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Author Topic: CITY - the fight for control  (Read 3566 times)
signoftheserpent
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Posts: 151


« on: February 22, 2006, 07:49:32 AM »

It occurs to me that cities are arguably the best settings for rpg's. It's part of the reason, I believe, the oWoD was so successful. with that in mind I wrote a couple of pages of notes for an idea with the above working title. In this setting the city is as yet undecided; it might be old, fantasy, new, futuristic or modern. There are two 'sides' whose conflict is the motive for the game and the setting:

The Keepers - they are the masters of the City, they work in secret to ensure its sanctity and security as a whole and place that above the liberties of any individual. IN this they are draconian and ruthless, making the City a rather totalitarian place to live. Their motive is simple: protection. Beyond the City is unfathomable danger and corruption and it is their sworn undertaking to protect the City - as a whole - from that. So, if that means excising one or two 'bad elements' to achieve that, they will. Terrible things lurk Beyond and the Keepers protect the City from them and their influence that the City and thus humanity can survive. But at what cost.

The Rebels - they are aware of the Keepers true existence as an authority. They chafe against their yoke and place personal liberty and freedom above all else believing that survival without freedom is meaningless. Naturally they do not understand, as the Keepers' see it, the true threat from outside. But they believe that threat to be manufactured and a tool of control. They are largely anarchic but with noble intent. Likewise if a few must suffer for the good of all and the removal of oppresion then that is the cost of war that must be paid.

The nature of the Threat Beyond is unclear. Perhaps even it doesn't exist at all or has been forgotten by the Keepers. The threat however is their raison d'etre and is the reason for their drastic action. Whenever this Threat penetrates the city the keepers act as they have always done to remove it and its influence so that the cancer from Beyond does not spread. Unfortunately this is the element i am least sure about and will probably help to decide the nature of the setting (at least in terms of genre).

This is occupies that Twilight Zone inbetween Shayalaman's Village, Whispering Vault, Dark City, with Keeper PC's playing characters akin to Wesley Dodds (aka DC's original Sandman superhero - thus characters in gasmasks using mind altering tools!).

Thoughts?
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signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2006, 04:42:56 AM »

The Keepers are a sort of 'meta - police force'. They operate from the mythical (at least to the mundane citizens) 13th floor of the downtown City Police Department precinct. They are something like the Matrix's Agents, able to move through the collective unconscious of the City, psychically, as well as physically, in this operating more like the Nevermen (Dark Horse Comics, top notch pulphorrornoirSF) or the C types from Whispering Vault (whatever the in-game phrase was - a great game long forgotten). I envision them (as previously mentioned) akin to Sandman, which isn't a bad moniker. The gasmask appearance has a menacing quality that isn't out of place and lends to the 'agentesque' fashion of their uniform. They are in many ways faceless; the mundane population do not know of their existence except through legend and myth.
In this the setting is similar to the Matrix again - people who perceive the fraught nature of reality become a focus. In 'City' they attract the attentions of those Beyond, those the Keepers fight to protect the City against. At the same time they are also targetted by the Keepers who must work to ensue their anonymity (in case Something Bad Happens). It is from these ranks, however, that new 'Sandmen' are called.
So this is a game that is partly about monster hunting, ala Whispering Vault, but also about Cities - or more accurately the City. This City is the main character of the setting. It also deals with themes of control and reality in the way existential SF like Dark City, 13th Floor and of course the Matrix (one of my favourite films I'm in no way ashamed to say). My problem is making the game playable and not some weird existential trip or joke. There's a reason why there ain't no Naked Lunch rpg exists, I think (not least of all the +10 Bull Dildo thing would make most people's heads pop).
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signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2006, 05:49:46 AM »

From within you would never know there was anything wrong with the world; the City is a normal place where nothing extraordinary happens and people lead normal lives. The truth is that the City is anything but; only the efforts of an eponymous and mysterious Agency maintain this façade. The reality of the City is far different.
The Agency work to protect the City, a consensual illusion created to protect the last surviving remnants of humanity from the terrifying reality of mankind’s predicament. Humanity is all but extinct; forces from beyond time and space have encroached upon and assaulted our world, shattering our reality. These invaders are devastating to the human psyche as they are unassailable. It is the Agency that has saved a small fragment of humanity and hidden it deep within the earth away from the devastation and chaos above.
The City is a construct, created to allow humanity to survive through abject denial of the awful truth. To that end, the Agency work to ensure the security of that illusion from without as well as within. Forces from without constantly threaten to shatter their efforts, and the fragility of human consciousness threatens to pierce the illusion unwittingly destroying the safe dream mankind finds itself in. already there is a movement of rebels within the City who have become ‘self aware’ in this fashion; they refuse to acknowledge the danger they bring to the whole.
The Agency stands on a knife-edge working to protect humanity from that which almost destroyed it as well as itself. They know that the illusion cannot last forever.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2006, 08:57:12 AM »

Do you have any particular questions or problems you'd like us to help you resolve?
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2006, 11:26:38 AM »

No, I was just looking for feedback. I don't think this idea is going to hold so this thread can be deleted AFAIC.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2006, 08:09:32 PM »

No, I was just looking for feedback. I don't think this idea is going to hold so this thread can be deleted AFAIC.

