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Author Topic: [Legends Never Die] Design Goals: The Power 19  (Read 3298 times)
Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« on: January 22, 2006, 02:57:55 AM »

I'm about to start asking for help with a game I'm developing, especially regarding my conflict system. But first, I’ve had an attempt to answer Troy’s Power 19 questions (see here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17286.0). After answering these questions, my game suddenly looks a lot more ambitious and intimidating than it did before. Ulp.

Does this look like a game people would be interested in?

1.) What is your game about?
The game asks two questions:
A. What do you leave behind? When you are dead and gone, how will you be remembered? What impact have you had on the world – how is it better or worse for having had you in it? The game’s Destiny rules is meant to answer this question.
B. Does an attempt to create a pseudo-mediaeval world for an RPG have to suck? That’s a humorous way of noting that most RPGs fantasy worlds have the trappings of feudalism and religion, but are completely lacking in the actual meaning of those things. (Obviously it’s not universal – I’m a big fan of Pendragon.) In this game, feudal and familial bonds of obligation and the all-pervasive nature of mediaeval religion will be given expression through the game’s Virtue rules.
In short, the game is about Progress – both personal, and cultural.
The rest of this answer is under question 4 and 5.

2.) What do the characters do?
There are two types of character: the traditional player character, and campaign elements (such as magic swords, holy orders, kingdoms) which also might be influenced by players.
The traditional player character is the substance of the game but the other stuff is the heart of the game.
Traditional characters: the players control these characters, and I don’t know really how to answer this question other than to say they do the sorts of things you’d expect characters in a mediaeval fantasy setting to do. They might be lowly streetwise servants, heroic adventurer-mercenaries, or powerful courtier-kings, anything that would fit the genre.
One important thing that characters do: they die. Each character has a built-in lifespan – each character has four possible endings (becoming a Legend and changing the world for the better; having great personal success but dying tragically; being unable to cope with dramatic life’s stresses and burdens and so going mad or simply retiring and being forgotten; or becoming a monster – possibly literally).

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
There is a GM. The players have a character sheet which is split into two parts: the Character Form lists the stats for their personal character. The second part, The Campaign Form lists the elements of the campaign that the player has influence over, and shows how much influence.
Players each play a single character, but also have some GM powers. During a conflict, a player might create a religious sect which is opposed to his character, but whose intervention helps him out. As part of the conflict’s resolution, the creating player will often be able to add that sect to his Campaign Form, with numbers and traits to show the extent that he as a player has over that campaign element. This means that player has some control over defining their nature and how they act, including in scenes where their own character is not involved.
Players might form an attachment to some campaign elements, and want them to grow – and the elements controlled by different players will often be in conflict, while the characters of those players might be allies. This is a strategic element that players won’t be required to use, but those who want to have a big part in shaping the game world beyond their characters will be enabled to do.
Players will also control one focus character at a time – but they are expected to retire or lose several characters over the lifetime of the campaign, which will have a built-in ending. (The campaign duration will be 50-100 years game time, with each episode of play – which may be one session or several sessions – being separated by at least one or more years.)
Players might build powerful families and dynasties, where later characters are descendants of earlier ones, or might have a series of unrelated character – maybe unified by other game traits (the player might establish, say, an order of knights or a kingdom, and then over decades play characters who are pivotal in shaping the success of that order or kingdom.)
Or the Player (not the character) might have, say, a magic sword or holy relic, and then players the various bearers of this item over the decades.


4.) How do the various parts your system reinforce what your game is about?
The Virtue traits encourage players to deal with the various social constraints created by the setting – will the character help a friend in defiance of his duty to his liege, is a modern ideal of freedom and compassion compatible with the situations created in play, etc.
The campaign elements system give players an investment in the world outside their characters, while the Destiny rules give players a reason to look forward to the end of their character, and to be actively working to bring this about.
During play, characters will be able to orchestrate certain "Legendary" challenges, and use them to bring about specific changes in the world. (For example, one player might be playing a female character, who is being tried by her husband for her unladylike behaviour. The player declares this is a Legendary challenge, and states that if she wins, her example will become famous and a process will be set in motion that may lead to the emancipation of women - if reinforced by future legendary challenges.) This rule reinforces the idea that Players are prime movers in shaping what the world will look like at the end of the campaign.

