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Author Topic: [Bronze] setting / cultures  (Read 4998 times)
stefoid
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« on: February 13, 2006, 05:59:06 PM »

Hi, ive decided to post the setting and cultures here so that people can get some idea of where Im coming from with two other threads about Bronze RPG.

also I am having a crisis of confidence that I am wasting my time on a setting ofa game that nobody will be interested in playing.  So I mean, really, would you be interested in playing in this setting?

Forgive the state of the documents, they are meant only as my notes to myself, full of plagerised stuff and spelling mistakes.  The format of the setting particularly is not what the players would actually see.  What I hope to do is present the sort of material that is in the setting document distributed amongst the various culture writeups each with their own slant on what things happened and why - there will be a lot of points in the this mixture of views that do not match, and as such will be completely up to the players to decide on what really happened for the purposes of their own scenarios.

Just two cultuers so far, and I am working on a third now.  Its slow going.  My aim is to do the cultures from the most marginal first, which for this setting is the more isolated barbarian cultures, and hone in on the more central, complex cultures later.

The main aim of the game is to present really live, breathing cultures that players can engage the players imaginations. 

http://www.geocities.com/stevenmathers/SETTING.zip

http://www.geocities.com/stevenmathers/Cultures.zip

thanks.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2006, 07:48:38 PM »

Make those cultures interact with stuff that the players care about and give them power to say what they care about with the rules, and the game will fly.

Do anything less and it won't.

I think you have some interesting stuff here. But games are for players, not fictional characters. Give players the power to make stuff happen that really matters.

I've read some of the setting and I think it's interesting stuff. But if I can tell you that if I can't take ownership of it during my game — forming a new Empire, or conquering it with my Barbarians, I'm not interested. Give me rules that help me do that and I'm in. But you have to figure out what the game's about first.

What you're saying is that your interest is in "Telling stories" but your rules are all about keeping all control in the hands of the GM — presumably because your other goal, showing off your world, is endangered by giving story power over to the rest of the players.

You gotta decide between these. Your assertions notwithstanding, design compromise weakens a design. If you figure out a way  to accomplish more than one goal, mazal tov, but I suggest that it will take you several designs before you're able to confront such a beast.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
stefoid
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2006, 08:05:22 PM »


Quote
What you're saying is that your interest is in "Telling stories" but your rules are all about keeping all control in the hands of the GM — presumably because your other goal, showing off your world, is endangered by giving story power over to the rest of the players.

pretty much my primary goal is showing off my world.  Im hoping, probably naievely, that people will think that the setting is so cool they will want to make some characters and do some stuff in it.  Im not keeping control in the hands of the GM because I think it endangers anything, I just dont see what alternative there is to that, or why I would even want an alternative. 

So I know,lets not go into that in this thread as well, I just have to do some homework.

lets keep this thread all about how cool my setting is, and thus how cool I am.  or not as the case may be.  any ideas I can pinch are also greatly appreciated.
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dindenver
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2006, 10:56:42 PM »

Hi!
  OK, the setting is very DEEP. And it has a lot of basis in reality. It is obvious, you have already decidede a role for Magic and other design concerns.
  You have already mentioned that you want the game to be about the setting, so these is my suggestions to you:
1) Don't give up, you seem very creative and this is a genre that has not been tapped too deeply
2) Since your game is supposed to be about the setting, don't worry about rules, systems or mechanics until your setting is where you want it to be at
3) This is merely a notion, try not to put any negative/judgemental comments into the descriptions of other cultures. and try to come up with a theme for that culture and stick to it. The first culture seems to be a combination of Gypsies and Dervishes. The description starts out nice and fairly neutral. But it quickly devolves into a portrayal of this culture as thuggish, faithless and chauvinistic. And while that may be alright, who would want to play these guys as a character? Another way to approach this, is to write it from the perspective of a member of this culture. What wold they say?
4) Once you have the setting the way you like it and the metaphysical, political and military issues are laid bare, you can come back and make some mechanics/rules/etc.
  I think you have a good foundation. You know what you want, you know what you don't want and you are very creative. That really is all you need to succeed.
  Hang in there, this will be a good game once you get a handle on your setting!
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Dave M
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Judd
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2006, 01:01:35 AM »

Just two cultuers so far, and I am working on a third now.  Its slow going.  My aim is to do the cultures from the most marginal first, which for this setting is the more isolated barbarian cultures, and hone in on the more central, complex cultures later.

