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[Mythos] Power 19 and a few questions

Started by Eric Bennett, February 23, 2006, 04:50:56 AM

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Eric Bennett

Alrighty. Writing is back rolling again, and I've got a stable place to store things. Hence, the development of Mythos begins again. Take a gander at these answers and leave a comment, if you please. Thanks in advance. And extra special jumbo thanks to Bailywolf for comments made in Zak Arnston's old Cthonian threads, which inspired this new take on what I was doing.

1.) What is your game about?
Building a Mythos, focused on the horror genre for now. Possible future alterations may expand this to something more general, but horror seems to be a more "myth" focused genre than others I have interest in writing for. The game is about putting control of a setting in the players hands that can be as huge and world changing as for example Indigo Prophecy, or as deeply personal as Silent Hill 2, or as mind-buggeringly weird as Over the Edge or Unknown Armies.

The game world starts as just our regular old Earth, until something Breaks, changing to the Unnatural. Just what that Unnatural nature is, and why it is has occured is something for the players to determine in game.

2.) What do the characters do?

The characters are normal people in a plain vanilla modern world. Physics works like it should, there aren't any ancient squid gods dwelling in the depths of the sea, and it really was just a weather balloon that was taken from Roswell. Things quickly change however, as a dramatic event occurs that draws all the PCs into the sort of world where just that sort of thing could happen. Just what has happened, however, remains a mystery to be solved and explored. Depending on player preference, it might be dominantly about the exploration of their setting, or just as easily about what makes each character tick. The Mythos/Establishment mechanics will support and apply to both equally.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
The primary job of the players is to explore the world that has opened up to their characters. They create new aspects of the games Mythos, and tie those aspects together using Establishment. Its a bit like like the progression in Unknown Armies from Street, to Global, to Cosmic level, with the "truth" at each level laid out by the players. Within that world of horror (and probably marvel, considering the source material) they are free to develop and play out their characters, and those characters' relationships with both the PCs and NPCs. Mechanically, establishing Mythos as it relates to the setting is just as valuable as establishing Mythos in terms of the character backgrounds and connections. There will be no 'official' GM as such, but things will instead rely on the sort of scene setting that Shab Al-Hiri Roach engages in.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting of the game reinforces the creation of a Mythos because it will (ideally) provide just enough of a kick to the creative juices to get the players rolling on their own creations. This sort of worldbuilding functions by means of 'filling in the holes' in the story, the little references that get name-dropped but don't lead anywhere until a player decides to tie it back in to another part. Because this cannot be done indefinitely while still granting mechanical bonuses, this will encourage the players to keep branching out so things stay fresh. This should also mean that only those things which the particular mix of players enjoys will feature dominantly in the setting.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

Character creation focuses on 1) who the character is and 2) what weirdness opened their eyes. Each character choses a Role and splits points between a number of Attributes which determine their general effectiveness in each of 5 type of scenes:

Action: Running from the police, monsters, cultists, cars, avalanches...oh, and fighting back, and leaping over rooftops, and playing baseball, and firing a gun at your pursuers, and...its not a very complicated picture to paint, is it? The fight music starts up and someone's ass gets kicked.
Awareness: Scenes were noticing something is is important. Crime scenes, research, studying satellite photos. However the Talents flavor the character, the key factor here is that perception is most important.
Aptitude: Scenes that require focus and skill, like constructing an altar to an ancient evil, customizing a gun, painting a house, etc.
Weird. The obvious stuff: other dimensions, horrible monsters from beyond space, walking nightmares sucked out of one's subconscious, and all the nightmares, alternate realities, and psychotic breaks in betwee.

Note: I am considering using these stats with a percentile setup. Yes, like Unknown Armies. Because percentiles are awesome and flexible, and because these stats (well, these stats aside from speed) worked well for me for a long time when they appeared in BESM. See my questions below.
Body: Physical fitness, and the power to both beat the hell out of somebody and resist a beating.
Speed: Reflexes, reaction time, quickness, and of course the power to put holes in things with guns.
Mind: General education, reasoning ability, ability to resist Sanity damage, intellectual skills.
Soul: Social skills, spiritual awareness and power, resistance to Unnatural powers and possible use thereof.

