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Author Topic: [Perfect -working title] Dystopic gaming, attributes as a hinderance.  (Read 9758 times)
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« on: April 12, 2006, 09:44:46 AM »

I read 1984 and Brave New World and Fight Club not too long ago, and that got my kickstarted on brainstorming about RPing in a completely dystopic, controlled society.

My idea was that attributes/skills/abilities/classes or whatever the game offered... they would all be limitations and hinderances.

There would be three basic things that constituted a character - images, freedoms, and certifications.

[size=12t]IMAGES[/size]
Images are the things your character still clings too - the things that keep their humanity in tact and save them from becoming another drone.
The scent of your lost mother.
The taste of strawberry wine.
The game hopscotch.
Smoking in back alleys, because it was cool.

I'm still trying to figure out how to tie these into the game mechanics in a way that is actually usable.

My idea is to have a "humanity pool", with poker chips in it.
Every time you can tie "hopscotch" into the storyline, in a reasonable way, you get an extra chip.

The government wants to erase your Images.
Like in 1984... how they erase emotions in Room 101.
They have the ability to do too things to your Images:
Eradicate - completely remove that item from your character sheet
Reduce - make you rewrite the image in a way that's more limited, less applicable. (ie, narrow the range of.. .applicable-ness.)

Thus, the GM has ways of submitting you to mental trial, emotional abuse, etc, etc

When the GM does this, you can spend one chip to keep the image intact.
otherwise, it is an opposed die roll - d6s.
If the GM wins, or its a tie, the image is reduced.
If the GM wins by 2 or more, it is eradicated.


The humanity pool can also be used in trying to override Freedoms - see below.

[size=12t]FREEDOMS[/size]
The idea of doublethink would be prevalent in this game...
Freedoms are things which the "government" or "order" would be trying to protect.
You basically are given the ultimatum of "we can protect freedom X, so long as you do Y."
For example:

Freedom of Thought
Thoughts can be dangerous things, and if spread can cause harm to others.
Therefore, the government cannot protect freedom of thought if you have intent to spread.
We can protect Freedom of Thought, if you do not speak.
You cannot be submitted to mental alteration.
You cannot speak in public - violation exempts freedom.

So... on the character sheet, you would write:
protected from mental alteration.
not allowed to speak.

And now you are playing a character that cannot speak in public. You have to RP thoughts, body language, gestures... all without dialoguing with the other characters.

CERTIFICATIONS
These are the hall passes of the dystopic world.
Certain buildings, institutions, etc will require certifications.
Upgrading your job (ie, earning more money) will require certifications.

Again, like freedoms, these have certain actions that will exempt them (but they are much less impacting restrictions.)

Certification: Police Department Access
Permitted to enter police areas with a restriction rating of 5 or less.
Exempt if there is a warrant for arrest.

So basically... you need to either avoid "criminal" activity, or not get caught.
If you do get caught, you lose your access into the police department.



So...
as you can tell so far, the attributes are almost all narrative.
The game is HIGHLY narrativist.

Aside from the Image Destruction mechanic, there needs to be a generic one as well.

-if you  have access into an area, and you have no freedoms against carrying out a certain action... you can attempt it.
-if you have a freedom against the action you want to attempt, you can spend a Humanity counter (see in the images section) to override that freedom for this one action.
-If it isn't an illegal action, it goes through automatically.
-If it is an illegal action, you need to go through MECHANIC X.

I'm not sure whether mechanic X would best be a bidding mechanism, or a chance mechanism.
Basically, it needs to confirm two different things:
1.) Whether you succeed in the action you are attempting
2.) Whether you get caught or not

So...
I know there are some gaps that might need to be filled before these questions can be answered, but...


THE QUESTIONS
1.) Is the idea of attributes as a NEGATIVE thing appeal to you?
2.) Would you be interested in a game where your own self-control is at stake?
3.) How can I run the generic mechanic to test success and whether or not you get caught?
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2006, 10:04:54 AM »

Superb. I love dystopian games. There were two in Game Chef this year: my game Euthymia and Eric Blair's T-Minus.

To answer your questions...