The main aim of the game is to present really live, breathing cultures that players can engage the players imaginations. 

Do you want to create every culture in the game or have rules and a toolbox with which the players can create their own cultures?

Giving real thought to the process of culture creation in your game might also help you figure out what is important to you about the process and bring about mechanics that mean something to the setting.

Hope that helps and good luck.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2006, 07:30:16 AM »

Hi!
  OK, the setting is very DEEP. And it has a lot of basis in reality. It is obvious, you have already decidede a role for Magic and other design concerns.

Yeah. The question is how to get someone into the game when they need to know so much to deal with it effectively. I suggest that each culture could have its own book and it be sold in a pack of six or whatever.

Still, settings aren't what turn people on: it's the ability to tell stories about cool stuff that gets them jazzed. You have to have a setting that you can understand prima fascia (which I think you can do) enough to make someone want the book, then read about cultures, then read the rules. Then they have to feel that the rules support the interesting stuff in the world.

I think this can be done. I also think it will take some adventurous game design and several less-successful designs to get it rolling.

Quote
You have already mentioned that you want the game to be about the setting, so these is my suggestions to you:
1) Don't give up, you seem very creative and this is a genre that has not been tapped too deeply

Definitely don't give up. You've got interesting stuff here. You have to figure out how the game works and what you want from it.

As for the genre not being tapped, I don't think that's the issue. There are plenty of games that give lots of setting material with ineffective rules. If you make effective rules for a Sim game, that would be a breakthrough. Mind you, it's one I would likely not enjoy overmuch; it's the ability to tell a story, which is a process of changing the setting, that makes me psyched to play.

Quote
2) Since your game is supposed to be about the setting, don't worry about rules, systems or mechanics until your setting is where you want it to be at

I disagree with Dave here, but we've discussed that in other threads. Suffice to say that thinking about how your rules work will focus your design spec for the game.

Quote
3) This is merely a notion, try not to put any negative/judgemental comments into the descriptions of other cultures. and try to come up with a theme for that culture and stick to it. The first culture seems to be a combination of Gypsies and Dervishes. The description starts out nice and fairly neutral. But it quickly devolves into a portrayal of this culture as thuggish, faithless and chauvinistic. And while that may be alright, who would want to play these guys as a character? Another way to approach this, is to write it from the perspective of a member of this culture. What wold they say?

I don't agree with this either, at least not completely. True, every culture thinks that they're cool and other cultures are broken. But this is fiction. You can have people who are bad. You're making judgments on these people, and that's cool. That's a moral structure you're building into the rules. But if you only build it into the setting, it won't have the desired effect.

Luke Crane is fond of saying that the setting is rules. But that might mean the opposite of what you hope it means. It means that you can't have a setting where the rules contradict stuff the setting lays out.

So, if your chauvanistic, faithless, thuggish jerk tribe gains resources from those traits that others don't have, if they have special features like "not tied to my word" that gain them points, players will want to play your villains instead of your heroes.

Quote
4) Once you have the setting the way you like it and the metaphysical, political and military issues are laid bare, you can come back and make some mechanics/rules/etc.

Ah, here's something you should totally read and understand: relationship maps. It comes from one of the Sorcerer books — Sex and Sorcerer, I think — and it's an intensely useful technique used to get the players tangled in their stories. You could use it as inspiration to figure out how cultures view each other.

Quote
I think you have a good foundation. You know what you want, you know what you don't want and you are very creative.

Well, Dave's right that you're creative, but I think you have to refine what you want and how to get it.

