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Author Topic: The House of a Thousand Faces (An RPG loosely based on "House of Leaves"...)  (Read 1778 times)
Marc Truant
Member

Posts: 23


« on: January 10, 2010, 05:41:40 PM »

I mentioned in my other thread I was working on another role-playing game. Well, here it is. It's not done yet, but I've ironed out a lot of the mechanics and rougher details before going into everything else. Tell me what you think, provide suggestions, and let me know about things you'd like to see kept when I finish it and things you'd like to see thrown away!

"Cowboys and Samurai" will be a long way from being even close to playtesting, much less finishing, but this project might be done a lot sooner depending on how much feedback and help I get from you guys. I respect a lot, if not all, of you and your opinions, and I'm sure that this RPG will find a way to catch your attention. Smiley

As mentioned in the topic's title, this game is based loosely on "House of Leaves", and when I describe the story, setting, and possible storylines for you to follow and alter, you'll see there are more differences and inspirations called upon. Some things are inspired by the psychological horror of "The Shining" and "Jacob's Ladder", while others have grown from ideas in RPGs like "World of Darkness" and games like "Silent Hill". I've also been inspired to attack this RPG with a more Narrativist view, while "Cowboys and Samurai" seems to be going for more of a Gamist approach at the moment.

Without further adieu, I present to you my work-in-progress, "The House of a Thousand Faces"...
http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AQwCeSz3-It5ZGNxcTlwMzZfMTlocHNiM3dnbg&hl=en
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 07:19:26 PM »

Hi Marc,

I can't imagine what it'd be like to play this without knowing the sorts of situations that are likely to crop up.  As a GM, I'm not sure how I'd confront the players with "illogical change and traitorous thoughts".  I'm also not sure how I'd reference the character backgrounds. 

My first thought would be to fill the house with all sorts of personal apparitions that pressure the characters to change.  The change your mechanics highlight is mostly getting beaten up or going insane, so I'd probably try something like, "You see your little sister hanging dead from a noose!  Roll against your Steadiness score (or whatever applies) or take a Stress level!"  But I have zero idea if that's close to what you intended.

Likewise, although I like the 9 questions for char-gen, I have no idea what to refer to when answering them.  My recollections of horror movie protagonists?  Some group discussion?  A more fleshed-out version of your "decadent" normal world?

Here are my favorite ideas from your document:
- characters go insane and join the GM playing badguys, gaining powers (and insight?) in the process
- "Everyone knows everything, and nothing is a secret."  (I'd want to get a nice vivid idea of this setting, and a chance to develop my character within it, before throwing them into the House.  I'd also want a chance to take my experiences in the House back out of it at the end.)
- no colors in the House (I'd definitely dig this initially... might require a very creative GM to keep mining it for good effect, though)

If pushing your "more story-focused approach" is important to you beyond trimming out some math and bookkeeping (based on your examples of hit points and spells), you might want to think about mechanics that manipulate scene cuts, pacing, character positioning (within the world, House, and adventuring party), or overall plot arc, just to name some possibilities.

If you're curious about games with similar concepts, Don't Rest Your Head is kinda close.

Hope this helps,
-David
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Marc Truant
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 08:40:19 PM »

Thanks for the input David!

I'm actually thinking about ditching the whole health/insanity thing altogether... Or at least, going towards it with a different approach.

I've been reading into all sorts of metaphysical and philosophical texts, and I was thinking about applying some of the concepts presented by these works into the game as mechanisms.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave, anybody?
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2010, 10:22:42 PM »

What sort of mechanisms?  GM-facing stuff to help arbitration/improv?  Player-facing stuff to enable philosophical choices?  Task resolution to turn actions into metaphysical feedback?  (Not that I'd know how to best pull any of these off... just curious and brainstorming... the idea's intriguing.)
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Marc Truant
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2010, 11:09:35 PM »

Well, I'm splitting character's into two categories at the moment, which you can of course pick. Lemme show you an excerpt of what I have. It doesn't describe anything in gameplay... Yet... But it should provide a decent idea of where I'm headed.