1.) Is the idea of attributes as a NEGATIVE thing appeal to you?

Yes.

2.) Would you be interested in a game where your own self-control is at stake?

Hell, yes.

3.) How can I run the generic mechanic to test success and whether or not you get caught?

That's an interesting one. Would you want them to be completely independent of each other: so you could have a "Success" die and a "Caught" die? Or something along the lines of: the more likely you are to succeed, the more likely you are to get caught?

Some random ideas: If you want the two to be independent, you could use two different dice; or you could reference the number on the dice for "Success" and whether it's odd or even for "Caught"; or you could use cards and use black/red for whether you're caught and the rank of the card for whether you succeed.

If you want them to be linked, you could use tied dice in some way: you roll 1d6 and 1d4. If the d6 is under your attribute, you succeed; but if it matches the number on the d4, you're caught. Or...I don't know...use poker hands. If you win a hand of poker against the GM, you succeed; but if your high card is a Jack or higher, you're caught.

OK, the last one was a bit crap, but does that spark off any ideas for you?

Graham
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2006, 10:15:22 AM »

Hi!
  Interesting idea, I think the setting has flair, but the mechanics can make or break it, in my mind...
  1) the idea of these attribute pulling you down is awesome. I feel like Images needs a re-work. Maybe use ideals or something that can be more broadly applicable (ideals like love, charity, whatever). My gues is after the second or third time you wrangle a radio flyer into the narrative its going to start feeling pretty contrived...
  2) Yes, this is a cool idea, depending on where you go with it, I may or may not want to play the final version, but the setting intrigues me. I am not really into "I will not leave you" style game play, but if it could be played in a "No one gets hurt" format, I could see it as very fun!
  3) Maybe you use what you have already. If you Image applies you are inspired to succeed, otherwise you fail? Or, if the Freedoms are different for each character, apply them as a positive or negative?
  I think you want to think about how freedoms work and which are aplicable. For instance, your Freedom of Thought example does not seem real practical, I mean, how do people do business? Even in countries that are down o capitalism, you still had to go out to the store and get food or whatever.

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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2006, 10:27:37 AM »

Quote
I think you want to think about how freedoms work and which are aplicable. For instance, your Freedom of Thought example does not seem real practical, I mean, how do people do business? Even in countries that are down o capitalism, you still had to go out to the store and get food or whatever.

Actually, that's the point.
You, as a player, only pick Freedom of Thought if you are willing to deal with that huge roadblock.

The idea that you have to figure out how to do business without language IS part of the game.
Freedoms are meant to be crippling.

You pick your poisons.

Quote
Or something along the lines of: the more likely you are to succeed, the more likely you are to get caught?
*kisses your feet*

That is an amazing suggestion. I love it.
Logically, I'm not sure how it works...
UNLESS, you can opt to make it harder, in order to make it safer.
which would emulate extra security measures.

GREAT IDEA! Now, we still have no mechanic hammered out, but we have the guiding principles.

Quote
I am not really into "I will not leave you" style game play, but if it could be played in a "No one gets hurt" format, I could see it as very fun!

Can you elaborate on this? I am confused by what you are saying, a little.

Quote
My gues is after the second or third time you wrangle a radio flyer into the narrative its going to start feeling pretty contrived...

VERY, VERY TRUE.
there are a few solutions:
-have 3-5 images on average, so that you alternate which images you conjure...
-you have broad ideals, like you suggested...


Also, though... just playing devil's advocate....
these are the last things you have. The dying tendrils of a time that is lost.
The remnants of humanity, of hope, of dreams.

Maybe when you're willing to die, to protect that image of a radio flyer...
it doesn't seem so contrived.
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Chad
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2006, 10:35:02 AM »

Hi Joepub,

I am totally impressed with images. And I think they are already broad enough - its really up to how they are brought into play, and to my mind there would be a hundred cool ways to bring "smoking in back alleys, because it was cool" into play. It speaks to childhood peer issues, or hardened upbringing, or even charisma. Taking the oppressive dystopian setting, that wants to erase these memories, makes the fact that they are these intimate, personal fragments, even more powerful -whilst enhancing the claustrophobia of the setting. I would play a game about that.

