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Author Topic: (Perfect -wt) Images, Objects and Humanity.  (Read 2522 times)
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« on: April 18, 2006, 12:24:50 PM »

Some of this stuff carries over from the original Perfect thread:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19466.0

But really, there shouldn`t be any need to refer back to that thread too much, because I lifted from it all the important stuff:

Quote
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.)

Quote
Oh for sure. I think that maybe Picture Impact is evaluated based on how close it draws to the original Image.

Let's say the image is your mother's smile, and this is how pictures are rated against it:
Level 1 - elements of the image exist in the picture (a picture of a family)
Level 2 - the picture depicts the image (a picture of a mother working)
Level 3 - the picture depicts the image, and the tone and feel of the moment is recreated for you (a picture of a mother smiling, and looking genuinely happy)
Level 4 - it is a picture of the exact image (A picture of YOUR mother).

Quote
Objects (your pictures) have three properties: focus, clarity and depth. Focus is exactly what the object is (could be many different things at the same time.) Clarity is what it represents. Depth describes relative positioning of that object. These are single words describing the object in a very simple fashion. The miniature could have building/government/above. The atlas is paper/travel/far. The photo of the motorcycle is vehicle/move/far.

Quote
Oh yeah, I like what I am hearing Troy. This configuring 'objects' mechanic sounds like power semiotic mojo. I also like your level structure Joe, its simple and intuitive. There might be way of combining the two.


I have to go to class quickly, but I will post again shortly.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2006, 12:55:05 PM »

What I'm trying to do is tie in that first quote up above, the one which was part of my original post, with the third one, which Troy dropped.

And I realized how goddam far I was getting ahead of myself.
So...
Important Design Question #1:
What are Images, and why do they exist?

A: Images are fuel for preserving your humanity. Whether you choose to follow the path of passiveness or rebellion, the struggle of the game is to understand and protect your humanity.
This means that Images are a precious commodity, and their effects are a resource.

Images exist to keep your humanity alive amidst desperation.

Important Design Question #2:
If that's the case, what does humanity do in the game?

A: uh... um... well it sorta... affects.....
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2006, 01:04:49 PM »

Objects (your pictures) have three properties: focus, clarity and depth. Focus is exactly what the object is (could be many different things at the same time.) Clarity is what it represents. Depth describes relative positioning of that object.


Please correct me if I'm wrong. Your characters are in a nasty future world in which a repressive 1984 like government wants to eradicate their humanity. This humanity is expressed in game terms by images. Images are described by focus, clarity, and depth. You want to use these factors in you game mechanics.

Given that you know exactly what you want to focus the game on (the struggle to remain human in an inhuman world) and define humanity as described above then all the actions in the game should center around these points.

I can see the players carrying out adventures that are aimed at building up their own images and helping others to build theirs. Meanwhile the over arching evil (the state) could be opperationalized as being agents of the state who are on the scene (Mr. Smith in the Matrix - or even the Men In Black if you like - or Information Retrieval in the movie Brazil). Mechanical actions of play can build up to conflict resolution about psychic attacks.

You could attach numbers to the different factors - but I think that would lose a lot of strength of the model. Focus and Clarity would be so much more elegant if they were expressed as words. For Example: Focus: "I remember being with my parents at a picnic in the park." Clarity: "It means safety to me." Depth could be numerical. It might be the power to keep people out - to add to - or to go in and alter part of the phrases. "It means safety" could be altered to "It USED TO mean safety to me."

If your conflicts focused on cognitive reshaping then the game would be a metaphor for psychotherapy. The players would be the hero psychiatrists trying to heal the world while the Men in Black would be the abusers trying to wear people down.

I have a lot of experience combining verbal matrices like this and number factors. In Engle Matrix Games - the world is described by maps, character write ups, scenario openers etc. Each are non numerical elements of a world matrix. Each turn players make verbal arguments about what happens next. If they happen, they alter the world matrix. Over time the entire world can be rewritten. In effect just what you're talking about. Re-writting the world is not the focus of any Matrix Games (yet) it is just a side effect of they systems that could be followed.

Hope the thoughts are helpful.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2006, 02:31:31 PM »

Quote
Please correct me if I'm wrong. Your characters are in a nasty future world in which a repressive 1984 like government wants to eradicate their humanity. This humanity is expressed in game terms by images. Images are described by focus, clarity, and depth. You want to use these factors in you game mechanics.