Quote
Instrumentalis
People who fall under the Instrumentalis profile are generally introverted and more concerned about their own endeavors and activities in life rather that of others. They are often independent, always thinking for themselves, but they may sometimes be lonely or feel misunderstood.
Universalis
People who fall under the Universalis profile are generally extroverts, concerned for one reason or another about the state of affairs in the world or others. They are usually selfless people, always willing to a lend a hand or assist, but they might tend to follow the crowd or feel used by others.

As you can see, I'm kind of dividing up players here based on what kind of person they wanna play... Someone selfish who generally keeps to him/herself or someone who selflessly puts themselves out there? That doesn't mean the characters will be forced to play at personality extremes, but down deep, when forced to make a dire choice, these inherent natures will ultimate influence the character's final say in things.

As far as the Allegory of the Cave goes, it'd fit almost perfectly with this scenario...if in an insanely backwards way. I'm still working it out, but it might be built on a system based on character's goals and expectations, their fears and tribulations, and how willing they are to accept change - whether that change is permanent or not.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2010, 09:20:40 AM »

Hmm.  I'd be curious to see how the GM is supposed to work with that.  Looking at a character's goals, expectations, fears, tribulations, and openness to change would probably give me all sorts of jumping-off points for situation ideas if I just had some sort of guidance about what sorts of situations play was supposed to contain.
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2010, 12:13:28 PM »

I love House of Leaves - I find the idea of a game based on it tremendously exciting. To extend (I think) on what David is asking, how do you imagine a session of play going? For instance:

+ What sort of prep does the GM do? (Is it like Town Creation in Dogs in the Vineyard, or creating encounters in D&D4e, or something else?)
+ What sort of prep do the players do?
+ Is the layout of the 'House' randomly generated?
+ Do you (Marc) have a meta-plot in mind (stuff that will happen to PCs going in to the House, no matter what)?
+ In House of Leaves, characters don't really encounter anything except the futility of trying to map and understand the unknown. Is this the vibe you've got in mind for your game. If not, what sort of stuff will they 'encounter'?
+ ... in other words, what do the characters 'do' when they're exploring the House?
+ Is there an end-point for your game?

I'd find answers to any of these really helpful, because at the moment from reading your rules, I know how to create a character but as a GM I have no idea what to 'do' with any of them.

One technique that others here have found helpful is to describe to use (in a few paragraphs) how you think a session of play (or even two or three minutes of play) would go. To do this, you don't have to have finished making up all the rules of your game. Just describe what an observer at the table would see, and pretend that the rules are all working perfectly.

(In case it's not clear, I am keen to see more of this game!)
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Marc Truant
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 12:43:13 PM »

I love House of Leaves - I find the idea of a game based on it tremendously exciting. To extend (I think) on what David is asking, how do you imagine a session of play going? For instance:

+ What sort of prep does the GM do? (Is it like Town Creation in Dogs in the Vineyard, or creating encounters in D&D4e, or something else?)
+ What sort of prep do the players do?
+ Is the layout of the 'House' randomly generated?
+ Do you (Marc) have a meta-plot in mind (stuff that will happen to PCs going in to the House, no matter what)?
+ In House of Leaves, characters don't really encounter anything except the futility of trying to map and understand the unknown. Is this the vibe you've got in mind for your game. If not, what sort of stuff will they 'encounter'?
+ ... in other words, what do the characters 'do' when they're exploring the House?
+ Is there an end-point for your game?

I'd find answers to any of these really helpful, because at the moment from reading your rules, I know how to create a character but as a GM I have no idea what to 'do' with any of them.

One technique that others here have found helpful is to describe to use (in a few paragraphs) how you think a session of play (or even two or three minutes of play) would go. To do this, you don't have to have finished making up all the rules of your game. Just describe what an observer at the table would see, and pretend that the rules are all working perfectly.

(In case it's not clear, I am keen to see more of this game!)

Thanks for the questions, Steve! I'll try my best to answer them.

1. Because of the character-based nature of the game, the Narrator shouldn't prepare too much. Establishing plot twists about Frederick, sure, planning a few things that happen in the house, of course, but to plan the whole game out? Never. The story to be presented by the Narrator should reflect on the characters' personalities and desires.

