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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: DCBradshaw on April 26, 2006, 08:13:39 PM



Title: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: DCBradshaw on April 26, 2006, 08:13:39 PM
Greetings Forge,

Been sitting on this idea for a while, but feel compelled to finally start putting some time and energy into it.

The Age of Thirteen Concept
Players are young magicians, wizards, sorcerers, warlocks and witches, setting out on their traditional year-long journey of discovery and exploration, taking only their brooms, their spellbooks, their fetishes, their familiars, and their wits.  During this twelve month trial by fire, they’ll forge friendships, learn to recognize danger, fill their spellbooks, practice and perfect their arts, and realize what it means to be a magic-user, and a young adult, out in the real world.


The mechanics are fairly traditional, but very rules-light.  Much of the system is "school-based" (like subjects, letter grades and scores) because I really want the game to sort of have a "school of the world" feeling, where characters learn from their mistakes, experience is the best path to knowledge, and interaction with others shapes much of their attitude. 

Where I really want TAO13 to shine is with the magic types and spells.  The spells will be "fun"-type cantrips, very basic (but diverse) spells with no real or lasting power, which will force players to be creative in how a character uses magic. 

Obviously Harry Potter is a big influence, as only it can be (and sort of has to be, I guess, for this subject), but what really sent my mind running down this track is Kiki's Delivery Service (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097814/), a great story and example of how a hero can be his or her own antagonist, and how danger doesn't necessarily have to be in the guise of a big evil bad guy. 

I'm working on more conceptualization, including a synopsis and early outline, as well as the Big Three.  For now, I'd just like to gauge some interest and help myself clarify TAO13 concepts by trying to explain my ideas of the game to some folks. 

Thanks,
~Damon


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: TonyLB on April 27, 2006, 05:50:12 AM
First:  Kiki the RPG?  Spectacular with awe-inspiring coolness.

Second:  So if the "Big Bad" isn't supposed to be the only type of danger, what else do you want to support?  Are you looking to give people a common grounding for playing through, for instance, the type of crisis of identity that Kiki confronts?


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: DCBradshaw on April 27, 2006, 06:18:55 PM
Obviously, much of what sort of danger a party will face will be up to the GM's creativity through the stories, and I hope to include some guidelines and suggestions for appropriate plots and themes in the GM's section. 

But I do have a basic idea for mechanical support of personal crises and awkward/triumphant character situations.

Whenever a character makes a critical success or failure (I'm calling them "Perfect Scores" and "Big Fat Zeros" to try to keep in line with a school theme, I know it's cheezy, but anyhoo), I think it would be appropriate to ask the player to explain a feeling or emotion that the success or failure is based on, and include a space on the character sheet for it to be listed.  (Emotions Encountered or somesuch.)

For example, say a young spellcaster's player makes a critical fumble on a broom-riding check, and she ends up crashing on her face in a mud puddle, in front of all her friends.  The GM and player would agree on an appropriate emotion or feeling based on the severity of the situation, the reaction of the other players and NPCs, and other variables (in this case, it could be Embarrassment, or Anger, or Frustration, etc.). 

On the flipside, if a lost party is relying on a diviner to conjure up a map or a compass to find their way back to civilization before dark, and the player makes a critical success, the appropriate emotion could be Pride, Excitement, Relief, etc. 

Players would be "collecting" their character's feelings throughout play.

I can see a buildup of too much of either side (Triumph or Failure) could lead to a character imbalance, which could be reflected mechanically as lowered scores, or a penalty to dice rolls. 

Likewise, the collection of feelings could somehow be linked to advancement; for instance a player could trade in a "matching" pair of emotions, one from each side (such as Embarrassment vs. Pride) for a character point to be spent on advancement. 

Again, this is all up in the air, something I've kicked around for a while.  The base mechanic is pretty much nailed down, and has run smoothly in the very perfunctory playtesting I've done.  The concept of collecting experience as a quality instead of a quantity is definitely something I'd like to discuss, but haven't put anything on paper yet.


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: TonyLB on April 27, 2006, 07:01:40 PM
Are these critical rolls the result of player choices (like, is there something they do that makes criticals more or less likely)?  Or is it purely a random accumulation?


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: DCBradshaw on April 27, 2006, 08:19:16 PM
Random, but relatively common.  The base mechanic uses a d12, and essentially a roll of 1 is a critical success, and a roll of 12 is a critical failure.  (It's not quite that black and white, there are things that players can do to adjust their results for the better, and really are expected to do so often, so it's not so ridiculously un-curved or grainy as it might appear.)

Aside from typical rolls for attribute checks and skill tests, players will make a roll every time a spell is cast, which happens nearly constantly, so the chance for criticals, one way or the other, is pretty high. 

It is possible, obviously, to have long streaks without any criticals, but for some reason I dig the idea of tying a dramatic component to critical successes and failures.  Instead of just roleplaying exaltation in a triumph or embarrassment in a failure, the player and the GM create some long-lasting character color based on the feelings invoked as well.


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: sean2099 on April 30, 2006, 09:23:59 AM
Hi Damon,

I apologize for asking this but I have not watched Kiki's Delivery Service so I might be asking pointless questions.  Are the challenges going to be internally based (ie concentrating on learning, social events, etc) or will be there external challenges (ie Death Eaters in HP or some other rival group).  When the year is up, is the game over or are there things to do afterwards?

The concept sounds interesting but I was curious as to some of the details.

Thanks,

Sean


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: Clyde L. Rhoer on April 30, 2006, 12:16:29 PM
Hi Damon,

I really like advancement being tied up with successes and failures. That seems to tie in well with the theme of your inspirational material.