More or less.
It's actually not a futuristic world. If you haven't been following the threads on Perfect colour, it's a post-Victorian dystopia which is derived from a stagnant and etiquette-driven social code. That's about all you need at the moment.

For the most part, a character is represented in this game by things they AREN'T. Freedoms are a mechanic that thrives on this. They all "you can't do this, and in exchange we can't do this" statements.
For the most part, the attributes on your sheet are all actually VOIDS, rather than THINGS.

Images being the only exclusion.
These are the memories, the things that are so important that you NEED them to stay human.

Images are maybe going to be expressed by what it is/why it matters/how much it matters.
But that's sorta what this thread is hoping to describe.

Quote
could be opperationalized as being agents of the state who are on the scene (Mr. Smith in the Matrix - or even the Men In Black if you like - or Information Retrieval in the movie Brazil). Mechanical actions of play can build up to conflict resolution about psychic attacks.

We've actually developed the concept of Inspectors, who are much like Matrix-ian Agents.
There is a seperate thread addressing this sort of colour.

We've also discussed punishment and conflicts. They do not involve physical attacks ever, and that is part of the game theme.
Anyways, that's another topic, that's being addressed in another thread.


Quote
Focus and Clarity would be so much more elegant if they were expressed as words. For Example: Focus: "I remember being with my parents at a picnic in the park." Clarity: "It means safety to me." Depth could be numerical.


Yes, exactly. Thanks Chris.
Now... what does that number actually do to game mechanics,
and how is humanity affecting freedoms, tests, etc?

Quote
"It means safety" could be altered to "It USED TO mean safety to me."

I think that maybe THIS is what I was going for with the Reductions that Inspectors could bring about.
I know you weren't actually writing this in reference to Reducing Images...

but it just sparked a "Yes, that is totally what Reductions should be like" in my head.
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dindenver
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2006, 10:11:45 PM »

Hi!
  Well, you might be able to make Objects suit both sides of the equation. Maybe Objects just hve 3 attributes:
Heart - How much it can be used to effect Images
Cost - Value in currency
Status - How it can be used to affect, recover Rank
  Just a thought. The terms you came up with have cool, grabby names, but maybe don;t address the mechanical needs you want to address...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2006, 06:25:23 AM »

Important Design Question #1:
What are Images, and why do they exist?

A: Images are fuel for preserving your humanity. Whether you choose to follow the path of passiveness or rebellion, the struggle of the game is to understand and protect your humanity.
This means that Images are a precious commodity, and their effects are a resource.

Images exist to keep your humanity alive amidst desperation.

First off a German idea - "My thoughts are free." Die gedanken sent frei (I know I miss spelled this - sorry to the German speakers out there.) This comes from the Peasant Rebellion (1520 or there about) and was present in German culture even under the Nazis. Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplified this, as a Christian victim. Millions of Jews did to, and millions of communists as well. Your colored scarves or arm bands sound a lot like yellow stars and pink triangles

If my thoughts are free - and my humanity rests on my thoughts - then each person carries around a "Hidden Garden" in their heads that the state wants to crush. Check out Alan Rickman's film "Closet Land." He did it for Amnesty International and it dives right into this idea.

Your evil state is trying to impose a caste system and rigid rules - but this is very hard to do in Western States. Oliver Cromwell tried to do it in England - and failed. The Puritans tried it in New England - and failed. Napoleon tried it in France - and failed...gloriously. Hitler tried it in Germany. The History Channel seems to say he succeeded but he was clamping down on the excesses of the Weimar Republic - which was full of life - so personally I think he failed. Bonhoeffer wasn't broken for instance. So your evil state is in a desperate battle with it's people. They need to turn people into drones or else they fall. It is likely they will fall, which will make them all the more vicious.

So I still see your players as revolutionaries (communists or anarchists or christian liberals or even Gandhi like non-violent warriors.) They are not just trying to maintain their own dignity but also build up other people. So humanity is central to the game because it is the key struggle of the era.

Quote
Important Design Question #2:
If that's the case, what does humanity do in the game?

You put your finger on it in the first thread when you talked about images helping people do actions. Without it - you are a drone - who can only do what they are told. With it you can throw your shoes into the machine of state.

