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Author Topic: [Dark Days]My core concept is dumb, please help.  (Read 1193 times)
northerain
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« on: November 22, 2009, 08:18:17 AM »

Dark Days is the game I'm working on. I'll explain it the way I came up with it, so that it makes sense.
Dark Days is a game about people with supernatural powers, that investigate and battle horrors in a world filled with the occult and the supernatural.

Are they magicians? No. They're people that died and then came back from the dead imbued with powers. Where do the powers come from? Darkness.

Darkness is a non-sentient force, one that affects our lives and pools where bad things happen. It's like a disease that spreads out as series of events unfold

A guy is an alcoholic and drives drunk. He hits you wife and she dies. You get depressed and kill yourself. It all starts with one guy but spreads out. That's a mundane example. A supernatural example is when a guy kills five people in a house and you move in. This ends up making you crazy and you chop up your family. Both are valid.

This is where the problem comes in. Up to now, the idea was that the Darkness, even as a non-sentient force, strikes a ''deal'' with the characters. They become a vessel for Darkness and they get to come back to life to pursue their goals (revenge, a different life, whatever). The powers are just perks. The more the Darkness takes a hold on your soul, the more powerful you become.
The problem is that it doesn't make much sense. It implies that Darkness wants a chance to spread out misery by using you as a vessel, but you have so much control over it that it's really a bad dead for the Darkness. It's also not very non-sentient thing to do.

I have three alternative ideas:
1. The characters gain an understanding of the Darkness. By looking into it, they accept a part of it into them. The whole ''When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you'' thing. I like it more, I think, but I don't know how to explain it well.

2. The characters are slowly corrupted by Darkness, as it offers them a way to do something they can't do on their own. Like exact revenge on a big time mob boss. This way the characters starts on the path of Darkness on his own and he accepts it into his heart in order to gain the power needed to finish what he started.

3. The characters never die per se. They make a deal before they die (along the lines of #2) that costs them dearly, in order to both survive and continue the path they chose.

---Spoilers for Punisher Born follow------

As an example, in Punisher Born, Frank Castle is a soldier in vietnam. He loves war and he loves killing. He hears a voice in his mind that offers him the chance of an eternal war. All he has to do is agree. In the end, while the camp is being overrun, everyone is dead except Castle and he's been shot 4-5 times. The voice offers him the chance to both survive, and get his wish, to eternally wage war, if he agrees to pay the price.
He agrees and survives, returns to the US. Later his family dies of course.

This example covers alternatives 2 and 3 more or less.


I'm looking for both general feedback on the concepts and your ''vote'' for one of them. Any feedback is welcome.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2009, 02:23:18 PM »

Quote
but you have so much control over it that it's really a bad dead for the Darkness.
There's a line in the prince of nothing novels that goes something like "There's nothing the manipulator prizes so dearly, than your sense that you are fully in control"

What you can write out as part of the games text, is that players are obviously choosing their characters actions. But they are too see it as that whatever they choose for their character, even though they feel so much in control, it is a manipulation of the darkness to some extent, or entirely even. You just don't know...how much are your actions your own, and how much are they an extension of the darkness?

Howsboutsthats?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Falc
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2009, 03:22:12 AM »

I'd say that if you really want this Darkness to be non-sentient, than it can't want stuff. Nor make deals. I would say that it has to be a tool, nothing more. But at that point, I would say that you need to define more clearly what it is, what it does, what it can an cannot do and what others can and cannot do with it, to it, for it.

Also, would there be others involved? The Darkness itself may be non-sentient, but maybe there are other sentient entities who will trade access to such a powerful tool in return for something. After all, there has to be some trick to being able to use Darkness, no?
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DWeird
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2009, 03:36:29 AM »

What Callan said sounds pretty cool to me (but, of course, use what makes sense to you and not some vague consensus between two people). An easy way to do it is making the people "owe" something to Darkness for every power they get - which basically means that your character is out and about doing what he wants, but at a certain, undisclosed time, the GM can take control of the character and make him do terrible things. So there's the issue of actually losing control... And the tension in waiting for the exact moment when you lose control.

If this works for you.
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northerain
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2009, 03:59:46 AM »

What Callan said sounds pretty cool to me (but, of course, use what makes sense to you and not some vague consensus between two people). An easy way to do it is making the people "owe" something to Darkness for every power they get - which basically means that your character is out and about doing what he wants, but at a certain, undisclosed time, the GM can take control of the character and make him do terrible things. So there's the issue of actually losing control... And the tension in waiting for the exact moment when you lose control.

If this works for you.

Those mechanics are in the game. Not only do you slowly lose control, but you also begin to change in horrific ways.

