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Author Topic: Angels  (Read 5232 times)
Eddy Fate
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« on: September 27, 2002, 09:31:49 AM »

I'm still a bit behind, but I'll try to keep up.  :-)

As requested, I'm taking a private conversation open here.

I offer up "Angels and the Second War of Heaven" up as an option.  I have source material, and no system for my project.  Here is a system with no source material.

Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't.  Some aspects I'm going to (tenatively) keep under the infamous "IP" lock and key, but there's plenty of general information and ideas that we can toss around and see how it all works out.

I'll keep my thoughts to plain english - just keep telling me what I have to read.  :-)
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2002, 08:01:43 PM »

Quote from: Eddy Fate
I offer up "Angels and the Second War of Heaven" up as an option.  I have source material, and no system for my project.  Here is a system with no source material.

Okey-dokey.

Well, what do you want to see?  What happens, in game, during a typical scene of this game?  How does the group proceed from scene to scene to the fruition of the narrative?  Do any of the Scattershot Approaches or Ambitions jump out as something you like or would like?

In private, you mention that you don't care to repeat In Nomine; works for me, but I haven't read it so you'll have to stop me if I 'go there.'  I can guess at some basic questions; do the players play the Host or something like mortal agents?  How supernatural do you want to go?  Will it seem 'superheroic?'  Where will the almighty and the 'old testament' stuff fall?  Is there predestination?  How or why are mortals unaware of the conflict as it rages?  What about the 'assignments' of the angels (Remiel; sorting souls), are they power conceptions or duties or what?  What are the ultimate goals for each side?  Is this conflict recently been joined?  Will it end anytime soon (in player terms)?

I'll have to stop there before I get too specific.  To sum it up, what alternatives does the game offer the player when they say, "Well, if it were me..."?  And do you have any suggestions of the Approach or Ambition you foresee?

I look forward to a new thread for this one...oh boy!

Fang Langford
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Eddy Fate
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2002, 09:03:25 AM »

To start, while I've read some of the Scattershot model, I'm going to try to keep my comments to "plain english", as requested - if someone else could then put it into Scattershot terminology, that would be helpful to me.

Well, what do you want to see?  What happens, in game, during a typical scene of this game?

Are you talking mechanically, or the metagame "play style", or purely "in the game"?

How does the group proceed from scene to scene to the fruition of the narrative?  Do any of the Scattershot Approaches or Ambitions jump out as something you like or would like?

Given my rough ideas (more below), I don't think that there should be shared GM power - I envision this very much as a "traditional" game in regards to GM control, but not just because "he's the GM", but because he has a certain role to play.  However, the players should be contributing to the story beyond just what their characters perceive (mainly because I think this is pretty typical of gaming groups that I play in) - the players are not only actors, but audience (and fans) of the other players, and the story.

In private, you mention that you don't care to repeat In Nomine; works for me, but I haven't read it so you'll have to stop me if I 'go there.'

No problem.  It was less the background material and more what I perceive as the feel of IN, so it's highly subjective.  :-)

I can guess at some basic questions; do the players play the Host or something like mortal agents?

Mortal agents, definately.  (This is one major deviation from In Nomine.)  Part of the concern of most angelic RPG's is that many players (or the ones I've enountered) tend to say, "But what does an Angel THINK like?  How do you portray someone that's thousands of years old, and has never been human?"  Humans are treated as "optional" in most angelic games - I think they should be the focus.  How do you act when powerful beings start manipulating you "for your own good"?

As a theme, I would like this as an exploration of humanity and faith, using alien and powerful creatures (angels) in contrast to us.  How do we stack up?

How supernatural do you want to go?  Will it seem 'superheroic?'

If possible, no.  I don't want Nobilis, nor Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Yes, there will be some supernatural elements of the genre, but they will be largely subtle, although as the Second War draws near, it starts becoming less so.

One of the premises is that whenever the game starts, for some reason right THEN is when the War starts to heat up.  The scope of the story is everything from the first increase into real hostilities to the full-blown war.  What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?

Where will the almighty and the 'old testament' stuff fall?

Largely a matter of in game choice.  Some angels think that the "good old days" were the way to go.  Others think that modern times require more subtlety.  That gives flexability to the game (and group), and also allows for intense RP between agents and their 'masters'.

Is there predestination?

Yes and no.  God knows how it will all work out.  He's not telling.  So, it's retroactive predestination as far as game play is concerned.  Very much like a kid saying, "Well, I knew you were going to do that."

How or why are mortals unaware of the conflict as it rages?

Mortals are unaware at first because it's just really starting again (the so-called 'Cold War' is heating up).  How mortals will remain ignorant depends on in game actions, and individual play style.

What about the 'assignments' of the angels (Remiel; sorting souls), are they power conceptions or duties or what?

That's a tough one.  Angels are traditionally assigned duties, but some of those are pretty odd (like the angel of grass).  Plus, there are MILLIONS of angels who are pretty weak.  That's one that I would have to think on.

What are the ultimate goals for each side?

The Loyalists of Heaven want to eradicate the Rebels.  The Rebels want to eradicate the Loyalists.  That's the main conflict.

In there are lots of subconflicts - angelic love vs. jealously of angels, pro-War vs. anti-War, God is loving vs. God abandoned us, and so on.

Is this conflict recently been joined?

There is potential for outside forces, yes.  I am, however, leaving those as antagonists, and a 'sub-factor' of the war, at least for this particular spin on things.

Will it end anytime soon (in player terms)?

In HUMAN terms, yes.  In angelic terms, this is really just another phase in an eternal conflict, which is something that, should humanity find out, could impact how the War goes.

Let me know if that answers your questions. :-)
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2002, 09:07:18 PM »

Quote from: Eddy Fate
To start, while I've read some of the Scattershot model, I'm going to try to keep my comments to "plain english", as requested - if someone else could then put it into Scattershot terminology, that would be helpful to me.

Well, what do you want to see?  What happens, in game, during a typical scene of this game?

Are you talking mechanically, or the metagame "play style", or purely "in the game"?

This is the "Plain English" part.  Talk 'ground floor,' where the players come in.  Don't worry about the meta-game/In-Game split, trust me, when the time comes it'll take care of itself.  What I really need to know is...well, the players have these Personae, and these Personae do...stuff.  What is it that they do and who are they?  The simpler you can describe it the better; trying to be specific will probably cause a breakdown in communication and you'll be forced, by the simplicity, to speak only about the most important parts.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
How does the group proceed from scene to scene to the fruition of the narrative?  Do any of the Scattershot Approaches or Ambitions jump out as something you like or would like?

Given my rough ideas (more below), I don't think that there should be shared GM power - I envision this very much as a "traditional" game in regards to GM control, but not just because "he's the GM", but because he has a certain role to play.  However, the players should be contributing to the story beyond just what their characters perceive (mainly because I think this is pretty typical of gaming groups that I play in) - the players are not only actors, but audience (and fans) of the other players, and the story.