5.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is roughly this: a millennia ago, the old gods were cast out of the world, ushering in a new age of monotheism – which has now split into several major competing branches. The wars that accompanied that event also drove demons and supernatural powers out of the world, and significantly weakened magic and made it unreliable (so we have folk healers, astrologers, and alchemists)
It was prophesied that the One God give mankind a thousand years of freedom from such influences, so that they could develop a new age of spiritual purity. But that most would fail in this, and in the last days, when the Great Seal cracked open and the old powers returned to the world, brother would turn against brother, nation against nation, nations would fragment and the natural order of peasant, lord, and priest would be overturned, and blab la – the usual stuff.
In the game, all these questions will be answered in play.
The church has fragmented, which one is right? Are any right? Will the old orders return? Will the gods be defeated ushering in a new rational age of atheism, will one religion prove itself triumphant, and will that religion be good for men’s souls or will it be tyrannical?
The feudal order is breaking down, with the rise of merchants and new model armies. Will the old ideals of chivalry and noblesse oblige prove stronger than selfish commercialism, will war between these two elements lead to a new sense of freedom and civil rights, or will men be reduced to castes or economic units? Will the new world be a fusion, combine the best (or worst) of both?
The family unit is breaking down. Bla bla.
There are magicians, priests, and scholars attempting to discover how the world works. Will this lead to an age of rational science, or to a world rules by superstitious irrationality? Or will it lead to a world where magic is strong and harnessed much like modern technology?
Finally, demons (whatever they are) are returning to the world, and insinuating themselves into the hearts of men. Their goal is to bring about the end of the world. Will they succeed?
That’s the setting, basically. The important thing to note: the world will change dramatically - possibly every aspect of it - over the course of the campaign.

6.) How does the Chargen of your game reinforce what your game is about?
Chargen is a bit blurry at the moment…

7.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Players should be free to have characters who a roguish and even villainous, as well as the normal good guys. The game will be morally neutral when it comes to character behaviours. Players will be empowered through the world development system to create laws and philosophies that make certain behaviours advantageous and others problematic, as part of the way culture changes over time.


8.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
I’m not going to attempt to answer this until the game is more developed.

9.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The players have a number of GM-like powers: they can create setting elements, and can make rolls to influence how those elements act and develop. They don’t have absolute control of these things – the GM can state anything he wants about them so long as its not contradicted by a player who has influence over it (several players might have influence over the same element).
The conflict system is still taking shape, but it might be that players get to describe how they succeed or fail within certain limits imposed by the conflict itself, and they have some ability to create or destroy scenery as part of the process (scenery being defined as objects or characters who would be otherwise unimportant).
The GM probably will also be limited in his ability to describe success and failure of NPCs, and within conflict, will be limited in the way he can affect scenery. (For example, in many games, the GM could declare a combat interrupted by a sudden earthquake. In this game, the GM might be limited – especially if one player has as a Campaign Element: Laws Governing Earthquakes! That player might be able to interrupt the combat with an earthquake, though.)

10.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
I think this is answered under 3 & 4.

11.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Ah, the question…

12.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
I hope to tie the resolution mechanic directly into character and world development; this will make them strongly reinforce what the game is about.

13.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
It would be truer to say that characters develop.
Characters can become more powerful during play, but they can also become weaker.
Characters can gain traits that either help them, or help their enemies, or both. Characters can lose traits as a result of conflicts.
Players also can gain traits (campaign elements) and lose them.
Most importantly, characters die or retire, and when they do, the character’s eventual Destiny  take shape and changes the world in some way based on what the player’s destiny traits actually are at the end. (This is the moment when a player can have a very big impact on the world, not unlike the end of a Shadows of Yesterday character ending.)

