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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: "Tribalism", Hot off the Brain Press  (Read 1561 times)
The Mule

Posts: 18


« on: April 26, 2007, 02:54:31 PM »

In the process of trying to make an interesting character in a tribal setting without any mechanical guidelines in the system to ensure a story, I decided to try to make a game out of the process I came up with.

I went through some interesting problems the idea of Tribal life might, in specific, present, and decided to focus on the idea of belonging, of Traditions that create walls that make us "us" and them "them".


What I'm trying to create is a mechanic that drives people to choose between losing everything they hold dear, and breaking the Traditions of their tribe.

To that end, the construction of Antagonism is incredibly important, but I really don't know how to best create it.  Yet another time I wish The Mountain Witch was in print!

1How do I ensure that scenes are created that focus on the conflict while being described with more depth than "here's the conflict"?  Right now I have Antagonism be a rotating duty; everyone gets their own Scene; one other person, my current Antagonist, tries to frame a situation that will endanger something I care about.

2 Does the Bond/Tradition mechanic seem unique?  I don't have the resources to expand my indie RPG library, so it's entirely possible I'm simply making a "Stupid-Version" of something that's already been done.  If so, I'd appreciate pointers toward those sources.

3 I want there to be dice in order to have the "after-roll" effects be powerful but dangerous.  In this case, "Breaking Tradition".  This means, however, that I have to deal with making the dice mechanic interesting and meaningful.  Right now I've just thrown piles of dice at the problem, and I'm interested to know if it seems workable, or if I should invest significant effort into streamlining and balancing the randomness.

I appreciate any insight, no matter the source!

The Mule

Raised by wolves.

Posts: 3702

« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2007, 05:42:32 AM »

1.  I think one reliable source of adversity is to make a situation in which the status quo is collapsing, and therefore the traditions that used to be strengths are now acting to prevent people from adapting.  I know you don't have a budget for new indie games, but you might want to search up some threads on Bill White's Ganakagok, which does an excellent job of this.

2.  I'm not thinking of anything similar off the top of my head.

3.  The breaking of tradition is primarily a danger to the people who care about the character, which is as it should be.

I like the ideas here!  I have this fleeting intuition that traditions should have a strength that changes in response to how people use or break them:  then the traditions you create at the beginning of the game would constitute a common resource, accessible to all ... it's always nice to get the tragedy of the commons into a game where people's relationship with society is spotlighted.  Anyway, that's my intuition, make of it what you will.

How long are you intending this game to run:  One session of a few hours?  A short campaign?  Longer?

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
The Mule

Posts: 18


« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2007, 10:47:50 AM »

Thank you!

Your response to 1 hit on something I've been considering; the structuring of cohesion and escalation of scenes through some large "over-plot".  I'll be trying to control the tempo with the Enemy Tokens (which will eventually get fine tuning so as not to encourage crazy spikes in danger).

I've been tossing around the idea of having the story take place at some crisis point for the Tribe that their Traditions, or maybe even just reluctance to *leave*, is only making worse.

Something like, "All the food has run out; does the Tribe leave everything they've ever known to search out a new home, or blame Tribe B and throw themselves into war?"

Your comments about a Tragedy of the Commons makes me even more likely to do something like this, because I could have some measurable effect of the Player's weakening of Tradition on the Tribe, and have that reflect the Tribe's attitude as a whole towards it's common problem.

This would also give me a better answer to your "how long" question; as is the game feels like it would play out like a series of very short, loosely connected stories.  You'd burn through characters at a rate of a session or two a character (depending on how I tweak the end conditions), but people would be burning out at different rates, so you'd have a constantly shifting dynamic.

Having an over-plot would help structure that; creating a 4-5 session length over-plot would help tell the players, "okay, you've answered the question with enough characters now" in the same way that Isolation 10 tells the player "okay this character has found his answer".

One new problem that concerns me after discussing the game with some people is
4 There seems to be an asymmetry between ending conditions.  Isolation 10 is clearly broken; there is no meaningful choice left for the player with regards to his character; only with how he affects other characters.  I'm thinking about NPC-ifying a character *as soon* as they hit Isolation 10, because they've already had enough time to affect the other characters.

"At least I still have..." seems to have a lot of problems in that people don't want to use it to flag interesting things.  One suggestion that I think I really like is to put a cap on the number of "At least I still have..."; basically, after you've lost your Xth flag, your character has reached the *other* point of no return; he's given up so much for the Tribe that it's all that's left to him.

5 What am I doing to my players with this?  The question is clearly "How far will you isolate yourself from your community to protect what you hold dear?"  By forcing the characters to keep track of how they've answered in the past and having stopping points that say "okay, you've answered the question enough now," am I going to push characters to waffle (which might be fun in of itself, having characters who's indecision costs them to lose everything they love *and* isolate themselves from the community)?

If they see this, is that going to push them to not waffle, and thus have uninteresting play where they shoot straight for Isolation, or Despair (which is what I'll call the "at least I still have..." end condition, I think)?

Maybe that's the job of the Antagonist; to recognize the answer the Protagonist is trying to go for, and challenge him.  So I need some more tangible way for Isolation to affect play, the way Despair does (your wife just got eaten by a tiger!), so that the Antagonist can make Breaking a Tradition bad right now.

Maybe some sort of NPC Bonds system.  Dunno!

Raised by wolves.
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