Juicy stuff.

Chad
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2006, 10:46:27 AM »

Wicked.

okay....
So now I have two diametrically opposed views on images, don't I?

Well, I guess what I'm hearing, collaboratively:
-images are cool
-they are something that really defines a character
-there are many ways to bring them into play...
BUT
-some players might use them in a really contrived way.

I think that this makes tone and setting flavour huge.
The game needs to have a sense of desperate need, of NEEDING to cling to these things.
of NEEDING to break the law.
of NEEDING to stay human.

Currently, that driving need doesn't actually exist mechanically.
There is no mechanical reason to go against the flow.
It is hard to fight the system, and it becomes increasingly harder as time goes on.

CURRENTLY,
there is only the thematic, narrative, personal reasons for wanting to hold onto your humanity/hope.


Should there be a more concrete reward system for... fighting against the current?
because it is a narrativist game, can those rewards come primarily through narration?

In many ways... character advancement is negative and harmful for the character.
does story advancement act as a powerful enough force to keep players wanting to "keep their humanity"?
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2006, 11:38:19 AM »

Hi!
  OK, Chad's example of an Image is off-the-hook. That to me feels easier to fit into the narrative than the smell of my mother. Not trying to diss on you, but ponting out that how often you encounter these images in daily life will dictate how contrived their appearance seems
  Also, I was not trying say that a memory of a childhood toy like a radio flyer is not worth defending, but rather, how often will it be relevant to an adults daily life. At some point you will have to start associating the color red with this toy in order to keep tapping into it, no?

  There is a theory of two basic types of groups/players: "No one gets hurt" and "I will not leave" the basic idea is what is acceptable behavior, what is encouraged behavior and what are the consequences of that behavior.
  • "I will not leave" - Pretty much any behavior is acceptable, You are encouraged to push the boundaries of the relationships and there are not supposed to be consequences for these actions
  • "No one gets hurt" - Pretty much behavior should follow the rules of polite company, You are encouraged not to push the boundaries of the relationships and there definitely will be consequances for unacceptable behavior.
  I bring it up because you want the "governemnt" to really push these hot buttons. This would be super awesome if it is kept in the realm of the characters experience. But if it degenerates into pushing people's buttons to get a reaction, or encouraging escalating outside of comfort zones, then it might not be the game for me.

  Part of me wants to suggest using Humanity for both freedoms and illegality.

  One thing that puzzles me, why would different characters have different freedoms? Wouldn't this government enforce them more or less uniformly? Maybe the freedoms are enforced uniformly, but either the character is monitored in certain areas more becaouse of some history of infraction, or their image triggers them to break certain Freedoms?
  Anyways, it sounds like a cool game! Don;t let these minor points/questions discourage you from pursuing it...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2006, 12:00:07 PM »

Quote
One thing that puzzles me, why would different characters have different freedoms? Wouldn't this government enforce them more or less uniformly?

Because, their freedoms are stated as "We can protect freedom X, if Y".
There are only certain freedoms that characters will have.

Also, I'm thinking of working in a character "status" rating.

Low Citizen must have at least 1 freedom
Citizen must have at least 2 freedoms
High Citizen must have at least 3 freedoms
Citizen First Class must have at least 4 freedoms

As you gain status, you are forced to take on more and more "freedoms'.
This is because when you enter the "inner party", you are just one step closer to the core of the dogma, and the core of the entire system.

Characters would be encouraged to gaining status, because it opens a lot of doors for them. They can travel, tehy can enter official sites, they can get favours done...
but at the same time, they have more of these crippling pieces.

The idea is that you have to, as social law, have a minimum amount of enforced freedoms.


I'm not sure how that would be worded to players, but something along those lines.
Make sense?

Quote
At some point you will have to start associating the color red with this toy in order to keep tapping into it, no?

Yes.
Exactly.
I have an idea now....
Whenever you bring in the image, you have to relate it to something.
So that you have "radio flyer", and you see a red brick building which reminisces it, so you write "radio flyer - red".

That way, when the image is eradicated, red becomes a harm.

