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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Close Encounters] The 90-min RPG  (Read 2771 times)
Caesar_X
Member

Posts: 84


« on: October 11, 2006, 10:56:41 PM »

This idea just came out of me tonight while I was trying to muddle my way through the Polaris rulebook in a reclined position.  As my mind wandered, I started to think about certain scenes from the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'.  Especially the ones were the Richard Dreyfuss character was having increasingly desperate conflicts with his family, and the disjointed attempts to communicate with the aliens.  Several hours later I had belted out this: http://troupeberkeley.infogami.com/Close_Encounters

Several questions:

1. How do you think of the mechanic for trying to communicate with the aliens might work in practice?  Initially I had thought about working some 'binary' (1001001) element into the dice mechanics, but the dice matching seemed like an interesting place to start.

2. Any suggestions of good ways to bring the players into contact sooner in the game so the first half or so isn't a set of individual scenes?

Besides that, I'd be interested in any other general comments on the rules as is.  Is there a cell of something intriguing here?

Thanks,
Chris

Caesar_X@yahoo.com

Read about 'Touch of Noir' here: http://troupeberkeley.infogami.com/Noir
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andrew_kenrick
Member

Posts: 194


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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2006, 02:29:59 PM »

Hey Chris! I like the idea so far - the idea of a game about (potentially) peaceful encounters with aliens is a wonderful one. If you haven't already, I'd recommend taking a look at Emily's Sign in Stranger playtest reports - the concept is very different (kinda like the reverse, in fact, with humans going to visit alien worlds), but some of the approaches are similar.

As to your questions:

1. I think the idea of having to match dice results with the aliens is a good one, representing the somewhat trial and error nature of the communication nicely. Now, as to how it will play out, at the moment it looks horribly random. It looks like it will come down to rolling dice and hoping to match, then rerolling dice and hoping again. Is there someway of making it less random? Perhaps earlier encounters or discoveries could allow the player to "fix" a dice after the aliens have rolled?

2. What's stopping you from just ignoring those early scenes? Why not leap straight in and open the game with the encounter taking place? If those earlier scenes are still relevant or important, why not flashback to them as the game goes on? So, you might want to play out a scene where the scientist deciphers some sort of code found in a radio transmission that proves helpful during the close encounter - just flashback to it in play as required. And if those earlier scenes aren't relevant or helpful, why bother playing through them?

Keep posting about the game though Chris - I'm certainly intrigued.
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2006, 03:30:10 PM »

Hello Chris,

The type of communication your are describing reminds me of Mastermind. The game with the colored pegs. You have a code, with a certain number of attempts to decipher it, receiving non-specific clues from the other player. I'm not sure if you want emphasis on the communication challenge with aliens or just focus on some dice.

You could easily create new dice with binary numbers. Only a coin, four-sided or eight-sided dice would suffice. A coin gives you 1,0. Four sided dice gives you 00,01,10,11. Eight sided dice give you octets: 000,001,010,011,100,101,110,111. Roll two four sided dice for 0000 to 1111 (0 to 15). Roll two eight-sided dice for 000000 to 111111 (0-63). Note that binary numbers are difficult to use and I've found they are only good to reference a chart or when following an information path. People can only handle about four binary digits at a time.

Hexadecimal is the next step where each numeral represent 8 bits (0-15). Traveller uses this system to designate attribute scores. The character's ID number is the 6 hexadecimal scores in order.

I imagine aliens want to communicate with humans, but only if the concepts can be realized. Its important to first convey a primer of basic ideas before the aliens can pass along more complex information. Its doubtful that they would use an alphabet or numeric system that is compatible with our own. Of course, they would treat us in the same way as we communicate and study lower organisms.

Troy
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Narf the Mouse
Member

Posts: 96


« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2006, 06:24:56 PM »

Of course, they would treat us in the same way as we communicate and study lower organisms.

Troy
I wouldn't add that for two reasons. First, humans have a number of different attitudes towards technologically primitive cultures, from helpfullness to indifference to oppression/exploitation. Indifference, I think, is actually the largest.

So, there's cultural, social and moral attitudes to consider, as well as those specific aliens' place in their culture. If the crashed spaceship is a bunch of joy-riding anthropological college students, the encounter will play out quite differently than if they are a military squad. There will also be differences between different groups of drunken alien college students and different military types, who could easily range from 'Klingon Conquerers' to 'Starfleet We Come In Peace'. The first brings up Curious vs. Alien hostility; the second could easily lead to Alien vs. Military hostility. Blowing away someones' diplomats without even attempting to talk is a definite interstellar incident.
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Narf the Mouse
Member

Posts: 96


« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2006, 06:26:24 PM »

Sorry, there doesn't seem to be an edit button and I forgot something.

Second, having only one attitude for the aliens would limit play. That's not nessasarily a bad thing, but I like options. :)
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Call Me Curly
Member

Posts: 63


« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2006, 04:31:25 AM »

the Sons Of Kryos podcasters have posted a 13 minute audio demo of the game Death's Door,
which is about characters trying to achieve goals before they die.
http://www.sonsofkryos.com/otherrecordings.html

If the PCs' goal was 'make contact with the aliens', I think that game
would play similarly to your Close Encounters RPG idea.



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Caesar_X
Member

Posts: 84


« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2006, 11:44:02 AM »

Thanks for the good feedback, guys.  I will definitely take a look at Death's Door and Sign In Stranger.