If you have focus and clarity be verbal statements, then even as they are warped by oppression, they can still be used to resist. So a change in clarity to "It used to mean safety." can still be used as hope, as a memory where "I remember a time before all this happened...we were free..."

Depth - being a number, could be that pool of poker chips or a dice pool. In a Engle Matrix Game it would probably be the number of arguments one got to do something with that action. So I say what I'm doing - citing my images - and then roll from my pool (or whatever mechanic X is).

You're talking about a very powerful state. My social worker liberalness tells me no state like this has ever really worked. Even in Japan (a very powerful social order) they were not able to root out Christians. Hidden Christians are still plugging along (an example of the passive resistance you mentioned.)

I guess what I'm wondering is what do the players do in this game? Can they be inspectors? Do they have to be passive victims? If I was a player I would be a revolutionary - even if that meant death. I would feel compelled to point out the idiocy of the state by manning the barricades. There it is, my 1848 revolution fantasy. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity... (I own way too many 1848 revolutionary miniatures.)

Oh, one last thought, you said that capitalism was the economic system. I think that is logically inconsistent with the type of world you describing. "Free markets" only work if they are free. If you let them go they undermine state power every time.

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2006, 07:29:22 AM »

Quote
Your colored scarves or arm bands sound a lot like yellow stars and pink triangles

Yes. Except, this time the people WANT to wear these markers, because the markers are elements of high fashion, which they chase.

Quote
So I still see your players as revolutionaries (communists or anarchists or christian liberals or even Gandhi like non-violent warriors.) They are not just trying to maintain their own dignity but also build up other people. So humanity is central to the game because it is the key struggle of the era.

I don't know if you read the Perfect thread that addresses colour or not ("Waistcoat" thread), but we were discussing just what rebellion means in this game.

I think that rebellion is a personal thing here, much like Winston's struggle in 1984. You can't recruit people to the idea of humanity if they have lost it.
Humanity is a terminal concept, and its importance is only seen by those who still cling to it.

Humanity is something sacred
If anyone remembers the opneing pages of Dune... Paul being subjected to the Bene Gesserit "black box", the worst pain imaginable, to see if he had human reactions.


At first, I thought the point was silent rebellion, and the characters struggled against the state.
Then Troy posted something and it made me think, "shit, I need to open my focus a bit."

Quote
Equations are balanced and that gives the impression that people should be quantifiably equal. Abigail seemed no better or worse than others. Her purity in mind and action was a transcendental state and very much touches on being a messiah. Low status and freedoms have less stress since there are less things to worry about. Greater status and freedoms place more emphasis on culture, dogma and rituals. Its possible that this purity affords something else that is unspoken and unseen -- ephiphanies and paradigm shifts. I wonder if Abigail was on to something but was unable to articulate exactly what she experienced. Maybe she found a level of consciousness that transcended the normal human condition. The doctrines of behavior were the only gifts she had for people to understand this. Maybe she was the only one who could attain that. Others followed but didn't put their souls into it.

Quote
Rising against oppression is a noble and active cause. Its very possible there are two attractive paths for this game: rebellion and submission. Rebellion is exciting and full of civil unrest, intrigue and heroics. Submission is a very simple and self-satisfying way of thinking, immediately providing your choices without ambiguity. The destinations of these two paths is unknown. Possibly, the destination of these two paths are both spectacular in their own rights and are similar. The rebel wants freedom of thought and cannot be caught speaking such blasphemy. The citizen wants freedom of thought and voluntarily remains silent...the tight scarf is an indicator of this. One path suggests chaos and the other suggests strict order. Two paths leading to the same place? Abigail may have died with an unfathomable smile on her face

So...
in answer to your question,

Quote
I guess what I'm wondering is what do the players do in this game? Can they be inspectors? Do they have to be passive victims? If I was a player I would be a revolutionary - even if that meant death.
"
They cannot be inspectors.

They are someone who has the system imposed on them, and whether they rebel or succumb... that is their battle.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2006, 04:29:15 PM »

Quote
  Well, you might be able to make Objects suit both sides of the equation. Maybe Objects just hve 3 attributes:
Heart - How much it can be used to effect Images
Cost - Value in currency
Status - How it can be used to affect, recover Rank
  Just a thought. The terms you came up with have cool, grabby names, but maybe don;t address the mechanical needs you want to address...

DinDenver, the three terms you came up with are interesting...
They address completely different things than Troy's terms did, though.

