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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: shakespearean Roleplaying  (Read 1683 times)
Wiredboy
Member

Posts: 4


« on: November 26, 2006, 09:24:45 PM »

Hello! This is my first post, a friend pointed me here to vent my big idea that's been brewing for a few weeks.

In the past, I've done alot of theatrical work, and drama. I'm pretty familier with the concepts of story, character, plot, scenes, etc. This has translated into my roleplaying style, which is extreme storytelling. I love the rules ground down to a minimum. Dogs in the Vineyard has been one of the most fufilling games I've played ever, along with Burning Empires.

This brings me to my "big idea"

What if, you took a simplified lifepath system from the burning wheel game, which the characters could become nobles, royalty, commonfolk, and mystical beings like witches.

Then, combine it into a structured series of scenes, composing several acts. The first session would flesh out the location, time period, important figures, Active factions and other things. Then players would create characters to fit into this setting, with a goal (ie. usurp the king) and a collection of traits that would guide the motives and actions.

I would work in a system of destiny, so that players could spend "destiny" points to change an aspect (eg: a hero spends points to shurg off a mortal blow, or a villian spends a point to help him murder the king) Keeping with the true spirit of Shakespeare, the good guys don't always win, and people will die.

I like luke Crane's idea of "Color tech" that you have to spent points on to make it real. This is something that might be useful (A king could SAY he has a huge army, but, until he spends the resources on it, It won't be of much use)

One of the fuzzier aspects is the blocking of scenes. Each act could be composed of a 4-8 scenes, at the end of the act, players would have several options, such as introducing a new character, location or event. Scenes would work on the idea off "choose the location, who's there, and what's going on"

Any comments would be much appreciated
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2006, 10:33:55 PM »

I very much like the idea of a limited number of scenes, and a three act structure.  I think the rules for blocking scenes would be critical to the success of this game.  What I'm imagining is a set of rules for scene framing, that could exist almost independantly of the conflict/task resolution mechanics.  These rules would restrict what could happen in a scene, and who could be involved, and could change as the game progresses.  So, for example, in Act One, your first scene could introduce a new setting, and you get unlimited new characters, but your scenes can't involve resolving the main conflict directly, and in fact must include conflicts between minor characters.  In Act Two, your scenes are allowed conflicts between more major players, but you still can't resolve the main conflict.  You can introduce two new settings, and a few new characters.  In Act Three, you get no new characters, and only one new setting, but you can have major conflicts... ...and so on.  You probably know the kinds of rules that will lead to a better dramatic structure, and a closer emulation of Shakespeare better than I do.  I think this kind of rule will prevent situations like: "Ok, It's Act One, Scene One Hundred" as well as "Ok, it's the final scene, but we haven't lead up to this at all!"

Good luck with this, it sounds promising.
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Wiredboy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2006, 10:39:13 PM »

I was thinking that I could give an option to the players, like an either or, for instance, in Act 2, you can indroduce a new major character or a setting, but not both. for minor characters, I was thinking of a kind of "NPC point" meaning, you had a limited number of NPCs you could introduce. NPCs would be limited in capacity. Maybe the Knight wants to introduce a squire, or a Princess wants to introduce her womanservent. The could then be used to provide a boost to the character, such as a servent informing an unaware person to a plot, setting the stakes for a conflict.
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2006, 12:35:23 AM »

It stikes me that this is a game concept that's ripe for creating characters in play.  That is, after all, true to the idea of the game as a play, where the audience only knows about the characters what is revealed in dialogue.  One of your rules for Act One can be that any statement a character makes about themselves is true. "Do you challenge me? Know you not I am the greatest swordsman in the realm, and favoured of the King?" You could combine this with a mechanic like "The Pool", where you assign traits a number of dice.  You could just throw them in when you make the statement.  "I'm the greatest swordsman in the realm!"*throws in three dice*.  This can also lead to flagging when your character is bragging.  "I'm the greatest swordsman in the realm!" *throws in no dice*.