2. The players should create their characters at the table, similar to Dogs in the Vineyard, and should discuss it openly with the rest of the Cast and the Narrator.

3. Certainly. Rooms may change as you even stand in them!

4. Well, I'm planning to present a few key events that can be used by the Narrator to help further the story, but other than that, I can't say I have too much in mind. Even then, too, the events don't have to be used. That's just the plan right now, though.

5. The game will present not only the fear of the unknown, but the fear of the strange and twisted and the fear of losing what means the most to you... I don't plan there to be monsters and entities around every corner, but if the Narrator feels that reflects best on the character's desires and conflicts, then they should go for that... On the other hand, if a feeling of isolation or being lost is better and monsters should be used lightly or not at all, then that is welcome too.

6. I'm planning something for the Narrator to follow that'll be something like dramatic structure... Not a specific story outline, but steps throughout the journey that the story should follow in a sense. For example, the dramatic structure would be something like, "Exposition... Rising Action... Climax... Falling Action... Resolution," and the characters will obviously fall into that structure. I'm not planning to use those terms and that structure as it is, but it's just an idea of what I might be going for.

7. Most definitely, and I'll allow the Narrators to either construct one or follow a few scenarios I have in mind. Again, whatever reflects better on the characters and what they bring to the story.
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Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2010, 02:37:11 PM »

When I readed the Instrumentalis and Universalis description, it reminded me of the enneagram http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/ check it out, it describes 9 personality types along with their most common fears, it might get useful somehow. You will also need a list of usual phobias and other mental illness to color the states before transformed. I would also recommend a way to build characters that leaves them with some issues or weakness the house can tap into. The characters may be normal when they come in, just to find the house knows what lurks inside them.
You can also have characters find all sort of strange and powerful devices inside the house... objects whose posession of course curses the character into transforming quickly by destroying any aspect of their identity: their face, their body, their memories, etc. Hope anything here proves useful, best luck!
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hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2010, 01:04:31 PM »

Thanks for those reponses, Marc.

Would you be willing to talk about what you liked about House of Leaves, and what you want to capture in your game?

What do you want the game to feel like when people play it? What emotions do you want them to take away from it?

Also, in your first post you talk about being "inspired to attack this RPG with a more Narrativist view". Given that, what difficult questions or themes do you want people who play your game to grapple with and try and answer? Are there insoluble moral issues you want to confront them with? Is there a single question without easy answers that defines what you want from your game?

***

I'm asking all this because I'm still unclear exactly what your game is about. You initially describe it as being (partially) a psychological horror. I totally get this; for me House of Leaves is brilliant at conveying 'fear of unknown' and 'fear of things that don't make any rational sense, have no predictable rules, and shift the ground from under you just when you think you know what's going on'. This is sort of confirmed when you say:

Quote
5. The game will present not only the fear of the unknown, but the fear of the strange and twisted and the fear of losing what means the most to you... I don't plan there to be monsters and entities around every corner, but if the Narrator feels that reflects best on the character's desires and conflicts, then they should go for that... On the other hand, if a feeling of isolation or being lost is better and monsters should be used lightly or not at all, then that is welcome too.

Your answer here seems to be slightly at odds with what you say in your google doc about confronting monsters that you will fear, question and fight. To me, the google doc conveys more of a D&D approach - go into the house and beat up some monsters. One of the primary fears in that version of your game is of monsters/ambushes/death.

It's that contradiction that I'm interested in getting the answer to. What do you want your game to really be about?


***

It also occured to me that there's a technique that would be perfect for this game: allowing players to contribute to the setting by creating and defining elements of the house as they explore.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about here, I'd recommend you check out The Mountain Witch by Tim Kleinert, which has a technique called 'Dark Fate narration' that seems very relevant to your game. You can find some descriptions of the Mountain Witch by searching through threads in the Actual Play forum.

I'd also suggest checking out Ocean by Jake Richmond. It's short and smart, and I think it's available for free, although I couldn't find the link. You can find more info about Ocean, here.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
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