Once those are determined, Talents are assigned. These are either in the form of a flexible pool if the first Attribute system is used, or assigned to each Attribute if the second set are used. After that the character defines their Loves, Hates, and Fears (inspired by Lost Memories from the 24 hour RPG site). These are somewhat similar to UA Passions, except that each character will have multiple of each, and they needn't all be abstract things. A character can Love a particular person, or Hate a memory, or Fear an idea. These Passions are combined with the character's Desire (the thing they want most from the world) to form each player's first contribution to the game Mythos.

Overall, character creation should be non-nitpicky and result in each character being a reasonably easily-visualized creation.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward?
Mythos will encourage investigative behaviors, leaving the reasoning up to each player to make, though they should make one. Between seven passions and a Desire there ought to be some reason any particular character has to start investigating. Players should send their characters into danger and the unknown, trusting that their characters have a decent chance of survival. The combat and madness systems should be pretty forgiving after the fact, provided the character has done some establishment. That way, conflict itself retains a sense of danger and fear, without having an undramatically long impact on a character.

The game also encourages creative contributions to the game Mythos. This is, in fact, the point. All players add things to the setting, and then the others explore them and tie them together, creating a joint fictional world to be enjoyed. In this case, contributing an element to the Mythos (be it atmosphere, an object, a god, a creature, a cult, a historical event, or what have you) will provide a mechanical bonus, as will the next several times it is tied in. After a few uses, however, it starts grown known and "stale", so that new additions must be put in.

In terms of conflict with monsters and the other challenges inhabiting this world, the characters have options other than simply beating their troubles to a pulp. Some sort of success-counting mechanic will be in place for each challenge, representing how  difficult they are to remove or resolve. The totals required to overcome these challenges will usually, for important challenges, be far in excess of what a character might generate through combat. Therefore, success scored in previous portions of the game may be applied towards the challenge, making it easier or possible to overcome.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

I've covered rewards in number six, so I'll do punishments here. Failure to offer a vital, fleshed out character means missing out on the Establishment points that make tasks easier. Failing to build on the Mythos means meaningless encounters and missing out on bonuses to rolls regard that which has been built upon. Failing to investigate matters means a dull and useless character, without the passion to survive in the game world. Punishment is not performed by actively harming or maligning the characters, but rather by simply denying them the advantages that those that contribute receive.

Note: Even though one player may contribute an element to the Mythos, others may of course still use it and reap the benefits. This encourages steady additions to the game world.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Narrative responsibility is split between all players, who take roles as NPCs or as themselves in the scenes others set. Additionally, a GM may be used, but in this case that player's character cannot be active in their scene, though the GM is free to add and tie elements together as freely as when they are acting as a player. I've found that most games of Shab Al-hiri Roach often wind up with one player, not always me, who acts as a sort of GM..often the player most grooving with creativity as a particular session.

As for credibility, a golden rule is followed. Once something has been entered into the game world, no one can negate it. Things about it may be changed, or added, but nothing can be removed or revoked. This applies to NPCs and character backgrounds as well. No one needs the messiness of retconning, after all. Anything a player introduces is included, so long as no conflict arises. If it does, then Establishment points can be wagered onto both sides until one side choses to stop bidding.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
d6 Method: Roll a pool of d6 equal to Attribute +/- some small modifiers against a target number, counting successes.
d% Method: Roll d% under stat, skill, or opponents threshold, higher numbers yielding greater success.

1. Stakes: State what you want to do, and how.
2. Roll.
3. Resolve: Winner gets the stakes. Pretty vanilla.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

The resolution mechanics are simple and unobtrusive, which is in step with a game more about stories and building a myth than anything else. By adding degree of success together over the course of an adventure, greater foes may be overcome than one can directly defeat. This doesn't inherently reinforce what the game is about, but it is functional, which is more important to me than some revolutionary new method of rolling polyhedrals. Still, I need to explicate some more about the whole totalling successes thing...

