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Title: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: GregStolze on May 29, 2008, 06:49:51 AM
No, literally. I woke up this morning having dreamed of a game that was based on ULYSSES. No, I haven't read James Joyce's longest and most-suppressed work, but I guess in my dream I did. I understand that the idea behind ULYSSES is that it presents one man's day as an adventure on the scale of the Odyssey. So I asked myself (in my dream, I guess) can we do that gaming? That is, take the ordinary lives -- the ones you and I live, and often play games to escape -- and recast them in the heroic molds of ancient myth? Am I dreaming of "Kitchen Sink Realism: The RPG"?

Here's what stuck in my rapidly failing memory...

1) Characters were normal folks living ordinary lives. However, each also had a mythic archetype like Hercules or Theseus or Loki or the like. Each would have, more or less, a life story that can end one of two ways. So, like Hercules would have a central theme of strength, with the central question being "will this strength turn to bullying and madness, or will labor lead to something higher?" Or Theseus would be all about being crafty and clever, but does it match up against raw poewr when the crunch comes?

2) There was some kinda thing where characters had to be connected, but I don't remember it clearly right now...

3) I think it used a variation of Token Effort (the system behind ...in Spaaace!) where you could offer a token to someone if they'd accept a suggestion that boned their character or made things more complicated.

4) Each story had an ending, or rather, two endings -- heroic and tragic. The game's basically a race to get to your heroic ending before the other fellow, without sliding into your tragedy.

That's all I have for now. Would anyone actually play this? It'd probably need to be a one-session thing...

-G.



Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Mike Welker on May 30, 2008, 07:46:38 AM
This interests me... it would be a nuance on the Scion thing, in terms of elements of the regular dude having some connection to classical myth and such... mechanics would be better, though (but I don't jab at Scion, it's just not a system for me, YMMV).


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: TempvsMortis on May 31, 2008, 02:12:30 PM
Yes, do jab at Scion. Do indeed. (Damn you WhiteWolf for selling your soul, and thus ironically making your stuff worse. Darn you and your terrible remakes and even worse original settings!)


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Mikael on June 01, 2008, 01:03:07 AM
Is the idea to play based on "normal people with normal lives", or specifically the players' normal lives?


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: GregStolze on June 01, 2008, 04:31:01 AM
Normal people whose normal lives parallel epic myth... I guess.  Man, now I have to think of examples and themes.

-G.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Brendan Day on June 01, 2008, 07:08:01 AM
Perhaps the ending could be heroic or anti-heroic, rather than heroic or tragic?

Let's say that Molly Bloom is my character.  I want her to live up the heroic ideal of Penelope, on whom she is based.  One or more of the other players are trying to subvert that myth, and one way of doing that would be to have Molly sleep with her suitors rather than fending off their advances.  That ending wouldn't necessarily be tragic, but it would be anti-heroic.

I suspect that the anti-heroic ending will often be comic rather than tragic, since it represents a departure from the original story.  In other instances, the players will be trying for a tragic ending, since that is the best way to live up their heroic ideal.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: TempvsMortis on June 01, 2008, 12:52:08 PM
I actually think he should stick with just Heroic and Tragic. Having a non-Heroic ending undermines the whole thing, not to mention is sort of a let-down. The whole point is to have normal, everyday events play out in an epic manner, and all classic myths ended either triumphantly or tragically, so I think it's fundamental to the idea that he stick with those two things.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: GregStolze on June 02, 2008, 04:57:08 AM
OK, let's think of some examples, identify the themes and then apply them to a situation.

HERCULES: The theme of the Hercules myth is strength, obviously enough, but there's always the question of abusive strength.  (I'm thinking of the story where he gets loaded, kills Iolus, and then harrows the underworld to retrieve him.)  So the Mythic Suburbia angle (hm, is that a good title*?) I'm picturing my own situation -- the stay-at-home-dad.  Hank Kulis isn't the smartest guy in the world, has a bit of a temper, likes a cold beer on a hot summer day... and he's at home with a couple squirrelly kids and a 12 point To Do list.  His wife is... out of town?  Or do we kick it up and he's recently widowed?  Ooooh...  So his question is, can he get his work done without blowing his stack on his children?  Or is he doomed to sink into brutality?

