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Author Topic: A harebrained idea?  (Read 5763 times)
Sovem
Member

Posts: 94

J.F.Halsey


« on: September 29, 2006, 07:30:39 AM »

I've got an idea for a system, but I'm not really sure whether it would work or whether it's been done or not. So, I thought I'd run it by my fellow Forgites, see if I can't gain the benefit of you guys' wisdom and experience ^_^.

The idea is for a game centered around divine beings; individual, common mortals would not be important (mechanically speaking). I like the thought that these deities are filled with divine energy, and it is through their divine will that they accomplish things rather than through natural abilities or attributes.

My first thought was, "Hey--what if they only had one stat, their Divine Will, and a big pool of points, and instead of having a big list of skills on a character sheet, you had a big list of things you could do with your Will to accomplish different things!" I thought it sounded neat, but I quickly realized that this would turn into a numbers game; whoever had the higher Divine Will (or could refresh their pool fastest, if it worked that way) would always win.
Is that true? Is there a way I could make the techniques and maneuvers that one could do unique enough that it would be a strategy game? Or is there no way that could happen with only a single Trait per character?

Ok, the second thing I thought was, "Well, maybe they can have a few Traits. I'll go back to that system I once thought up where every character had six Finesses--Creation, Destruction, Focus, Maneuver, Manipulation, and Preservation--and those traits determine how you can spend your Divine Will and for what effects!" But is that really any different?

My brain hurts from inventing and destroying a dozen systems over the past week, so I'm not sure how clearly I'm able to conceptualize, here. Is there a way one of these approaches, or an approach like it, could work? Or has something as crazy as this been done before?

Thanks, as always!
John
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2006, 08:04:47 AM »

Read Exalted very carefully. One could argue that it's system is exactly like this. They have these charms that give them absolute supremacy in local conditions ("Block any attack", "charm anybody", that kind of thing) on a scene-by-scene basis, but using them requires Essence, which has to be regained with time. This pretty much means that characters are invincible and all-powerful in their chosen areas of expertise as long as their divine will - Essence - lasts.

The game doesn't, however, degenerate into a pure numbers game in this case, because the system itself is so complex that you can usually affect the other exalt through some other venue even if they are invulnerable in some manner. So it's a matter of finding the weaknesses and capitalizing on them.

So that's one way to do it: have complex enough subsystems and options so that characters can be invulnerable in some areas while being vulnerable in others. That's pretty much how classical gods seem to work, too; while you certainly can't just hack'n slash Zeus, he's not invulnerable to social means of persuasion. (Further, one could argue that monsters are the opposite: while they are invulnerable to social persuasion, they can be hack'n slashed.)
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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the glyphpress


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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2006, 08:27:50 AM »

What do you want these gods to do? I imagine this like a prep school social maneuvering thing, where the state of the world is at stake.

The Egyptian gods may be a good model. They pretty much keep to themselves and create stuff ex nihilo to fit their personalities.

So, you might have:

Quote
Tehuti.

These are things in which he is infallible:

Writing
Magic
Law
Embalming (which guarantees immortality, btw)
Lying
Theft
Medicine

Those are the Tehuti player's resources. Set might beat him up, insult him, stab him in the eye, and he might die (and probably be reborn, cuz that's the way they roll), but he can't outwrite, outmagic, outlawyer (etc.) Tehuti just like Tehuti can't beat Set in an eye-stabbing fight.

Any heirarchy is simply a feature like those on Tehuti's list above.

The question is not "can you do x" but "does doing x help you succeed?" Sometimes, Tehuti will outsmart Set, sometimes Set will kick Tehuti's ass. The question is probably how those things happen and fallout from their activities. Fallout might be in the form of natural events: eclipses, floods, draughts, which will play into one player's traits more easily than another's.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Sovem
Member

Posts: 94

J.F.Halsey


« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2006, 08:51:00 AM »

Well, I didn't want to get into al the reasoning behind it, but this is actually for my Divinity Horizons game. I didn't want to say that because, while the setting is still mostly the same, I'm going back to my original inspirations, which are not quite what I put in my Power 19 or how we did things in the playtesting. My inspirations were such things as: the First Age in Exalted, the Age of Legends in the Wheel of Time series, The First from Crossgen Comics, and a little bit from DC's Green Lanterns and the New Gods of Jack Kirby's Fourth World.
A lot different than how Divinity Horizons started to develop, especially towards the end.

So, while I like your idea, Josh, I'm trying to go for something a little less narrative. At the same time, however, I'm also trying to stray away from the typical "Here are your natural abilities, here are your learned/trained skills, here are your magic powers".