14.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The advancement referred to in answer 13 is what the game is about. The game is about Progress-  how people and the world about them changes whether for the better or worse. The game’s approach to character advancement (and campaign element development) takes that into account.

15.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I don’t really understand this question.

16.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color?  Why?
Too early to say. Probably I expect to have significant attention given on the GMs job as an adjudicator of the setting, guidance on how to handle the way the world Progresses, and how to make that a strongly visible part of play.

17.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
There are three parts.
The Destiny mechanics – having a mechanic that encourages a player to deliberately work towards the retirement or death of his character as a goal of play.
Virtues – a mechanic that is meant to help players embrace the elements of mediaeval culture and religion that are normally ignored or actively avoided in fantasy games.
Campaign Elements, Progress – using a traditionally narrativist mechanic to achieve a simulationist goal (if I understand the terms, though I’m not too concerned if not) – to wit, using director stance to help players invest in the shared fiction of the setting.

18.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
See question 17, especially the last part.

19.) What are your publishing goals for your game? Who is your target audience?
I’ll be producing a PDF for sale. My target audience is anyone who likes the ideas above.
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Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2006, 05:08:59 AM »

Heya,

You did a very good job of answering the origonal Power 19.  Now, what kinds of specific feedback about your game would you like from us?  Which parts are you wanting input on or are you unsure about?

Peace,

-Troy
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Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2006, 06:05:56 AM »

Hi, Troy.
I plan to ask for feedback on my resolution system first, but I ran out of time yesterday. (Answering those questions took a long time! :))
I hope to get to that tomorrow.
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Graham W
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Posts: 437


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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2006, 11:12:54 AM »

Hi Darren,

I like the "What do you leave behind?" premise and the whole emphasis on Destiny. It sounds fun. Very epic.

If you don't mind me saying: I think you've accidentally avoided answering some of the questions. For example, after reading your answer to "What do the characters do?", I'm still not sure what the characters do during the game. Do they go on quests or go about their day-to-day lives? Do they rescue damsels or plunder graves? How do the PCs interact? And so on.

And your answer to "How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?" describes the setting but, to me, doesn't quite seem to explain how it reinforces what the game's about.

I remember a thread  - which I can't find now - in which various designers of well-known games answered the first three questions. What sticks in my mind is how short the answers were: I remember Vincent Baker answered "What do the characters do?" for Dogs In The Vineyard with a sentence. Perhaps it would help me understand the game if you answered the first few questions very briefly?

But, yes, it sounds like a game I'd be interested in.

Graham
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Troy_Costisick
Member

Posts: 802


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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2006, 12:10:58 PM »

Quote
I remember a thread  - which I can't find now - in which various designers of well-known games answered the first three questions. What sticks in my mind is how short the answers were: I remember Vincent Baker answered "What do the characters do?" for Dogs In The Vineyard with a sentence. Perhaps it would help me understand the game if you answered the first few questions very briefly?

Linked: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16996.0

Peace,

-Troy
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Michael
Member

Posts: 55


« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2006, 12:20:23 PM »

I like the concept. I can tell a lot of thought went into the metaphysical element and its impact on society. That was one thing that always annoyed me about many fantasy games, the fact that magic and/or a supernatural presence was just there, had no real social impact, and any attempt to explain it was generic at best. A deep premise is basically a necessity for any RPG I would play. In short, this is a game I find interesting.
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"Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." -- Mark Twain
dindenver
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Posts: 928

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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2006, 12:38:21 PM »

Hi!
  Sounds like you have a solid foundation to build from, can I ask where the Power 19 comes from, I've seen it mentioned in other places, but never seen the original articale/post. I did a search on google and came up with weird matches...
  It seems like you have tapped into a good idea for a game, I look fcorward to hearing more about it.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Graham W
Member

Posts: 437


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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2006, 12:59:06 PM »

Dave,

You're looking for Troy's Standard Rant #3: The Power 19.

Note how it's not a rant at all, but a carefully thought out post.

