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Author Topic: Totem... Zodiac?  (Read 4336 times)
C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« on: October 03, 2002, 11:29:12 PM »

Jake Norwood wrote:
Quote
I love the way that the skills pertain to certain gods, and I'd rather have a rule where you have a rating in a god's sphere, and any "test" that falls under this sphere uses those numbers (like multiple covers from Sorcerer, maybe).


That post by Jake, along with my mother's preoccupation with astrology, planted the seed of an idea in my head. It's vague and putty-like, but here goes:

A game where character abilities stem from their Zodiac signs, western and/or Chinese.  Birth date could be rolled for randomly and would determine the characters sign or signs (characters born on the cusp between two signs would have both available).  The player could take the aspects under the sign and assign them different values.  I'm kind of envisioning the level ladder mechanic I explained to Pale Fire a while back.

C. Edwards wrote:
Quote
All the skills would still go up every level but would be set in a numbered heiarchy that could be decided by the player.

Dwarven Artillery Man
5 Crossbow
4 Armour Movement
3 Ballista/Catapult
2 Bomb throwin
1 Pyroalchemy

Someone else might assign different levels of effectiveness to the skills of their Dwarven Artillery Man but this is how I like mine. The numbers on the side would represent the effectiveness of the skills. I don't know the details of your mechanics but a reasonable translation could be found for any system I imagine. As a character went up in level all the skills would jump upwards one number.

Dwarven Artillery Man
6 Crossbow
5 Armour Movement
4 Ballista/Catapult
3 Bomb throwin
2 Pyroalchemy

When a character gained a new skill it would enter at the bottom of the ladder.

Dwarven Artillery Man
6 Crossbow
5 Armour Movement
4 Ballista/Catapult
3 Bomb throwin
2 Pyroalchemy
1 Resist Pain

If a Player decides he wants a character to focus more on a particular skill he can let it jump places in the ladder as the character goes up in level.

Dwarven Artillery Man
7 Crossbow
6 Armour Movement
5 Ballista/Catapult
4 Pyroalchemy
3 Bomb throwin
2 Resist Pain

Bomb throwin stayed on its rung while Pyroalchemy used its own development point plus Bomb throwin's development point to jump a rung in the ladder. Any skill should only be able to make one rung jump during a level transition. This way it would take a few levels for, say, Pyroalchemy to overtake Crossbow. For a very simple level system I think that would represent increased training time in a skill fairly decently.

Something like this would also allow you to have a seperate ladder for each kind of ability you want to introduce. The skills you expect to have more for color could have their own tree and wouldn't interfere with the prime skills. They could be set to go up, say, every other level to represent the lesser amount of a characters time spent on them.




Perhaps the tarot could even be involved.  Date of birth, in the numerological sense, is often related to a specific tarot card.

I was also considering Native-American folklore concerning animal totems but Iím really hooked on the whole date-of-birth aspect.

Does this idea get anyone elseís creative cogs turning?

-Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2002, 05:29:27 AM »

FWIW, Chivalry and Sorcery used your astrological sign as an important indicator of what you'd be good at. Especially if you wanted to go into magic. Some signs were very good for it, and others made it nigh impossible.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2002, 07:41:12 AM »

Hi C.,

You should check out Nephilim for nigh-overwhelming astrological approach to character design and system modifiers. One of its supplements even presented a "wheel" that permitted the group to stay on top of the metaphysical ramifications of any given day during play.

Also, is this a game you're seriously developing as a full system, for publication in some fashion? As I read the thread so far, then it seems as if there's some good thoughts of yours at the "whole game" level, so let us know more about that big picture. However, if not, then "astrology as a game mechanic" would be better served in the RPG Theory forum.

Best,
Ron
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Jonathan Walton
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Posts: 1309


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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2002, 07:44:29 AM »

Another thing that might be interesting...

You could combine several astrology systems to give different traits to an individual.  Traditional Western astrology focuses on the month of your birth (born on in early May, I'm a Taurus).  Traditional Eastern astrology focuses on the year (born in 1982, I'm a Dog).  Additionally, the Chinese have a rotating series of five elements that moves in the opposite direction that the animals do, providing a 40-year cycle of combined animal-element sets (the 1982 Dog-Year is associated with the element of Water).  On top of this, the Aztecs (and maybe other mesoamerican cultures) have astrological systems based on the DAY of your birth, each of which has different associations (for instance, my birthday might take place on the day called Dark Cloud).