ATALANTA: The theme there is feminine independence vs. the lure of the material, right?  At least from my lefty-liberal skew it is.  So  living right near Hank is Talia Eccles, a high-school track star whose ambition is to get to college through a scholarship.  (Hm, I'm picturing Talia as needing to struggle to afford college.  Apparently the town of Olympic Heights is in the rust belt or a suburb of Detroit or something.)  But tempting her away is this sexy-arrogant-maddening runner from nearby Thebes High.  He's handsome, smart and loaded.  Too bad he's stuck up and sees her as the next trophy he wants.  Keeps buying her presents and pressuring her to put out.  So... does she?

LOKI: This one's a dark myth.  The theme is that blood will tell, yes?  Loki uses his trickery and wiles in the service of the Aesir for a long time, but once he gives in and eats that witch heart, he's doomed to side with his giant heritage and help destroy the community that raised him.  So we dial in on Lukey Easter, growing up in the projects.  A clever little bastard who works as a police informant.  His question is, does he get out of the ghetto or does he succumb to the same drug addiction that claimed the rest of his family?  (Or, to tie him with the other PCs, he's out in the little town of North Ellham, getting dragged into the hillbilly meth trade.) 

More?  C'mon, help me out folks.

-G.




*And I swear I initially typed "is that a god title?".


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Brendan Day on June 02, 2008, 11:04:37 AM
Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur

Theo is a temp worker in a dead-end job.  He spends his days wandering up and down the aisles of a cubicle maze, delivering mail.  Every year the boss's fourteen-year old daughter visits the office on "take our daughters to work" day, and terrorizes everyone in sight.  Theo decides to stand up to her and "save" his co-workers.

Meanwhile, Ari is the boss's older daughter from her first marriage.  She was cast aside in favor of Mina, and now she has the thankless job of supervising the temps.  All day she sits in her tiny office, knitting, and dreaming up ways to get back at her half-sister, the little monster.

Mina is a stubborn and angry teenager, caught between the worlds of childhood and adulthood.  She doesn't seem to belong anywhere.  She hates her mother for trapping her in this horrible office all day, and she takes it out on anyone who crosses her path.  She's afraid that she'll be stuck here for the rest of her life.  Part of her wants to knock the whole place down, just so she can escape.

Everyone is trapped in a dead-end existence.  Will Theo rescue his fellow temp workers from the grinding monotony of life in the cubicle maze, or will they be trapped there forever?  Will Ari betray her family, and if she does, will Theo abandon her once the adventure is over?  Will life be any better on the "outside", or will they all still be trapped, enslaved by their paychecks forever?


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: TempvsMortis on June 02, 2008, 04:46:03 PM
You realize your making an rpg about "The Warriors", right? Because the Warriors was the Odyssey reinterpreted as a more modern setting involving gang warfare.

Though looking at your examples, I don't know how interesting this all would be. Maybe it's just me, but none of these examples feel particularly "mythic", and I don't think they would play very mythically and so would probably dead-end.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Momos on June 03, 2008, 03:22:53 AM
I haven't read Ulysses either, but I love the concept so I'll try to help out.

Below are my example characters. I refer to their main theme as their “legend” just because I like the sound of it. This was typed very late last night and then posted in the early morning, so please excuse me if it’s a little disjointed.

The Trojan War

Hector
Hector was always a good guy. A bit slow and a bit clumsy sure, but he had a trusting heart and what his parents called and “old soul”. Neither of these did much for his social life unfortunately, so when he found himself as Harrison’s friend Hector thanked his stars and followed him unquestioningly.