Hi.

Threads don't get deleted at the Forge, as a matter of policy.

Not, as a matter of policy, but as a matter of friendly advice, for your next design thread, you probably want to have some specific questions that we can answer, or point out some places that you're having trouble and would like help.  That makes it easier to provide you with support.

yrs--
--Ben
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Certified
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2006, 09:55:11 AM »

After reading though this post I was wondering, will players only be Sandman/Agent types or did you see it more as factions? Players may be Rebels, Sandmen (makes me think of Logan’s Run) or possibly independents that stumble onto this secret war. How long has this conflict existed? Does The City exist in a vacuum ala Dark City or are there Sandman types in all cities? 
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signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2006, 02:50:52 PM »

After reading though this post I was wondering, will players only be Sandman/Agent types or did you see it more as factions? Players may be Rebels, Sandmen (makes me think of Logan’s Run) or possibly independents that stumble onto this secret war. How long has this conflict existed? Does The City exist in a vacuum ala Dark City or are there Sandman types in all cities? 

Ostensibly players would only be Sandmen though the setting as a whole would likely include more factions, though those beyond the main 2 would be of lesser importance.
The City is likewise ostensibly in a vacuum though this is likely not a tangible setting element, it's just that the City is a 'classic city' a stereotype representing cities as a whole, hence the moniker 'The City'. Consequently the world outside is irrelevant. This is the case in many city settings where the world beyond is at best hinted at and largely irrelevant. Certainly in the Matrix we don't know of the larger world or country - for instance do the people in the mega city vote for a president of the country as a whole? These questions would not be answered or raised by the setting and would be left to GM fiat.
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Anders Larsen
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Posts: 270


« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2006, 06:00:57 AM »

So this is a game that is partly about monster hunting, ala Whispering Vault, but also about Cities - or more accurately the City. This City is the main character of the setting. It also deals with themes of control and reality in the way existential SF like Dark City, 13th Floor and of course the Matrix (one of my favourite films I'm in no way ashamed to say). My problem is making the game playable and not some weird existential trip or joke. There's a reason why there ain't no Naked Lunch rpg exists, I think (not least of all the +10 Bull Dildo thing would make most people's heads pop).

I see the Threat Beyond as being the most important element in you setting; it is this threat that is the source of all the conflict. So I think you should be very careful when you develop this idea to keep it a point of conflict, either by never explaining what it is, or by giving an explanation that can be interpreted in different ways.

It may be a good sign that you doubt the game is playable, this can mean that you are going for a very different kind of gaming experience. A 'weird existential trip' does not have to be a bad thing.

I believe that you should focus more on the Threat Beyond, and how it affect the different people in the city. And then be more clear about what the characters are doing in the game, and what kind of feeling you want from the game.
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Certified
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2006, 03:51:25 PM »

Isee the Threat Beyond as being the most important element in you setting; it is this threat that is the source of all the conflict. So I think you should be very careful when you develop this idea to keep it a point of conflict, either by never explaining what it is, or by giving an explanation that can be interpreted in different ways.

It may be a good sign that you doubt the game is playable, this can mean that you are going for a very different kind of gaming experience. A 'weird existential trip' does not have to be a bad thing.

I believe that you should focus more on the Threat Beyond, and how it affect the different people in the city. And then be more clear about what the characters are doing in the game, and what kind of feeling you want from the game.


This brings up an excellent point by emphasizing the dread of the treat beyond you can create paranoia. This works even if the threat is never defined. Rumors, urban legends, fear the outside; your only hope is here with us. I look forward to see how this concept develops. 
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signoftheserpent
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Posts: 151


« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2006, 04:16:52 AM »

Some more concepts/ideas/twists/crap:

Within the City the Sandmen ensure the safety of humanity from Them. The City is the psychic construct created by the Sandmen in order to protect humans. It is not real except within the collective consciousness of the entire human race. This construct has evolved over centuries for as long as the Sandmen, in various incarnations, have existed. It is a device used to contain the fragile psyche of humanity. It prevents the imagination of men from knowing that which the Them would use to manipulate them. This containment can be seen as a prison, but it is the only means to stop the enemy from sundering humanity psychically.

Even so the control mechanism of the City is not total: Them sometimes penetrate the mind realms and from there the real world. Beyond the City lies the Dark Country – this is the potential and the chaos of human imagination and its connection to the depths of the universe, including the realms of Them. The Sandmen must work within the City to prevent people from entering the Dark Country, for although it contains much power and many other entities (including the Carnival of Eyes), it is also very dangerous, capable of corrupting untrained minds. This corruption is of course another gateway for Them.

