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Archive => Indie Game Design => Topic started by: sirogit on January 16, 2004, 05:13:00 AM

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: sirogit on January 16, 2004, 05:13:00 AM
I'm working on a game. It's setting could be described as a dark fairytale-style-retelling of rural america. Very big on mood. Imagine a place where it's the laterside of twilight 24/7. Dreamlike, but not escapist.

The things I imagine the characters doing, adjusting to the strange rituals that happen across the street like any of the weird curves that life throws at you, dealing with consequnces born out of hasty actions, avoiding the monsters that live in the reeds, growing the monsters in the reeds, being the monster in the reeds.  


The resoloution system is pretty non-standard. There is absouletely no mechanical detail to characters. Characters sheets consist of a description of a character, a philosophy or maybe a quote, and a color that suits them. Ability entirely rests in description and how evocative they are to the GM: The GM rates how evocative the character's attempted actions were, and rates it on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 and 3 being the most common numbers and 4 saved for the very excelling examples. The numbers are compared and you get a defined result depending on what the actions were. Obviously, because of this, how much you like the GM's judgemenet can coincide with how much you like the game, more so than most games.

Iniative: If at any time, multiple people want to act simultanously, than after everyone announces what their character attempts to do it's resolved in order of how highly rated. Ties in iniative call for the GM to make another ruling of how little time the character's actions seem to take, assigning iniative as so. Note that Iniative doesn't matter in combat.

Damage: Damage is specified on the character sheet. If it's type is specificly relevant to whatever action you are taking, for example, a hurt hand when trying to hold on to something, than if your action is not rated at or above the damage level, than your action does not take place and you narrate your character succumbing to that damage somehow. If the damage is not all that relevent to your action, than it is treated as if it were relevent at -1 level.

Specific actions:

Offensive combat actions:
Rated according to how Violent the description, value is reduced by how Desperate a simultanous Defensive action was.  Characters receieve the remaining value in the Damage level of whatever injury the physical action causes. The Gm defines what the type of injury was as per the nature of the offensive action.

Defensive combat actions:
Rated accoridng to how Desperate the description, value is reduced from similtanous Offensive actions. If it's value is greater than the simultanous offensive action, than you get that value as a defensive bonus to your rating that lasts until an offensive action equals or is greater than a defensive atcion(I.E., you get hit.), or the scene ends. If the defensive bonus equals 3 , you are given the option to escape the scene if it's physically possible.

For magic to be performed, the character must perform some sort of ritual and to describe the effects that he is trying to create. The rating of the magic is based on how Scary the ritual or the effects of the magic is. The rating is decreased by how implausible the effects of the magic are to the GM's perception of the real world, and if it is 0 or greater, than the effect takes place.

All other difficult actions:
Based on how much the description of what they're doing coincides with the strengths of their character apparent from their background decreased by difficulty as made up by the GM of whatever they're trying to do. A higher value means that they accomplish it.


I'm a little bit torn between the intentions of this game. I'm drifting towards a Narrativist game about the cost of being effective: What are the effects of constantly striving do things that are Violent, Desperate and Scary?

The game is about making things -evocative- and the associated costs of being evocative. Are there better roads to than relying on GM arbitration?

Does my description at the top of the post make you feel the setting at all? For some reason, It's intuitive to my imagination, but I'd imagine most people might not feel the mood of it.  [/b]

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: Jasper on January 16, 2004, 06:47:03 AM
Interesting idea, and I think I basically get what you're going for, but I need a little more... maybe some specific examples of what characters would be doing.   I keep recalling old Twilight Zone episodes.

Why such an emphasis on combat?  Is this really a game all about killing people?  Even if it is, or that's a major part of it, why combat per se?  Most murderers don't engage in "combat" with their victims.  Also, why award the most "violent" descriptions in combat?  I'd stick with evocative if anything, unless you really want to encourage people to be dreaming up the most morbid actions possible...but that could easily degenerate into a gross-out contest, and become silly rather than moody.

I'm not so sure about the "value" system as a whole though.  At the very least, I'd throw the assignment of values up to the entire group, and not just the GM.  This way the whole group's idea of what's appropriate and sufficiently moody will be reinforced.  Otherwise it's just GM fiat, in which case you might as well not have any rules at all.

But the assignment of values at all seems problematic.  Those players who are good at describing things evocatively will permanently have more effective characters than the other players...and that effectiveness will really have nothing to do with the characters themselves.  For instance,  oen character, described as being "Good with a gun" would not necessarily be good with a gun at all in comparison with one who "Does what's necessary and isn't afraid of a smoking barrel of steel" or some such.  Kind of, dare I say it, deprotagonizing?

It seems to me like you're falling into the common trap of "rules light = narrativist."  Don't be afraid to define things a little more concretely: the moodiness doesn't have to suffer for it.

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: sirogit on January 16, 2004, 09:00:43 AM
If this reminds you of the old twilight zone episodes, than we probably think somewhat alike. I don't really intend the game to be exactly like the old twilight zone, but burrowing some element, probably.

