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Author Topic: [Slime Octopi and Coral] Design Direction; Is it Still an RPG?  (Read 4037 times)
Thunder_God
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« on: April 13, 2006, 03:12:44 PM »

So I've been thinking, all sorts of games are pushing the envelope, and keep pushing it.

Some games seem like party games, some games resemble more of a way to create a story than play, etc.

In Slime Octopi and Coral(SOaC) N-1 players play Elder Gods who crush upon earth(or are there from time before time) and take turns competing in their efforts to shape Humanity according to their desires and goals. The last player plays Humanity and the world as it progresses through the ages(each turn is a mini-epoch of sorts).

Humanity is a resource, it has tracks, there are strategic reasons to go for it slowly or go for it quickly, to pit one's followers against the other players' and so on. The game has definite win/loss conditions.

So far this sounds almost entirely like a board-game, the only difference that you characterize the "characters" more and as single entities(aside from Huanity, but that player is actually "Mr. H.") they have distinct goals, priorities and methods which can allow for a certain room for getting into the character's mind.
If I think of it straight as a board-game then there is no need to think as your God and what it will do, but merely from a strategic/tactical POV and do what is most effective from your grasp of the rules.

Now, how far can one push the envelope and have it be an RPG?
Is it enough to say it's an "RPG" just because you say it is and want it to be played as one?
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2006, 05:26:32 PM »

Quote
If I think of it straight as a board-game then there is no need to think as your God and what it will do, but merely from a strategic/tactical POV and do what is most effective from your grasp of the rules.

You know, I've played gods and I don't remember that I thought as if I were a god then. I don't think it is possible to maintain totally alien way of thinking in any game. At most, you could try to emulate such an entity's motives and behaviour anyway.

Quote
Is it enough to say it's an "RPG" just because you say it is and want it to be played as one?

Actually I like how it was stated in TSoY. RPG is just a label for a broad group of games, played in roughly similar fashion (and constant pawn stance is still a perfectly viable way of playing such a game for me). I think that if say that it's an RPG, then so it is.

And I can think of many RPG's that can easily be played as a board game. You know, AD&D, Vampire, DitV and so on ;)
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Wade L
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2006, 05:45:58 PM »

I think a lot of the indie games blur the lines about what an RPG is, because we as a hobby don't so much have a definition of RPG, but a legacy - at first, D&D was an RPG.  Than the definition became "Any game that's like D&D", and then it broadened from a chain of associations - Shadowrun is "like D&D", Vampire is "like Shadowrun", therefore Vampire is an RPG.  Since indie games often have different fundementals, there is some confusion.  Especially when games break some of what many people consider to be fundemental building blocks of RPGs - one GM who has absolute authority, players who have close to absolute authority over their characters, players roleplaying characters with attention to "what the character would do", the whole "The GM controls the plot, the players control their characters" thing.  When you start throwing that out, people start going "So...what things does this game have in common with D&D instead of, say, monopoly that make it an RPG?"

When I ran Dogs for my first group of guniea pigs, one of the responses I strongly got was "This is a cool game.  Maybe even a cool 'game where you tell stories'.  But I don't think it's a roleplaying game, not really."  And it's not like Dogs in the Vineyard is the furtherest off the beaten track that any indie game has ever gotten, right?

Still, I think a large part of the difference simply is attitude.  There are a lot of boardgames where, if people simply agreed to roleplay, they could /easily/ be played as an RPG(I am thinking, in particular, of Betrayal at House on the Hill, which I've been playing a lot of lately - it's a boardgame, but it has more opportunities for characterization than some RPG campaigns I've seen!).