So, combining all this stuff, you'd have a while bunch of traits, like:

Sign: Taurus
Animal: Dog
Element: Water
Association: Dark Cloud
etc.

Just a thought.

Later.
Jonathan
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2002, 03:06:40 PM »

Ron,

Ack, I forgot about Nephilim.  Probably because I wasn't particularly fond of it.  It's been a while, and I no longer have the rulebook, but from what I remember characters that followed the same track (I can't remember the specific game term) ended up being far too much alike.  I liked the use of the various cults and societies that were part of the setting, like the Templars, but the Nephilim themselves didn't appeal to me.  They weren't human enough for me I suppose, I couldn't sympathize with them.



Johnathan,

I had forgotten about that elemental aspect of the Chinese calendar.  There are certainly many sources I can tap for ideas.  I'm worried that if I introduce the aspects of too many astrological systems though that the result will be very scattered and unfocused.  I may concentrate on the western system, I could utilize the tarot and maybe throw in hints of the gods with which the ruling planets correspond.  Thanks for the input.

-Chris
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2002, 10:57:39 PM »

[color]
What if there were a group of individuals that recognized the cosmos as a self-awareness machine.

ďAs a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself."      -Julian Huxley

Just as the moon affects the tide, so to is the human consciousness stamped like wax by a seal.  All the great forces of the universe combine in subtle ways to create the individuality of each human soul.  Those that understand that they and the universe are but one have vast realms of untapped potential at their disposal.

This game is about unleashing that potential.
[/color]


I want player characters to be more akin to zodiac based Jedi than to gods or superheroes.  Enlightened individuals with powers of the mind and awareness that surpass those of ordinary people.  I see Copernicus being held in high regard.  I see lots of references from philosophy, quantum physics, more theory and pseudo-science than gritty nuts and bolts.  Perhaps some Highlanderesque in-fighting? Setting is still fuzzy though.  Any thoughts?

[edited in] I was also considering combining the western and chinese zodiacs in an interesting manner to produce a fictional zodiac for the game.  It seems like removing that real world aspect might detract from the game though.

-Chris
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Jonathan Walton
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Posts: 1309


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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2002, 07:52:11 AM »

[traditional "indie game design" forum opening]

Well, I was working on something similar to this...

[/opening]

Seriously, one of my long term projects is a game called "Fingers on the Firmament," which takes the universe as it actually exists and projects on it the kind of Ptolemaic, concentric-circle patterns that ancient scientists and philosophers believed that it had (i.e. the world rotates in a perfect circle, earth moves in a perfect circle around the sun, the solar system moves in a circle around the center of the galaxy, the galaxy moves around... etc.).

The idea, then, is that the characters can control these rotations by actually reaching out and physically touching the starts.  You wait until night, find Alpha Centauri, gently grab it between two of your fingers, and tug it in one direction or another.  You could pull yourself towards it, moving across space-time to reach Alpha Centauri as it appears from earth (which is several years in its past, since light takes a while to get here from there).  You could also use it as something to push off from, spinning one of the cosmic rings to turn the earth one way or another (moving into the future or the past, or simply changing location), or use it as a handhold to reach a star even further away, rockclimbing on the empyrean.

I'm not too far along in my creative processes yet, but basically I wanted to do a more mythic-feeling take on "Continuum," where characters would be free to travel across all of space-time, but would do it through a touchy-feely relationship with the stars.  Pretty different from your take, of course, but I thought you might be interested in hearing about it.

Coincidentally enough, "Continuum" also uses the Zodiac signs to make the different eras of earthly space-time.

Later.
Jonathan
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2002, 07:34:48 PM »

I read a story long, long ago about a man who could travel through time, only one way from what I remember.  I can't remember who wrote it, Bradbury maybe.  Anyway, this guy didn't have hi-tech devices or supreme magical powers, he simply knew the proper mathematical formula.  Knowing the formula allowed him to time travel.  It existed as some sort of key or switch in his mind.

This idea is something I plan on using, not for time travel necessarily.  Characters' beyond human abilities would stem from knowing the correct mathematical formula to cause certain effects.  This would presuppose that mathematics is the true universal language, at least as far as the distillation and communication of reality, the nature of the universe, to the human mind. Characters of a certain zodiac sign would have an inherent understanding of the formulae related to that sign.

