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Author Topic: Making Before the Flood Playable  (Read 4790 times)
lumpley
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« on: September 03, 2004, 07:16:16 AM »

Before the Flood, as we all know, is broken or incomplete.

Quote from: Eric Minton
The game needs structure, and I think the best way to give it that would be to introduce a Prophecy mechanic. I'm not sure exactly how it should work, but a simple rule would be to state that each god may make one Prophecy per game (not per session, but for the whole campaign) and that the first session cannot end until at least one Prophecy has been made. Prophecies would have parameters that set them apart from run-of-the-mill prophecy: they must impact upon the future of the world in a transformative way, they must come true within the scope of the campaign, events must adhere to the letter/spirit of the prophecy, etc. And stuff.


Prophecy! I think: yes. Prophecy could introduce and structure the conflict the game's missing.  

Now, I haven't read any of what follows very carefully.  I've got some prophecy thoughts percolating in my own mind and I'd rather get them down on paper before I internalize others' ideas.

Quote from: Eric Minton
Here are a few very quick thoughts I've knocked out. I don't have the message I sent you before, so I may be repeating myself. I hope not.

Each god may only issue a limited number of prophecies. Perhaps only one prophecy per god per campaign?

Every prophecy must have a negative impact on at least one thing that a PC values. ďAnd we all live happily every afterĒ is no good for a prophecy, as it leaves no room for conflict or drama.

A prophecy may not directly benefit the god who speaks it. It may involve the doom of an enemy, but not the exaltation of the god and his followers. This is to avoid the temptation to make prophecy into a gamist tool.

Prophecies always come true. Not necessarily in the way they were originally intended, but they always come to pass in some meaningful form. Even a unanimous agreement of the other gods cannot cancel a prophecy.

At least one prophecy told during the first session must be a Grand Prophecy, one that bespeaks a transformation of the entire world: a Ragnarok, a Fifth Sun, a Great Flood. The first session ends at the moment when a Grand Prophecy has been uttered. No more than one Grand Prophecy may be issued per campaign.

Who gets to issue the campaignís sole Grand Prophecy? I donít know. Can there be any mechanisms to keep prophecy from being abused? I donít know. Putting any control over other godsí prophecies into a single domain seems inappropriate, and in any case, which one would be appropriate?

Alternatively, perhaps the Grand Prophecy should be decided upon by consensus during the Godsí First Council, along with the rest of the world. This seems to make the most sense; it spreads the authority throughout the player group, and sets the ground rules for the game arc before play begins and before the PCs are designed.


Quote from: Eric Minton
The End of the World:

As the final element of pre-game preparation, after creating the gods, the world and the mortal characters, the players must collectively craft a prophecy of how the world as they know it comes to an end. The events described should be both destructive and transformative in nature; as with tales of Ragnarok, the Great Flood, and the coming of the Fifth Sun, the destruction of the old order sets the stage for the birth of a new world.

The prophecy may be as vague or as detailed as the players desire. Vague prophecies provide far more latitude for unexpected activities and plot twists, but give less direction to the players. Detailed prophecies offer far more direction but can constrain player choices to an undesirable degree. Players should be ready to discuss this issue while crafting the prophecy.

All players must unanimously agree on the details of the prophecy. Note that the prophecy is not deemed to be the work of the gods themselves, but of Fate, and it need not conform to the godsí desires. Indeed, they may be doomed to die in accordance with its words.

Once set in motion, the words of the prophecy are immutable. The fates of those entwined in the resulting events have only so much liberty as any ambiguities in the wording of the prophecy allow. Even the gods themselves strive in vain against the doom of the world.

The campaign ends when the events of the prophecy come to pass.


I mentioned to Em that Eric and I were brainstorming prophecy and here's what she came up with:

Quote from: Emily Care
*Prophecy: have everyone write one and have them be randomly re-distributed. Guidelines for writing them would be something like 1)have some element that gives glory to the god (ie build a temple etc) 2) involve a hero or champion 3) be in the same sort of scale as the others--give examples and group decide which together. (that last may not be necesary)

*Steal rampantly from both great ork gods and universalis by introducing currency:
--deities get stones for successful rolls by char
--create setting elements by paying one coin/stone, can be done at any time by players
--anytime someone uses and element counter goes to person who created it

*Gods set task difficulty for characters ie how many dice to roll

*anyone can call for a roll, appropriate deity adjudicates

*players can call for interview with deity for special dispensation (ie initial boon or special favors later in game), deities get to ask task of character, then deity pay coins to make it so in the world for character?