Worse, the Dark Country sometimes manifests in the real world. In dark and strange places, where the influence of modern life is minimal, the chaotic potential of the Dark Country seeps through creating instability and portals twixt order and chaos.
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Anders Larsen
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Posts: 270


« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2006, 03:21:18 PM »

I see some very cool ideas in this setting, but there are many things that are unclear to me. Here are some of them:

In what way is Them and the Dark Country connected, and who is Them?
In what way do the Sandmen prevent people from entering the Dark Country?

Quote
Worse, the Dark Country sometimes manifests in the real world. In dark and strange places, where the influence of modern life is minimal, the chaotic potential of the Dark Country seeps through creating instability and portals twixt order and chaos.

What is the real world? Is it the psychic construct of the human world? And what forms does these manifestations take?

 - Anders

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Eric Bennett
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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2006, 09:38:04 PM »

Hey, I've been following this thread for a few days now, and I must say that these ideas you have sound very interesting. Also, I have a few questions about the Dark Country. Specifically...

  • What is the in-setting explanation for the invasion of the real world by the Dark Country? Parallel universes/dimensions? Quantum mechanics? Hallucination? If a person in the real world had the chance to, hypothetically, study a manifestation of the Dark Country, what would they find?
  • Do you intend to specifically define who or what They are, or is this an element of the setting that will be left vague/for the players and GM to determine as they see fit for their own game, like Humanity in Sorcerer?
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signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2006, 01:08:05 AM »

I see some very cool ideas in this setting, but there are many things that are unclear to me.

You're not the only one! :)

Quote
In what way is Them and the Dark Country connected, and who is Them?

They (to be grammatically correct) are a cosmic force of evil seeking to destroy humanity. They are insidious and shadowy and are born of what might be called psychic potential which can be seen as a universal force that humanity, through his imagination and unconscious can tap into, though haphazardly. Through man They can act in the real world.

The Dark Country is the heartland of the psychic landscape; the place of nightmares and prophecy. Humanity can access this realm subconsciously but to do so is dangerous. This is partly because They have a foothold here because this is where the aforementioned psychic potential is strongest. The heart of the Dark Country is the heart of the cosmos. It is not an inherently evil place, just a powerful and therefore dangerous place. The Sandmen do not want people to enter the Dark Country and so they keep them within the custody of the City. Human minds likely will be corrupted by this realm and in so doing become powerful but at the same time become Their slaves.

Quote
In what way do the Sandmen prevent people from entering the Dark Country?

The Sandmen constructed the City to contain the dreams and power and even minds of men. In this they limit human potential but they also keep it safe. One cannot leave the City basically. However now the Dark Country is manifesting in the real world, their job is getting harder.

Quote
What is the real world? Is it the psychic construct of the human world? And what forms does these manifestations take?
Quote

The real world is our world, conscious reality as we ourselves know it.
the manifestations are just simple yet invisible portals between the two realms that one can unwittingly transgress. Such real world locations may have a more pronounced and eerie appearance or feel to them; subtle changes in landscape (trees appearing more crooked, mist, etc), at most.


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signoftheserpent
Member

Posts: 151


« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2006, 01:17:04 AM »

Hey, I've been following this thread for a few days now, and I must say that these ideas you have sound very interesting.


Thanks.

Quote
What is the in-setting explanation for the invasion of the real world by the Dark Country?

The increase in humanity's ability to access greater psychic - cosmic - potential.

Quote
Parallel universes/dimensions? Quantum mechanics? Hallucination? If a person in the real world had the chance to, hypothetically,
study a manifestation of the Dark Country, what would they find?

They would first have to travel somewhere conventionally remote; somewhere probably not out of place in Lovecraft's own fictional country (Dunwich etc). Here they would see countryside with an eerie feel, something doesn't quite feel right. The moon that hangs in the sky hangs low and looks a little too full, or too thin. Maybe the stars aren't right, the trees seem misshapen and the dense thickets even denser. Animal sounds are more distinct, perhaps even 'darker' more aggressive, unnatural. At worst one might even find some supernatural entity from the Dark Country has crossed over, a predator feeding on local farmlife.

Quote
Do you intend to specifically define who or what They are, or is this an element of the setting that will be left vague/for the players and GM to determine as they see fit for their own game, like Humanity in Sorcerer?

Well more the latter. They are intentionally uniform and mysterious since that is what gives Them an edge. Creating a catalogue of monsters with names and descriptions makes things less interesting. Certainly once you see that Silly picture of Cthulhu in the CoC book (especially the Mythos size reference chart with him stood next to a person) he looks less scary and more stupid. Besides They are meant to be ephemeral in nature, more often than not acting through people. They are in the shadows and in the crowds and They can look like you and me.
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