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A narrativist premise for my game

Started by Matt Wilson, November 15, 2002, 10:59:09 PM

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Matt Wilson

I've been wanting to put a narrativist premise in place for the game I'm designing, and I think I have one that fits with the setting. It's a future space-opera game where lost worlds are exploring a past they only just learned they had: vast ruins of an ancient galactic civilization.

There's this myth of a scourge that did something bad long ago, and the game never makes clear what it is/was. But the game's premise is about what the cost of truth/knowledge is, and whether it's worth that cost.

The characters are explorers who are in search of fame and fortune, and perhaps truth. I was thinking that they could actually have some kind of resource stat that's increased from discovery, countered not by a personal risk but by a greater risk to their homeworlds.

Say Explorer Sam and his crew find some ancient computer database, and they return it to Caliban. They get N points to divide among their "fame" traits, and the "danger level" of the setting increases by N points. Either the danger level adds to a dice roll for the return of the scourge, or each point of reward adds a die roll to a cumulative total, and once a threshold is reached, you start seeing consequences.

I'm not quite sure how to do it yet, but I think if it worked right, it would support both a personal story and an uberplot story. At some point the characters have to decide to become heroes and face this threat.

Any thoughts? I think there'd have to be a couple options for character rewards, as the above is aimed at somewhat unscrupulous, greedy characters. what if you start out heroic?


Hi Matt,

"Face the unknown or wait for it to come to you."

"Will you explore and risk unleashing the terror, or cower behind your defences?"

There was another theme that came up in play, too - the PCs collected alien followers who had a fanatical belief we were a myth returning.  

"We can't let them die. They believed in us!"
= Herodotus Wong at the Battle of Esabat II
- Alan

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Matt Wilson

Quote from: AlanHi Matt,

"Face the unknown or wait for it to come to you."

"Explore and risk unleashing the terror, or cower behind your defences."

There was another theme that came up in play, too - the PCs collected alien followers who had a fanatical belief we were a myth returning.  

"We can't let them die. They believed in us!"
= Herodotus Wong at the Battle of Esabat II


Are you talking about the Hegemony game? I'm talking about a new game I'm designing.  I have a premise. I just want to figure out ways to support it mechanically. The ideas above are either story-arc or character-specific.

If you have any comments related to the personal-gain/galactic-danger mechanic, I'd love to hear them.




The problem I see here is that the mechanics make the players personally responsible for bringing the scourge back... and seem to really push for a lot of Author stance play.

One possibility would be to say that the scourge is (maybe) coming back regardless. The knowledge that the characters gain will not necessarily make it more likely to happen or happen sooner... but what it will do is put them personally more directly in its path.

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Mike Holmes

Slizard's got a good point.

If you use your mechanics, then the "heroic" (or ethical, in this case) thing to do is stay home. And that's not going to be any fun.

With slizard's method, you are still given an incentive to stay home, however. That is, if you never leave your home planet, you can better ensure that you can avoid trouble.

What we really want is something that gets the players in trouble, no matter what. Right?

How about, merging the two concepts? That is, the scourge is returning, and the players can accumulate points for defeating it by exploring. But as they do, it' places them more in the path of the scourge. So, a character who stays home is just avoiding personal effects of the scourge, but letting them occur to others. Which may be worse.

So the Nar Premise becomes, "To what extent does an individual have a responsibility to the greater society?" Note, the GM could keep the PC constantly involved by giving them relationships that were being threatened all the time. This should balance toward some level of action. Thus:

Attempted discovery level and possible results

None - result, everyone dies. Horribly. Don't allow inaction as a possible theme that can drag on.
Slight - the character is in it for himself mostly. He only does discovery so that he can benefit personally, and as such he stay's out of danger. The Han Solo approach. The result is that he stays out of trouble, but constantly is reminded that he is not part of the solution, as all sorts of problems occur all around him, and to every NPC he meets.
Light - gets involved, but only to the extent that a "good citizen" might. That is, the chracter refuses to put his neck out to any great extent. The result is that the character helps a tiny bit with things, but places slight risks on himself, and to those he values (perhaps more importantly).
Medium - the charcter goes a little out of his way occasionally to risk and help out. As such, he substantially risks not only his well being, but also potentially attracts attention to those who he cares about, and the public at large.
Heroic - Goes out of his way a lot, and makes strides against the scourge personally. Results in him suffering from the loss of friends and relatives and communities that he draws attention to.
Hubris - assuming that he can save the world, the character is on a quest to personally stop the scourge. This results in some wins, but also in a lot of death and destruction to all that he may hold dear.

Anyhow, to avoid the problem where the PCs seem too central to the universe, have an increasing scale of badness that represents the increasingly omnipresent problem of the scourge. Opposed to it, have a pool that represents mankind's attempts to stop the scourge. It increases, but much more slowly than the scourge does, representing the efforts of others like the PCs.

The player's pool of knowledge then adds to mankind's rating for purposes of staying the scourge, and possibly defeating it eventually. This is cool becaouse it makes the PCs contributions important enough to make an impact, but makes them part of the community of man as a whole (very space opera). The player knowledge rating also adds to the scourge rating for purposes of determining what attention the scourge pays to him and his family, friends, planet, whatever's iportant to him. This is the downside of heroism.

Make sense? So, if the players don't contribute, the scourge finally rolls big, and destroys everything. If they go big, they finally accumulate enough knowledge to stop the scourge, but will probably lose everything in the process. The question becomes how (or wether) to balance things out.


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Matt Wilson


That's good stuff. In fact, it matches up a bit with an offline discussion I had after I posted.

Thanks for the input.