*model deity bull sessions on Diplomacy (yes, this is me saying this!), make agreements, plan actions, etc. then double cross or support in rest of game.


I'll post my own brainstorming soon, but don't wait for me.  Discuss at will!

-Vincent
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Emily Care
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2004, 07:44:38 AM »

Hi all,

Cool stuff, Eric.  Looks like we're coming at it from different angles. Let me see if I can say what I think prophecies have going for them, and what I see them as being able to fix about the game.

Something that flood is missing is a direction of flow.  I've always thought that the boons/tasks thang should point the pcs in a direction. Give them something to work towards--when I've played I've always made it sort of epic.  Balancing out the quest with the task is a trick to. But back to prophecies--

Another layer to the game is interaction between the gods.  That also needs direction--a lot of fun could enter into the game if the interactions between the gods had some kind of motivation:  one-upping one another, playing eachother's heros against one another.  The greek gods, at least, did this all the time.  The image of the olympians playing chess is what comes to mind.  Hence, they need to have some kind of competitive thrust.  Multiple, contradictory if not mutually exclusive prophecies seems like an ideal way to get things bubbling.  Having the opportunity to make alliances, have dalliances and knife eachother over things would go a long way towards getting this game off the ground.  

Make sense?  Well, that's my take. Now let's look at Eric's.  The consensual and immutable prophecy sounds like player scripting. Very cool. What kind of play and flow of the game would this encourage? How would the players carry it out and how would it affect the gods/heros?

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2004, 10:34:34 AM »

Like I say, I haven't read the above carefully yet, so as to preserve my thoughts:

---

- Add to god creation: how do you communicate your prophecies to the world?

- At the beginning or maybe end of every session, every player writes down a prophecy.  It has to be about your own character and at least one character of someone else's, and it has to be good for one party and bad for the other. Don't worry about gods' domains in writing your prophecy.

- During the gods' council thingy, circulate the various prophecies. If one comes into your hands that your god would make, hold on to it.  You aren't allowed to hold on to the prophecy you wrote. Throw unclaimed prophecies away. If all the prophecies go unclaimed, I dunno what.

- At the beginning of the mortal session, announce to the world the prophecy your god makes, via whatever means your god announces prophecies.

- Your relationship to the prophecies your god makes are your own. You might work to make them come true, you might have your god demand of all the gods that they work to make them come true, you might not care at all whether they come true, you might punish mortals who interfere with them and reward mortals who promote them, or vice versa. You might have your god give some forfeit if they don't come true.

- And then... I dunno.

Hmph.

---

Anyhow, Eric, Em, anybody else, let's smash all the various brainstormings against one another and see what.

-Vincent
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Eric Minton
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2004, 09:49:50 PM »

Hi guys!

There's a lot of neat ideas to sift through here.  Upon reading the various approaches to incorporating individual prophecies (as opposed to the one big Great Flood prophecy), it occurs to me that we should look for options already implicit in the rules for adding prophecy.

* The initial gift that each god gives to a mortal PC can be a prophecy.  A destiny might be more accurate, since the gift has to be something directly beneficial to the recipient.
* Likewise, it seems reasonable that you can shoehorn a destiny into your list of things that are Yours By Right.
* A god's initial gift, or one of the things a PC asks for afterwards, could be the gift of prophecy.  Not sure exactly how it would work, but since it's a reasonable interpretation of an existing rule we should probably work it out.  :)

Also, should prophecy come from the gods or from Fate?  Some of these prophecy mechanics, like Vince's prophecies-pulled-from-a-hat, might make better sense if seen IC as the inscrutable demands of Fate rather than as the design of a particular god.

- Eric
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Eric Minton
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2004, 09:56:52 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
Another layer to the game is interaction between the gods.  That also needs direction--a lot of fun could enter into the game if the interactions between the gods had some kind of motivation:  one-upping one another, playing eachother's heros against one another.