Enter the fourth part of characters - Harms.


Harms are things which threaten to expose characters.
-a love
-someone you admire
-someone you care about
-something that you've associated with an eradicated image
-something you desire (money, food, a car, etc)
-certain ideals you fixate on.

These are things that make you sweat and twitch, when you know they are in harm's way.
Then, when you are resolving a scene using the yet-to-be-decided mechanic...
each harm adds +1 to the potential for being caught. or makes the "being caught" of +1 magnitude.


That way, every time you evoke an image, you add to how dangerous its fallout could be.
That way, maybe some usage is contrived... but you are careful about what stimulates it, and how often.


Does this create a common ground between Chad's like of the concept, and your concern?
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2006, 12:42:29 PM »

Hi!
  No common ground is needed. I think Chad's suggestion with the old rule is right on. I just think players will need guidelines for adding Images to their char sheet. Examples of good and bad ones. Bad ones might be things that are too rare, too abbstract or requires too much effort to interject into the narrative, while ood ones will be easily identified, easily encountered and require less effort to interject into th narrative...
  I feel like images and harms are the same thing. I don;t think you need a new mechanic, just think you need to carefully guide the players to pick images that won't tarnish or stagnate the narrative.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2006, 12:54:19 PM »

Okay.

Scrap harms for the moment.
But I'll keep the general idea in the back of my mind.
When I've got the mechanics and rule structures a bit more solid, I'll revisit the idea.


Okay,
chatting outside this forum, I had someone present a concern with terminology: my use of the word "humanity".
Humanity, it was noted, is used in several other games, to represent something different.

My version of humanity is trying to evoke individuality, sentimental attachment, a willingness to go against the stream, tendency, inclination, passion, impulse, human nature, confidence.

I'm considering switching that term to either Inclination or Impulse.
suggestions?

okay....
I'm going to do the Power 3 soon, but first I wanna talk about my proposed setting.


First, picture the height of Victorian "sophistication."
People are proper, and extremely confined by hierarchy, expectations, limitations, etiquette, etc.
In ways, it was a highly oppressive culture.

Now, picture dictatorial takeover.
The dictators push these proper behaviors to the point that we create a dystopic, controlled, oppressive culture, akin to the dystopic literature we all known and love.

Everyone wears scarves around their necks.
A bare neck subjects you to arrest and imprisonment.
The scarves are colour coded, to represent the different freedoms.

If your character has the Freedom of Thought, he wears an orange scarf.
That's just how the people are identified.



Can I have some feedback on the setting,
on images and freedoms,

and just in general up to this point?

If people want me to carry on, I'll move into the Power 3 then mechanics next.
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oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2006, 04:47:04 PM »

So, to cast it in unnecessary philosophy jargon, the proles have lots of negative freedom, as in, freedom from constraint, but no actual power to change things, that is, no positive freedom[/ur]. If/As the characters progress into the inner circle, they will need to sacrifice more and more negative freedom in order to gain the ability to have an impact on the world. To gain the power, they become less of a person. To try and beat the system they simply end up becoming more of a part of it (or perhaps not this time... ^_^ )

I dont think the scarves do it for me. Part of the oppression of 1984 was not knowing what anyone else's agenda or abilities were, and these would remove some of that methinks. The badges that people wear should be a symbol of the control that the governement has (controlling how folk express themselves), but they shouldnt be reliable, they shouldnt actually dictate how the person behaves like the Freedom mechanic itself does.

On the other hand... perhaps you want that as a symbol of actual changes to the character for more sorta Brave New World engineering? A certain badge means you have been modified to suit the government's needs. To make actual not wearing the badge a dilemma for players, make it harder for them to do stuff while wearing it (either because the players are being constantly reminded to fear their oppressors, or perhaps even there's some psychic-control gizmo in them). So then removing the badge is a powerful symbol of raising the stakes, the players feel freer to do what needs to be done, but they also know they are even less likely to get away with it. Some kind of mechanical enforcement of their power needs to be there, i dont think it will work as just frivolous colour.