New formulae could be pieced together, possibly ripped from the mind of an enemy or discovered in some long forgotten tome.  Some would apply to particular disciplines, like Astromedicus.  Perhaps formulae can also be "sacrificed" by stringing them together into some coherent knowledge of a universal truth that would gain the character Enlightenment (points? a stat? hmmm).

I would also like to define, for game purposes, various schools of thought on the nature of the universe to which characters can subscribe, the Descartes school? Pythagorean? Nietchean? Each society or school of thought might also have certain formulae available to them.

Setting wise, I'm still having trouble nailing anything down.  An alternate history of the 1800s?  It just seems like there's something more appealing that I'm overlooking.  More thought on setting is definitely needed.

It strikes me that Quantum-Z would be a suitable name for the game, as well as for the fictional zodiac if I go that route.

Johnathan,

Fingers on the Firmament sounds very cool.  I'm very curious about what you see the characters doing during play.  What kind of issues will they be dealing with?

-Chris
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talysman
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Posts: 675


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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2002, 12:56:48 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
FWIW, Chivalry and Sorcery used your astrological sign as an important indicator of what you'd be good at. Especially if you wanted to go into magic. Some signs were very good for it, and others made it nigh impossible.



the magic system in "fantasy wargaming" (the '80s rpg book with the picture of baphomet emerging from a grimoire behind a sorcerer) also relied on the System of Correspondences, based on the zodiac.

more recently, GURPS Cabal uses the astrological decans in a similar way.

not that this should deter you... but on the other hand, you might want to mine those two sources for ideas.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Jonathan Walton
Member

Posts: 1309


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« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2002, 06:30:17 AM »

Quote from: C. Edwards
Anyway, this guy didn't have hi-tech devices or supreme magical powers, he simply knew the proper mathematical formula.  Knowing the formula allowed him to time travel.  It existed as some sort of key or switch in his mind.


Ha!  Reminds me of Jay Garrick's "Speed Formula" in The Flash comics.  He would just recite it in his mind, or say it aloud, and it allowed him to defy the normal limits of speed.  There's this great modern issue where Wally West, the current Flash, gets the code and uses it to boost his already supernatural speed powers.  Basically, he moves so fast that everything seems to stand still for hours, like an eternity of "bullet time."  Eventually, he has to abandon the formula just so he can interact with the rest of the world again.

Quote
Characters' beyond human abilities would stem from knowing the correct mathematical formula to cause certain effects.


Hmm... I like it!  Definitely a fun idea to work with, especially if you based it on actual scientific, mathematical, and philosophic theorems.  The Cartesians, perhaps, could use Skepticism to deny the existence of certain things outside the self, making them invulnerable to those things.  It's almost as if the metahuman characters are using a set of theorems to define the way reality works for them, kind of like Mage or Jason's "Incarnate" concept, except based on natural science and not esoterics or personal preferences.  There's a whole ton of things you could do with this...

Quote
New formulae could be pieced together, possibly ripped from the mind of an enemy or discovered in some long forgotten tome.


Great!  Better and better.  So you throw in this little "Cthulhuesque" mechanic and, all of a sudden, research and development becomes a major part of the game.  Characters could spend some of their time testing new theorems or seeking out the knowledge of lost civilizations ("If only we could find Fermat's Last Theorem or the lost mathematics of the Aztecs!")

Quote
Perhaps formulae can also be "sacrificed" by stringing them together into some coherent knowledge of a universal truth that would gain the character Enlightenment (points? a stat? hmmm).


Appealing, but I'm not sure how you could make it work.  Maybe you could call it something like "The Philosopher's Stone" or "The Universal Equation," and players could give up some of their personal knowledge to add to the overall understanding and/or definition of the universe.  For instance, weaving an equation into the fabric of the world would not allow them to use its power anymore, but the equation would now help define the universe.  Instead of using the Theory of Relativity to bend space-time, Relativity would now become "fact."

I don't know if I like that any better necessarily, but it's an idea.

Quote
I would also like to define, for game purposes, various schools of thought on the nature of the universe to which characters can subscribe, the Descartes school? Pythagorean? Nietchean? Each society or school of thought might also have certain formulae available to them.