Problem is, of course, labels are often recruited as weapons...  For instance, my players who objected to calling Dogs an RPG...  Even though they seemed to enjoy Dogs, by labelling it "not a real rpg", I seemed to feel they felt that was relegating Dogs to some lesser status, as if a "real roleplaying game" were some sort of pinnacle that Dogs, although entertaining, did not live up to.  Saying "It's good, but it's not an RPG" is often the same as saying "it's good, but it's not my style", which is often actually saying "it's good...but not as good as what I do", all the while claiming that you're not assigning value judgements.  There's some merit to saying "Call it what you want", but one should, perhaps, be aware that some folks will use labels as a way to marginalize a game.
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TroyLovesRPG
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Posts: 150


« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2006, 12:09:16 AM »

Guy,

I like the theme of your game and it doesn't matter if its an RPG or not. Heck, the only difference I see between board games and RPGs are details. Board games are available to most people immediately because you can open it, learn the rules in about 10 minutes and play most of them in less than 2 hours. RPGs just require more...more time, more money, more bickering over minutiae. That will exclude a lot of people because they just don't want to put that energy into creating every detail of a pretend person. I find war games to be in the category of RPGs. You are playing the role of a commander. The same goes for Talisman. Doesn't matter if you choose a card with all the stats or must go through a lengthy process of calculating them. Its all make-believe cops and robbers on a more dignified (sniff) scale. At least when I was a kid, I burned more calories and got a tan.

Your game could be fun if it is definitely NOT like traditional RPGs. The gods must compete with each other for humanity (worshipers); therefore, humans are a valuable commodity. I can see it very much like being a board game and a card game and an RPG. I think it would be cool to create an elder god, fashion a religion and rule the world!

The point-of-view is definitely where you can be creative. Just as we look at lower animals as if they have no "mind", I could see the same relationship between gods and humanity. So, what does humanity have that the gods need? Is there some energy that humans produce and only gods are aware of it? What methods do gods use to manipulate man without destroying it? The fragility of the human mind and body is great and so why should gods care about this? Are some humans more sensitive to the gods? Are humans the way for the gods to be present in the world?

Something is brewing here. I know it is.

I just had a vision of Uhluhtc and the Loc-Nar (ever seen Heavy Metal?)

The gods are in a realm of utter boredom. They want to escape into the human world because they have cool stuff like religion and WMDs. Some of the humans are sensitive to the gods and are fascinated. Gaining knowledge through dreams and visions, the humans unwittingly become puppets of the gods. Each god gathers more followers through their puppets in an attempt to open a portal into this world. With power comes a price. The puppets have delicate strings and too much tugging will break them (and possibly the puppet.) The puppets recruit followers and the cult grows. Too much pride and the puppet takes the cult and severs the strings. Fear and violence are necessary, but some followers just can't handle it. The cult can be exposed and the authorities will disperse them. If the cult is too well hidden then it can't grow. Cults can know of each other and will want to destroy the competition. The gods can imbue their puppets with power, but risk burning their mind and body. The gods can attack each other directly, yet will disrupt their own grasp into our world. Gods can pool their power to thwart another, yet risk losing followers due to confusion and impurity.

Now I'm hooked.

I remember how nice it was to socialize with other gamers. This forum is good, but it doesn't replace face-to-face conversations.

Troy
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2006, 12:20:35 AM »

Hmm, your last big paragraph is a good answer.

That paragraph will add more detailed decisions and a "Zoomed-in" approach. The way I was going now was a more macro look at things, where you manipulate whole societies if not the whole of Humanity.

Sure, nothing wrong with it being a NON-RPG, just wondering about the different feel that putting my focus in different portions can bring..
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
TroyLovesRPG
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Posts: 150


« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2006, 09:14:32 AM »

Hey Guy,

I read your SOC power19 again and follwed the link to Cranium Rats. That you have a story that forms as the game progresses is challenging for many people. Board games place everyone on the same playing field and its their strategic skills that come into the action. RPGs, mostly, thrust players into a story devised by the GM and there are in-game challenges. I want both, too.

I love player vs. player challenges because competition is exhilirating and it seems more real. I love RPGs for the stories and rich settings. As a GM, there were times when I introduced player competitions within the stories (card games and chess), and those were modified by RPG stats and skills. That could work in both directions.

You know, I've played gods and I don't remember that I thought as if I were a god then. I don't think it is possible to maintain totally alien way of thinking in any game. At most, you could try to emulate such an entity's motives and behaviour anyway.