Quote
but you have so much control over it that it's really a bad dead for the Darkness.
There's a line in the prince of nothing novels that goes something like "There's nothing the manipulator prizes so dearly, than your sense that you are fully in control"

What you can write out as part of the games text, is that players are obviously choosing their characters actions. But they are too see it as that whatever they choose for their character, even though they feel so much in control, it is a manipulation of the darkness to some extent, or entirely even. You just don't know...how much are your actions your own, and how much are they an extension of the darkness?

Howsboutsthats?

That makes sense. I like that.

I'd say that if you really want this Darkness to be non-sentient, than it can't want stuff. Nor make deals. I would say that it has to be a tool, nothing more. But at that point, I would say that you need to define more clearly what it is, what it does, what it can an cannot do and what others can and cannot do with it, to it, for it.

Also, would there be others involved? The Darkness itself may be non-sentient, but maybe there are other sentient entities who will trade access to such a powerful tool in return for something. After all, there has to be some trick to being able to use Darkness, no?

I've been trying to avoid using ''proxies'' like demons and other beings. I want to keep it the cheesiness down to a minimum (at least it sounds cheesy to me).
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Falc
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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2009, 05:14:31 AM »

I guess one of the biggest questions I have is: "What do the characters do, exctly?" Because there's this:

Quote
people with supernatural powers, that investigate and battle horrors

and then there's this:

Quote
They become a vessel for Darkness and they get to come back to life to pursue their goals (revenge, a different life, whatever).

These two descriptions are too different to me, so I don't really understand what your game is about.
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northerain
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« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2009, 06:29:54 AM »

Both. It's an attempt to create a more dramatic game than ''go here, kill this thing.'' There's a thread in the playtest forum which you can check out and see what the game is like.

In our playtest, time was spent pursuing the story, but almost equal time was spent in pursuing individual goals. One of the characters wanted to exact revenge on the men that killed him. He started investigating them and 2-3 sessions down the line, he killed one of them.
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Certified
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« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2009, 10:51:54 AM »

From the reading I think the idea of want and desire without cognitive thought fits well. Darkness exists at a lower form of consciousness, it has a drive to grow it inflicts suffering on others. It does not plot or plan it simply desires and like water moves along the path of least resistance. Darkness doesn't strike deals it is beyond that. Those willing to open themselves to the powers of darkness at a second chance may however see what they have done as striking a bargain.

One of the things that seems like a possibility for this setting is the struggle between desire, power and control. The characters have would likely have powerful desires to being with to open themselves to the Darkness. These would serve as a kind of motivation and should in some way play into the desires of Darkness, revenge being a great example from the original post. The more the character is willing to give in to their desires the more power they can summon or to put this another way the more Darkness they channel. The GM may conversely use the characters desires to lash out at inappropriate times. For Example: A character motivated by revenge may collapse an elevator killing everyone in it after someone fails to hold the door for them. This struggle would probably need some kind of balancing mechanism but I think there is a lot of room for fun here.
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Falc
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« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2009, 01:46:31 PM »

I think I'm starting to grasp what your game is about. The line about investigating and battling horrors made me think too much of the X-Files or some such. If I get it straight, the point is more that these people find themselves in a dark reflection of our world, where they go about trying to achieve their goals but find themselves faced with other things. Sounds a bit like "Don't rest your head", come to think of it.

I think your first big question would still be what the Darkness is, really. You speak of non-sentient, but to me, the first thing your description made me think of was some an entity that basically just exists, that is the result of misery and pain. That's one approach, but the other approach that others seem to be picking up on is that Darkness does have a certain 'living' quality to it, something that gives it a basic drive to survive and ensure its safety by becoming as large as possible.

But, you certainly seem to be leaning towards option 2, so let's go with that for a bit. I do not believe that you can give it any sort of motive beyond this basic need for survival, without making it sentient (insert a few thousand years of philosophical debates here...). Besides, it's pretty simple and easy to understand. The problem then becomes what part the Darkness plays in death. Is it Death? Is it part of it? Does it claim everyone, or only some? Or is it actually unrelated, even though death is one of the main sources of Darkness in our world? I think a clear answer to these questions would help in clearly defining what Darkness can and can't do. If it is Death, or stronger than Death, then it could give life eternal. If it isn't, then it can only give borrowed time. A few last days to set your life straight...
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northerain
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2009, 08:26:06 AM »

From the reading I think the idea of want and desire without cognitive thought fits well. Darkness exists at a lower form of consciousness, it has a drive to grow it inflicts suffering on others. It does not plot or plan it simply desires and like water moves along the path of least resistance. Darkness doesn't strike deals it is beyond that. Those willing to open themselves to the powers of darkness at a second chance may however see what they have done as striking a bargain.


Yeah, that makes sense. I'm probably going with something along those lines.


I think I'm starting to grasp what your game is about. The line about investigating and battling horrors made me think too much of the X-Files or some such. If I get it straight, the point is more that these people find themselves in a dark reflection of our world, where they go about trying to achieve their goals but find themselves faced with other things. Sounds a bit like "Don't rest your head", come to think of it.