Sounds like typical Referential play, maybe leading towards Self-Sovereign.  Still doesn't really get at the 'meat' of what I was asking.  I know I get more into it in the Ambitious Approach Article, but how do you see the players Approaching play?  Later here, you give the vague impression of 'mission-based' play (where players are, simplistically put, sent out to...do stuff).

In traditional games, "he's the gamemaster" because he is the steward of the Mystiques that drive play forward and hold most of the control over pacing and how that implies what is relevant to the Mystiques.  (Also, it usually followed that he was required to participate in every Mystiques, including ones surrounding individual Personae.)

Personally, I'm not a big fan of bringing terminology like actors, audience, or story into gaming; my experience is that they serve only to confuse matters.  You use them to mean one thing, I might another, the GNS uses them as Stances, and we all disagree; let's just skip it.  Now if you're implying an ages old tradition of gaming that held that the gamemaster is compelled to entertain everyone, I caution you to forget that in Scattershot play.

The most central idea here is that Scattershot serves to help answer that urge to know what would happen if you were in a situation.  That only works when the outcome of situations is a result of what the players do.  Furthermore, since we're talking about Referential play, it is even more important to let the players' actions have the 'say' of what happens in the game.  The entertainment comes from the outcome of the group effort; since everyone is putting something in, it doesn't make sense to force only one to be responsible for everyone else's entertainment.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
do the players play the Host or something like mortal agents?

Mortal agents, definitely.  (This is one major deviation from In Nomine.)  Part of the concern of most angelic RPG's is that many players (or the ones I've encountered) tend to say, "But what does an Angel THINK like?  How do you portray someone that's thousands of years old, and has never been human?"

That's actually a lot easier to answer than it appears.  "However you think they should."  Really, unless you take a performance-Ambitious Avatar Approach or presentation-Ambitious Auteur Approach, it doesn't really matter how 'accurate' you are.  What matters is that it 'feels right' to you.  To be really honest, I could probably rationalize any behavior for an angel, just try me.

Angels aren't supposed to have freewill, right?  How will they behave?  Predictably.  I remember my favorite Lucifer jokes goes like this: "I hear you didn't fall from Grace; you jumped."  "Jumped?!?  I was pushed!"  It underscores the idea that Lucifer was created to have this happen, the whole war and everything; that he's doing it counts as successful design.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Humans are treated as "optional" in most angelic games - I think they should be the focus.  How do you act when powerful beings start manipulating you "for your own good"?

As a theme, I would like this as an exploration of humanity and faith, using alien and powerful creatures (angels) in contrast to us.  How do we stack up?

An intriguing idea, it could work well as either the Central Concept or as the Metaphor.  This partly depends on the Approach; heavily thematically Ambitious Approaches will have problems with the superficial 'feel' of having this as a Metaphor, but it would work well for most Intentional Joueur or Swashbuckler Approaches.  We'll have to come back to it after we get a better idea of what you expect play and players 'to do.'

Quote from: Eddy Fate
How supernatural do you want to go?  Will it seem 'superheroic?'

If possible, no.  I don't want Nobilis, nor Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Yes, there will be some supernatural elements of the genre, but they will be largely subtle, although as the Second War draws near, it starts becoming less so.

One of the premises is that whenever the game starts, for some reason right THEN is when the War starts to heat up.  The scope of the story is everything from the first increase into real hostilities to the full-blown war.  What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?

That's one of the areas most interesting to examine.  On some levels, these types of narratives actually take human life as the Metaphor.  Even though it's a war between angels over Heavenly issues, stories in this vein look at the fate of the human race in terms of Grace and the afterlife, as humans themselves being the battlefield.

This is usually part-and-parcel with games based on temptation.  If the human does good, despite temptation, then Heaven wins.  Most of these stories are heavily contrived so this would lean greatly upon the Genre Expectations Mechanix and a certain amount of player buy-in to work (probably best handled as Avatar Approach).  In this case, I would suggest binary Personae where the human Personae could not see or hear the angels and the angels were restricted from directly affecting human actions.  (This could also be handled with Auteur Approach, but then the driving factor in the end would be what made the most of the game rather than the importance of the feelings of the Persona.)  But I digress....

You write that "supernatural elements...will be largely subtle...becoming less so."  This suggests that Persona will have 'new' supernatural elements that make them special or unique; is that what you're getting at?  You also state, "for some reason right THEN is when the War starts to heat up;" this implies that the Circumstances of the Personae, something we call their Precipitating Eventš, will be the cause of a 'skirmish' in the looming war.  Is that how you'd like to frame the events of these games?

Finally, you ask, "What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?"  This brings up one of the common problems faced by stories clustering around this genre (and one of the things that makes writing this Genre Expectation difficult).  Angels versus the fallen, Heaven versus the Adversary, these are some pretty 'big guns.'  What possible difference could miniscule, unsupernatural creatures like humans have?  Many times the soul is drawn out as the valuable commodity (and that tends to throw the story over into the 'battle for one man's soul' type of story).  Another common version has the battles fought by souls 'brought back' to earn their place in heaven.  (Wasn't this the premise of G vs. E, the television show?)

One of the common ideas I've seen addressed is, why are the Fallen so jealous of mankind anyway?  Metaphysically, we'll have to answer that question here, won't we?  (Unless you'd like that to be one of the Mystiques created by the gamemaster.)

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Where will the almighty and the 'old testament' stuff fall?

Largely a matter of in game choice.  Some angels think that the "good old days" were the way to go.  Others think that modern times require more subtlety.  That gives flexibility to the game (and group), and also allows for intense RP between agents and their 'masters'.

I'm not so sure.  You've already defined that players will not be playing angels.  If you have angels really doing anything in the game, you're going to pretty much make the players feel pointless.  I mean, they run around protecting the child of the Second Coming, and then Gabriel toots his horn and the roof collapses on them; what given the players an 'edge?'

We can't really write a good Genre Expectation were some angels will be subtle and others overt for two reasons.  One, it'll lack a certain amount of focus; players won't know what to expect.  Two, why would the Fallen even consider being subtle for a second?  (And for that matter, why have they been so 'quiet' lately?)  The trick to writing a good Genre Expectation is narrowness.  You can't write it to suit too many different games or no one will know what to expect; you can't write it too narrow or you'll eliminate all the good Mystiques to play with.

If you're going to use angels as 'masters,' then it really sounds mission-focused.  If you use human operatives following the orders of angels, I'd suggest each game only allow one or two 'masters.'  Too many and the scope will go right out the window and the players will only see chaos from their level (more time spent sorting out the machiavellian games of the angels than doing anything the players want to do).

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Is there predestination?

Yes and no.  God knows how it will all work out.  He's not telling.  So, it's retroactive predestination as far as game play is concerned.  Very much like a kid saying, "Well, I knew you were going to do that."

From a player or game designer perspective, this would be "no."  That the almighty knows how it'll end is just background, about as useful as knowing the sky is blue.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
How or why are mortals unaware of the conflict as it rages?

Mortals are unaware at first because it's just really starting again (the so-called 'Cold War' is heating up).  How mortals will remain ignorant depends on in game actions, and individual play style.