Not being silly is actually a pretty big concern, being somewhat whimsical, bizarre, over-the-top-but-believable is what I'm aiming for. I figured that it would work into the game as being silly would detract from whatever you were trying to evoke, such as Violence. Cartoonish violence doesn't seem as Violent as more realistic fair.  Same goes for repetiveness.

Combat... didn't intend to be focused to it at all really. I think it's bad that so much of what I posted was about combat. Combat's a bad word anyway, as the system is meant to cover any sort of phsyical attempt to bring injury to another. I just think I know what sort of things combat should evoke, wheras I'm pretty fuzzy about most everything else.

The defensive actions are not nessecarily blocking or parrying... Parrying isn't terribly despserate, so it'd be penalized... the actions I'm thinking of are, running, hiding, a 4 would be cutting off your arm to get out of a restraint.

My focus of the game is the magic. That was the initial idea for it. I think in RPG theory you can find my thread "Creepy magic" which was my concepts of this sometime ago. I'm not really writing about it because I don't see what other rules I need for it, it's a very simple idea that I think has alot of potential.

I don't think rules light = narrativist. "Rules light" wasn't really the focus of the game, and to be honest, neither was "Narrativist". The thing I wanted was "focus". My biggest concern is that people will think I think my game is above dice or some crap.

I did for some time consider that the 'rating' of actions could be a group activity. Since the numbers are largely arbitary, you could say that your rating is equal to how many of the players expressed that you captured that evocation. The problem I see is what happens when people don't vote with neutrality, and the game becomes about what are the methods to get people to vote for you. It's not their are cheating players and neutral players, it's a sliding scale. But neutrality is very important, and the GM should be selected on that ground. While that is a worse-case scenario, I don't really see what a group-voting does for the game, besides remove it of the distinction of being "GM fiat", which I wouldn't see being worse than "Group fiat", unless you dislike your GM's vision moreso than the group.

To me, GM Fiat is the GM producing results without rules. This system is about asking the GM specific questions about the descriptions of actions and than producing results based on those rules.

It would really suck playing with GM's I've known who've used description bonus systems to reward players they favor.  I've known a few GMs like that. But I don't think it should reflect negatively on description systems, as the vast majority of the game usually sucks with GMs like that.

Protagonization... Now, that's a pretty big deal to me. In my opinion, if there's a combat stat, it should be a source of protagonism for the character. The game should explicitly say that having a character who's background points towards combat training or magical affinity does not make them any better of a fighter or magician, unless you can express yourself more believably with a character that has certain expiereinces.

In this game, the deadly things are the depraved, hidous, and the unbalanced, not the professionially trained. Magic is like a folk-remedy that gives you the chills. It's not a question of who can use it, but if they would use it. Protagonism is had by making a character that you can consistantly express yourself with believably.

My intention isn't really to make the game into a creative-writing contest... It's to instituite a reward system where characters become more effective as they're pushed to these really extreme states of mind. If it was run Gamist, it might be something like a contest of morbidity... but the key point is that the characters don't want to live in a world where everything is horrible because that's what's effective.

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: wombat on January 16, 2004, 12:18:11 PM
Just a suggestion but:
You might want to read Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" it has some similar themes to what you're on about.

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: sirogit on January 16, 2004, 02:36:34 PM
Welll, America Gods is in my friend's laundry hamper... I might give it a go.

I don't really any need defining the themes for myself, just describing them... think you could describe american gods?

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: Valamir on January 17, 2004, 07:29:47 PM
Hey, just saw a movie trailer for an upcoming flick called The Village.

It has "dark fairy tale retelling of rural Americal" written all over it.

Its an M. Night flick

trailer here (

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: sirogit on January 18, 2004, 07:04:01 AM
Huh... you know, the same thing happened with that Hellsing idea I had a little while ago.

I've considered whether or not that play would naturally approach the theme I imagined because of the circumstance of the manner of how I'm encouraging players actions...

The main reason I like the idea of effect being based upon description, is that I think it would promote a genuincy... Unnatural, mystical things -are- somehow scary, or they wouldn't work.

I'm considering a system of your personality being twisted by your actions... that if the character is consistantly violent, than they start to have to react that way, that the more powerfull magic they use, the more they use creepy mannerisms everyday, and the more rigorously they protect themselves from assailents the more they become paranoid.

I think that there isn't really enough inherent in the system/setting for the characters to do, on part of the very dreamlike and mood-focused nature of the game... I was thinking a good style of play for it would be where the players select some more traditionial genre to combine with it, such as mystery, and the system providing some guidelines on focusing on elements of personal horror and a strong sense of eerieness that the game is meant to portray.

Title: "Dark fairytale retelling of rural america"
Post by: wombat on January 23, 2004, 06:09:34 AM
Quote from: sirogit
Welll, America Gods is in my friend's laundry hamper... I might give it a go.

I don't really any need defining the themes for myself, just describing them... think you could describe american gods?

It's about what happens to gods and figures of folklore and legend once people forget them and how they live in a land that has no time for them.
I thought it might fit the sort of thing you're trying for or it might at least be something like it, you have forgotten gods or forgotten aspects of gods living in nasty little flats in the bad part of town, alcoholic figures of irish myth and goddesses of love and beauty plying their skills on the street.