Troy's breakdown didn't address either cost/currency or status affectors.
I think that I want to leave both those things seperate from objects.
Like someone said a while back, these are things that really can't be bought or sold.
Only taken, lost, stolen, made.

I think that what I really want to see both Images and Objects hold is -

Image - What the image actually is of.
Symbol - What it represents for you.
Importance - How much your humanity hinges on this thing.

Object - What the object actually is.
Symbol - What it represents for you.
and some things that I might want Objects to include:
Relate - Which images it correlates to, if any.
Importance - How much your humanity hinges on this thing.
Scope - how widely applicable the symbol is.

Image/Symbol/Importance might well be the three terms I decide to use for Images.
Focus/Clarity/Depth is definately a more blurry and less easily grasped titling.

But, before going further with terminology, I want to focus on what humanity is, and what images and objects do.

(g2g, will post more later).
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dindenver
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2006, 06:28:47 PM »

Hi!
  Well, even if you steal something, it still has a value in currency. Just because you didn't pay for it, doesn't mean it has no values to others.  But since the game is not about commerce, I can see skipping it. Just seemed to me if you wanted an Object system that was applicable to most characters, Cost/Value would be a factor. Especially with the emphasis on fashion, seems like a lot of characters in this world will be influenced/concerned with money and econnomics. But that is just conjecture on my part
  Also, Status seems like it should be there for Objects. The sashes/ribbons/identifiers could have an inherent Status value that can be used in play, and Inspectors should have an Object that has Status that they can use to influence play, etc. This value might not be necesary, but it might help if you need mechanics based on Status...
  sounds like you know what you want, so I am sure it will be  good game when you are done.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
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Castlin
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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2006, 09:39:18 AM »

If this government has been in power for some time, where do Images come from? Like the Ferris wheel example used elsewhere; why is there still a Ferris wheel standing anywhere the characters would have had access to during their lives? I understand fleeting glances and smiles as Images, though.

One other thing (that I'll tie back to Images in a moment) is the presence of non-"society" individuals. I understand that the PCs are going to be moving in a world of manor houses and courtrooms, but there has to be a significant number of people doing manual labor to keep a society going. How has the guvment cracked down on the coal miners, chimbley sweeps, and grocers? What about the sailors and farmers? Are there orphan "workhouses" (ala Oliver Twist)? See, you need these kind of people to meet the needs of the "society", and they don't really have the time or money to worry so much about the color of their waistcoats. I mean, to make ANOTHER reference to 1984, where are your Proles?

And maybe that's where Images come from. The time the character (purposely or by accident) ended up away from the cobblestone streets on a dirt road, and glimpsed some workers in an illicit tavern, laughing and dancing by firelight. Or the coach took a wrong turn, and rambling through the woods young Lord Humpheringdale glimpsed a harvest fair, complete with a partially restored old Ferris wheel...
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2006, 11:33:22 AM »

No matter how powerful a government is it can't stop humanity creating images from forming.

It's simple human development. Babies bond with their mothers and fathers. They have to or they grow up real messed up (anti social, borderline personalities). These early memories could be as simple as "I remembers standing in line with my mother for bread on my third birthday. The sun was shining and I was happy." If I was standing quietly no inspector would even know I was developing my individuality (unless I was smiling!)

The flip side of this human development argument though is why this state would be terribly inefficient and vulnerable to over throw. Humans need possitive regard. Without it our stress levels go through the roof and we die young. When stressed we don't work well. The game world described here is stressful on ALL levels. It would not be a happy world - but that's the point, isn't it?

Chris Engle
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2006, 02:06:23 PM »

Quote
If this government has been in power for some time, where do Images come from?

My original answer was going to be that, like in 1984, the government had barely been in one full generation...
meaning that characters like Winston still have childhood memories about BEFORE the Party and Big Brother.

But, now I'm debating what you said:
Quote
the coach took a wrong turn, and rambling through the woods young Lord Humpheringdale glimpsed a harvest fair, complete with a partially restored old Ferris wheel

Because originally I was thinking that ALL people had to conform to the Gailist regiment, meaning that even Workers had to adopt Freedoms...
Part of their government system, though, was that the amount of status you had determined how strict a regiment you had to follow....

But... it WOULD be kind of cool if there was a Proles-esque lower class that had FREE REIGN. like, the sinful debauchery and country fairs type free reign.

