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Author Topic: Scissors- Technqiues for Producing a Psychological Thriller RPG  (Read 2117 times)
whiteknife
Member

Posts: 118


« on: September 29, 2009, 09:51:22 PM »

OK, so I've been playing with a game idea lately- I call it Scissors. The pitch is that the characters have each found a pair of "scissors of fate", like those used by the three fates of Greek mythology- and they can use these to cut the "threads of life" that bind everything in a massive web of interrelationships. Most notably, this ability lets you kill pretty much anyone (well...anyone normal), but also just generally mess with fate, allowing you to cause extremely unlikely accidents in your favor, and a couple of other things... If you've read the (excellent) manga "Death Note" that's the feel I'm going for.

Anyways, I plan on the focus of the game being a mix of finding out all sorts of secrets hidden in the setting, working out the character's place in the world now that they have this great power, dealing with the consequences of their actions, and examining the role of fate in a more modern setting. Heavy stuff, but it's just broad ideas.

So as for the actual moment to moment goings on of the game I'm kind of having a bit of trouble. You see, I would prefer not to have the game focus on characters running around and solving missions or any of that "go somewhere fight some guys and complete a goal" stuff, nor do I want to generate a collaborative story- I'm trying for an atmosphere of psychological thriller/ horror. That means the action should ideally come from investigating things, working out ways to outwit foes with complex plots, finding out how to accomplish far reaching goals creatively...that sort of thing.

Now, what I'm asking is, what games (or just general concepts for games) would be useful in producing that kind of atmosphere? I'm looking for research material, basically. I'm familiar with (and very much love) Lacuna, which I intend to use at least a few techniques from (I'll definitely be including some form of "rising tensions" mechanic that stems from player action). But beyond that my roleplaying experience is largely with action-focused games- I've never played call of cthulhu, trail of cthulhu, dirty secrets, or any of that stuff- but maybe you have, and that's what I'd like to know.

In short, I'd like to hear some ideas for producing a thriller style game, whether they're your own or examples from other games.
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Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2009, 12:32:01 AM »

Consider visualising the characters through actual pieces of thread.

As soon as the characters realise they have this ability, they also realise that their own thread is drawing to an end. Every time the characters use their ability, they physically cut their thread (the more powerful the effect they cause, the more thread they'll have to cut away), but there is a chance that their actions will give them extra thread to play with if they have proven successful or manage to twist fate to their advantage (this would then be tied in a knot to the end of the characters current destiny thread).

The physical presence of the thread gives the players a visceral feeling for how much longer they have in the world, and how much they will eed to cheat fate if they want to continue their journey.

Just an idea...

V
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whiteknife
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2009, 07:57:09 PM »

That's pretty cool. This idea does sort of call out for some sort of scissors related hi jinks, like cutting thread for abilities, cutting parts off a character sheet, or something,  but I'm wondering if that kind of thing is too gimmicky? It can be hard to tell, I think, and it probably depends on the person.
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2009, 08:45:08 PM »

yeah, you definitely are treading a fine line between gimmicky and cool.

I think for a mechanic involving actual scissors, you'd want to make sure that it wasn't something that could be done more easily and conveniently using more traditional means. 

A potentially interest route would be to couple this with relationship map mechanics, and cutting people out means literally cutting them off a piece of paper.  Similarly, you can sever relationships between people.  If you wanted to be fancy, you could do this with peg board and coloured thread, but that would stray into gimmicky territory.

You might want to check out "It's Complicated" as a game that uses mechanics that reference intersections on a relationship map, although I personally didn't enjoy the game.
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Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 08:29:31 AM »

As I recall from the Death Note manga, the demons were able to add to their lifetime the years they cut from their victims. I think you can state as a part of the premise that characters got this gift in exchange for most of their remaining lifetime, giving them like, 1d6 days left. So you have a constrain of time to scare people off and probably the promise of a terrible death and worse afterlife to put the pressure on them. Yet they can escape that destiny by cutting the thread of other people's life. So now you have the moral dilemma of whose life has less value, yours or your neighbour?

Of course, cutting threads must have additional complications, like players can't avoid getting entangled in the thread of the life they just cut, for good or bad. Only problem I see this far is about the amount of players, this doesn't look like a cooperative game yet, so either the number of players must be less than 4 or you get some mechanics to make it cooperative (though I don't consider this last one a must)
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whiteknife
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2009, 01:29:55 PM »

Hmm...I might have to look at it's complicated. I've heard of it, but I never checked it out- but relationship maps do sound like something useful.

The whole "you have only a few days to live" thing is great- I just love it, seriously, and I hadn't really thought of it before.

