruption might gain extra XP for the additional struggle they've faced.

2: When characters have given dice to the GM to make them do "selfish" acts, the players give control of their character over to the GM for the duration of the selfish act if they lose the roll.  The characters who aren't corrupted at all have no fear of losing their rights to control of their character.

Also

Inspiration:  Selfless characters can use their good nature to inspire others to rise up and do good as well.  A character who has "good deeds" can "spend" one to take narration control from the GM in certain situations.  For example if a corrupt character fails the temptation roll near the selfless character, he can spend a "good deed" and take narration control.  He then narrates his character walking up to the corrupt character and basically "talking him down" or reminding him of what he's becoming.

Also it can be used with NPCs to inspire them to rise up.  An adventurer trying to convince the villagers to gather weapons and chase out the cultist who's pulling their elder's strings, would spend a "good deed" and control the narration.  He could then roleplay out his inspiring speech and convincing argument, and then narrate himself leading the villagers to oust the cultist.  This control would be limited of course, the player could declare that the villagers are following him, but he can't declare that the villagers follow him, seize the cultist, and throw a huge party for him cause he's so cool.  The narrator regains control right after the the mob is formed.  Also, inspiration requires that the character lead the NPCs, he can't just inspire them and send them on their way.


Fear:  Selfish characters have the hint of corruption that people have come to more easily recognize.  This means that they instantly increase corrupted peoples opinions of them, because the corrupt people often want to further tempt this possible ally.

Also it can be used with NPCs to force his will upon them.  An adventurer demanding food from a village or else, would spend a bad deed and control the narration.  He then roleplays out his demands and then narrates the villagers doing as he says.  This offers a bit more control over the scene than inspiration does, because the character can narrate all the way up until the NPCs have completed the task he demanded.  Inspiration only allows the character to narrate up until after the character has convinced the NPCs to follow him.

[Sidenote: Since this ability means "spending" deeds, perhaps each deed would not only grant a "good deed" point, but also assign a "Virtue" or "Corruption" point that doesn't get spent.  That way corrupt characters wouldn't simply clear their bad deeds by forcing people to do what they want.  So the "Corruption Point" would be what grants the dice to the GM, not the "Bad Deed" Point.

Also Inspiration and Fear would both not give characters carte blanche to do whatever in the world they want.  If they get carried away the GM can reclaim Narrative control simply so the game doesn't become ridiculous.]


3.  Honestly I have no idea haha.  Except for bonuses and penalties in social situations, I don't think it'd have much impact on other rolls.  I'm open to ideas.


So to answer the rest of your questions [jeeze Troy, you're sure making me think today! lol]

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-How does character creation set up the PC's to immediately face the choice of Virtue vs. Corruption?

By having that single act they consider evil, characters may not realize that they're performing corrupting selfish acts until after they've met another character who points out the fact to them.  This means that every player will be facing the risk of those nasty corruption points if they're playing their character properly.  This also means that players will almost immediately be forced to roleplay!  Doing nothing while an act you consider evil is being performed will grant you "bad deeds" as well!

Example: Farmer Jim's adventuring group doesn't consider stealing to be an evil act!  So when one of his party members steals something, he quickly takes it and returns it quietly to avoid gaining a "bad deed" as well.  He then returns and explains to the party his own reason for thinking stealing is evil.  While they won't agree with him immediately, he's given them something to think about!

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-How does the combat system offer opportunities for Virtue and Corruption?

Well, in the combat system I've included the ability to not only act but also to react outside of your own "turn".  Virtuous characters have the ability to take hits for other players, or to push them out of the way, tackle them, etc.  Corrupt characters could, as a reaction, grab a bystander and throw them in the way, or use them as a human shield.

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-How does the magic system offer opportunities for Virtue and Corruption?