Perhaps in the game you eventually intend to market, and for that it would be a good design, but these are playtest custom Genre Expectations.  They have to be written specifically for how you intend on playing.  We'll worry about expanding it out to other play styles once we know the system works in play; that is always possible.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
What are the ultimate goals for each side?

The Loyalists of Heaven want to eradicate the Rebels.  The Rebels want to eradicate the Loyalists.  That's the main conflict.

In there are lots of sub-conflicts - angelic love vs. jealously of angels, pro-War vs. anti-War, God is loving vs. God abandoned us, and so on.

All very true, but which do you want to try?

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Is this conflict recently been joined?

There is potential for outside forces, yes.  I am, however, leaving those as antagonists, and a 'sub-factor' of the war, at least for this particular spin on things.

Heh, sorry about that, a little bit of archaic phrasing on my part; you can't have a battle by yourself, it starts when your opponent first joins you.  I was asking if the Second War already raged yet.  As I understand, you want the game seated on the precipice that heralds the start.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Will it end anytime soon (in player terms)?

In HUMAN terms, yes.  In angelic terms, this is really just another phase in an eternal conflict, which is something that, should humanity find out, could impact how the War goes.

So we should expect decisive actions on the parts of both sides?  No 'digging it,' no 'long term picture,' just pitched battle?

All in all, this has been quite interesting; I look forward to narrowing the Approach and 'what will they do' parts and getting really deep into the Genre Expectations.  Thanks for joining in this playtest.

Fang Langford

p. s. Who worries that he may come across much more aggressive in this interview than he wants.
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Eddy Fate
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2002, 08:36:42 AM »

Quote
This is the "Plain English" part.  Talk 'ground floor,' where the players come in.  Don't worry about the meta-game/In-Game split, trust me, when the time comes it'll take care of itself.  What I really need to know is... well, the players have these Personae, and these Personae do... stuff.  What is it that they do and who are they?  The simpler you can describe it the better; trying to be specific will probably cause a breakdown in communication and you'll be forced, by the simplicity, to speak only about the most important parts.


Okay, I'll give it a shot.  "The players portray humans, who are conscripted to work with Angels as the 'Cold War' between factions heats up."

Quote
Sounds like typical Referential play, maybe leading towards Self-Sovereign.  Still doesn't really get at the 'meat' of what I was asking.  I know I get more into it in the Ambitious Approach Article, but how do you see the players Approaching play?  Later here, you give the vague impression of 'mission-based' play (where players are, simplistically put, sent out to... do stuff).


True, and that's something I'm fleshing out.  I had envisioned a more symbiotic relationship with 'lower-level' angels, with 'higher-level' angels offering 'guidance' - whether that guidance is in the format of vague dreams, subtle warnings or appearances in columns of flame spouting commandments would be up to the 'higher-level' angel (and thus, the GM and game group).

Quote
In traditional games, "he's the gamemaster" because he is the steward of the Mystiques that drive play forward and hold most of the control over pacing and how that implies what is relevant to the Mystiques.  (Also, it usually followed that he was required to participate in every Mystiques, including ones surrounding individual Personae.)


Correct.  I'm seeing this as a more "traditional" RPG, although I'm toying with the idea of a small amount of player control.  If that means it falls outside of the scope of Scattershot, that's cool with me - we both end up learning something.  :-)

Quote
Personally, I'm not a big fan of bringing terminology like actors, audience, or story into gaming; my experience is that they serve only to confuse matters.  You use them to mean one thing, I might another, the GNS uses them as Stances, and we all disagree; let's just skip it.


Understood - again, I was taking the first stab with "plain english", and there really isn't any "plain english" terms to describe RPG situations - probably most of the reasons that arguments happen.

Quote
Now if you're implying an ages old tradition of gaming that held that the gamemaster is compelled to entertain everyone, I caution you to forget that in Scattershot play.


And we run into this again - what is meant by "entertain"?  Certainly, I envision a degree of player freedom in this setting - there's just as much interest in wandering around looking for "evil" than there is in "mission-based" games.  This has certainly been attempted before, but games like [a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheGuildUoW/files/steal.pdf"]Steal[/a] really exemplify "player freedom" to me.

So, I think to put it in Scattershot terms (and forgive me if I fuck it up), we're looking at something on the Swashbuckler/Jouer spectrum, with certainly a potential for Avatar approaches as well.

Quote
The most central idea here is that Scattershot serves to help answer that urge to know what would happen if you were in a situation.  That only works when the outcome of situations is a result of what the players do.


Good point.  The "higher-level" angels probably shouldn't have much impact on the Earth right now, and since God granted people Free Will, they have to get humans to work with them.  "Lower-level" angels can manifest on Earth, but aren't very powerful, and so work with humans.

The more I think about this, the more I think this might be suited for Sorcerer.  :-)

Quote
Furthermore, since we're talking about Referential play, it is even more important to let the players' actions have the 'say' of what happens in the game.  The entertainment comes from the outcome of the group effort; since everyone is putting something in, it doesn't make sense to force only one to be responsible for everyone else's entertainment.


I think we're on the same page, even if we're approaching it from different directions.

Quote
That's actually a lot easier to answer than it appears.  "However you think they should."  Really, unless you take a performance-Ambitious Avatar Approach or presentation-Ambitious Auteur Approach, it doesn't really matter how 'accurate' you are.  What matters is that it 'feels right' to you.  To be really honest, I could probably rationalize any behavior for an angel, just try me.


I agree, but that's not the background I wanted to present, at least not right now.  I almost said, "that's not the story I want to tell", but I'm taking your caution about language into consideration.  :-)

Quote
Angels aren't supposed to have freewill, right?  How will they behave?  Predictably.  I remember my favorite Lucifer jokes goes like this: "I hear you didn't fall from Grace; you jumped."  "Jumped?!?  I was pushed!"  It underscores the idea that Lucifer was created to have this happen, the whole war and everything; that he's doing it counts as successful design.


That is certainly something I wanted to delve into, perhaps in a supplimentary fashion (or a different game), but I personally want to know what happens when I'm contacted by an angel.  How do I react?

To give a more concrete example, the Prophecy movies are wonderful - I love them.  But a lot of times, I'm more interested in what is going on in the minds of the people conscripted to work with the angels, and how they feel to have their lives manipulated.  Granted, I envision things differently from those movies (both initially and as a result of this conversation), but it's a PoV.

Quote from: Eddy Fate
Humans are treated as "optional" in most angelic games - I think they should be the focus.  How do you act when powerful beings start manipulating you "for your own good"?

As a theme, I would like this as an exploration of humanity and faith, using alien and powerful creatures (angels) in contrast to us.  How do we stack up?


An intriguing idea, it could work well as either the Central Concept or as the Metaphor.  This partly depends on the Approach; heavily thematically Ambitious Approaches will have problems with the superficial 'feel' of having this as a Metaphor, but it would work well for most Intentional Joueur or Swashbuckler Approaches.  We'll have to come back to it after we get a better idea of what you expect play and players 'to do.'


I think it's more of a Central Concept, if I understand CC correctly.