I recommend that you read the Articles (linked at the top of every page), particularly the Narrativism, Gamism, and Simulationism essays, plus the two Fantasy Heartbreaker ones.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
dindenver
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2006, 09:43:14 AM »

Hi!
Quote
Still, settings aren't what turn people on.
  Well, White Wolf games are almost entirely about setting. You can argue that a title like "Vampire: The Masquerade" communicates setting and "The Cool Factor", but "Exalted" which is also fairly popular and successful is settings intensive. It requires the players to learn a whole new setting in order to play on the same level.

  Of course, if your game is about setting, you have to realize this and design for it. It is a different animal from a game about tactics or a game about character interplay, etc. But we know it can be done and done successfully.

  Finally, I'll agree with Josh that you need to figure out how to get it. But, I don't think you can seriously accomplish this task until you have a solid handle on your setting. There is, literally, an infinite number of ways to do things in RPGs. which one will be right for you will depend on what your game is about. And since the answer is setting, you need to iron that out a bit before you can fully come up with a satisfactory answer I would think.
  Good luck man, and keep the faith!
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2006, 09:49:04 AM »

The WoD games sell a mood, a theme. The games don't deliver, but that's not the point. They have an unkept promise about stories that are interesting. About politics between vampires, about the struggle for freedom among mages, about the fight against industrial entropy among werewolves, &c. Players want to do that cool stuff, not just get a chance to meet a character who was mentioned in a sidebar.

The books are novels about cool stuff that's done for personal reasons. The rules aren't, nor are the guidelines.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
stefoid
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2006, 03:47:18 PM »

Quote
3) This is merely a notion, try not to put any negative/judgemental comments into the descriptions of other cultures. and try to come up with a theme for that culture and stick to it. The first culture seems to be a combination of Gypsies and Dervishes. The description starts out nice and fairly neutral. But it quickly devolves into a portrayal of this culture as thuggish, faithless and chauvinistic. And while that may be alright, who would want to play these guys as a character? Another way to approach this, is to write it from the perspective of a member of this culture. What wold they say?

interesting.  I am certainly trying to come up with descriptions of these cultures that dont put black and white hats on them.  They might seem immoral or whatever to each other, but to themselves they seem fine.   Viewed throught the glasses of a 21st century american, they are definately all those things you say.  Their view of themselves shouldnt be that way -- they wouldnt even have the concept of chauvanism for instance.  If thats not coming through, then I have work to do.  Writing from their perspective is definitely something to come into it, using more evocative prose, perhaps snippets of in-game literature like myths and poetry.

thats hard work though, puts a lot of pressure on creative writing skills - I mightnt be up to the task.

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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2006, 03:56:09 PM »

Just two cultuers so far, and I am working on a third now.  Its slow going.  My aim is to do the cultures from the most marginal first, which for this setting is the more isolated barbarian cultures, and hone in on the more central, complex cultures later.

The main aim of the game is to present really live, breathing cultures that players can engage the players imaginations. 

Do you want to create every culture in the game or have rules and a toolbox with which the players can create their own cultures?

Giving real thought to the process of culture creation in your game might also help you figure out what is important to you about the process and bring about mechanics that mean something to the setting.

Hope that helps and good luck.

Im not approaching it very systematically - its more a process of sifting things through a 'cool filter' .  My focus with each one is what do these people think that makes them intersting to a roleplayer? 

I hadnt thought to have rules for people to make their own cultures.  how hard would that be?  I guess you could just use the empty template with the headings Ive been using.  I suppose people will do that kind of stuff anyway.  There is a lot in the setting that is being purposely left undefined so that players can hit those angles if they like.
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dindenver
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2006, 04:14:14 PM »

Hi!
  Well, you don;t have to go so far as to add poetry or anything that taxing. But you do use the actual term "chauvanist" so it forces the reader to look at them through that lens.
  Your writing is good, but it has a "Stream of consciousness" feel to it. Like you sat down in a session or two and pounded it out. this is good, but it adds a certain rambling quality. A quick decision about what you want them to be and a subsequent edit will have you back on track.
  For instance, at one point you explain how outsiders call them faithless and that they do not consider themselves faithless, but then you continue to reinforce the fact that they are faithless and that they only pay lip service to all except their Ancestors. Then you go into a little about Ancestor worship and follow it up with more details on how they dispise organized religions. I am not trying to discourage you, but the Gypsy/Dervish description is full of contradictions like this. They are humble and friendly to travellers, but they'll rob you if you are an outsider, etc.
  Maybe the gaff is, they are more than one culture, you have a faction of raiders, a faction of herders and a faction of refugees...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
stefoid
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2006, 04:18:26 PM »

Quote
Yeah. The question is how to get someone into the game when they need to know so much to deal with it effectively. I suggest that each culture could have its own book and it be sold in a pack of six or whatever.

