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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 82 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Doomed heroes and Inescapable fate  (Read 1623 times)
simon_hibbs
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Posts: 678


« on: November 27, 2002, 01:53:53 AM »

I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for about the 10th time again last night (first time in 6 months though!), and was talking about the ending, and how it could be done differently. It's pretty unusual for a western film to end on such a tragic, and ambiguous note yet the tragic ending certainly isn't foreign to our literary heritage.

This got me thinking about tragedy and doom in roleplaying games. The classic example of a doomed game world is that of Stormbringer, although it could be argued that none of the inhabitants of the young Kingdoms knows it. The Dying Earth by Pelgrane Press is about to expire as the sun's demise is imminent, which excuses some of the outrageously decadent behaviour of it's inhabitants. In Glorantha the world may or may not be doomed to end eventualy, but the corruption of chaos is an ever-present and iredeemable threat to the bodies and souls of all it's inhabitants.

Has anyone here used the themes of doom and fate in a roleplaying game? The norsemen knew that the world would end in a cataclysmic conflict, but seemed quite cheerful about it. Hollywood certainly seems to think that modern audiences can't handle anything but a happy ending, but what about roleplaying? Can we face up to the fates of our characters and revel in the moment of the game, or even follow the inexorable logic of our character's flawed natures and accept the judgement of inevitable consequence, as Jen does in Crouching Tiger?


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2002, 03:38:42 AM »

Although I don't know what it's state of availability is, there was a game called WYRD around here that focused on the inevitability of death. IIRC, you spent stones to make things happen in the game, but once your stones were gone...so were you.

Also, Dust Devils handles this really well. Someday, the Devil will have his due. And you get to go out in a blaze of glory.

Also, the Schism mini-supplement for Sorcerer. When your Humanity hits 0, the power's gotten the better of you, cue the theme music.

For a doomed setting, I don't think anything comes close to Orkworld. For the Orks, it's only a matter of time--when they die, they don't even have an afterlife to look forward to--but they still carry their Trouble as proudly as they can.

And, a shameless plug, Incarnadine will have lots of support for tragedy in a Western tradition.

Hope this helps.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2002, 10:15:30 AM »

CoC? I mean once the characters find out about the nature of the universe, and the fact that it's doomed...well, why did you think reading those books made you insane?

Mike
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jrients
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« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2002, 10:37:45 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
CoC?


Yeah!  I always thought Call of Cthulthu was the most heroic of roleplaying games because the players know that their characters are doomed from the start.  They aren't going to reach zillionth level, build a castle, and retire.  They're going to end up dead or insane and the bad guys eventually win.
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Jeff Rients
wyrdlyng
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2002, 11:06:17 AM »

Quote from: simon_hibbs
I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for about the 10th time again last night (first time in 6 months though!), and was talking about the ending, and how it could be done differently. It's pretty unusual for a western film to end on such a tragic, and ambiguous note yet the tragic ending certainly isn't foreign to our literary heritage.


That's because the story is originally Chinese. Fate plays a large role in many Chinese legends and stories. Hollywood by nature is opposed to anything but a happy ending and a potential sequel. Our literature is a different beastie altogether.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
Has anyone here used the themes of doom and fate in a roleplaying game?


I can't think of a game I've run which didn't have strong themes and overtones of doom and fate. Even the current DC Heroes game I'm running has it in one PC who is fated to become an elemental and potentially lose their humanity. The Player, and slowly the PC as well, is aware of their fate and she is playing the part of someone walking that line excellently. Sadly, her character is also the most humane person in the group.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
Can we face up to the fates of our characters and revel in the moment of the game, or even follow the inexorable logic of our character's flawed natures and accept the judgement of inevitable consequence, as Jen does in Crouching Tiger?


It takes a good player (or strong Narrativist) to let go of their overly-protective grip on the character and let them (or even lead them) to their inexorable fate.
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Alex Hunter
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2002, 11:35:51 AM »

Quote from: wyrdlyng
It takes a good player (or strong Narrativist) to let go of their overly-protective grip on the character and let them (or even lead them) to their inexorable fate.


Nah, just a lack of Gamist preference. I play Sim Cthulhu all the time. My usual goal (as I love to point out  :-)  ) is to die the most heinously nasty death that I can. As that's what I feel plays most to the genre. It's the best example I have of Author stance used to support Sim play. You just know that as part of the cast of a Cthulhu adventure that it's up to sombody to die messily. I take that role upon myself with glee.

In fact, I'll never forgive Terry (Doc Midnight) for somehow getting my character out alive in the adventure that he ran at DemonCon last year. I thought for sure that running upstairs to the roof of the building that was getting enveloped with plants Jumanji-style was a sure-fire way to get offed. Oh well, can't win them all.  :-)

Mike
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hardcoremoose
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2002, 04:20:26 PM »

Simon,

Not much to add, except that I love the literary tradition of tragedy and inescapable fate.  As Michael noted, WYRD is the game I wrote to address that very notion.  If you (or anyone) is interested, drop me an e-mail at hardcoremoose@yahoo.com and I'll send you a pdf directly.

And not to be short-shrifted, http://www.sorcerer-rpg.com/product.php/charnelgods.html">Charnel Gods is pretty frickin' tragic.  It should be; again, I drew heavily upon Scandinavian myth when designing it.

I wish I had more to add beyond a couple plugs for my games.  What else is there to say though...I totally dig this stuff.

- Scott
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2002, 04:30:22 PM »

Hi Guys,

Me Too!  Me Too!

Remember, Greek Tragedies aren't a field day at the park.  It's not an East/West split.

Nor are such tales without presence today.  I still remember playing a simple mindied dock worker in a CoC game that was driven depsite all warnings to find out what happened to his little girl....

I'll add too, from all accounts (I wasn't there), the ROS game the Forge boys played that they all sang about.

Hollywood is it's own beast, a specfic culture made of specfic people, who, for the post part, moved to L.A. to rebuild themselves and create a life based on fantastic goals that will never be met -- and the crreat tales to reflect that ideal.  But the whole country is not like that, and one can find short stories, novels, independent movies and the like, that reflect a different point of view.

And the Gamist thing is really important: Gamist goals are met when the players win; Narrativist goals are met when my dockworker learns what happened to his daughter and comes to a final understanding of the true nature of the universe.

Take care,
Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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C. Edwards
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Posts: 558

savage / sublime


« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2002, 06:01:55 PM »

What's more fun than taking a character and leading him, laughing, down the path to oblivion?  You may win the battles but when it comes to the war, well, it sucks to be you.

Just the thought makes me want to hug my dice.

-Chris
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Demonspahn
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2002, 09:20:59 PM »

CoC as Mike mentioned.   Dead Meat is also great.  The players just seem to know (and revel in the fact) that at least one of their characters is going to bite it over the course of play.  The Werewolf the Apocalypse setting has a pretty grim outlook for the future.  And what about kill puppies for satan?  Haven't actually seen the game but from reviews/actual play excerpts it doesn't seem like the PCs have much to look forward to.  :)

Mostly though, I think Little Fears is quite tragic, as eventually you are no longer a child, either through natural aging or by being exposed to so many hardships.  This might not be the same as what you are asking, but it's really kind of sad when you think about it.  Which incidentally, is why I _really_ liked a discussion I read once (here?) where the players created a bleak future for the character as an adult, then were allowed to alter that future based on good things they did/happened to their child PC during play.  

Pete
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