Quote
That's one of the areas most interesting to examine.  On some levels, these types of narratives actually take human life as the Metaphor.  Even though it's a war between angels over Heavenly issues, stories in this vein look at the fate of the human race in terms of Grace and the afterlife, as humans themselves being the battlefield.


Not quite where I was going, but actually an improvement on what I had in mind.

Quote
This is usually part-and-parcel with games based on temptation.  If the human does good, despite temptation, then Heaven wins.  Most of these stories are heavily contrived so this would lean greatly upon the Genre Expectations Mechanix and a certain amount of player buy-in to work (probably best handled as Avatar Approach).  In this case, I would suggest binary Personae where the human Personae could not see or hear the angels and the angels were restricted from directly affecting human actions.  (This could also be handled with Auteur Approach, but then the driving factor in the end would be what made the most of the game rather than the importance of the feelings of the Persona.)  But I digress....


Certainly there is a degree of temptation.  The difference is, to my mind, that I don't automatically ascribe Heaven as "good".

(And here's where I piss people off... :->)

I see them as purely political factions.  If you make God the president of an obscure country, you have Loyalists to him (Heaven) and Rebels (Hell).  One group wants to keep God "on the throne", another wants to "dethrone" him.  It's a largely political struggle.

Humans tie into this because God cares out them, more than the angels.  The Rebels want the humans to "fuck shit up", so they can hit God's weak point.  The Loyalists want to protect God's pets, but only to protect Him.

And I (as the player) am nothing more than a pawn in a larger political game.  But one side or the other has given me power.  What do I do with the power, knowing that they NEED me for their political game?

Players are pawns with a glimpse at the greater game, both externally (the "Swashbuckler" world of the War) and internally (the "Avatar" battle of the soul).

Quote
You write that "supernatural elements... will be largely subtle... becoming less so."  This suggests that Persona will have 'new' supernatural elements that make them special or unique; is that what you're getting at?


Right.  "Hunter: The Reckoning" has some thematic similarities here - a bunch of people now have powers that were only eluded to before in faith and scripture.

Quote
You also state, "for some reason right THEN is when the War starts to heat up;" this implies that the Circumstances of the Personae, something we call their Precipitating Eventš, will be the cause of a 'skirmish' in the looming war.  Is that how you'd like to frame the events of these games?


Yes, I believe.  Basically, I think that when you base the gameworld around the players, the world changes by their sheer existance.  Most epic fiction shows the world changing just as we meet the characters - "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as a cliche example.

Quote
Finally, you ask, "What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?"  This brings up one of the common problems faced by stories clustering around this genre (and one of the things that makes writing this Genre Expectation difficult).  Angels versus the fallen, Heaven versus the Adversary, these are some pretty 'big guns.'  What possible difference could miniscule, unsupernatural creatures like humans have?


Something prevents them from affecting this world.

Quote
Many times the soul is drawn out as the valuable commodity (and that tends to throw the story over into the 'battle for one man's soul' type of story).  Another common version has the battles fought by souls 'brought back' to earn their place in heaven.  (Wasn't this the premise of G vs. E, the television show?)


That's a good idea, actually.  I hadn't seen that show, though.

Quote
One of the common ideas I've seen addressed is, why are the Fallen so jealous of mankind anyway?  Metaphysically, we'll have to answer that question here, won't we?  (Unless you'd like that to be one of the Mystiques created by the gamemaster.)


No, I think that should be answered.  I tried to cover it above - let me know if it's still unclear (I understand the limitations of Internet communication).

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I'm not so sure.  You've already defined that players will not be playing angels.  If you have angels really doing anything in the game, you're going to pretty much make the players feel pointless.  I mean, they run around protecting the child of the Second Coming, and then Gabriel toots his horn and the roof collapses on them; what given the players an 'edge?'


Good point - I misunderstood the question (and so I'm deleting the rest of your comments).  In that case, it's very much NOT Old Testiment.  Their POLITICS are differing, but as for their manifestation, they aren't overt.

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The trick to writing a good Genre Expectation is narrowness.  You can't write it to suit too many different games or no one will know what to expect; you can't write it too narrow or you'll eliminate all the good Mystiques to play with.


I'm looking for flexability on taking a background and offering a few ideas on how to portray it.  It's quite possible that we went into this with differing expectations.

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If you use human operatives following the orders of angels, I'd suggest each game only allow one or two 'masters.'


Agreed.  The politics would be something that comes out if the "Swashbuckler" approach is used to explore the mechanations of the angels (again, assuming I'm using the terminology right).

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From a player or game designer perspective, this would be "no."  That the almighty knows how it'll end is just background, about as useful as knowing the sky is blue.


Right.  That's what I meant.  :-)

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Perhaps in the game you eventually intend to market, and for that it would be a good design, but these are playtest custom Genre Expectations.  They have to be written specifically for how you intend on playing.  We'll worry about expanding it out to other play styles once we know the system works in play; that is always possible.


I'm reading this as I'm replying to this, so this reinforces that we (or more probably, I) came into this with differing intentions.

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All very true, but which do you want to try?


I'll have to think on that.  :-)

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Heh, sorry about that, a little bit of archaic phrasing on my part; you can't have a battle by yourself, it starts when your opponent first joins you.  I was asking if the Second War already raged yet.  As I understand, you want the game seated on the precipice that heralds the start.


Right.  "The shot that started the Revolution" kind of feel.

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So we should expect decisive actions on the parts of both sides?  No 'digging it,' no 'long term picture,' just pitched battle?


Depends on what you mean by "battle".  A lot of swords waving and blood spilled?  No.  A lot of intrigue, espionage, mechanations and even good-old "demon stomping"?  Yes.

If you define "battlefield" broadly, than I think I can say yes.

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All in all, this has been quite interesting; I look forward to narrowing the Approach and 'what will they do' parts and getting really deep into the Genre Expectations.  Thanks for joining in this playtest.


No problem.  I think I might not have answered adequately, so if I'm a bit too vague still, let me know and I'll narrow down more.  The actual "sit down and play" part will be, alas, not anytime soon, so we have time to talk.  :-)

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p. s. Who worries that he may come across much more aggressive in this interview than he wants.


I didn't take it as aggressive, but this comment helped me put some of your comments into perspective.  It's all good.
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2002, 11:20:45 AM »

Angels and the Second War of Heaven

You know what I think this game is about?

Choices.

I think everything that will make the game fun and interesting is about prompting the players to make choices.  Not easy, yes or no, good or evil, type of choices, but hard, ambiguous, moral choices.  Let me pull some quotes together from what we have above.

The Participants

About the gamemaster, you wrote, "Very much as a 'traditional' game in regards to GM control, because he has a certain role to play."  And I speculated, "The gamemaster is the steward of the Mystiques that drive play forward and holds most of the control over pacing and how that implies what is relevant to the Mystiques."  I have to add that he would not only be moderating the setting, but intentionally posing the moral dilemmas based upon the Mystiques using the Metaphor.

