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Among the Ruins: a post-apocalyptic Dust Devils hack idea

Started by Hans, December 03, 2007, 02:28:34 AM

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Not happy with the name, but here it Dust Devils that I am prepping for a 2-4 session run.  It is very sketchy at the moment; I would love feedback and lots of it.  The idea is to create a game that generates, in play, the kind of story one would hope for in a post-apocalyptic movie made sometime between 1975 and 1985.  It is inspired by the other fine shifts that people have done with Dust Devils (Deathwish, Ronin, etc.)

In the post-apocalyptic wasteland, characters are always confronted with a basic choice; behave like an animal to survive, or behave like a man and keep the dignity and virtues of civilization.  Therefore, characters have two Animal scores (Cunning and Ferocity) and two Man scores (Reason and Cool). 

Cunning (Hearts) - Cunning is the animal's capacity to act quickly without real thought, to know when to pounce and when to jump to avoid the pounce.  It is the capacity to know your surroundings, to sense prey and predators and know how to react to them.  It is Cunning that lets the animal avoid the trap.
Ferocity (Clubs) - Ferocity is the animal's capacity of the character for brutality and callousness.  It is the capacity to intimidate others with raw power and emotion.  It is the capacity to throw caution to the wind and act; it is both the lion tearing at the kicking wildebeest, and the wildebeest protecting its calf.  It is Ferocity that lets the animal bite its own leg off to get free of the trap.
Reason (Spades) - Reason is the man's capacity to think things through, to weigh different courses of action and determine the most productive.  It is the capacity to consider other perspectives, including other people's perspectives.  It is Reason that lets the man figure out how to open the trap.
Cool (Diamonds) - Cool is the man's capacity to ignore distractions and concentrate.  It is the capacity to choose whether or not to submit to duress or fear, to fight down instinct and emotion.  It is Cool that lets the man endure the pain of the trap until the trapper comes, so that he can get his revenge.

Scores are combined just like scores in standard Dust Devils; the Dealer has final say over which scores apply in any situation.

All characters have something in their past that has marked them deeply, forming them into what they are today.  These are the characters Scars.  The scars the characters have have taught them some valuable, if painful and brutal, lessons.  Each character should have two Scars, written out in a format similar to this: "This bad thing happened to my character, which taught him this lesson."

"My wife and kids were brutally murdered, teaching me to never get close to anyone again."
"My wife and kids were brutally murdered, teaching me to value innocent life for the true treasure it is."
"My wife and kids were brutally murdered, teaching me to hate all those who would harm women and children."

Scars act as and take the place of Past and Present in standard Dust Devils; if one seems to apply (especially the lesson learned), the player can draw one extra card during the Draw.

A character's image and trademark are those attributes that set the character apart.  They are the things that others will remember most, and will perhaps become the stuff of legend, if they haven't already.  Image is a phrase or sentence that describes the character's general first impression to other people; a short summary of the entire character concept.  Examples: "Crazed hermit", "Disillusioned war veteran", "Mutant in a Mexican wrestler mask", "Mysterious Man in Black", etc.  The trademark is typically an item, although it might be a creature or even another human, that is always at hand, and that is distinctive.  Examples: "Vicious pit bull name Betty", "Sawed off double-barrel shotgun with pistol grip", "Dented Harmonica", "Feral mutant child that always hangs around". 

Image and Trademark take the place of Traits in standard Dust Devils.  Whenever the Image or Trademark seems like it would be helpful in a conflict, the player can take an extra card in the Deal. 

Alternatively, with Image the player may purpose have the character do something against the Image (the Crazed Hermit attends a swanky dinner, the Mysterious Man in Black opens up to someone about his past).  In that case, instead of getting the card, the player gets a chip.

Also, in a situation where the character's Trademark would obviously be useful, if the player purposefully narrates the player NOT using the Trademark, preferably with the Trademark in some kind of danger (Prize shotgun out on the hood of the fast moving car, feral mutant child running away from bandits), the player gets a chip instead of the card.

Both the animal, and the man, are paths to survive in the a world gone mad with a kind of dignity.  There is a glory in the struggle to maintain the civilized virtues, and their is an honesty in acting from instinct and for self-preservation.  But there is a third way; to succumb to and revel in the madness.  To hurt for the joy of hurting, to take for the sake of taking, to debase oneself because of self-hatred.  All characters are tempted by this path.  Specifically, all characters have one particular kind of madness that calls out to them; their Demon.  Functionally, the Demon is pretty much the same as the Devil in standard Dust Devils, but with a subtle shift in emphasis and quality.  The Demon should involve an element of temptation and/or an element of insanity.

Finally, each character should have an Anthem.  This is the song that will play on the soundtrack of the movie in everyone's mind when that character first appears and does something fantastically cool.  When we see them fully inhibiting their Image, with their Trademark at hand, this song will capture that essence.  I personally suggest hard rock/heavy metal/punk from 1970 to 1983 or so as fertile ground for this, although certain characters could do well with anthems from older time periods or different cultures.  That mutant with the Mexican wrester mask might do well with a mariachi theme.

I'm not happy with some of the names of things, and I'm very fuzzy on exactly how I picture the Demon as different from the Devil (although I'm pretty sure there is a difference).  I have no idea what the point of the anthem is, except it just seems cool (I got the basic idea from a neat game called Zodiac).  All in all, I think it is pretty shaky, but has the core of a cool shift. 

Let me know, please, what you think.
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