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Urge and GeneTech: Considering a kitbash

Started by Bruce Baugh, May 14, 2003, 05:47:13 AM

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Bruce Baugh

Some months ago, Polyhedron magazine had an article on the GeneTech setting, which was going to be part of D20 Modern but was cut for space. I love it. It's the modern day, pretty much as we see it, but in the '50s genetic engineering made some radical breakthroughs in secret labs. For decades now, various governments have used moreaus - animals genetically tweaked into human or humanoid form and intelligence - as skilled but ultimately disposable special operatives. Word's starting to leak out, and some of the moreaus are managing to make a break for it. So it's a mixture of grim espionage/technothriller adventure with a solid sf idea, against a familiar backdrop. Quality work all around.

I've been wanting to run it for a while, but one of the real drawbacks of the d20 family of games is that it's much harder to make a character on the fly than in earlier editions of *D&D. D20 characters are, to me, much more interesting than their predecessors, but the price is annoying when what I really want to try is a one-shot of some sort.

Then I realized.

"Supposed I dropped the metaphorical part of the beast within that Urge covers?" Then it becomes a game primarily about really holding onto humanity when loose in a dangerous and strange environment.

Naturally I'll write this up if I run it.
Writer of Fortune
Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
http://bruceb.livejournal.com/

Ron Edwards

Hi Bruce,

Are you familiar with the ~1990 game Justifiers? (And apparently another game which J might have swiped from, Expendables?) It's set in the far future, but scattered through its various aggravating features is a pretty good set of economics and politics concerning slavery of genetically modified anthropomorphs. Worth the read perhaps for your idea.

But there's one aspect of your notion that isn't working for me, and perhaps I'm just not seeing it. The Genetech material sparks, for me anyway, conflicts like those we enjoyed in Justifiers: slavery, money, ownership of effort and risk, pride in achievement vs. pride in freedom, and a hell of a lot of firefights on scary alien environments. It doesn't spark the issue of "animal am I, lest wholly animal I become," with associated outbursts and regrets.

In a setting like Genetech, if I'm not mistaken, a sudden outburst of animalistic response seems very human to me - it's a political statement, that I Am Not Slave. Pure "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" stuff. It's not something that needs repressing, but perhaps, to some individuals and in some situations to many individuals, something that needs to be encouraged.

So h'mmm ... I'm thinking now about the model for Urge, which is to say, The Incredible Hulk as presented in the 80s TV show. 'Ported into the Genetech setting, which do you see being the cathartic moments of play? Savagery in the interests of justice and freedom? Or savagery as near-random disasters?

Best,
Ron

Bruce Baugh

I have seen Justifiers, many moons ago, though I haven't thought about it in years.

If I have a direct model of any sort for the psychological struggle, it might be Clive Barker's "Mortal Remains", in which a magically animated statue sets out to become a better man than the one it's imitating, or the Al Pacino film Carlito's Way, in which what the protagonist finds it necessary to do makes it impossible to be what he wants to be and ends up taking everything. I'm very much expecting that, as Lord Dunsany put it in "The Hoard of the Ghibbelins", "the tale is one of those that hath not a happy ending."

That's actually one of the reasons to use a system that allows for rapid character generation. If the characters end up face down in the mud, their last view of the world the booted feet of the soldiers who gunned them down, after just a few sessions, but the roleplay along the way was mighty fine, then it won't feel like the waste of effort that it would be  to kill off (say) a fully statted mid-level d20 character after just a couple of sessions. My players do a fine job of keeping track of detailed stats - better than I do, frankly - but  having fewer numbers ot follow will be good for me in keeping track of the psychological and moral factors I want to.

*ponders* Part of the setup for this particular little series, I suppose, is the idea that there is no wholesome catharsis. Being fully human means, for the moreaus, living with the constant suppression of half their nature. But if they let the other half out to do anything, they hasten the day when they lose the human side altogether. This is quite a bit darker than I usually run my games, but I've got a few players up for it.
Writer of Fortune
Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
http://bruceb.livejournal.com/

Mike Holmes

So the arrogance of the notion of engineered superiority is one of the motives that may propell the characters to go with their animalistic sides? Do I have that right? I could buy into that.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Ron Edwards

H'm! Interesting.

I guess I'm trying to parse out these concepts from one another:

1. Extensive effort vs. lesser/quicker effort for character generation.

2. Emotional commitment to the character, especially regarding the character's possible or actual death during play.

3. Emphasis on inner struggles and moral decisions about violence than on logistics of fire-fights and stunning vs. glancing vs. startling damage rules.

It seems to me that "less effort to make the character, less commitment, easier death-scene acceptance, more psychology and inner struggle" don't go together quite in a 1:1:1 way. I can see interconnections among the three things, but I think there's more going on.

I'm pondering too, but the thing that rises to the surface at the moment is that the model you're looking for is certainly there in Urge, but also in Schism. I'm seeing a lot of Schism in (as presented so far) your vision of the upcoming play experience.

Perhaps the Urge abilities-concepts and score-name tweaks plus the Schism interpretation of Humanity is the way to go.

Best,
Ron

Bruce Baugh

That's certainly a possibility, yes. I'm leaving the question of "Do you feel superior to, inferior to, and/or different from humanity?" open to players. My customary style of GMing is to set up a situation I find interesting and then see what players do with it.
Writer of Fortune
Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
http://bruceb.livejournal.com/

Mike Holmes

I thought about Schism, too, especially in terms of the fatalism of it.

I can really see the Zero Humanity scenes in terms of Schism. The character "goes native" and starts tearing up everything in an animalistic orgy of defiance, which inevitably invokes powers too great to stop ending...well, like Bruce said.

Cool.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Bruce Baugh

Ron, they go together for me. I wouldn't make any claim beyond that without a whole lot more thought.

Yes, Schism is also very cool. I have the vague sense that the Urge moreaus' creators may be Schism characters. :)
Writer of Fortune
Gamma World Developer, Feyerabend in Residence
http://bruceb.livejournal.com/