You said, "The players should be contributing to the story (a little) beyond just what their characters perceive."  I think they should not only be acting within the game, but offering the 'realms' into which to pose the moral dilemmas.  These frequently come from their Personae's Sine Qua Non, but not so much in a traditional 'plot hook' way, but more of a 'play on their values' way.  The way that a player contributes to the story is by framing what moral quandaries will be addressed through their Persona's Sine Qua Non.  In play, by evoking the quandary during an ambiguous moral choice, the game will highlight what the player found important in their character.

The Conflict

You listed a number of 'fields of conflict:'
    Angelic Love vs. Jealously of Angels
    Pro-War vs. Anti-War
    God is Loving vs. God Abandoned Us[/list:u]I strangely requested which you wanted; I should have realized that the union of all sets was the best indicator of your desire.

    When you elsewhere mention "God's weak point," you're talking about mankind.  Not only that but a mankind who's been given freewill.  I think the reason "God Abandoned Us" is the 'holy visage' problem; is it possible to look upon the face of God and
not fall in love?  If God really wants his creation to love him (with freewill and all), he can't let them 'see' him.  This implies the weird dichotomy working here; He loves mankind, but cannot act for them.  I can see why some angels (on both sides) might be a little jealous; who else gets that kind of attention?

Better still you've implied one of the best 'hidden ambiguities.'  The War has everyone choosing sides, but is the real answer 'not to fight?'  That's where the real meat of "Choices" comes up.  It's not who you fight for, it's whether to fight at all, especially when presented with the awful consequences of choosing not to.  (Remember "good-old 'demon stomping?'")  That brings up a whole lot of "Choices," should you fight?  How can you not?  Which side do you fight for?  (This one is especially interesting when you make a choice, based upon your values, that contrasts with the 'side' you are associated with; all will accuse you of 'changing sides.'  Why?  Because the side with the most people wins.)

The World

One big question I've had is "How or why are mortals unaware of the conflict as it rages?"  You suggested that "Mortals are unaware at first."  If that's the case, we'd better sketch out some scenarios for the slow revelation or some 'natural, reactive' obstruction.  I haven't had any inspirations here so I'm open to any suggestions or further discussion.  You say, "How mortals will remain ignorant depends on in game actions, and individual play style."  You also mention, "should humanity find out, [It] could impact how the War goes."  I think it is incumbent that we have some plan to respond to that.

The other reason this is important is due to 'what you can expect' from the Background.  Are there 'leftovers' from previous flare-ups?  Are there long term bastions 'carrying on' even after this long (meaning that the war doesn't just fold up and disappear after a flare-up).  What about unexpected supernormal events, surprises, babies with powers, and such, where are they?  You offer that there is no predestination; that means no 'battle for the Christ child' games.  I like that.  This all rises from the 'slow awakening' of the populous.

Running Gags

One thing I suggested was, "In each game allow only a few angel 'masters.'"  This better allows you to investigate the machinations of the angels (Heavenly politics with the 'jealousy' stuff) through being their agents.  (You did ask for "a lot of intrigue, espionage, and machinations," right?)  You could even have a little sport with the fact that some angels are fallen, some are undecided, and if I remember correctly both sides have some traitors; imagine if you boss is a traitor....

This suggests probably the most obvious Scattershot Running Gag.  (In Scattershot, anything that comes up again and again, in a really familiar or genre reinforcing way, is called a Running Gag.  These are not things that really influence the direction the game is taking, but they do color and remind you of the Genre Expectations.)  [Dare I resist it?]  This one could give some games a Charlie's Angels kinda feel (except with the titles reversed).  One of the layers of Mystiques this introduces in a longer game is, "What is our 'master' up to?"

So, something prevents The Host from affecting this world (at least in the 'old testament' fashion).  I think this might be another important Running Gag.  I'd put it off to 'God made angels,' 'angels have no freewill,' 'angelic action is therefore the Hand of God,' and again this undercuts mankind's opportunity to love God freely.  So angels, who only want to further God's creation, are hamstrung from action.  ...Except the fallen and the 'might be fallen.'  That means the more that angels 'do stuff' even through agents the more 'fallen' they become; quite the moral ambiguity, isn't it?  Frequently invoking this may be a source for many choices (but not a deciding factor).

I also like the "'The shot that started the Revolution' kind of feel."  It gives that feeling that everyone is waking up from a dream and into a revolution.  The constant effect of everyone, not already involved, having the 'slow to act' denial syndrome really leaves open a lot of room for 'should I just leave them alone' moral quandaries.  Definitely a valuable Running Gag.  This will really reinforce the "show the world changing just as we meet the [Persona]" and "When the game starts, THEN...the War starts to heat up" per your vision.

The other important Running Gags I've gleaned thus far are: 'mission-based' play (something I suggested earlier), 'good' guys: we can't help you/'bad' guys: 'take that!', and the supernatural/mystery/espionage-intrigue 'atmosphere.'  Does that sound about right?

Motifs

A Scattershot Motif is anything that 'suits the genre' (as epitomized by the Genre Expectation) and can potentially change the direction of the game; Running Gags don't often alter the course of play.  This is principle that allows us to separate them.

One of the best I've seen so far is the constant reversal of morality/ambiguous choices.  Because the 'good guys' keep doing the nasty, because the 'bad guys' keep saving lives and being nice to small children, the characters keep getting put into awkward, difficult positions with no guidance on how to solve them.  While many of them are quiet, introspective moments, I like the idea of many of them occurring during your "good-old 'demon stomping'" sessions.  That's why this becomes a Motif, these choices happen at all the crucial points.

They underscore one of the most important aspects you've listed for the game, "What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?"  Because the Host can't act directly, because the choices aren't clear, because sometimes doing right means going against the angel 'masters,' what the players choose is what defines the game.

Then there are the powers; you've said that there'll be "no superheroics," but that "there will be some supernatural elements of the genre, but they will be largely subtle."  Since some "demons" will be abroad, and I assume these are fallen angels, then a like strength of 'lesser angels' may be in the field as well.  (I relish the idea that due to moral ambiguity there may wind up being a little "new-fangled 'angel stomping'" too.)

I suggest that we don't let the Persona be outdone, therefore they'd have 'up to the same' supernatural 'oomph' as the 'lesser angels' and demons.  (That's where the "a bunch of people now have powers that were only alluded to before in faith and scripture" come in.)  As a Motif, I would suggest that all Persona are made up with specific powers (this forces them into further choices, like 'who is right for the job'), it might even be worthwhile to only give them 'square peg' powers; powers that don't 'go subtle.'  (Let someone have the power to 'harvest souls;' what do they do when someone deserves to be punished short of killing them?)

Angels

Angels are an obvious Motif, both the kind giving orders (I like the idea of running into background characters who work for a different angel competing to complete the same assignment, especially if it looks like their the 'bad guys' at first.) and 'in the field' (imagine a 'possibly fallen angel' cum filthy, skid row informant).  You already mentioned that the Host and the fallen are "purely political factions" and that "It's a largely political struggle."  That's gold as far as I'm concerned.