Troy, that's funny you mentioned Mastermind because I was thinking the same thing too.  I'm still wondering whether I want to literally go in a binary number direction.  My intent is to make the communication process with the aliens an equal mix of discovery, frustration and wonder.  I would imagine that the aliens in the mothership would have their own versions of the 'Believers', 'Skeptics' and 'Scared'.  Depending on how friendly or aggressive those strange humans are, they might very well adjust their approach.

Andrew, you are completely right about the dice mechanics for communication being totally fraught with disaster in practice.  That was my first quick stab and I think you provided excellent suggestions.  I really want pre-encounter scenes to give the players a chance to gain 'Knowledge' points for two reasons.  They can define what the aliens and their vessel looks like.  And the part I haven't added to the rules yet is that players will get a chance to start defining the location of the final encounter.  So for instance one player might say "the encounter will take place next to a great river".  And several scenes later another will say "there is a lot of farmland in the area".  So now you are starting to narrow down the possibilities.  Again, I want there to be a real sense of discovery through shared definition during gameplay.

I actually watched the Collector's Edition DVD of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' last night, and was again amazed by how well that movie was written and shot.  But there was less interaction with the 'Skeptics' than I remembered, and more searching for the 'Knowledge'.  Not that I'm trying to simulate that movie with this game, but it was a seminal experience from my youth.  The overall feeling I got from the movie was one of hope.

BTW, I am changing the working name of the game to 'The Believers', because I think it's a little more creepy and fun:)  So if you want to read more about the game on The Forge, keep an eye out for those posts.

Thanks,
Chris

Caesar_X@yahoo.com

Read about 'Touch of Noir' here: http://troupeberkeley.infogami.com/Noir
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andrew_kenrick
Member

Posts: 194


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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2006, 08:55:03 AM »

Quote
Andrew, you are completely right about the dice mechanics for communication being totally fraught with disaster in practice.  That was my first quick stab and I think you provided excellent suggestions.  I really want pre-encounter scenes to give the players a chance to gain 'Knowledge' points for two reasons.  They can define what the aliens and their vessel looks like.  And the part I haven't added to the rules yet is that players will get a chance to start defining the location of the final encounter.  So for instance one player might say "the encounter will take place next to a great river".  And several scenes later another will say "there is a lot of farmland in the area".  So now you are starting to narrow down the possibilities.  Again, I want there to be a real sense of discovery through shared definition during gameplay.

I like the idea  that the hypotheses and theories the characters suggest in the pre-encounter scenes end up informing the final encounter, the aliens and their ship. I think that could work well.

So would they gain Knowledge points through these scenes (by playing with their radio receiver or finding some government documents or whatever), and then get to spend them creating the final encounter (so if I had 3 knowledge points I could define 3 elements of the aliens, the final encounter etc).

Or, would it work that these scenes directly contribute to the encounter, so instead of getting Knowledge points they get to make guesses and theories and those turn out to be true?

Quote
BTW, I am changing the working name of the game to 'The Believers', because I think it's a little more creepy and fun:) 

I like the Believers! Keep posting more as you develop it!
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Andrew Kenrick
www.steampowerpublishing.com
Dead of Night - a pocket sized game of b-movie and slasher horror
Chris Peterson
Member

Posts: 75


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2006, 04:09:32 PM »


A postive feedback system of rising or falling resource points (that enter a death-spiral or the reverse) might help build tension and drive the story as all the parties interact. Something not unlike "My Life With Master" but with three or four sides. :-) Even if the aliens are not evil, game events might lead them to "nuke the site from orbit" or something.

See this Story Games thread for more info: "Coding for rising action, climax, falling action"
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chris
TroyLovesRPG
Member

Posts: 150


« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2006, 08:01:42 PM »

One similarity I find with people who claim to have spiritual visitations, alien encounters and other paranormal activity is that they all have personal accounts of something happening that revolves around themselves. It is a wonderous way to gain attention and still remain exclusive because most people don't have those kinds of experiences and never would admit to them. So, the story is: something unusual happened to me and not to you; therefore, you must believe but cannot participate.

Maybe the game's goal is for the players to win the date with the alien. They become the chosen one. Each player becomes a point-of-view with regards to aliens. All of them are led to the encounter, but don't know why. They want to go and try to convince the others that its real. None of them can make it on their own. Each must relinquish their secret knowledge (encounter details) to complete the whole picture. Players gain belief, sanity and knowledge points for different actions and narrations. Players can swap points using a hat (throw in the chips you want to swap, stir the tokens and pull the same number out.) Each belief, sanity and knowledge point has advantages and disadvantages when they have higher values. Essentially, they affect each other when out of balance.

Belief: lets you firmly uphold ideas based on your unwavering knowledge. Your sanity may diminish due to contradictory state.
Sanity: lets you operate realistically in society while maintaining your beliefs. Your knowledge may diminish as it upsets the norm.
Knowledge: lets you gain secret information about things you never new existed while retaining your sanity. Beliefs you harbor begin to sink as the knowledge shoots holes in their superstitious nature.

The aliens require a human to have high belief, sanity and knowledge.

Players burn points to shape the story, force others to accept knowledge or perform tasks.

Different levels of points determine the degree of the encounter with an alien. The player must role-play their level of belief, sanity or knowledge.
High belief gives you license to spout any ridiculous notion. "They told me to find the forbidden fruit in California"
High sanity forces you to personify the aliens in human social terms. "They are here to be our friends"
High knowledge lets you state facts about it without analysis or meaning. "They have no eyes."
Those with minor belief, sanity or knowledge must refrain from using those areas, unless they want to burn a point and declare something.

A way to increase points in one area is by accepting the narration of another player, thereby increasing it by one point. So, you don't want to spout something that will boost another player; however, you must declare something to further the story.

I'm getting sleepy.
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