Does this explain a little better? Or should I go further?
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Josh Roby
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Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2006, 08:58:12 AM »

Sovem, Joshua's statement still stands.  "What you can do" is pretty irrelevant.  It's the connection between "what you can do" and "getting what you want" that matters in game design.  In order to make that connection, it's useful to figure out what the players will be wanting.  So what do the players try to accomplish in this game?
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Sovem
Member

Posts: 94

J.F.Halsey


« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2006, 09:33:09 AM »

Well, in those regards, the game is still mostly like the Power 19. The players' characters will be expected to become legends in their own time and, by their choices, influence the fate of mankind. Now, how they do this is up to them. They could forge an empire by the sword, unite mankind by their teachings, or even turn on their own and help the gods return to ascendency.

However, just to clarify, I see this "change the fate of mankind" thing as the conclusion to a very long running chronicle; certainly nothing that would happen with just a few sessions.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2006, 10:38:37 AM »

However, just to clarify, I see this "change the fate of mankind" thing as the conclusion to a very long running chronicle; certainly nothing that would happen with just a few sessions.

Why not?  And I mean that in as straightforward a manner as possible, because how you expect your game to work is buried behind that.  Why does it take a very long running chronicle in order to change the fate of mankind?  What happens in each session that is an incremental step towards that goal?
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Sovem
Member

Posts: 94

J.F.Halsey


« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2006, 11:04:45 AM »

Alright, I realize that a lot of really cool, really unique games are talked about on the Forge. Indeed, I enjoy playing some of them. But, perhaps I should explicitly state that I'd like to create a game one might call more "traditional RPG," that is, there is a "GM" and "Players," each Player controls one character who grows in abilities and influence with time, etc. Perhaps that will help.

I'm just wondering whether, in a context like that, it would be possible to have a game where characters have a pool of points to draw from that they spend to do different...maneuvers, shall we call them? Someone mentioned Exalted--much in the same way in 2nd ed Exalted you have different moves you can do for physical combat, social combat, mass combat, etc. None of the moves are intrinsicly better or worse than others--it's all about strategy. Do you need to have a sheet full of stats to do this, or could the "moves" be so diverse in and of themselves that the strategy behind them would outweigh any need for dice or complicated traits?
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2006, 11:58:30 AM »

Alright, I realize that a lot of really cool, really unique games are talked about on the Forge. Indeed, I enjoy playing some of them. But, perhaps I should explicitly state that I'd like to create a game one might call more "traditional RPG," that is, there is a "GM" and "Players," each Player controls one character who grows in abilities and influence with time, etc. Perhaps that will help.

I get that.  So you've got players and a GM.  What do they do when they sit down?

Quote
I'm just wondering whether, in a context like that, it would be possible to have a game where characters have a pool of points to draw from that they spend to do different...maneuvers, shall we call them? Do you need to have a sheet full of stats to do this, or could the "moves" be so diverse in and of themselves that the strategy behind them would outweigh any need for dice or complicated traits?

Sure you can.  I don't know if it would be optimal, but I'm sure it would be possible.  Are you thinking that all "moves" would be available to all players at all times?  If so, what differentiates characters from each other?  If there are things that differentiate the characters, would you put those on a sheet?
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2006, 12:26:03 PM »

Perhaps you could have differentiation not so much in characters, but their situations? Like, I don't know, everybody can in principle use the same maneuvers, let's say "Flood of the ages" maneuver that floods the plains and kills all the people except the prophets and their chosen (I don't know what the game is about, just riffing). But to do that maneuver, the one who is going to do it needs to get the Leviathan to cooperate, and it needs to be full moon time, and he needs lots and lots of seaweed. Or something like that. So in principle everybody can do everything, but it's never just a matter of declaring it, you have to be in the right position in terms in fictional allies, resources and spacetime. No need for character statistics.
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Hituro
Member

Posts: 32


« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2006, 02:23:14 PM »

I'm just wondering whether, in a context like that, it would be possible to have a game where characters have a pool of points to draw from that they spend to do different...maneuvers, shall we call them? Someone mentioned Exalted--much in the same way in 2nd ed Exalted you have different moves you can do for physical combat, social combat, mass combat, etc. None of the moves are intrinsicly better or worse than others--it's all about strategy. Do you need to have a sheet full of stats to do this, or could the "moves" be so diverse in and of themselves that the strategy behind them would outweigh any need for dice or complicated traits?

I was once (many many years ago back at school) thrown into a one-off AD&D game where all the characters were 100th level. I was handed Circe, and told that I could cast *anything* in the spell lists, both wizard and priest, with enough uses of each level of spell that (short of wishes and the like) I could manage almost all of them during the course of the one adventure. So I really did have access to almost everything.

And you know what, it sucked! The game was good, but the choice of the powers was awful. Given any situation I had no idea what to do, sure I had a spell for it, but I had to search and guess, and look through lists .... and if I just picked something I knew then I missed half of the spells I could have cast! When I knew the spell already I could do something cool (killing dragons with insect plagues and the like), but most of the time it just irritated me.