Magic by its very nature is incredibly dangerous and users are easily corrupted.  Navigating the complexities of magic and learning by trial and error is a hard road to travel.  Corrupt gods will give magic users many opportunities to learn how to control their magic, for a price of course, since powerful followers like these are always handy!  Magic users will be able to buy "corrupt magic" and "normal magic."  Any spell can be bought corrupt at a lower XP cost, but you gain a permanent corruption point that can never be removed.  Also corrupt magic will have some unique and powerful spells that are very tempting.

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-How does the setting encourage players to address the situation and provide the GM tools to assist them?

Players will, in the grand scheme of things, have two choices.  They can wander aimlessly while taking on quest after quest or try and make an impact in the world around them.  Whether for good or for evil, this is part of the overall theme, the need to make an impact on your world instead of simply letting things happen!

So asides from setting the scene and bringing the world to life for the players, the GM has to consider the characters' motivations and put them into situations where they'd feel sympathetic to those in need or whatever the situation is.  He should also frequently let them see that people all over the world are suffering, not just individual villages.  Scenes with refugees fleeing down the road, or burned down villages riddled with bodies, should be the tip of the iceberg.

Example 1: Warrior Sarah has arrived in a village with her adventuring party.  The GM describes a young girl running up to them and asking them to help her find her lost puppy who ran into the demon infested woods.  Warrior Sarah and her group will probably consider the opposition and the reward [fight demons to get happy girl and living puppy, yeehaw], and either be soft hearted enough to accept, or refuse and keep walking.

Example 2: Warrior Sarah's village was ransacked by a warlord and she was the only member to survive!  The GM describes the party entering a village that's in ruins, and tells them that the village elder runs up to them.  He explains that his village was ransacked by a local warlord who is demanding that they submit to his rule!  They desperately need help or they'll have no choice but to accept a tyrant's rule!  Sarah is certainly more likely to agree since she hates warlords!

GMs should also use ideas like hunger, exhaustion, etc.  These will give characters further motivation to simply take what they want if they're refused, as well as inspiration to continue on a path of virtue when the poor starving farmer brings in the adventurers and feeds and houses them even though he can't afford to.  This could also give the characters another opportunity for a short term "purpose"!  Why is the farmer doing so badly, maybe his lands are cursed or haunted?  Perhaps the characters could pay him back by helping him in some way before they go?

That's all I can think of, any ideas?

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-And like I asked above, how do the Reward Systems reinforce that sort of play? (very important btw)

As I stated earlier with the extra XP for virtue, XP penalty for corruption, the reward system will reinforce the concept.  But also, if a character completes a purpose with virtue, he will be allowed to pick one more act he considers evil as long as another member of the group has introduced him to the selfishness of the act.  This means that players will be able to roleplay their characters gaining an understanding of right and wrong, and therefore being more likely to avoid corruption due to their actions.  Characters who complete a purpose with selfishness will not be able to do this, leaving them to roleplay their characters stunted moral growth as the rest of the group grows more heroic and selfless.


I hope you like these ideas.  I look forward to more questions and comments.
 
Thanks!
John


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 29, 2005, 01:21:48 PM
if there's anyone who'd be willing to help me out with my setting on a messenger service so I can bounce ideas more quickly than "post, wait, post, wait."  I'd appreciate that.  I have AIM, MSN, and Yahoo.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: greyorm on August 29, 2005, 01:44:58 PM
if there's anyone who'd be willing to help me out with my setting on a messenger service so I can bounce ideas more quickly than "post, wait, post, wait."  I'd appreciate that.  I have AIM, MSN, and Yahoo.

Actually, it is considered better to sit and wait around here. Time to think gives time to really understand what is being discussed, to digest it, to roll it around in your head, to look at it from different angles, to absorb it. The "fire-off-a-post/reply-as-quick-as-possible" ideal normally found in on-line venues is frowned on around here, and waiting a day or more to post a response, after sleeping on it, is not uncommon.

Also, have you looked at any games with strong moral themes built into them, and ENCOURAGED by or tied directly to their mechanics? "Sorcerer", for example? Also, I think "Dogs in the Vineyard"? And "Riddle of Steel", which can allow the players to create their own themes of morality?  Etc.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 29, 2005, 01:46:11 PM
ok guess I'll stick to waiting then.