Making the game cooperative could become an issue, but I have some general ideas on how to make it work (like making the PCs so entwined with each other that they sort of have to work together or else... which could create some interesting intra-party stuff if the PCs goals come into conflict but they can't take direct action....
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Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2009, 07:46:15 AM »

cool! hey, if you liked the 'only  a few days to live" idea, why not use this to get the party closer together? Like, "It's worse than you think, now YOU ALL are sharing the same life thread" so, once the time is up, everybody gets flushed down to hell. Add your ideas for PC's lifes being entwined prior to the event that gave them the powers and you'd get an instant solid teamwork there Cheesy
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dmkdesigns
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2009, 11:45:52 PM »

OK, so I've been playing with a game idea lately- I call it Scissors. The pitch is that the characters have each found a pair of "scissors of fate", like those used by the three fates of Greek mythology- and they can use these to cut the "threads of life" that bind everything in a massive web of interrelationships. Most notably, this ability lets you kill pretty much anyone (well...anyone normal), but also just generally mess with fate, allowing you to cause extremely unlikely accidents in your favor, and a couple of other things... If you've read the (excellent) manga "Death Note" that's the feel I'm going for.

Anyways, I plan on the focus of the game being a mix of finding out all sorts of secrets hidden in the setting, working out the character's place in the world now that they have this great power, dealing with the consequences of their actions, and examining the role of fate in a more modern setting. Heavy stuff, but it's just broad ideas.

So as for the actual moment to moment goings on of the game I'm kind of having a bit of trouble. You see, I would prefer not to have the game focus on characters running around and solving missions or any of that "go somewhere fight some guys and complete a goal" stuff, nor do I want to generate a collaborative story- I'm trying for an atmosphere of psychological thriller/ horror. That means the action should ideally come from investigating things, working out ways to outwit foes with complex plots, finding out how to accomplish far reaching goals creatively...that sort of thing.

Now, what I'm asking is, what games (or just general concepts for games) would be useful in producing that kind of atmosphere? I'm looking for research material, basically. I'm familiar with (and very much love) Lacuna, which I intend to use at least a few techniques from (I'll definitely be including some form of "rising tensions" mechanic that stems from player action). But beyond that my roleplaying experience is largely with action-focused games- I've never played call of cthulhu, trail of cthulhu, dirty secrets, or any of that stuff- but maybe you have, and that's what I'd like to know.

In short, I'd like to hear some ideas for producing a thriller style game, whether they're your own or examples from other games.

This sounds like a fun and intriguing game concept.


I have some questions.


What happens when the life of another is cut?

Does the cutter get more time to live, such as rolling a d6, thus prolonging their existence at the expense of others? Do the cutters get info, flashbacks narrated by the GM or Players about the person who has their life shortened, or does this only happen if threads are crossed?

What happens if they cut their own life -- down to Hades realm?

What if they cut the threads of other cutters -- do they get rewarded differently or get all of the info and power accumulated by that cutter?

Are the cutters in this game considered murderers or tragic figures caught in a web of deception and survival?

Must they cut threads of people or can animals suffice?

What about attempting to cut the threads of supernatural beings?

Can the scissors be broken or utilized in other forms such as making knots or ties?

Is there a relationship between the cutters, such as they have all interacted with each other previously or are cursed to take on the mantle of fate?

Are the cutters destined only to eventually die or do they need to pass on the scissors to others potential cutters or to the Fates of the current world or go into hell and do battle or further investigations?

Do the cutters spend part of the game weaving their threads and cutting their threads to figure out the pattern of the mystery to solve or not?


-David-
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whiteknife
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 08:45:06 AM »

i]What happens when the life of another is cut?
That would kill them. However, it also sort of puts some elements of their life into yours as well.

Does the cutter get more time to live, such as rolling a d6, thus prolonging their existence at the expense of others? Do the cutters get info, flashbacks narrated by the GM or Players about the person who has their life shortened, or does this only happen if threads are crossed? <What happens if they cut their own life -- down to Hades realm? <What if they cut the threads of other cutters -- do they get rewarded differently or get all of the info and power accumulated by that cutter? <Are the cutters in this game considered murderers or tragic figures caught in a web of deception and survival?
That question is kind of open to interpretation, although the text would lean towards tragic figures in a web of deception. Certainly some of the elements I would like to explore would be how far can you go before it stops being OK, and all that. Also, I imagine many of the characters foes would likely consider them murderers.