If you haven't already dug into other Miyazaki work for inspiration, I think Tonari no Tortoro (My Neighbor Tortoro) would be good to check out for ideas on drama that doesn't involve a big evil. Also Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) has a similar feel to Kiki's Delivery Service in that the main character doesn't have much magic and it has some neat magical ideas in it. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of Fireflies) is another that shows drama for children not created by some evil being. If you wanted material of more of a dark side that still doesn't use a papable evil then you might want to watch Dare Mo Shiranai (Nobody knows). Grave of Fireflies and Nobody Knows don't have happy endings.

I'm not sure if you wanted suggestions for neat magic powers, but something like Arthur's shapechanging from The Sword in the Stone, where he learns lessons about the world could be interesting. Except you wouldn't need a Merlin. I've only read the book, but the Disney movie might cover this part. This book was about coming of age so may be good inspiration also.


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: DCBradshaw on April 30, 2006, 01:07:19 PM
Are the challenges going to be internally based (ie concentrating on learning, social events, etc) or will be there external challenges (ie Death Eaters in HP or some other rival group).  When the year is up, is the game over or are there things to do afterwards?

Sean,

The internally-based challenges will be (should be) spun out of the externally-based challenges, if that makes any sense. 

In Kiki's Delivery Service, the titular heroine finds a city and settles there, trying to make a place for herself and her skills.

By contrast, I would prefer to see characters in TAO13 wandering and travelling, staying in one place for maybe a week or two at a time, but then moving on to gain more experience, seeking out or randomly encountering other wizards and witches to learn from.  There's lots of story diversity and adventure opportunity in an episodic campaign like this, and you could pack lots of adventures into a year of game-time.  If at the end of a game-year the players and GM are content to continue playing, that's fine.  (I had actually toyed with an experience mechanic based around the Zodiac, and using a month-by-month advancement scheme, and when 13 moons was up, the characters were done, but it got way too muddy and so I started thinking about the emotion/experience advancement idea instead.)

As for a rival-type group, that'd be up to the GM of course, but I don't necessarily think it's needed.  I'd much rather prefer challenges be more investigative and socially based, instead of outright violent.

For instance, in a traditional magic/fantasy game, the characters go to the wizened venerable wizard who says that he will only help them if they go defeat the local mountain dragon.

In TAO13, the characters go to the wizened venerable wizard only to find that he's accidentally put himself into a permanent slumber with a backfired sleep spell, so they search the local library for a cure, then spend the rest of the adventure scouring the mountainside, finding the exotic and rare spell components needed to brew a potion that might wake him up.  If there just happens to be dragon up there that would prefer a bunch of pre-adolescent teens quit nosing around his cave, then all the better.

P.S.- Rereading this makes me think that I should comment on a time/location setting I've got in mind. 

In Kiki's Delivery Service, the setting is sort of ambiguous.  It looks old-timey (older model type cars, zeppelins, etc.) but there is TV and phones.  Likewise, the location is vague; it has elements of old Europe, and the city Kiki lives in looks very much like a French or Italian Mediterranean town, but they never really say.  Harry Potter, really, is very similar.  It's obviously modern day, but the wizarding world lives in a sort of frozen older age.

I'd like to keep this sort of ambiguity with TAO13.  Of course a GM can set it anywhere or anytime he or she would want, but I think an ambiguous setting keeps with the theme of discovery of the unknown and exploration of the unfamiliar.


Title: Re: [The Age of Thirteen] Some conceptualization
Post by: DCBradshaw on April 30, 2006, 01:34:40 PM
Hi Damon,

I really like advancement being tied up with successes and failures. That seems to tie in well with the theme of your inspirational material.

If you haven't already dug into other Miyazaki work for inspiration, I think Tonari no Tortoro (My Neighbor Tortoro) would be good to check out for ideas on drama that doesn't involve a big evil. Also Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) has a similar feel to Kiki's Delivery Service in that the main character doesn't have much magic and it has some neat magical ideas in it. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of Fireflies) is another that shows drama for children not created by some evil being. If you wanted material of more of a dark side that still doesn't use a papable evil then you might want to watch Dare Mo Shiranai (Nobody knows). Grave of Fireflies and Nobody Knows don't have happy endings.

I've had lots of people tell me that I should see Tortoro, but never have gotten around to it.  I have seen Grave of the Fireflies, and I'm not sure that I'd want to put myself through that one more time.  (Those who haven't seen it: it's sad.  I mean, reeeeeeally sad.  Make a grown man cry type sad.  Fantastic movie, but sheesh.) 

Quote
I'm not sure if you wanted suggestions for neat magic powers, but something like Arthur's shapechanging from The Sword in the Stone, where he learns lessons about the world could be interesting. Except you wouldn't need a Merlin. I've only read the book, but the Disney movie might cover this part. This book was about coming of age so may be good inspiration also.

Actually, T.H. White's Merlin teaching a young Arthur about magic and the world in The Once and Future King is a perfect example of the sorts of student-mentor learning experiences that should be prevalent throughout TAO13.  That kind of "networking" is great plot-driver (i.e., this wizard sends you to that wizard, who recommends you see this wizard, who then sends you on a quest, etc.) and is perfectly appropriate for what I've got in mind. 

As for magic, the spells characters will be using are low-powered, short-duration cantrips, with varying degrees of casting difficulty and magical energy expenditure.  The players should be creative about how magic is used, improvising and adapting the usage of their spells to best aid the character.