If you wanted to really get into the idea of the game as a play, I'd tie experience, or another in-game award, to achieving goals, with the caveat that the goal must have been outlined in "in character" monologue.
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Wiredboy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2006, 12:03:23 PM »

The idea of creating stats in play sounds good. It avoids the application of useless stats. I always remember (in other systems) giving my character skills, then never using them. One of the main things I'd like to focus on is the traits. each lifepath would come with a list of traits, so your characters will conform to a loose system of stock characters, with some variation, like the noble romantic knight, the greedy knight and The bumbling questing knight. They all might have the trait of "inspired" and "driven to goals" but they will differ in traits like "greedy"  "romantic" or "clumsy" This might work well with a wildcard trait list, ones that can be tacked on to a near-finished character to give him or her something that stands out.

For play, maybe minor NPCs could be treated like skills? by rolling the dice, you determine how much influence the character will have.

This one just came to me, but, In many of his plays, the great bard has Duels, most of the duels invitable end in a death. I was going to adapt this, so that when 2 characters go into a combat situation, someone will die, gaurateed. The only way around this is by spending Destiny points. Keeping with the fun too, the characters will be dying, but will not expire until they decide, so they can get in the "death monologue"
(I'm overflowing with ideas now)
Combat would work in 3 beats, consisting of actions and dialog.
eg:
beat 1
Romanski: YOU will face your death now! taste the steel of my sword!
(Romanski thrusts his rapier)
Dimitre: My blood will never be spilt by the likes of you, dog!
(Dimire blocks the attack)
beat 2
Dimitre: I was always the rightous brother, you have disgraced the family
(pushes Romanski off staircase)
Romanski: Ah!
(falls down)
beat 3
Romanski: Brother! forgive me!
(throws down his sword)
Dimitre: You will not reduce our noble family to begging!
(stabs Romanski)

In this way, the combat doesn't drag on needlessly.

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Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2006, 12:22:10 PM »

Yes, I too am all over this idea.  And welcome to the Forge!

Constraints are great.  An act structure, with explicit thematic limitations in each (you can't get the girl until Act III, that sort of thing) can guide play very effectively. 

I've played around with adapting revenge tragedy's format to a roleplaying game in the past, and the stylistic limitations actually make it easier.  It'd be interesting to see "templates" that outlined both character and action requirements:

"OK, we're going to need to see the king humbled in Act II, we got the love story started but there needs to be a seen complicating that, and oh!  Who's going to bring in the soothsayer?"  On one level this seems like micromanagement, but I assure you it can be done effectively. 
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Wiredboy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2006, 04:21:20 PM »

I had another idea today, to make it easier on the players, the character sheets could have spaces for writing in major plot events and developments. Spaces like "Vengence" "romance" etc, so, for instance:

Romanski has on his sheet:
Vengence: I will dispose of my brother, he is a traitor to the family name
Romance: A secret romance with the shoemakers daughter, a forbidden love between a commoner and royalty
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Jacob Mazanti
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2006, 03:52:34 PM »

Hello from Denmark,

Last winter I wrote a Commedia dell'Arte scenario for the Danish roleplaying convention Fastaval. Looking into the tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte I became aware how closely it resembles theatrically driven roleplaying as we know it today. In fact, the very word scenario stems from the Italian scenari, meaning something that is located "by the stage". This something was of course the Commedia dell'Arte scenario, the scene-by-scene outline of the plot that was acted out on stage. The scene directions were typically something along the lines of "Pantalone courts Isabella who bears with his licentiousness until Brighella has robbed the old man's purse, and then refuses him". This combined with strong archetypal characters or masks (Pantalone, Harlequin, Columbine, etc.) made for hours and hours of improvised fun - a lot like roleplaying does.

Since completing my scenario I've been thinking along the lines of developing it into a full-fledged set of rules for setting up and playing through Commedia dell'Arte pieces. Naturally, Shakespeare the RPG sounds appealing to me, though as a game I guess it would be on the tragic rather than on the comic side of things. But still, Shakespeare's main inspiration, at least stylistically, probably was the Commedia dell' Arte as played by travelling troupes throughout Europe during the Renaissance. And the rules that would drive players through three acts of Commedia dell'Arte might very well be essentially the same as those that would drive them through three acts of Shakespearean drama.

Apart from the formalised three-act structure and the very character-based and conflict-driven scene directions, what I like most about the idea of adapting Commedia dell'Arte to roleplaying is the whole mask/role setup. Something that seems to complement the underlying story template structure, allowing us to consider style and content separately without ever severing the ties between the two.