And then Chris said this:
Quote
It's simple human development. Babies bond with their mothers and fathers. They have to or they grow up real messed up (anti social, borderline personalities). These early memories could be as simple as "I remembers standing in line with my mother for bread on my third birthday. The sun was shining and I was happy."

And that left me in shock and awe, because it was such a brilliant twist that I hadn't even thought of.

But at the same time, it presents a problem as far as image usage goes:
If you have a memory of something like "smoking in a back alley"... something that is now illegal or extinct...
The search to keep it going is a tough one.

Whereas, how do you make something that's an obvious part of modern society hard to track down?
Unless the image wasn't "stainding in line for bread", but "a child smiling."

....
........
....
and then I re-read Castlin's post, and saw something else in it:
Quote
the presence of non-"society" individuals.
Quote
What about the sailors

And then I started to think... How cool would it be if the Sailors and Explorers had a special status?
Because exploration and colonization was huge during that time period,
and Victorian England relied on imported goods to fuel their economy.

Maybe Sailors and Explorers have their own communities, which exist (to an extent) outside of regular Gailist law.
Like...
They don't have to obey the Freedoms,
they can wear colour however they like....

And so, the "Proles" are still forced to be a part of Gailist law...
But the Sailors aren't.

They will 99% of the time stick to their coastal, Sailor-only communities...
but will occasionally appear on a streetcorner of an Interior town at midnight... wandering the streets and searching for something meaningful.



So, those are all the possibilities, laid out on the table.
OPTION #1: Everyone is a part of the Gailist government, Images come from a time before Gailism existed

OPTION #2: Only the elite are a part of the Gailist government, Images come from the Proles

OPTION #3: Everyone is a part of the Gailist government except Sailors, Images come from a time before Gailism existed OR from encounters with free spirited Sailors.

OPTION #4: Everyone is a part of the Gailist government, Images come from seeing glimpses through the control (MatrixGamer's suggestion)
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dindenver
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« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2006, 06:55:20 PM »

Hi!
  Well, you'll prolly hate me for this, but what if it is a clever combination of all of these, part of chargen. Chars can draw Images from:
Cherished childhood memories from before the change
Cherished childhood memories after the change (imagine the shock when they realize their image is an image of oppresion)
Foreigners
Insurrectionists
Lawful civilians trying to "get away" with it
Special characters who are allowed to do something differnt/special.

  The other thing is, all of these sources will be fine, IF there are guidelines for how they are chosen/abstracted...

  If your game world is not so one-dimensional, it will increse the replay value alot!
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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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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2006, 11:08:19 AM »

Quote
Well, you'll prolly hate me for this, but what if it is a clever combination of all of these, part of chargen. Chars can draw Images from:
Cherished childhood memories from before the change
Cherished childhood memories after the change (imagine the shock when they realize their image is an image of oppresion)
Foreigners
Insurrectionists
Lawful civilians trying to "get away" with it
Special characters who are allowed to do something differnt/special.

  The other thing is, all of these sources will be fine, IF there are guidelines for how they are chosen/abstracted...

  If your game world is not so one-dimensional, it will increse the replay value alot!

Thanks Dave.
That flexibility in choosing Images is probably really crucial to creating dynamic characters. Thanks.

You say "Special characters who are allowed to do something different/special."
Which I am starting to think should be sailors.

Everyone must conform to a level of Abigailist law, as determined by their status...
Except the Sailors. Since they are basically outsiders, they follow their own code of laws....
But they are so crucial to the current economic system and imperialist system that they are granted EXTRA priviledges as well...

diplomatic immunity in their own country, if you will.



K, good stuff.
I've decided thats teh direction I want to go with this.
That still leaves chances for scenes like this:

Quote
Or the coach took a wrong turn, and rambling through the woods young Lord Humpheringdale glimpsed a harvest fair, complete with a partially restored old Ferris wheel...

but makes them far rarer... which is a good thing.
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2006, 06:38:43 PM »

Hey guys -

I've hashed out a possible system for mechanics, incorporating images in, etc.

I have two Rich Text Documents, one which summarizes the elements of a character, the other which overviews the core mechanic:
http://www.box.net/public/fo33yk7ebo
http://www.box.net/public/yx3cadce6u


I've already been talking to a few people and soliciting feedback, but want to hear a few more opinions before making any changes.

Any and all suggestions on these two documents is welcome!
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