Yes I own Sorceror.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 29, 2005, 06:51:06 PM
Ok, I'm gonna start a new thread with the revised concept that I've come up with using people's suggestions!


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 30, 2005, 08:56:10 AM
Heya,

Before you do that let me comment on a few things here:

 
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Instead of picking a unique moral code, each character picks a SINGLE act that they consider evil, that must be different from each other players.  That way instead of having a moral code that simply acts as a different kind of alignment, they only have one act that they've deemed a corrupting action due to upbringing or personal experience

To me it would seem a rather simple feat for the players to just avoid that SINGLE act that would corrupt them.  In order to address the conflict, the GM would have to constantly put them into a position where that one act was the only solution.  That sounds like Force to me and Force is bad.  Giving a more general guideline is preferable IMO.

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I do hope you also enjoy the idea of standing by and not helping others when cruel acts are being performed?


Yes, I do like that very much.  Ever catch the last episode of Sienfeld?

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My idea for character advancement in the overall scheme is that characters will have one major purpose that they determine for themselves, and a cycling current purpose.


So they will have one over-arching Destiny and many missions?  That sounds fine to me.  Some may complain that having a Destiny mechanic means that there will only be two modes of play in such a game: Embrace the Destiny, or Avoid It at All Costs.  Don't listen to that.  For your game, I think it will be fine, but I'd be very interested in hearing you explain how it will work.

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3.  Honestly I have no idea haha.  Except for bonuses and penalties in social situations, I don't think it'd have much impact on other rolls.  I'm open to ideas

So what's the lure of corruption?  I must have lost that somewhere in our posting.

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They can wander aimlessly while taking on quest after quest or try and make an impact in the world around them.

-IMHO, a system should never allow character to wander aimlessly,  They should always be addressing the situation.  But that's just a minor point.  I hope all this helps :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 30, 2005, 12:35:46 PM
I think you might be right about the morality thing.  I'm having trouble figuring out how I'd even make it work right so I think I'll just leave it to the Virtue and Corruption thing like I was going with originally.  If I find some way to work the concept into character creation, then I will, but otherwise I'll just leave it mostly out of there and focus mainly on the themes application in game.

Destiny, characters will pick their own destiny, the only thing they won't pick is their cycling purpose which is basically their current quest.  Characters who fulfill their destiny won't be at a dead-end as far as playing is concerned, instead their destiny will progress along the same original "concept". 

Example: Farmer Jim wants to avenge the destruction of his village.  So that becomes his destiny.  When it's finally accomplished, he could change his destiny to something grander like killing the raider leader.  Once that's accomplished his goal might change to forming a militia to defend against the raids, and so on, and so on. 

Destiny will begin as a personal motivation, probably even a little selfish in the grand scheme of things.  Then a characters destiny slowly becomes a grander, more epic thing.  Farmer Jim's final Destiny could be to lead a grand army in terrible battle against the servants of a corrupt god.  So instead of simply stamping a destiny on, it will be an evolving thing that reveals itself to the character over time.  Since it becomes grander and more epic, it will also be more difficult.  After all, convincing people to form a militia against overwhelming odds is a hard sell.

As characters grow morally, they also grow in their capabilities, giving them the power and the desire to make greater and greater impacts on the world.  This would be left entirely to roleplay, but it would give the GM more to work with than simply throwing job offers at the adventurers.  Completing a destiny would grant XP just like missions, but it would be quite a bit more xp.

In fact XP will only be granted by completing missions and destinies.  There will be no monster slaying xp, or anything like that.

What's the lure of corruption?
It's easier, corrupt characters can force their will on NPCs, corrupt mages don't need to roll constantly to control their magic.  The GM should also be encouraged  to make the selfish way the easy way in nearly every situation.  Why rescue the village elder's daughter to get them to give you supplies, when you can steal them that night or pull out your weapons and make them do what you want?