I asked, "Angels aren't supposed to have freewill, right? How will they behave?" pointing out that, "Lucifer was created to have this happen, the whole war and everything."  You suggested this was "something to delve into in a supplementary fashion."  I don't think so; I believe it is crucial to how to have angels behave.  Their predictability will be shown in their unflagging adherence to their cause no matter what.  It makes them seem more two-dimensional and is critical to giving the players the feeling that it really is 'up to them.'

When you say, "angel manifestations aren't overt," I'm left wondering "Why would the Fallen even consider being subtle?"  Have you come to any conclusions with this yet?

Agents

Mortals are the other obvious Motif (being the Persona choice).  You've pretty much laid it out.  "Players play mortal agents" "conscripted to work with Angels as the 'Cold War' heats up."  "Because God cares about them, more than the angels, the Rebels want the humans to "fuck shit up", so they can hit God's weak point."  "Players are pawns with a glimpse at the greater game."  I also proposed an alternative Persona type, "souls 'brought back' to earn their place in heaven," which you thought was "a good idea."  We'll need to expand on that.

So the Persona are these mortal agents, likely taking orders from an absent angel, sent on missions of moral ambiguity in a war they are only beginning to understand.  They have supernormal powers based on 'scriptural references' that they employ sometimes for "good old 'demon stomping.'"  Sounds like a great game all by itself, doesn't it?

The Ultimate Battlefield: the Soul

I think a lot of hay can be made from, "What is going on in the minds of the people conscripted to work with the angels, how do they feel to have their lives manipulated?" and "How do you act when powerful beings start manipulating you 'for your own good?'"  This leads to exactly the ambiguities at the heart of "an exploration of humanity and faith."

"How do we stack up?"  "I think it's more of a Central Concept, if I understand CC correctly."  You've got that right.  That's why I suggested "human life as the Metaphor."  And that we should "look at the fate of the human race in terms of Grace and the afterlife" with "humans themselves being the battlefield."

Obviously choosing to follow heaven or hell is the crux of this game, having turncoats on both sides is the way to make this yet another ambiguous choice.  Over the long term, I can see players more and more 'figuring out' which side to back on a case-by-case basis.  Ultimately I see them wanting to 'make up their own minds' on everything.  If you want to make this a tragic choice then perhaps the 'force' powering their supernormal abilities should be limited by whom they back.  Less 'teamwork' equates to weaker powers.  An interesting balance the feeds back into the ambiguity of the whole battle.

The Metaphor

A strong Metaphor in the whole thing might be whether to work together (with the team, id est the Heavenly Host) versus maintaining your individuality (choosing to use your freewill, what God wants in the first place).  See how ambiguous it gets?  Fight for Heaven, God's forces, or for the 'other side' following your own free will, with God's favor.  An "are you a team player?" Metaphor.

In this Metaphor, angels represent peer acceptance and team play and the fallen represent not rebellion, but freethinking.  God is then a metaphor for needing to make a choice.  Ultimately everything played in the game will be about enforcing the results of, or prompting, these choices.

Each 'mission' will present the players with a Mystique that comes in several layers.  The layers will each reverse the moral perspective of the choice presented.  The first layer deals with the presentation of the Circumstances, whether a member of the Host poses a 'mission' or they stumble upon 'a situation.'  The next layer or two will be the typical 'nothing is what it seems' turnaround.  The next layer would be the 'who ultimately benefits' by our actions' layer.  Then there's the 'what would I do' layer.  And finally, the last layer will be the 'take action or not' layer.  The 'depth' each mission goes to will very from one to another.  (Although following a Tension Spiral would lead to each successively deeper layer or more emotional confrontation, or both.)

Two things, the game must, I mean must, center on decisions made by the players and those decisions must be murky, complicated, morally ambiguous, and difficult.  If Heaven isn't 'the good guys,' then Hell winning isn't the same as everyone losing.  That way, it won't matter which side 'wins' in the long run, thus the Persona choices really can (and should) determine the eventual outcome.  (I've run games that stress Persona choice this much; when they stop prematurely everyone wants to speculate on how 'the war turns out' because of how engaging it is.)

One thing I'm having trouble assimilating is, in one place you say, "No sword waving and blood spilled," and in another you ask for, "good-old 'demon stomping.'"  Should I assume that the demons being 'stomped' are hiding all the supernatural action?  Or is that why they are being 'stomped?'  (For not hiding.)

How to Proceed

I need to know what you think of all these ideas.  Specifically and most importantly, I need to know if this supports your vision of play.  Provided that I'm on the right track (and we can deal with the fine tuning relatively quickly), we'll need to determine a single (or narrow) choice of Approaches to apply to the game.  The next step would be building up some of the lists of Exemplars, Props, Relationships, and Background.  Following that we'll deal with Sequences and initial Persona Development, and then this puppy might be ready to go.

I look forward to moving this project forward.  (However, I am a bit worried that you may not have comprehended what I meant when our production schedule is 'as fast as grass grows' and may have moved on.)

Fang Langford
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Eddy Fate
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2002, 11:25:59 AM »

However, I am a bit worried that you may not have comprehended what I meant when our production schedule is 'as fast as grass grows' and may have moved on.

Not at all - I haven't done a thing with it.  :-)

I will reply to you soon on this, but unfortunately I think some of this got reflected in Demon: The Fallen.  That doesn't, however, invalidate our work, I think.
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2002, 04:24:53 PM »

As a preface, since it's been a couple of months, some of my opinions on things might have changed slightly.  If it seems like I'm contradicting myself, then my opinions might have changed.

Quote from: Le Joueur
You know what I think this game is about?

Choices.


That's pretty much what I envisioned it as.  I had it conceptualized as "free will", but I think it's the same thing.

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I think everything that will make the game fun and interesting is about prompting the players to make choices.  Not easy, yes or no, good or evil, type of choices, but hard, ambiguous, moral choices.


Absolutely.  Those are the kinds of games I love.

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The Participants

"The gamemaster is the steward of the Mystiques that drive play forward and holds most of the control over pacing and how that implies what is relevant to the Mystiques."  I have to add that he would not only be moderating the setting, but intentionally posing the moral dilemmas based upon the Mystiques using the Metaphor.


Absolutely.  In somre respects, he would be God/The Allmighty/Whatever, testing his creations, but I don't want to emphasize that too much, or indeed at all - this game is all about the players, and what they do.

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I think they should not only be acting within the game, but offering the 'realms' into which to pose the moral dilemmas.  These frequently come from their Personae's Sine Qua Non, but not so much in a traditional 'plot hook' way, but more of a 'play on their values' way.  The way that a player contributes to the story is by framing what moral quandaries will be addressed through their Persona's Sine Qua Non.  In play, by evoking the quandary during an ambiguous moral choice, the game will highlight what the player found important in their character.


To make sure I understand this right, the moral choices wouldn't be total Moral Conflicts (capitals intended) so much as a dilemma that is filtered through their own goals and weaknesses?  If so, I 100% support that concept.