Still, settings aren't what turn people on: it's the ability to tell stories about cool stuff that gets them jazzed. You have to have a setting that you can understand prima fascia (which I think you can do) enough to make someone want the book, then read about cultures, then read the rules. Then they have to feel that the rules support the interesting stuff in the world.

yeah, I know what you mean.  there is another setting that was posted recently to this forum and I had a look at it and just went WHOAH there is a LOT of stuff here and a bunch of it is history with names and dates and another bunch of stuff is how much a cow costs and then there is this other stuff that would actually be really interesting to explore if I made a character based on these guys, but its kind mixed in or at the back.

So what I need to do eventually is perhaps sumarise the setting even more in a kind of back of the book blurby way, and maybe also present an introduction at the start of each culture that emphasises cool things about them?  gotta help.


Quote
Quote
You have already mentioned that you want the game to be about the setting, so these is my suggestions to you:
1) Don't give up, you seem very creative and this is a genre that has not been tapped too deeply

Definitely don't give up. You've got interesting stuff here. You have to figure out how the game works and what you want from it.

As for the genre not being tapped, I don't think that's the issue. There are plenty of games that give lots of setting material with ineffective rules. If you make effective rules for a Sim game, that would be a breakthrough. Mind you, it's one I would likely not enjoy overmuch; it's the ability to tell a story, which is a process of changing the setting, that makes me psyched to play.

it is now apparent to me that creating effective rules for a sim game is exactly what I need to do.  now that I understand what narrative games are on about I understand that they deal with essentially timeless themes so setting material is at best: some cool situation and colour that backs the theme, at worst: irrelevant.

might be cool if I could get narrativists to want to wring their hands in this setting though, but with their own rules or whatever.  ;)  

Quote
Quote
3) This is merely a notion, try not to put any negative/judgemental comments into the descriptions of other cultures. and try to come up with a theme for that culture and stick to it. The first culture seems to be a combination of Gypsies and Dervishes. The description starts out nice and fairly neutral. But it quickly devolves into a portrayal of this culture as thuggish, faithless and chauvinistic. And while that may be alright, who would want to play these guys as a character? Another way to approach this, is to write it from the perspective of a member of this culture. What wold they say?

I don't agree with this either, at least not completely. True, every culture thinks that they're cool and other cultures are broken. But this is fiction. You can have people who are bad. You're making judgments on these people, and that's cool. That's a moral structure you're building into the rules. But if you only build it into the setting, it won't have the desired effect.

yeah, I am trying to address that with the personality trait of moral , trying to emphasise that 'moral' is entirely subjective.  I guess I could do more with that.
I realised that I need to replace 'compassionate'  with 'empathetic'. similar but slightly different emphasis.


Quote
Luke Crane is fond of saying that the setting is rules. But that might mean the opposite of what you hope it means. It means that you can't have a setting where the rules contradict stuff the setting lays out.

So, if your chauvanistic, faithless, thuggish jerk tribe gains resources from those traits that others don't have, if they have special features like "not tied to my word" that gain them points, players will want to play your villains instead of your heroes.

can you expand on this, im not sure...

Quote
Quote
I think you have a good foundation. You know what you want, you know what you don't want and you are very creative.

Well, Dave's right that you're creative, but I think you have to refine what you want and how to get it.

now theres some advice to live by.  I think that I have clear ideas about what I want.  maybe not the language to express them so far.  Obviously there are areas that I hadnt even considered critically and you can tell those by the fact that they have been papered over with derivitve filler , for now anyway.