So I would be wary of just having a massive list of powers and no structure to which ones you could use. Not only would it make everyone the same it would also bog down in lists, confusions and flow-wrecking interruptions.

Now a much better model is ars magica style spontaneous magic. That can do anything you like as well, but in the context of a nicely structured system that means you can just work out what you want to do on the fly rather than having to search lists of powers. Of course that system has multiple arts with different characters having different scores in them, rather than just a single pool like you suggested ...
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joepub
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald


« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2006, 02:57:20 PM »

Hey.
First of all - cool. I just wanted to get that out there: Gods are cool.

Second, Sean (Sean2099, I believe) is also working on a game about the Gods and their power.
Just wanted to throw that out there.

Sovem, some questions:

1.) I have Godly powers. Am I driven to use them constructively? In certain religions, all (or, at least, most) Gods and divine beings are Builders, and Creators, and Judges and basically beings that take care of their peoples (in some way, shape or form).

In other religions, some of the Gods are very much malicious, backstabbing, warring or tricky.

Which is the case here? Can I create Lordos, God of Agony? Am I encouraged to create a productive/benevolent God figure?

2.) I have Godly powers. So? What do I get out of using them, and what do I have at stake if I just apathetically let the world pass me by?


Hm...
last comment: Check out Unistat.
It's a game where everyone has one pool of dice, and one stat.
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TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2006, 03:41:34 PM »

I think playing gods/immortals/divine beings is a great idea. My only experience with this involved the old D&D immortals set. We tweaked it so that the characters actions affected the world and its people. The immortals also were more prone to intense emotions, required followers, had dominion over certain world locales and were fascinated by the heroes and great monsters of the world. The world was a toy box. It was a lot of fun, allowing the characters to "let loose" and shake the world with their powers, greed, envy, jealousy, mercy and passion.

I can see your beings having power, and also defining where it comes from. One of the immortals was Cryopisca, matron of the virgins, guardian of their purity. Her power was directly related to how many virgins were present in her domain. The other immortals used incubi, satyrs and virile heroes to seduce them. And she used the virgins to lure them to certain slavery or death. So, part of the duties of the immortals is tending their flock of mortals, gaining power from their sheer faith and obedience.

Game play could be accelerated in that every round/turn is one day in the game world. Festivals, rituals, seasons, lunar cycles, births and deaths become important in the immortal's existence. Otherwise, I can see them becoming bored.

Having power over the world must include a system of checks and balances. Its one thing to create a magical paradise in the middle of the desert, and another thing to divert the resources to that area. Creating a tremendous thunderstorm creates rain, flooding, erosion, poor crops, hunger, famine, death, etc. The consequences of divine powers is no small thing. They must be accountable for their actions.

The powers they have may be realted to their choices in life. Growing up in forests, hunting with the pixies, frolicking with the fairies may lead you to become the great stag, defender of the fey and son of mother nature. That would define your powers, domains and limitations in other environments. Your followers would be encouraged to live a rustic existence, befriending the woodland creatures and being one with the earth.

I think this could have tremendous role-playing opportunities. Have the players go beyond just having high stats. That's easy and overdone. Give them all the chances to be great and also take responsibility for their greatness.

It disappoints me in many ways that the first thing potential game writers want to do is define stats and mechanics. A game is more than that and doesn't necessarily require those elements. The game of gods may work best with symbolic items, photos, world puzzle pieces, miniatures like chess pieces, etc. Its possible that using a visual aid instead of some numbers on a piece of paper will elevate the game beyond "here is my character with some numbers, skills and power levels." Think of those things in life that want you to role-play, not rule-play.

In the immortals game, I required the characters to write their godspells as a tome of knowledge with chapters and verses. As the game progressed, the characters wrote it from the mortal point of view: "she appeared as a unicorn of pure light, beckoning me to the sanctity of the keep, to remain ever pure. A gesture of the right hand upon the brow, representing the unicorn, signified my faith to those who would seek my flesh." The gesture looked more like an L on the forehead. It was perfect when encountering those horny beings who would ravage the virgins of Cryopisca.

Troy
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2006, 12:52:24 PM »

Hi!
  I think that if you want to play a char with divine influence over the world, an easy way to do it would be to use a TrollBabe-Style Number
Call it Will
When you have to influence the environment (call up a storm, etc), you have to roll under it
When you have to influence characters (Make a mortal a hero, etc.), you have to roill above it
  But you only roll if a character is opposed by another divine power. Otherwise, you spend tokens to affect the world around you and it works automatically.
  Just an idea.
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Dave M
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Sovem
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Posts: 94

J.F.Halsey


« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2006, 07:10:05 AM »

Hey guys,

Sorry I don't have time to respond to everybody, but I thank you all for your suggestions and advice. I don't think I'll be going with my original idea, but I'm working on something more akin to my second question in the OP. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

Thanks!
John
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