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Kinda. Sorta. Maybe. I might simply go with allowing the rearrangement of points between Attributes between adventures if I go with d6s, while with percentiles I could allow growth through use, ala Call of Cthulhu. Either method is equally pleasing to me. The primary advancement in the game is not so much the characters but the Mythos. Character advancement of either sort is going to be thematically related to people becoming Tied To The Darkness. Normal humans simply aren't capable of standing up to the myth. Which...may be me assigning too much to what others might be better suited to decide for themselves. I'm not sure yet.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Character advancement of either sort is going to be thematically related to people becoming Tied To The Darkness. Normal humans simply aren't capable of standing up to the myth. Which...may be me assigning too much to what others might be better suited to decide for themselves. I'm not sure yet.

14.) What sort of effect do you want your game to produce for the players?
I want to produce in players a sense of tension as they epxlore each others' worlds, a sense of wonder as they show each other what their imagination can create, and a sense of fun in the action-y and fanservice-y parts of things. In this case, Fan Service is referring to those things that games have that make them "cool." AFMBE has zombies. Cthulhu has horrible squid things from beyond the stars. WoD has more supernatural doo-hickeys and splats than you can shake a stick at. Fanservice is the surface level stuff that draws players in and spices the game. The meat and potatoes of things, however, will be decided by the way each Mythos develops.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

Developing a Mythos of one's own is receives great focus, moving character advancement from the individual PCs and placing it in the setting itself. This may even go so far has affecting the way new characters are brought in, making them more powerful depending on what parts of the players' Mythos they are connected to. Does this idea merit further thought?

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

The Developing A Mythos portion. I've had a lot of great sit-arounds with my friends where we have hashed story ideas and suggestions. Combining this with in-game mechanical rewards and motivations ought to produce something at least equal to that, combined with the fun of exploring one another's creations in the form of an active participant.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can't, don't, or won't?

Universalis lets players build their own setting. Cthulhu lets them explore bizzare worlds in someone else's setting. Unknown fun, but has a very, very bizarre setting that probably makes more sense to the author's than it does to the players. The goal is to facilitate what one might achieve if one mixed these games: An idiosyncratic Mythos that makes sense to the players in some oblique way, and perhaps even then only to a few of them.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
Free distribution, possibly low-cost PDF sales, but then again possibly not. It depends on how thoroughly I flesh out the Development of A Mythos material, and what kind of art I can get.

19.) Who is your target audience?
Fans of horror with a purpose. Fans of Donnie Darko, Silent Hill, Over the Edge, H.P. Lovecraft...and fans of speculative fiction who want to play with the ideas of just what might be possible if certain aspects of modern scientific thinking are correct.


Firstly, I am waffling about my dice system/stats. On the one hand, use of pools of d6 make things simple to explain to new players, and six siders are much easier to find than most other types for the non-gamer crowd. On the other, percentiles are almost as easy to explain and work with, and are much clearer in terms of what they mean for character effectiveness. I'm strongly leaning towards percentiles, but wanted to see how some of you folks rang in.

Secondly, does this idea have enough merit on its own to make a standalon game, or is it more along the lines of something I would be better served creating as a mod for another game? Mechanically, its a blending of several games, and setting wise its very open with an underlying explanation for the inital Break in each story. The creating of one's own Mythos, explicated out into a mechanical effect is something that I think is a powerful concept, but is somewhat similar to Universalis and a few other games.

Sorry if some of these answers seem a little thin. I had a Firefox crash while I was originally typing, and can't remember all of what I wrote.

Have a good evening, folks,

Eric Bennett
Check out the developing draft of Mythos, the game of horrific discovery here!


QuoteThe game is about putting control of a setting in the players hands
The primary job of the players is to explore the world that has opened up to their characters.
I don't mean to be a weeney, but it seems like those two are at times very much polarized.

Example 1
  Players create the world of KChulaVista.  They make characters that are compatible with each other in game and set about exploring the relationships between their characters and the world
  This is great! That's what you can easily do with these two ideas.

Example 2
  Players create a world together called Tranosia and they go back and forth pushing and pulling until the major issues with the setting are all sorted out. Then they make characters that fit in the setting and with each other. Then they go to explore the setting.
  Guess what, it's already been done. There's no spark of excitement or of the unknown. Sure, there is gameplay to be had in the cracks and crevices that the players hadn't hashed out yet. But the big question of exploring the setting is already finished.