Twenty years later Hector is still playing Harrison’s sidekick. He’s come into his own a bit, but retained his characteristic loyalty in full. Which is part of what makes his recent troubles so surprising.

Lately Hector’s become uneasy in his friendship. He knew Harrison played by his own rules but seducing a married woman is a bit much. Not to mention all the money Harrison’s suddenly come into, something’s definitely odd there. It doesn’t sit right by Hector, but up until now he’s been unwilling to speak up. Because that’s what being a friend is all about, right?

Hector’s legend is Duty. But when the push comes to shove which will he choose, duty to his friend, or duty to his principles?

Harrison
Harrison has been handsome for as long as he can remember. That and talented. Oh, and charming as well. Back in grade school he could of had his pick of friends, but eventually choose Hector, mostly because his blind trust made Harrison feel more important. But over time the friendship grew until it eventually became two-sided. Now the two are nearly inseparable.

Not that any of Hector’s upright stoicism has worn off on him. Harrison’s natural charm has given him an easy (if volatile) ride through life, and a personality that could best be described as “uncontrollable” or “instinctive”. When something catches Harrison’s eye he pursues it with a surprising drive, until achieving it and losing interest. So it was with Helena.

After a whirlwind romance Harrison convinced Helena to run away with him and a good deal of her husbands money. At first he was sure that she was the one (and that the money was just a happy coincidence) but now Harrison has realized that he’s already becoming detached. That he could be so fickle and callous has begun to disturb him, and has caused him to take a closer look at himself then he has in years.

Harrison’s legend is Desire. He’s the kind of guy who’s used to getting what he wants with a minimum hassle. But for the first time Harrison isn’t sure what that is. Will his drive to attain be given proper course, or will he only succeed in embracing his own destruction?

Helena
Helena was born into old money, and married to old money. Not out of love or whirlwind romance, but politics finance and the expectations of her family. Until she met Harrison her life was dull and dry, full of false friends and empty rooms.

Harrison was never dull. He was crude impetuous and fickle, but when she was around him Helena felt more alive then ever before. So when he asked her to run away with him she barely thought twice. And when he asked her to bring her husbands money? Well, that was just icing on the cake.

Now the magic is nearly over. As it turns out marrying Harrison wasn’t nearly so lively as running off with him, and now Helena isn’t sure if she was fooling herself all along. Worse yet she’s been getting eerily silent phone calls, and one day she came home to find the furniture had be rearranged. She’s terrified her old husband has found her, and doesn’t know what to do if he has.

Helena’s legend is Destiny. She desperately wants to find her place in the world, but is becoming slowly convinced that it was right back where she began.

-------------------

... and that's it. Aside from examples, whenever I'm trying to develop something it always helps to ask myself questions. So here's some that I'm curious to hear the answers to. Ignore them or answer them as they interest you.

Will a whole campaign take place in just one day? A time limit means the players won't be striving so much for "the" heroic ending as much as the most heroic ending that they can get. So would there be a game mechanic to measure how heroic an ending is (points and the like)? Or would that be left up to the players?

You mentioned that the players would all be linked somehow. Would they be linked by the mythic side of the game (e.g. a group of players portraying members of the Argonauts)? I think that would be the most effective, but at the same time it provides more limitation on which myths can be used.

How important would NPCs be? Because this seems based way more on character then plot hook, I think I would be easiest for players and GMs alike if the PCs made up the majority of the cast, and were the (or some of the) most important figures in each others lives. (Brendan Day's example is excellent, I love the cubical/labyrinth parallel). Somehow I picture the DM role as being more of a moderator.


On a final note I really like the "Mythic Suburbia" title, even if not all the stories are suburban. I suggest you keep it even if just as a working title.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: GregStolze on June 03, 2008, 04:39:58 AM
Quote
Though looking at your examples, I don't know how interesting this all would be.