Wandering:
The fact that there's a tangible reward of XP for completing destinies means that a character is unlikely to avoid his destiny unless he's just trying to be difficult.  Destinies also give your character the opportunity to be a hero.  Personally I've been in so many games where you kill X Lich for X amount of gold and then no one cares afterwards, that my head's about to explode. 

I'd also like to figure out some method of tracking reputation as well, but that's not a big factor yet,


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on August 31, 2005, 03:31:13 AM
Heya,

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Example: Farmer Jim wants to avenge the destruction of his village.  So that becomes his destiny.  When it's finally accomplished, he could change his destiny to something grander like killing the raider leader.  Once that's accomplished his goal might change to forming a militia to defend against the raids, and so on, and so on. 

Destiny will begin as a personal motivation, probably even a little selfish in the grand scheme of things.  Then a characters destiny slowly becomes a grander, more epic thing.  Farmer Jim's final Destiny could be to lead a grand army in terrible battle against the servants of a corrupt god.  So instead of simply stamping a destiny on, it will be an evolving thing that reveals itself to the character over time.  Since it becomes grander and more epic, it will also be more difficult.  After all, convincing people to form a militia against overwhelming odds is a hard sell.

That sounds fine.  Have you thought about the mechanics of it any?

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The GM should also be encouraged  to make the selfish way the easy way in nearly every situation.

Encouraging the GM to do things is all well and good, but every important facet of your game should be backed up by rules and mechanics.  Otherwise, your ideas will lack impact.

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In fact XP will only be granted by completing missions and destinies.  There will be no monster slaying xp, or anything like that.

This I like and should be a great part of your game.  I would really start focussing on the mission & destiny aspect of your game now, and being drafting mechanics to support them.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on August 31, 2005, 11:05:27 PM
Mechanics of the Destiny.  I'm not exactly sure how I should handle that.  Perhaps the best way to handle individual destinies is that the first destiny only requires the accomplishment of one goal, and each destiny thereafter has an additional goal tacked on.  The goals have to be lengthier and more involved than simple missions of course and require GM approval.

Example: In the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn only had to protect Frodo.  Next he had to save the king of Rohan and participate in the defense of Helm's Deep.  Then he had to gather the army of the dead, lead Rohan to Gondor's rescue, and save Gondor so he could become King.


How can I work it in?  I think cruel actions would give an extra dice, representing the temporary rush of satisfaction they get from giving into their baser impulses.  A temporary reward for the longterm punishment of a corruption point.  I think that nicely represents the nature of selfish acts.


XP for missions and destinies.  Missions are much simpler so the XP will be pretty simple.  Characters gain XP for every session it took to complete the mission, they also gain XP for the actual completion of the quest.  Good roleplaying and performing the quest in a virtuous manner would grant XP as well, while performing it in a selfish way would reduce xp.

Destinies are more complex than missions.  So XP is gained for each session, for completing the destiny, completing each goal in the destiny past the first.   Good RP, and performing the destiny in a virtuous manner.  Completing the destiny in a selfish way will reduce XP quite a bit more than it does on missions, and it will also grant a point of corruption since you've allowed your destiny to become twisted.

Mind you that XP will probably be dealt out in increments of 1.  So completing a 5 session mission virtuously with good roleplaying would get you 7 XP [5 for the 5 sessions, 1 for good roleplaying, and 1 for performing the mission virtuously]


How do those sound?  I'm trying to keep things simple so the system doesn't dominate the game.


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: Troy_Costisick on September 01, 2005, 09:24:29 AM
Heya,

It sounds like you've got a solid idea of where you want to go with this game now.  My suggestion is that you try writting out a basic rules set and play-testing a little.  Post in Actual Play and here in Indie-Design as things come up.  Once you have a text ready and at least the Chargen played out some, post again and see what the community has to say about it :)

You've done good work, now it's time to get out there and put it in practice!

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Ember [game concept]
Post by: JohnG on September 01, 2005, 10:20:00 AM
Thanks Troy, you've been a huge help.

Thanks to everybody else who put their two cents in too!

Off to work!