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Author Topic: [Last Exile] Mystery and the Group  (Read 2113 times)
Jye Nicolson
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Posts: 16


« on: August 28, 2006, 03:17:00 AM »

I'm doing the groundwork for a game that will let groups run stories riffing off the anime series Last Exile.  It's a great setting, but it's used up by the events of the anime, so the idea would be to help groups create and play through their own version of the setting, with very similar themes and aesthetics, but their own drama.

The part of Last Exile that I feel would give a great framework for play is the central mystery of the series - all the great skyship naval battles and dogfighting revolves around a quest to discover the nature of the mcguffin that will save the world, and the keys to actually using it.

These keys take the form of challenge/response couplets, like so:

Challenge:   "What lies beyond the furthest reaches of the sky?"
Response: "That which will lead the lost child back to its mother's arms: Exile."


Before play begins, when brainstorming the setting (very much like World Burning in Burning Empires), the group would create these Challenge/Response couplets, one for each player, and then determine the nature of the setting-saving mcguffin from those couplets.  The mystery is created by the group, and play centers around the player characters discovering all the couplets via their airborne adventures.

However, I'm not sure how much each individual player should start knowing about the mystery.  The mystery is a central element of play - is it better served by everybody knowing everything from the start, or is their value in each player having only part of the mystery, learning the remainder in play?

I'm pretty sure I'd like each player to create a Challenge, which will be known by their PC.  I can think of plenty of options for the Responses and McGuffin, though, and I'm not sure which is most conducive to mystery-based gaming fun:

1.  Everybody knows the Challenge, and brainstorms the Response together.  Group either decides on McGuffin when all the couplets are done, or in play somehow.  Play is entirely about the PCs unravelling the mystery, not the players.

2.  Each player creates the Response for their Challenge and keeps it secret, OR another player creates the Response and keeps it secret.  McGuffin created in play after Responses have been discovered.  Play is a process of discovery for characters and players, but there's a risk of McGuffin making little sense as the group tries to fit it to several semi-random bits of poetry.

3.  GM creates Responses and McGuffin.  Play is discovery for both players and characters, but relies on the GM trying to tailor a really cool mystery using just the Challenges - possibly doesn't leverage the power of a collaborating table enough/too much risk of uninspired mystery.

4.  Each player (whether the one who created the Challenge or another) creates a Response in collaboration with the GM (player taking the leading role), and keeps it secret.  GM creates the McGuffin based the couplets.  This model tries to have its mystery-to-the-players cake and eat it (er...have group collaboration) too.  Does that sort of collaboration-via-GM seem like it would work?


Which of the above (or any alternatives) seem like they'd be more conducive to the group enjoying the mystery of the couplets and the McGuffin?


Just typing this out, I'm leaning towards option 4, but I'd love to hear opinions, as use of mystery in games isn't something I've thought a great deal about before, and I'm not sure I know what I'm doing.

I apologise if I'm not giving this enough context, or there's hidden assumptions here, but I'm trying to keep it focused on a specific question as per forum rules.

Cheers!
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2006, 03:25:19 PM »

Hi!
  I love that show. and maybe you should just name the game "McGuffin"
  Why not try a 3 step process:
1) Player creates a mystery (Challenge)
2) Player on the left of them fills in what's left (the Response)
3) Player on the right determine if its right (approval)
  With this setup, the players can sort of make an impromptu "Comics Code" or their own theme/genre.
  Then the GM makes the McGuffin based on the players input! Sort of, use it as a thread to weave them all together...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Jye Nicolson
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Posts: 16


« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2006, 03:54:25 PM »

That's pretty cool!

I think what I should do is write up a couple of variants, and have a group burn up a bunch of different campaigns with each - see which sound the most exciting/intriguing at that point.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2006, 05:15:41 PM »

Hey Jye,

Very cool! I'm not familiar with this anime, but the game you're making from it sounds intriguing on its own.

I favor your options #1 and #4. Either full disclosure and collaboration, where the interest lies in the journey to discovering the response rather than they mystery itself. Or input by all moderated by the GM.  Another option would be to have the players secretly write out responses before the challenges are created, and have the gm make challenges for each of them, but none of the players know which is which.  This gets rid of the problem of making one person have to firewall their insider information.  Or (if you are still up in the air about whether to have a gm or not, or of what variety), each player could take a turn being the gm for the part of the game that concerns their response. 

Will the challenges/responses be thematically related to the characters? That could be a good way to tie in the elements of the McGuffin to what the players are creating in a substantial way.

best,
Emily
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Jye Nicolson
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2006, 07:23:20 PM »

Will the challenges/responses be thematically related to the characters? That could be a good way to tie in the elements of the McGuffin to what the players are creating in a substantial way.


I would suggest so, but not necessarily directly.  In the anime, the Mysterions are passed down through the Houses of the Guild.  Without going too much into the technomagic elves, I figured the relationship in game would be:

Mysterion w/a given theme ==> Passed down by House w/similar theme ==>  Ends up in the hands of PC w/similar theme

The player gets the Mysterion, the House and their own PC to define, and I suppose by default could determine the strength of the thematic relationship.



So you could have


"What struggles with the schemes of Man and rolls the dice of God? / The Mother of Disorder:  Entropy"  ==>  House Heisenburg, quantam physicists whose passion was games of strategy and chance ==>  The last survivor of House Heisenburg ran a giant airborne casino, where Captain Maynard Vaughn (the PC), a celebrated gambler, narrowly failed to foil his assassination, and heard the Mysterion falling from his dying lips.

(Which is a unified theme of chance)

Or

"What lies beyond the furthest reaches of memory? / The place where all were born and to where all will return:  A Blue World" ==>  House Hamilton, historians ==>  Claus Valca, vanship pilot, rescues the last scion of House Hamilton, a young girl now under his protection

(History as the theme; but the PC is only weakly related to it)

Or somesuch.

Is there value in letting the player have total control over the strength of that theme, or is it better to put a strong mandate for a unified theme in place?  Not sure myself.

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dindenver
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2006, 08:42:50 PM »

Hi!
  Yes. let the player dial it how they want it. The weakly themed chars have the opportunity to dial it up later through bonding with the thematic chars or through secrets revealed. Maybe Claus is the illegitimate son of the reigning Hamilton Duke. But he doesn't even know because his mother died before she could tell him...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Gasten
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Posts: 19


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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2006, 09:16:57 AM »

This just struck me (hoping I won't get banned by bumping this up...)!

The coolest way to create a real mystery is to (a la D Adams) let the player come up with a Response. It should be a response that the PC woul like to accomplish. Now, the group (through collaborative play) or the GM should come up with a Challange. Preferebly some sessions into the campaign. How do you like that?

I love the anime, and I'll keep an eye on this game. We seems to like the same things.
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