This would be a cool idea for a game, but Before the Flood doesn't seem to be it; Vince wrote the primacy of the mortal PCs explicitly into the rules, and I think he was right in doing so.  Emphasis on the affairs of the gods waters down the importance of the mortal PCs.  Also, the game's conflict resolution system is designed around resolving mortal conflicts; wouldn't it break down if applied to the gods themselves?

(The elegance of the resolution system is the really brilliant part of the game, in my opinion, and I think it would be best to keep that at center stage to allow it to shine.)

- Eric
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2004, 12:28:40 PM »

Quote from: In the game text, Vincent
First, and I can't make this too clear, this is not a game about the  gods.


You know, I've never read this before. Why didn't you point this out to me when I was talkin' about doing Near Eastern Bronze age stuff?

In any event, I think the idea of prophecy adds something, but I'm not sure it really satisfies.

For instance, Achilles is told by his mom, the Oracle, that either he'll go to battle and gain Glory and die in the process, or he'll live a long, satisfying life with kids and wine and good olives, and he will forfeit his reputation, the only thing Hades can't take.

First off, that's an either/or situtation, which adds flexibility to the story and leaves a really good choice in the hands of the player (who's apparently playing Achilles). Second, it's a prophecy that relates to Achilles, the warlord, subject of a hero cult, and son of a priestess. The prophecy's almost a declaration that he's been built for glory or luxury, more than anything else.

That is, the prophecy's his character sheet. It's the distillation of all the things that are "already" there. Of course, that's when we meet Achilles (as far as I remember, so let's say it's true).

So... uh... how about you design a prophecy, then design a character to fulfill it?

Prophecy isn't really about seeing into the future, not the way I see it. It's about reading the signs in the present and extrapolating them. It's not like "A baby will be born with a birthmark the shape of a Ford Pinto, and that child will become king!"; rather, it's about looking at the current state of things, and saying "A child will be born of humble parents who will topple the king!"

And that little girl grew up to be Vladimir Lenin.

I mean, that's why prophecy's so fuzzy, innit? Because you don't know the specifics; you just know that things have been Put In Motion, and you can read how they'll probably come out.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2004, 12:55:19 PM »

From now on absolutely no matter what, mortal characters, along with three things that are yours by right, write down your ambition. You must have an ambition and it must be beyond your current grasp.

-Vincent
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Eric Minton
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2004, 03:42:12 PM »

Quote from: nikola
For instance, Achilles is told by his mom, the Oracle, that either he'll go to battle and gain Glory and die in the process, or he'll live a long, satisfying life with kids and wine and good olives, and he will forfeit his reputation, the only thing Hades can't take.

First off, that's an either/or situtation


... which is rather anomalous, prophecy-wise.  Achilles is atypical in this regard; how often do prophecies allow for choice?  Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother, whether he would or no.  Odysseus is given no choice as to whether or not it will take him twenty years to return home.  Ragnarok will come to pass, the seven seals will be loosed, the flood will come to sweep away the wicked and cleanse the earth.  And as the story of Oedipus illustrates, every effort to annul such a prophecy serves only to pull the noose tighter.

Quote from: nikola
Prophecy isn't really about seeing into the future, not the way I see it. It's about reading the signs in the present and extrapolating them. It's not like "A baby will be born with a birthmark the shape of a Ford Pinto, and that child will become king!"; rather, it's about looking at the current state of things, and saying "A child will be born of humble parents who will topple the king!"

And that little girl grew up to be Vladimir Lenin.

I mean, that's why prophecy's so fuzzy, innit? Because you don't know the specifics; you just know that things have been Put In Motion, and you can read how they'll probably come out.


Tell it to Odin and St. John the Divine.

Quote from: lumpley
From now on absolutely no matter what, mortal characters, along with three things that are yours by right, write down your ambition. You must have an ambition and it must be beyond your current grasp.


I like it!

- Eric
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2004, 06:55:33 AM »

What we need to build the prophecy rules to do is provide a structure and order for scenes. Characters with strengths, weaknesses and ambition + a system for creating and resolving scenes = a fun game.