Must they cut threads of people or can animals suffice? <What about attempting to cut the threads of supernatural beings? <Can the scissors be broken or utilized in other forms such as making knots or ties? <Is there a relationship between the cutters, such as they have all interacted with each other previously or are cursed to take on the mantle of fate? <Are the cutters destined only to eventually die or do they need to pass on the scissors to others potential cutters or to the Fates of the current world or go into hell and do battle or further investigations?
The eventual destiny of the cutters I think could go in a lot of ways, depending on how the game turns out, although I can see all those things as likely outcomes.

Do the cutters spend part of the game weaving their threads and cutting their threads to figure out the pattern of the mystery to solve or not?
Yep. That would probably where the moment to moment action of the game takes place.

Sorry if I was a bit vague in parts, I don't have it all worked out yet- plus it's a mystery game so I want to leave some of it open to interpretation.

If there's anyone else with comments, suggestions, questions, or whatever I'd love to hear themWhat happens when the life of another is cut? [/i]
That would kill them. However, it also sort of puts some elements of their life into yours as well.

Does the cutter get more time to live, such as rolling a d6, thus prolonging their existence at the expense of others? Do the cutters get info, flashbacks narrated by the GM or Players about the person who has their life shortened, or does this only happen if threads are crossed? <What happens if they cut their own life -- down to Hades realm? <What if they cut the threads of other cutters -- do they get rewarded differently or get all of the info and power accumulated by that cutter? <Are the cutters in this game considered murderers or tragic figures caught in a web of deception and survival?
That question is kind of open to interpretation, although the text would lean towards tragic figures in a web of deception. Certainly some of the elements I would like to explore would be how far can you go before it stops being OK, and all that. Also, I imagine many of the characters foes would likely consider them murderers.

Must they cut threads of people or can animals suffice? <What about attempting to cut the threads of supernatural beings? <Can the scissors be broken or utilized in other forms such as making knots or ties? <Is there a relationship between the cutters, such as they have all interacted with each other previously or are cursed to take on the mantle of fate? <Are the cutters destined only to eventually die or do they need to pass on the scissors to others potential cutters or to the Fates of the current world or go into hell and do battle or further investigations?
The eventual destiny of the cutters I think could go in a lot of ways, depending on how the game turns out, although I can see all those things as likely outcomes.

Do the cutters spend part of the game weaving their threads and cutting their threads to figure out the pattern of the mystery to solve or not?
Yep. That would probably where the moment to moment action of the game takes place.

Sorry if I was a bit vague in parts, I don't have it all worked out yet- plus it's a mystery game so I want to leave some of it open to interpretation.

If there's anyone else with comments, suggestions, questions, or whatever I'd love to hear them.
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otspiii
Member

Posts: 67

A Very Powerful Wizard


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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2009, 09:57:29 AM »

What would be the requirements for cutting/messing with someone/thing's thread?

In Death Note you need to know someone's name and face to kill them.  Would there be some similar things you'd need to know about someone in this, or would you basically just see strings dangling behind everyone that you can cut at your leisure?  I like the idea of some personal bit of information (a name, a desire, a birth-date) needed to cut someone that wouldn't be too hard to find for people off their guard, but that could make it really hard to cut anyone who knows how the game is played.  What about for 'chance'?  If you want to make sure the subway shows up late by messing with its thread what do you need to do to be able to do that?

Are the threads of fate just floating around you at all times, or do you have to go into a dream projection state to travel to 'thread-space'?  If it's something you can do at will while conscious it turns the game into a weird kind of mix between White Wolf's Vampire and Mage lines, not that this couldn't be really fun.

What special protections would supernatural things have?  What would keep you from casually cutting them, but still let you potentially figure out how to get around their defenses?  Would it be information gathering, or tricking them into leaving an open spot, or what?
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whiteknife
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2009, 09:42:11 PM »

What would be the requirements for cutting/messing with someone/thing's thread?
In Death Note you need to know someone's name and face to kill them.  Would there be some similar things you'd need to know about someone in this, or would you basically just see strings dangling behind everyone that you can cut at your leisure?  I like the idea of some personal bit of information (a name, a desire, a birth-date) needed to cut someone that wouldn't be too hard to find for people off their guard, but that could make it really hard to cut anyone who knows how the game is played.  What about for 'chance'?  If you want to make sure the subway shows up late by messing with its thread what do you need to do to be able to do that?<Are the threads of fate just floating around you at all times, or do you have to go into a dream projection state to travel to 'thread-space'?  If it's something you can do at will while conscious it turns the game into a weird kind of mix between White Wolf's Vampire and Mage lines, not that this couldn't be really fun.<What special protections would supernatural things have?  What would keep you from casually cutting them, but still let you potentially figure out how to get around their defenses?  Would it be information gathering, or tricking them into leaving an open spot, or what?
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