Chaçon a son gout.  I know that in many UA games, the most interesting parts haven't been the gonzo elements ("Did Tyler really create a woman out of nothing just by making her a character in his novel?") than the more mundane, humanist elements.  ("How was Tyler shaped by having to raise himself through his teen years while maintaining the fiction that his dad was still alive?")  I like Breaking the Ice, it's fun for me.

Quote
Will a whole campaign take place in just one day? A time limit means the players won't be striving so much for "the" heroic ending as much as the most heroic ending that they can get. So would there be a game mechanic to measure how heroic an ending is (points and the like)? Or would that be left up to the players?

Good question.  I'm reminded of Puppetland's "an hour is always and only an hour" restriction.  I kind of like the tick-tock-tick-tock element of time running out.  Maybe let the players decide if it's on the scale of a day or a week.

Quote
You mentioned that the players would all be linked somehow. Would they be linked by the mythic side of the game (e.g. a group of players portraying members of the Argonauts)? I think that would be the most effective, but at the same time it provides more limitation on which myths can be used.

Yeah, in the Hercules/Loki/Atalanta example, they were linked through their 'mortal' selves.  That's probably simplest. 

Quote
How important would NPCs be? Because this seems based way more on character then plot hook, I think I would be easiest for players and GMs alike if the PCs made up the majority of the cast, and were the (or some of the) most important figures in each others lives. (Brendan Day's example is excellent, I love the cubical/labyrinth parallel). Somehow I picture the DM role as being more of a moderator.

Yeah, that works... although I'm also contemplating a win/loss system.  This is shaping up as a Token Effort game too (the mechanic behind ...in Spaaace! (http://www.gregstolze.com/inSpaaace.zip)  So with an economy like that and no random effects, it would be pretty easy to kitbash together some kind of "winner" condition.

Quote
On a final note I really like the "Mythic Suburbia" title, even if not all the stories are suburban. I suggest you keep it even if just as a working title.

Yeah, or "The Suburbiad" or "Olympia Trailer Park"... mm, it's often a BAD sign when I can think of so many titles.  Good thing "Bowling Alley of the Gods" was taken...

-G.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Lord_Steelhand on June 03, 2008, 05:23:11 AM
Normal people whose normal lives parallel epic myth...

How about a Nobilis/HeroQuest stint to this to give it greater stakes?  What if you play out people whose personal story has become mystically entangled with some great and epic mythos out there?  PCs could be aspects of the great themes that move into players in the situation in question, sent as muses.  One player plays the Crux, the person whose entanglement is going to make some cosmic switch-flip.  The muses cannot do anything magical or mystical other than speak through the people related to this situation and the the Crux is never aware of how vital their choices are to the Big Picture(tm).

The choice of who ends up with the Crux for each scenerio is important, because the Muse he or she normally plays will be missing from the mix and the Crux may have some effect on their House of Influence (althought this gives teh Crux player a reason to resolve for the "good" - unless they get something either way...but it's flavor it determined by the choices of the Crux).

Just dumping here...hope this is of some use.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Dan Svensson on June 12, 2008, 04:04:57 PM
This made me think of "O brother, where art thou?" :)


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: earwig on June 25, 2008, 08:02:11 AM
This just popped into my head.  I'm at work so I can't get too far into it.

But when I was reading this, I kept thinking about the movie Brazil.  Yeah, I know Sam had far from a "normal" life, but the fact that whenever he faced an obstacal, it would sort of switch into this EPIC dream vision with him fighting a giant metallic samauri or something.  In reality, he was just Sam in a business suit, but when in the Epic dreamvision he was an armor-clad winged warrior and all around bad dude. 

I guess there's a little Walter Mitty in all of us.


Title: Re: It Came to Me In a Dream
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 25, 2008, 08:52:55 AM
Hi Greg,

You've read or played Best Friends (http://boxninja.com/), right? The token economy of that game seems like it might be a good reference, whether as influence toward or against, either way.

Best, Ron