Definitely.  But you might want to try to avoid Splatness by making it possible to learn formulae from any school, you just can't use certain opposing concepts in the same formula and you can gain power more quickly by specializing in a particular discipline.

In fact, now Im thinking it would be cool if you had rules on how to build formulae.  Select a few options and then try to mould them into an equation of power.  That way, mixing concepts from different schools could potentially create ground-breaking work, but it could also create disasterous "misfires."

Quote
Setting wise, I'm still having trouble nailing anything down.  An alternate history of the 1800s?  It just seems like there's something more appealing that I'm overlooking.  More thought on setting is definitely needed.


I kept imagining a kind of Steampunk Renaissance, more like Castle Falkenstein without the fantastic elements.  Still, I don't think that really fits either.  Hmm...

What if time travel was one of the basic assumptions of the game, one of the easiest equations to master?  What if DaVinci could walk a few blocks (metaphorically) and go chat with Einstein about what he was working on?  What if the game spanned all time periods from the advent of Western science (ancient Greece) to the Post-Modern period, in an understated, taken-for-granted fashion?  The game wouldn't be about time travel, because it wouldn't be at all strange for Aristotle to be in the same room as Stephen Hawking.  Likewise, clothing and technology could be a hodge-podge of various periods, leading to crazy clockwork computers and the like.

Quote
Fingers on the Firmament sounds very cool.  I'm very curious about what you see the characters doing during play.  What kind of issues will they be dealing with?


Aye, there's the rub!

Part of the reason the game hasn't moved forward much is that I need that kind of central purpose, otherwise the characters just explore space-time just for the point of watching the GM squirm everytime he has to describe a new planetary system from scratch.  I actually considered having the "NOW what do we do?" aspect be the central premise of the game: faced with this big, big universe and the ability to go anywhere, what do you choose to do with the very short life you have been given?

Taking the game to a universal level makes the characters realize that, overall, their lives don't matter AT ALL in the great scheme of things, even with their amazing abilities.  The point of the game would be to find some sort of meaning in the unfeeling vastness of space.

Of course, just how I'm going to incorperate that into the game in another question entirely...

Later.
Jonathan
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C. Edwards
Member

Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2002, 08:25:53 AM »

Quote
Taking the game to a universal level makes the characters realize that, overall, their lives don't matter AT ALL in the great scheme of things, even with their amazing abilities. The point of the game would be to find some sort of meaning in the unfeeling vastness of space.


That's the beauty of being human.  Even if faced with overwelming evidence of our status in the universal scheme, we would still have our desires, hopes and struggles to keep us occupied.

As far as I can tell there are two main types of people in the world.  Those that spend a good deal of time wondering about, or searching for the answers to, the great big questions, and those that spend a good deal of time trying to forget that those questions even exist.

Even if we had all the answers we would still have only the one overwhelming perogative...  to live.

Ok, now that I'm done waxing philisophical...

Quote
"The Universal Equation," and players could give up some of their personal knowledge to add to the overall understanding and/or definition of the universe. For instance, weaving an equation into the fabric of the world would not allow them to use its power anymore, but the equation would now help define the universe. Instead of using the Theory of Relativity to bend space-time, Relativity would now become "fact."


The great thing about this is that true understanding can never be imparted to another, it works solely on an individual basis.  I'm not sure that the actual facts should be identified though.  Perhaps more understanding of The Universal Equation grants the character deeper insight into the very building blocks of the universe, a great deal of that understanding would likely reside soley on the subconcious level.  That would make lucid dreaming important plus keep me from having to create explanations for things that nobody fully understands.  I would like the nature of the universe to remain solid, not like in Mage where the characters are actually imprinting their preferred setup on to the universe, fighting to alter the very nature of reality.

That gets me thinking that greater knowledge of The Universal Equation should cause some Contradictions with the character's school of thought, possibly closing down or altering some abilities that depended on a healthy layer of subjective thought.  There might be some conflict between whether to subject your bubble of "how things work" to the merciless veto of reality or staying with the cozy and familiar blanket of your own worldview.

Definitely want to have rules for constructing formulae, misfires (false formulae) and all.

I'm really wary of time travel, it just tends to have a very destabilizing effect on games in my experience plus it often twists the GMs head into a pretzel like knot.

Lots of good ideas Johnathan, thanks much.

-Chris
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