Quote
I recommend that you read the Articles (linked at the top of every page), particularly the Narrativism, Gamism, and Simulationism essays, plus the two Fantasy Heartbreaker ones.

reading the fantasy heartbreaker articles is WHY I became discouraged!
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stefoid
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2006, 04:40:59 PM »

Quote
Hi!
  Well, you don;t have to go so far as to add poetry or anything that taxing. But you do use the actual term "chauvanist" so it forces the reader to look at them through that lens.
  Your writing is good, but it has a "Stream of consciousness" feel to it. Like you sat down in a session or two and pounded it out. this is good, but it adds a certain rambling quality. A quick decision about what you want them to be and a subsequent edit will have you back on track.

oh.  I thought you meant chauvanism as in gender-related, but that quote (which I plaguerised from somewhere else) is in the context of narrow-minded patriotism.
dont worry about the writing, this doco is just a collage I banged out for my own purposes.  would never publish as is, might be sued for a start!

 
Quote
For instance, at one point you explain how outsiders call them faithless and that they do not consider themselves faithless, but then you continue to reinforce the fact that they are faithless and that they only pay lip service to all except their Ancestors. Then you go into a little about Ancestor worship and follow it up with more details on how they dispise organized religions. I am not trying to discourage you, but the Gypsy/Dervish description is full of contradictions like this. They are humble and friendly to travellers, but they'll rob you if you are an outsider, etc.
  Maybe the gaff is, they are more than one culture, you have a faction of raiders, a faction of herders and a faction of refugees...

you certainly come up with some interesting perspectives.  its great to see this through your eyes.  Heres a question for you - is the concept of faith even relevent in a world where the gods are demonstrably real?

Im not sure if the generosity to guests/travellers combined with the raiding is a contradiction that needs to be addressed or not, but your point is taken.  Many people have contradictory ideals that may vary subtley on the situation.  A less scrupulous type might split hairs over exactly: are you a guest and therefore permitted the laws of hospitality, or were you just a meddling foreigner up to no good and therefore the legitimate target of a raid?

I suppose one thing which I should hammer home somewhere in the writeups is that these descriptions are of idealized behaviour.  a thouroughly moral and honourable one of these guys (gotta come up with some names) acts more or less like the description presented, but their society, like any other, will be full of people that dont live up to those ideals to whatever degree.

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dindenver
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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2006, 04:56:51 PM »

Hi!
Quote
Heres a question for you - is the concept of faith even relevent in a world where the gods are demonstrably real?
  Well, that answer depends on you..Do you wish to portray the epic battle between polytheistic and monotheistic religions? Do you want the everyday peasant to have access the power of the gods? Will Shamans and Priests be putting on Demonstrations for the masses? Will not a religious leader question the faith of a follower who is not devout enough? Will magic talismans made by shamans and witches provide real power or small bonuses or just be bogus or..?
  But no, I mean, I don't think there will bre any aetheists in this setting, but I can see characters forsaking oe deity in favor of another, can't you?
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Dave M
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My blog
Free Demo
stefoid
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Posts: 319


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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2006, 05:08:27 PM »

Hi!
Quote
Heres a question for you - is the concept of faith even relevent in a world where the gods are demonstrably real?
  Well, that answer depends on you..Do you wish to portray the epic battle between polytheistic and monotheistic religions? Do you want the everyday peasant to have access the power of the gods? Will Shamans and Priests be putting on Demonstrations for the masses? Will not a religious leader question the faith of a follower who is not devout enough? Will magic talismans made by shamans and witches provide real power or small bonuses or just be bogus or..?
  But no, I mean, I don't think there will bre any aetheists in this setting, but I can see characters forsaking oe deity in favor of another, can't you?


faith (according to my definition anyway) implies believing in something that you cant proove.  If you live in a world where deities can be verified to exist and have an effect, then you dont need a lot of faith -- you just need worship.  Its just semantics, I was being a smartarse. 

your questions are actually much more to the point, and yes, I want religion and magic to be everyday affairs for these people.
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