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The Conflict

You listed a number of 'fields of conflict:'
    Angelic Love vs. Jealously of Angels
    Pro-War vs. Anti-War
    God is Loving vs. God Abandoned Us[/list:u]I strangely requested which you wanted; I should have realized that the union of all sets was the best indicator of your desire.


Pretty much.  If I think the war is right, can I also think that God is Loving?  Things like that.

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When you elsewhere mention "God's weak point," you're talking about mankind.  Not only that but a mankind who's been given freewill.


Exactly.  He took a chunk of His creation, and said "Let's see what happens", and didn't make it part of His plan.

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I think the reason "God Abandoned Us" is the 'holy visage' problem; is it possible to look upon the face of God and not fall in love?  If God really wants his creation to love him (with freewill and all), he can't let them 'see' him.  This implies the weird dichotomy working here; He loves mankind, but cannot act for them.  I can see why some angels (on both sides) might be a little jealous; who else gets that kind of attention?


BINGO!  If you love God, you have to admit you're an inferior creature, but you were his first born race, made to be perfect.  In human terms, it's "older brother syndrome".

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Better still you've implied one of the best 'hidden ambiguities.'  The War has everyone choosing sides, but is the real answer 'not to fight?'  That's where the real meat of "Choices" comes up.  It's not who you fight for, it's whether to fight at all, especially when presented with the awful consequences of choosing not to.  (Remember "good-old 'demon stomping?'")  That brings up a whole lot of "Choices," should you fight?  How can you not?  Which side do you fight for?  (This one is especially interesting when you make a choice, based upon your values, that contrasts with the 'side' you are associated with; all will accuse you of 'changing sides.'  Why?  Because the side with the most people wins.)


Which is the horror of war as a whole.  Why should this war be any less horrifying, because angels are involved?  Answer: It isn't - if anything, it's more horrifying, because the stakes are much higher.

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The World

One big question I've had is "How or why are mortals unaware of the conflict as it rages?"  You suggested that "Mortals are unaware at first."  If that's the case, we'd better sketch out some scenarios for the slow revelation or some 'natural, reactive' obstruction.  I haven't had any inspirations here so I'm open to any suggestions or further discussion.


I didn't have a setting in mind at first.  A thought is to set the game in an alternate 2000, and miracles come back to the world as the War heats up.  Basically, I think the question of "the chicken or the egg" should remain vague - did the angels starting up the War bring miracles/strange shit back, or did the increase of miracles draw the attention of the angels?  Alas, I think for world purposes we'll have to define that, though, and my gut says that Something happened, the world noticed that Something, and the some barrier to the War was removed (whether the angels wake up, some stalemate was broken, the rebel angels escape, etc.)  However, that does teeter close to Demon: The Fallen.

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You say, "How mortals will remain ignorant depends on in game actions, and individual play style."  You also mention, "should humanity find out, [It] could impact how the War goes."  I think it is incumbent that we have some plan to respond to that.


Only because I believe that player characters should impact the world - I'm not a huge fan of "metaplot".  Should we detail repercussions now, or leave that to the individual GM?

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The other reason this is important is due to 'what you can expect' from the Background.  Are there 'leftovers' from previous flare-ups?  Are there long term bastions 'carrying on' even after this long (meaning that the war doesn't just fold up and disappear after a flare-up).


I think there should be remnents of previous "brush fire wars".  That leaves us with hidden tombs, ancient mysteries, and cool stuff like that.

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What about unexpected supernormal events, surprises, babies with powers, and such, where are they?


Maybe these "flare ups" are all preceeded by some increase in the world's spiritual power (which would account for these), or vice versa - the presence of Angels causes these things to happen.  (See above.)

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You offer that there is no predestination; that means no 'battle for the Christ child' games.  I like that.  This all rises from the 'slow awakening' of the populous.


Exactly.

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Running Gags

One thing I suggested was, "In each game allow only a few angel 'masters.'"  This better allows you to investigate the machinations of the angels (Heavenly politics with the 'jealousy' stuff) through being their agents.  (You did ask for "a lot of intrigue, espionage, and machinations," right?)


Right.  I agree that that's a perfect setup.

Quote
You could even have a little sport with the fact that some angels are fallen, some are undecided, and if I remember correctly both sides have some traitors; imagine if you boss is a traitor....


I'd like some latent McCarthyism too... what if your boss just defected? What if another boss wants you to spy on your boss?

Quote
This suggests probably the most obvious Scattershot Running Gag.  (In Scattershot, anything that comes up again and again, in a really familiar or genre reinforcing way, is called a Running Gag.  These are not things that really influence the direction the game is taking, but they do color and remind you of the Genre Expectations.)  [Dare I resist it?]  This one could give some games a Charlie's Angels kinda feel (except with the titles reversed).  One of the layers of Mystiques this introduces in a longer game is, "What is our 'master' up to?"


I like it.

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So, something prevents The Host from affecting this world (at least in the 'old testament' fashion).  I think this might be another important Running Gag.  I'd put it off to 'God made angels,' 'angels have no freewill,' 'angelic action is therefore the Hand of God,' and again this undercuts mankind's opportunity to love God freely.  So angels, who only want to further God's creation, are hamstrung from action.  ...Except the fallen and the 'might be fallen.'  That means the more that angels 'do stuff' even through agents the more 'fallen' they become; quite the moral ambiguity, isn't it?  Frequently invoking this may be a source for many choices (but not a deciding factor).


So "free will" rubs off?  I like it!

Quote
I also like the "'The shot that started the Revolution' kind of feel."  It gives that feeling that everyone is waking up from a dream and into a revolution.  The constant effect of everyone, not already involved, having the 'slow to act' denial syndrome really leaves open a lot of room for 'should I just leave them alone' moral quandaries.  Definitely a valuable Running Gag.  This will really reinforce the "show the world changing just as we meet the [Persona]" and "When the game starts, THEN...the War starts to heat up" per your vision.


Again, war affects everyone, civilian and soldier, and I think that should remain true.  So, it's a blend of Cold War espionage and Civil War horror.

Quote
The other important Running Gags I've gleaned thus far are: 'mission-based' play (something I suggested earlier), 'good' guys: we can't help you/'bad' guys: 'take that!', and the supernatural/mystery/espionage-intrigue 'atmosphere.'  Does that sound about right?


Pretty much on the dot.

Quote
Motifs

A Scattershot Motif is anything that 'suits the genre' (as epitomized by the Genre Expectation) and can potentially change the direction of the game; Running Gags don't often alter the course of play.  This is principle that allows us to separate them.


Gotcha.

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One of the best I've seen so far is the constant reversal of morality/ambiguous choices.  Because the 'good guys' keep doing the nasty, because the 'bad guys' keep saving lives and being nice to small children, the characters keep getting put into awkward, difficult positions with no guidance on how to solve them.  While many of them are quiet, introspective moments, I like the idea of many of them occurring during your "good-old 'demon stomping'" sessions.  That's why this becomes a Motif, these choices happen at all the crucial points.


A good D&D example, to make sure I'm reading this right - a Paladin sees a bunch of baby goblins.  Are they evil, or just children?  Does the Paladin kill them?