  I am not saying that Example 1 can't happen, but I am saying that "control the setting" and "explore the setting" may be a hard pairing to make.

  BTW, seems like you are going to make a cool game. I never really looked at horror in a deconstrucitonist way and saw "myth" at the center, brilliant!
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo

Eric Bennett

QuoteI don't mean to be a weeney, but it seems like those two are at times very much polarized.

I'm sorry, it was getting late as I wrote that so this didn't come out quite as clearly as I wanted it to. The setting itself is being defined as the game is played, rather than before it. The thread that inspired this mechanic to fall into place is here:

If you scroll down to where Bailywolf is talking about journals and such, you'll see it. The concept of horror as myth started really coming together for me over the last few weeks, from a variety of little sources and aside-type things. A quote from the making of the HPL Historical Society's Call of Cthulhu that one of the actors who was interested in Lovecraft after reading up for the film went something like "There was a reason that all this was happening."

Similarly, the fandom for Silent Hill at websites like Silent Hill Heaven is filled with people tossing out theories and suppositions and ideas about what makes the setting tick, things that I imagine possibly never occured to the game's writers but that still manage to fit. And to cite Unknown Armies again, but is filled with fan contributions to the shared mythos of that setting. 

This in turn is only the modern equivalent of what used to happen with Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. Something would get name checked or referenced obliquely, and then the author would move on with their story. Another author would come in behind them and take that empty reference and turn it into something, and in the process they would drop a few more "holes in the writing" as it were for other authors to use. The stories and the setting get stale when the same old references and ideas are used for the four dozenth time. This is why the game will only reward tying elements together for the first few times, so that the players will have a mechanical reason to adding even more new elements.

The Mythos mechanics in this game are meant to incentivize that type of play while the game is being played. Picking up on Bailywolf's suggestion, you players framing elements of their personal Mythos into a scene, something like

QuoteThomas Malone pulls aside the dusty old sheet covering the wheelchair, and sputters in the choking miasma of decades old decay. The humidity of the oddly flesh-like room is forgotten as a chill races down his spine...sitting on the seat of the wheelchair is that damned symbol...the emblem of Xel'mehtul.

This player has now introduced Xel'mehtul, whatever that may happen to be, into the story. Now, they could have gone on to do define this element more, but they chose to leave it open for the other players to contribute. Now, I'm not exactly sure at this point in the things how the "value" of an element is going to be determined. A flat value would make things argument free, but I'm thinking of a simple staging mechanic. Probably something akin to Number of players - 1 for the maximum value of an element, which the actual value being determined by some roughish guidelines like the UA suggestions for weapon damage (add extra if it is sharp, could crush bones, or is...long, I think?) which leaves folks with a good little bit of wiggle room.

In any event, let us say that two scenes later Harry Washington's player is being chased by something like a severed arm without any bones in it. He isn't doing too well at getting away, and has already had his ankles torn up pretty badly. To help himself get away, he weaves a quick connection between the hand and the recently introduced Xel'mehtul. Perhaps the hand is an important symbol to the god, or perhaps the cult makes ritual sacrifice of the right hands of corpses to their object of worship, like a sort of hand of Glory. (It is rather early in the morning, so these aren't the most hard hitting examples, I'll admit) By linking a Mythos element explicitly to this situation, Harry's player would get some kind of bonus to their next roll or two to destroy or evade the hand. What is the in-game explanation? That is something for the as-yet-to-be-written Developing a Mythos chapter. However, what is relevent to this example is that a connection has been made. This reduces the reamaining opportunities to tie a new situation or element to the old by one, and things proceed onward.
Check out the developing draft of Mythos, the game of horrific discovery here!

Eric Bennett

(Whoops. Hit the wrong button and posted too soon. Just a few more things to finish up.)

In any event, I hope that and the thread I linked help explain what I am going after with this Mythos mechanic, though perhaps it doesn't and I'm going to read this tomorrow and need to correct myself again. The main thrust of what I am trying to say is that the setting is being explored as it is being put together, rather than taking time out on the front end of things to make everything up.
Check out the developing draft of Mythos, the game of horrific discovery here!