I'm enamored of Primetime Adventures' use of Screen Presence. I believe that the right prophesy rules could do the same sort of thing, but I don't know what they are yet.

How about you go around the circle, mortal character to mortal character, having scenes. Each scene pits the character's ambition against the character's prophecy. We all work together to frame the scene's conflict so that that's what the scene is about. Over the course of the game, can your character balance ambition with destiny, or will one undo the other?

-Vincent
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Emily Care
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« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2004, 12:46:21 PM »

Fitting the character to the prophecy (or vice versa) sounds right on. I like the tension between fulfilling or failing your destiny.  If it ain't you that fulfills it, there may be some other sucker waiting in the wings to steal your glory.

Source of phophecy: In ancient Greece, Apollo was the god of prophecy (hence Delphi, one of his holy sites).  However, unless there is some connection between the gods and the particular prophecies (which has been nixed I believe) there's no reason to associate one with any god.  Doing so would be a good way to make an agenda for the gods which ain't on the menu.  It stills seems a good and incredibly in period thing to have the heros be beloved by particular gods--or have some relationship with them.  It's a natural outgrowth of the boon-quest connection and seems to arise naturally in play.

And, what Vincent said:
Ambition=direction for the characters.  
Prophecy=goal and obstacles for character to overcome.

In game agents of prophecy? Collective gmship? Freeform or structured?

yrs,
Em
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2004, 01:09:18 PM »

Quote
In game agents of prophecy? Collective gmship? Freeform or structured?

In some ways it would almost be too obvious to make this a collective GM free form sort of game.  That strikes me perhaps as too easy.

I'd actually like to see the game have a bit of structure and a GM focus (although having the player play adversaries to each other's ambitions would work well I think).

I think something between Zenobia and Dogs for level of rules crunch would really hit me nicely.
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Eric Minton
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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2004, 01:26:27 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
In some ways it would almost be too obvious to make this a collective GM free form sort of game.  That strikes me perhaps as too easy.

Just to be clear: you're talking about adding crunch to a prophecy sub-game, right?  You're not suggesting adding crunch to the extant resolution mechanic?  (I hope not the latter; I think the current system is brilliant and shouldn't change a thing.)
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2004, 01:39:02 PM »

You mean the existing ask the god for permission and if its granted you do it and if not you don't system?

Yeah, to make the game ideal for me I'd want more crunch than that.  Can't say I'm a big fan of success by fiat.  Something more akin to Great Ork Gods sans silly mayhem would be more up my alley.
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lumpley
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2004, 06:17:02 AM »

The History and Destiny of Before the Flood
I wrote Before the Flood to prove a point, which is that GMs and players are the same kind of thing. This was before Universalis was published, before "GMful" entered the Forge vocabulary. Believe it or not, in those days the idea was controversial.

It's not controversial anymore. Now it's common knowledge. The point's proven. Before the Flood didn't, after all, prove it - I remember the day where I was like, huh, everybody gets it, I guess I'll put Before the Flood online anyway. Not too long after, Universalis kicked all our butts for us.

The problem with the game, going forward, is that it doesn't do anything but prove that point. Particularly, it doesn't do the one thing game rules are really for: providing support for in-game conflict. Having a GM is an excellent way to provide support for in-game conflict; so is having good currency mechanics or dice or any of the things that Universalis has and Before the Flood doesn't.

I'm not motivated to prove the point that a GM or good mechanics can deliver in-game conflict. That's even less controversial.

...But the opposite point, that without a GM or good mechanics, a group can still reliably sustain in-game conflict - I just don't think it's true.

For prophecy rules or any other new rules to work, they'll have to, essentially, create GM-passing. They'll have to say "right now, you are in charge of conflicting with this character." It might not be possible to create rules that accomplish this without violating the game's hard and fast rule: you have absolute fiat authority over your god character's Domains.

So that's the theoretical guts of the game and that's why I don't think it'll ever be a whole game. It can't be both fun and true to itself. I might be wrong - but I'm depending on Eric (and anyone else interested) to show me where.

"Show me where" means "come up with rules (or inspire me to) that pass conflict-authority without passing outcome-authority or gameworld-authority."

-Vincent
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