Basically the mask is the archetype, and the role that it plays in a specific plot is its individuation. This is similar to a player writing a personal background story for a generic character class in a regular old school rpg. Only, the limitations imposed are much greater because of the narrow genre and plot conventions (comedy of errors with lots of room for confusion, digression, and sudden crazy ideas). No matter which role you apply to the mask of Harlequin, the mask will always make itself known and guarantee certain actions and reactions that will keep both character and plot within genre. Though I think masks were rather not the rule in the original Shakespearean performances, the masks were still there in the guise of stock characters, such as the ambitious prince, the scheming queen, and the vengeful king.

I'd love to swap'n'share more info about Commedia dell'Arte and Shakespearean drama, and hopefully hit upon something usable as a foundation for such a kind of an rpg. One way might be to sit down with a couple of plays/scenarios, and "decode" them. That is, take them apart, and divide them into the different elements they consist of. This would probably be a good way to get a feel of the story substance and a starting-point for developing the tools necessary for players to construct and act out their own dramas, whether tragedy or comedy.

And by the way, thanks for discussing ideas openly on the forum. I'm most happy to join you!
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2006, 03:15:32 AM »

I think this is a very interesting idea, and one about which I have a number of thoughts.

Lets take the 3-act structure, is that really a good idea to import, en bloc?  Maybe it would be a better idea to ask what it is doing in theatre, and then address duplicating that effect, rather than copying the device itself.  For example, how would one know that we were now in Act 2 as opposed 1?  A statement from the GM?  Alternately, does the break in play at the end of a session correspond to an intermission?

Another other question that arises is, who are the characters?  Could you play Thibault, and and what would you do after the character died?  You can maybe temporarilly suspend mortality for the "pile of bodies" effect but the question of how you identify suitable PC's is an interesting one.

But I do not think playing to simply duplicate the story is going to fly, that would merely be acting out a part, not identifying with and thinking as a character.  If the goal of Hamlet the RPG is simply to make the same decisions as all the characters make in the play, then how is it different to presenting the play?  And if its not, then what actually would a game of Hamlet the RPG look like?
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Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2006, 04:47:59 AM »

In my mind, at least, acts are concrete break points - you know you've ended Act I because the lovers have made a promise to one another and the King has left Genoa.  Time to take a break, get some snacks, and plan for the upcoming action. 

The traditional uncertainty in RPGs is "what will happen?", but in this case, much of the uncertainty is "how will it happen?".  You know the King is leaving; he has to so he can return at the end of Act III.  But how and why are still up to the players. 

As for protagonists, emulating Shakespeare is probably a good candidate for troupe play, unless the roles are highly constrained, which seems less fun.  There's a sweet spot where player actions can still strongly impact the story, even though the broad outcome is well known to all. 



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Jacob Mazanti
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2006, 07:16:08 AM »

But I do not think playing to simply duplicate the story is going to fly, that would merely be acting out a part, not identifying with and thinking as a character.  If the goal of Hamlet the RPG is simply to make the same decisions as all the characters make in the play, then how is it different to presenting the play?  And if its not, then what actually would a game of Hamlet the RPG look like?

Oh, I sure didnīt have a simple duplication of a known play in mind. Rather, I was considering an adaptation that converts elements of classical drama into elements of roleplaying. E. g. Commedia dell'Arte actors relied heavily on lazzi to emphasize character traits and spice up scenes. Lazzi were a kind of slapstick routines relevant to specific characters, such as when Il Dottore got lost in a complicated academic argument and had to be carried off-stage, still talking, in order to continue with the story. For roleplaying purposes I have used lazzi as a means of allowing for personal sub-plots relevant to the different characters. You might also use it as a means of influencing play structure, e. g. allowing the absent-minded doctor to replay a scene with another character, or allowing the patriarchal Pantalone to force another character to leave or enter the stage. As long as your adaptation is in touch with the core of your ambition, I believe almost anything can be done.

As for Hamlet I think the intention was rather to make a generic tool for setting up Shakespearean drama rpg-wise than for exploring just a single play. Though roleplaying Hamlet - not as a play, but as a game - sure would be possible, I too think that it is more interesting to dig deeper and play around with the whole basis of, say, Shakespearean tragedy. It's sure gonna take some work, but luckily the templates for creating this kind of drama is quite archetypal, both in regards to plot and to character. And though players would of course never reach the true heights of a real Shakespearean monologue, they might develop a plot and a resolution that would even have the old master stop and ponder for a while.
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