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They underscore one of the most important aspects you've listed for the game, "What impact will we, as humans, have on that outcome?"  Because the Host can't act directly, because the choices aren't clear, because sometimes doing right means going against the angel 'masters,' what the players choose is what defines the game.


Right.  Seems like I'm just doing a lot of agreeing here, but I really think you've got the vision down.

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Then there are the powers; you've said that there'll be "no superheroics," but that "there will be some supernatural elements of the genre, but they will be largely subtle."  Since some "demons" will be abroad, and I assume these are fallen angels, then a like strength of 'lesser angels' may be in the field as well.  (I relish the idea that due to moral ambiguity there may wind up being a little "new-fangled 'angel stomping'" too.)


Well, even traditionally the angels fell into an order, whether fallen or loyalist, so it stands to reason that there should be a power structure.  And putting the weaker angels "on the front lines" not only preserves the stronger ones, but also means that they get the most exposure to this "free will" that seems to rub off on them.

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I suggest that we don't let the Persona be outdone, therefore they'd have 'up to the same' supernatural 'oomph' as the 'lesser angels' and demons.  (That's where the "a bunch of people now have powers that were only alluded to before in faith and scripture" come in.)  As a Motif, I would suggest that all Persona are made up with specific powers (this forces them into further choices, like 'who is right for the job'), it might even be worthwhile to only give them 'square peg' powers; powers that don't 'go subtle.'  (Let someone have the power to 'harvest souls;' what do they do when someone deserves to be punished short of killing them?)


Interesting thought.  So, very specific powers that do very specific (and unsubtle) things?

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Angels

Angels are an obvious Motif, both the kind giving orders (I like the idea of running into background characters who work for a different angel competing to complete the same assignment, especially if it looks like their the 'bad guys' at first.) and 'in the field' (imagine a 'possibly fallen angel' cum filthy, skid row informant).  You already mentioned that the Host and the fallen are "purely political factions" and that "It's a largely political struggle."  That's gold as far as I'm concerned.


Rock on.

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I asked, "Angels aren't supposed to have freewill, right? How will they behave?" pointing out that, "Lucifer was created to have this happen, the whole war and everything."  You suggested this was "something to delve into in a supplementary fashion."  I don't think so; I believe it is crucial to how to have angels behave.  Their predictability will be shown in their unflagging adherence to their cause no matter what.  It makes them seem more two-dimensional and is critical to giving the players the feeling that it really is 'up to them.'


If we go with the premise of "free will" being contagious, then that means that Lucifer was the first to get in serious contact with humanity.  Actually, the analogies to "free will" being a sort of angelic disease is pretty interesting.

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When you say, "angel manifestations aren't overt," I'm left wondering "Why would the Fallen even consider being subtle?"  Have you come to any conclusions with this yet?


Because that's how the other side finds you?

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Agents

Mortals are the other obvious Motif (being the Persona choice).  You've pretty much laid it out.  "Players play mortal agents" "conscripted to work with Angels as the 'Cold War' heats up."  "Because God cares about them, more than the angels, the Rebels want the humans to "fuck shit up", so they can hit God's weak point."  "Players are pawns with a glimpse at the greater game."  I also proposed an alternative Persona type, "souls 'brought back' to earn their place in heaven," which you thought was "a good idea."  We'll need to expand on that.


I'm more inclined towards a "Crow"-like vengence type for that.

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So the Persona are these mortal agents, likely taking orders from an absent angel, sent on missions of moral ambiguity in a war they are only beginning to understand.  They have supernormal powers based on 'scriptural references' that they employ sometimes for "good old 'demon stomping.'"  Sounds like a great game all by itself, doesn't it?


Absolutely!

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The Ultimate Battlefield: the Soul

Obviously choosing to follow heaven or hell is the crux of this game, having turncoats on both sides is the way to make this yet another ambiguous choice.  Over the long term, I can see players more and more 'figuring out' which side to back on a case-by-case basis.  Ultimately I see them wanting to 'make up their own minds' on everything.  If you want to make this a tragic choice then perhaps the 'force' powering their supernormal abilities should be limited by whom they back.  Less 'teamwork' equates to weaker powers.  An interesting balance the feeds back into the ambiguity of the whole battle.


With a military example - if your soldiers show doubt, you don't give them the big guns.  So do I stay on what I think is the wrong side, and keep the big guns, or do I defect, and possibly have nothing?

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The Metaphor

Each 'mission' will present the players with a Mystique that comes in several layers.  The layers will each reverse the moral perspective of the choice presented.  The first layer deals with the presentation of the Circumstances, whether a member of the Host poses a 'mission' or they stumble upon 'a situation.'  The next layer or two will be the typical 'nothing is what it seems' turnaround.  The next layer would be the 'who ultimately benefits' by our actions' layer.  Then there's the 'what would I do' layer.  And finally, the last layer will be the 'take action or not' layer.  The 'depth' each mission goes to will very from one to another.  (Although following a Tension Spiral would lead to each successively deeper layer or more emotional confrontation, or both.)


I love this.

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Two things, the game must, I mean must, center on decisions made by the players and those decisions must be murky, complicated, morally ambiguous, and difficult.  If Heaven isn't 'the good guys,' then Hell winning isn't the same as everyone losing.  That way, it won't matter which side 'wins' in the long run, thus the Persona choices really can (and should) determine the eventual outcome.  (I've run games that stress Persona choice this much; when they stop prematurely everyone wants to speculate on how 'the war turns out' because of how engaging it is.)


This would be new ground for me, but it's very exciting.

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One thing I'm having trouble assimilating is, in one place you say, "No sword waving and blood spilled," and in another you ask for, "good-old 'demon stomping.'"  Should I assume that the demons being 'stomped' are hiding all the supernatural action?  Or is that why they are being 'stomped?'  (For not hiding.)


I was trying to address two different possible styles of play.  I think that this is not a War of full-on physical conflict, but it can go that way.  While strong morally wrenching games are intense fun, the occasional "lighter mission" helps to break up the pace.  Usually, it's good to have a seemingly straight-forward mission, and then afterwards find out some hidden element which poses a strong moral dilemma.  It's these straight-forward missions that I mean by 'demon stomping'.

But it ties back to a sort of guerilla warfare, I suppose - you don't want the other side to find you.  There will be a lot of blood spilled (so perhaps my comment of "No sword waving and blood spilled" was off), but it certainly shouldn't be carnage in the streets, either.

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How to Proceed

I need to know what you think of all these ideas.


Considering most of my reply consists of "Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's cool, yeah, cool, I like it, yeah", I think it's safe to say we are on the same page.  :-)

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Specifically and most importantly, I need to know if this supports your vision of play.


Indeed it does!

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Provided that I'm on the right track (and we can deal with the fine tuning relatively quickly), we'll need to determine a single (or narrow) choice of Approaches to apply to the game.


Refresh my memory - what do you mean by Approaches?
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Eddy Webb
Vice-President, Spectrum Game Studios
Co-Line Developer for http://www.zmangames.com/CAH/">Cartoon Action Hour
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