Filip's comment about playing gods being truly alien at best is important. Especially, with HP Lovecraftian types, where you don't know that much about them except from human observation. I think you could easily devise a board game where players are the gods and you treat humans and objectives as tokens on the board. Call of Cthulhu gives players the role of investigators, trying to survive, understand the "horrors" and still remain sane. Finding common ground is most important.

That you want humanity to evolve, where the scale of time is great, lessens the need for actual role-playing. For each god, you could create a human character that "evolves" through your epochs of time. Logically the character is both ancestor and descendant. With each incarnation, the god's can subtlely or obviously alter the character. Any aspect of the character can change and that reflects the god's manipulation.

Humanity could also be respresented by the qualities of the human strains as they evolve. Gods can put all of their energy into one type of human or diversify with different tribes strewn across the world. Their level of occult involvement indicates how much control the god has on them. On the other hand, their survival instinct may be low and any catastrophic world event may kill that batch of humans. If a god has too many mutually exclusive strains then there is the potential for inter-tribe conflicts. Gods can pit their humans against each other to gain some advantage.

Of course, this could look very much like Sim City, Civilization or Populous.

Having Mr H. sounds interesting but that gives the impression that humanity is a hidden enemy. I say treat humanity as cattle that follows very specific rules and Mr H. becomes the executor of the global human population. Its nothing personal against the gods. Humans just do what they do and Mr H. is just legal counsel. The gods are left to scheme and compete among themselves like relatives at the reading of a will. That could be your RPG experience.

My friend and I are off to lunch.

Troy
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2006, 09:28:17 AM »

I encourage you to post your thoughts regarding Mr. H. on the other thread.

Interesting. I plan to have Mr. H as just that. He portrays Humanity, History and what happens. Like in Citizen of the Galaxy by Heinlin, you "Tick" at the computer simulation, it gives you result, you "Tick" again, etc. The fact Mr. H. is also H.P. shows that it is the storyteller position.

Yes, players can't really leave their heads, it does not stop me from pushing in that direction.

As to the first two paragraphs, that means you "approve"? I'm not sure if you're saying I'm doing what you're seeking or deviating from it.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
TroyLovesRPG
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Posts: 150


« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2006, 11:20:51 PM »

Guy,

Its weird about my thoughts regarding game design. As soon as I leave this forum, they disappear. I think I've been out of this arena for such a long time that it just "turns off" until I return. Not sure if that makes sense.

The GM portraying humanity has a larger task than in other games. It requires a lot of bookkeeping and not sure how fun it will be doing that. The gods will be the most fun to play.

Changing the perception of the players is the crux of your game. Being detached from humanity is difficult and now players must think like gods. Its possible to just have players go through the motions, but to actually have them react in a certain way will be tricky. One way is to show humanity as a very alien thing to the players, where humans behave in ways that are completely illogical. Humans do that anyway, and bringing the screwed-up psychology to light will be quite alien to most players. Though the gods (players) are powerful, their grasp of human life is with an open hand.

I neither approve nor disapprove. I like what you are trying to design and it interests me. I look mainly at what kind of roleplaying experience I would have playing the game (even though it doesn't exist). I think I would have fun for I like H.P. Lovecraft, the occult, horror, manipulation of humanity, strategy, dark comedy and psychology.

Troy
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2006, 09:30:18 AM »

I'm not sure the GM has more work. He has the work of GM and Player.
As "GM" he keeps track of what goes on, this is like most other games out there.
As player, he competes and interacts fully, advancing Humanity.

I'm going to work many sliders which interact in the center-point as much of the mechanics. You may have Power<>Independence, which go from -10 to 10, as in, 10 in Power to 0, 0 in Independence to 10, and their total would be X(initially say 10), when it reaches equilibrium you could move dots from it to some other Axis, or alternately, you can always switch 1 dot from each side of the Slider, with two other sliders it interacts with, each of those Sliders also have a different Slider it interacts with(yes, minimum 4 sliders).
Moving the Sliders will cost actions, players will have a limited number of actions per turn, very board-game like. And would need to narrate how their action is represented by their "God" and in the world.

All of this is super-proto, considering Eric did not yet weigh in.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
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