Which leads me to an important aspect of the colour. How is the government scary and horrid for the players? Constant observation and memory management as in 1984, biopower through drugs, indoctrination and genetic engineering as in Brave New World, the crazy ass religiously enforced hierarchy and ettiquette in a Handmaid's Tale?

As a stat name, Humanity does it for me from that list, but i think its pretty human to want to be a part of the system too. Perhaps Rebellion? Not so sentimental, but then for Winston in 1984 the sex was an act of rebellion as much it was passion. Depends on the colour i guess.

Cheers!
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2006, 06:01:53 PM »

Hey, oreso....
Thanks for adding some more concrete terms to the discussion.

As far as the scarves...
they are to indicate to the law (Inspectors) which Freedoms a character MUST adhere to.

However, part of the game is breaking those laws and impositions.
So, each character must wear at least one scarf.
The more scarves, the closer you are to the inner party.

In much the same way that Proles don't need to wear coveralls, but outer party members do.
As you put it:
Quote
A certain badge means you have been modified to suit the government's needs. To make actual not wearing the badge a dilemma for players, make it harder for them to do stuff while wearing it

A bare neck is a crime, first of all.
Meaning all characters must adhere to at least one freedom (/scarf).
The more scarves you have, the more political sway you can garner...
but at the same time, the more you become part of the system.

Quote
To gain the power, they become less of a person.
Exactly.



Anyways...
the scarves are EXACTLY like the badges, as you describe them.
Players can opt which freedoms they take, scarves they wear...
They give them strengths, but cripple them as well.

but, scarf laws can be broken.
It's just at a risk to the character.


in that light... do you still dislike them?
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joepub
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2006, 06:05:38 PM »

sorry, forgot to answer one important thing

Quote
How is the government scary and horrid for the players?

-ridiculously constrained etiquette and manners
-bleak and controlled social life
-friends are just enemies you trust too much
-everyone betrays friends to gain favours and access
-everyone feels powerless, therefore will do anything for power (inner party status, etc)
-everyone is status and reputation driven
-everything important (ideals, love, etc) has been trivialized.



Hope that paints a semi-solid picture.
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Chad
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2006, 12:34:44 AM »

Hi Joepub,

About the term Humanity; maybe a suitable alternative would be something such as Identity, Selfhood or Self-image (which ties to images)? Seeing that totalitarian state wants to create sameness, impose hegemony, and annihilate individuality- it makes sense to look for the opposite concept.

An aesthetic observation; scarves are rather soft, comfort giving things - open to a lot of other readings. Perhaps something more oppressive could work? Like arm bands; these have been used by totalitarian regimes world over to mark people. The obvious example being the Nazi's during WWII.

Alternatively, seeing that the scarves represent status, how about something like pips or stripes. That kind of military uniform coding on clothing. Uniforms have been a classic staple for creating sameness in the societies.
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oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2006, 07:17:41 AM »

I think Chad has hit on a subconscious reason why scarves turned me off, they're just too comforting. The actual idea i think could work real well (i was only using 'badge' as an umbrella term).

Other ideas (depending what you want):
Ties, sashes and belts have nice imagery of being constrictive.
Jewelry and tattoos or physical scarring and/or augmentation could represent the manipulation.
Actual badges, clips and medals would suggest the status and authority of these things.
Armbands would be great not just through association, but cos they're slightly constricting, but much more of a symbol of authority (if that's what you're after).

Your colour sounds good. I'm mostly excited about how this is gonna be implemented now, so feel free to answer or go at your own pace.
Quote
-friends are just enemies you trust too much
-everyone betrays friends to gain favours and access
-everyone feels powerless, therefore will do anything for power (inner party status, etc)
player vs player a la Paranoid? What incentives are there to work together in the first place?

Quote
-everyone is status and reputation driven
Is this awarded by GM fiat on behalf of the anonymous overlords, by players fighting against their ambitious instincts or managing some (possibly hidden) resource, or what?

Quote
-everything important (ideals, love, etc) has been trivialized.
Like, how? Through being undermined (everyone only has time to look after themselves), or deliberate engineering (the words have been systematically stripped of meaning), sheer capitalism (just another commodity), etc?
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