But, you certainly seem to be leaning towards option 2, so let's go with that for a bit. I do not believe that you can give it any sort of motive beyond this basic need for survival, without making it sentient (insert a few thousand years of philosophical debates here...). Besides, it's pretty simple and easy to understand. The problem then becomes what part the Darkness plays in death. Is it Death? Is it part of it? Does it claim everyone, or only some? Or is it actually unrelated, even though death is one of the main sources of Darkness in our world? I think a clear answer to these questions would help in clearly defining what Darkness can and can't do. If it is Death, or stronger than Death, then it could give life eternal. If it isn't, then it can only give borrowed time. A few last days to set your life straight...

It does sound like DRYH doesn't it. Similar premises I guess. I'll think about those questions.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2009, 02:01:37 PM »

Don't rush to answer them, necessarily. It can be a feauture that this significant force that's not only a huge part of character lives but also players creative time, will remain undefined and unknown. How can it be non sentient yet make deals? Who knows? Indeed, perhaps even the author of the game is wrong and it's not non sentient or it isn't making a deal and something else is happening.

Really keep it up in the air and yet at the same time it's in everyones face, since their drawing on it to do stuff.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Falc
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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2009, 02:03:42 AM »

I can certainly understand Callan's reply about keeping some things vague. I would, however, like to have it noted that I asked my questions thinking more about the mechanical implications that they would have. Can Darkness give you anything you want or is it limited? This can mean the difference between players being allowed to make any statement they want, needing to get approval from the whole table or needing to get approval from the GM. Very different playstyles, very fundamental to the game too.

Random idea while I was writing that: the players have a shared pool of darkness points or something, and when someone uses it to do something, the others can feel a sort of pull on their personal bit of darkness, which they can resist (hence the need to get approval from all players). Would also play on the social aspect of Darkness: it will tend to spread from person to person, if I'm miserable and you're close to me, you'll be touched and affected by my Darkness...
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Ken
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2009, 04:06:40 AM »

I remember about 20 years ago, this movie called Flatliners, where they college kids died and came back to life, and brought something back with them. I was pretty excited until I realized that what they brought back was a bunch of guilt-induced hallucinations that somehow had the power to bust up Kiefer Sutherland's face. Nice going Joel Schuemacker. Anyway, I always thought that it would be cooler if they brought back something more sinister and supernatural than just repressed guilt.

Sticking with the idea that Darkness is non-sentient, maybe its just the soup between life and afterlife. You pass through it one-way and there you go. You're not supposed to come back to the land of the living once you're in it, so when you do,you bring back some supernatural stuff with you. The supernatural stuff could be some sort of powers, or impossible knowledge, or even the ability to see other supernatural stuff (like in that movie Constintine).

Perhaps the coming back part is not some sort of deal with the darkness, but the fact that the character just isn't done yet. Maybe they want revenge, maybe their just a chapter away  from finishing the next great american novel, whatever. They come back with their goal, but find it hard to attain when they see shadows moving on their own, or find they have the power to start fires with their mind. Again, whatever. You'll have to fill the blanks their.

The thing here would be to let the player decide why the character comes back, through out other stuff they didn't count on, like normal people that look like monsters to them, or newfound abilities, and see what they do with it.

Also, sticking with your idea about misery spreading; maybe using their powers or whatever causes bad things to happen. Instead of energy points being spent, the character throws out bad karma as a by-product of using their abilities. This would have one of two effects on the character: they would feel terrible about using their powers, or get over it and start to become not very good people.

I think there are some neat character developement possibilities here.

You haven't really talked system here, but maybe you could use a track system that leverages the potency of their powers or their drive to achieve their goals vs. the ability to stay the person they were. Check out Sync in my signature bar, its kind of along those lines.

Hope some of that helps. Look forward to hearing more.

Happy Holidays,

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
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Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Mike Sugarbaker
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2009, 11:17:20 AM »

Quote
Dark Days is a game about people with supernatural powers, that investigate and battle horrors in a world filled with the occult and the supernatural.

Are they magicians? No. They're people that died and then came back from the dead imbued with powers. Where do the powers come from?

You want to make this idea really sing, you should stop right there. Let the question be answered through the mechanics and through player choices.
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dindenver
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« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2009, 12:47:14 PM »

  I think the trick is one, don't answer the question of what eh darkness is. It's more interesting if the players can discover that in play. One of the biggest complaints people have about a lot of the 2nd edition Exalted rules is that a lot of questions left unanswered were answered and they were disappointed with how it turned out.
  Also, you can make it non-sentient and a motive force, if it works like karma. In other words, it is a law of nature like gravity or conservation of energy. In essence, the power comes at a price. but the price is a metaphysical one, it doen't have to have sense or motivation, it just has to be relentless and universal. Maybe in your world, anyone can m,anifest these powers, if tehy are willing to pay this price...
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Dave M
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