Graham
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Darren Hill
Member

Posts: 861


« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2006, 02:27:22 AM »

A big Yay! To those who said the game would interest them.
I think you've accidentally avoided answering some of the questions. For example, after reading your answer to "What do the characters do?", I'm still not sure what the characters do during the game. Do they go on quests or go about their day-to-day lives? Do they rescue damsels or plunder graves? How do the PCs interact? And so on.

Graham, you’re right. I still don’t have the right words to answer that question with brevity. Maybe this will help.
The campaign I’m running now is the prototype Legends Never Die campaign, and in this game characters can rescue damsels and plunder graves, sometimes in the same session. In a recent session, the PCs were on a secret mission for the church’s covert ops division, rescued a cardinal of their church who was on a peace negotiation mission, but because he wasn’t so supposed to see him, then had a debate over whether to kill the cardinal which left one of the PCs unconscious. The game will encourage this kind of moral ambiguity – players may still choose to play untarnished good guys, but it will probably not be easy.

What they do: The “adventures” will be moments when events in the wider world interfere with the PCs lives, and give them an opportunity to make a difference. For instance, the game might start with the characters being people who live in, and whose livelihood is tied to, the wellbeing of a single knight’s fief. In a time of turmoil, a neighbouring lord takes the opportunity to try to add this fief to his domain, and encourages raids by bandits – after which he will come in and rescue the local knight, claiming the fief as reward.
Now, the PCs will be tied into their local society by a web of Virtues – friends, family, duties, friends, ideals. They may have contacts on all sides, many of which will be affected by these events, not to mention their own well-being being in the balance. They’ll be able to use the situation to show how heroic or pragmatic they are, how noble or power-hungry, how good at fighting or intrigue. Also, who or what in their life is most important.
The above Situation will be one of a few included in the finished game, fully fleshed out.

Basically, PCs will get involved in (and maybe orchestrate) events with the potential to change their lives and those around them (like, say, raids, famines, and monsters on the rampage) and which thrust them into situations where they have to deal with people of power (great lords, the church, great merchants and guildsmen, underworld intriguers, etc.). Out of these situations they’ll have the opportunity to become more socially powerful one way or another, and show what kind of people they are. (The players will also have the opportunity to help define the world and set its tone, through the campaign elements they create or get control over, during these adventures.)
Getting back to that rescued damsel: the players will have opportunities to rescue damsels, but there’s be a social element to this: maybe the local lord’s wife has been kidnapped, and he is raising a tax to pay the ransom – that tax is causing unrest and rebellion, and maybe a PCs’s family is starving. Each event has wide repercussions, and the players are motivated to get involved for reasons other than just personal greed or desire for recognition. The PCs might not get involved in the damsel’s rescue at all – they may get caught up in a local rebellion caused by the tax, either helping it in the hope of taking the lord’s position, or helping suppress it. Or, they might go out and rescue the damsel and then try to convince the lord to return the ransom to the starving people – or force him to pay it to them instead.

Quote
And your answer to "How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?" describes the setting but, to me, doesn't quite seem to explain how it reinforces what the game's about.

The setting is designed so that the PCs have in-game events that they can't ignore, larger than them, situations that will draw them into scenarios like the one described above.  It creates a whole host of areas of conflict which the Gm can draw the Pcs into, but also which the pcs will have the opportunity to influence. All those elements are parts of the world that are under threat - and the PCs will have to choose which they want to ally themselves with and nurture (or oppose).
Characters have Virtues will fall into encompass main categories - obligations & duty & tradition & status quo & family, religion & spiritual ideals, personal freindships and alliances, and lastly, personal drive/ambition.
The setting is designed to provide fertile ground for the GM to bring these elements into conflict with each other and themselves.

Quote
I remember a thread  - which I can't find now - in which various designers of well-known games answered the first three questions. What sticks in my mind is how short the answers were: I remember Vincent Baker answered "What do the characters do?" for Dogs In The Vineyard with a sentence. Perhaps it would help me understand the game if you answered the first few questions very briefly?

I have to say that I envoy those designers their concise clarity. But I wonder if  (and take comfort in the hopeful assumption!) they'd been able to be so clear early in the design process.
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