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[Aller Tage Abend] Brief History and Power 19

Started by Frank T, May 17, 2006, 11:51:32 AM

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Frank T

Today I'm going to post about my new project. This post is meant as a source to point people to in discussions to come. I am not looking for specific advice at this point, although I'll gladly respond to comments and questions. Please bear with me until I've got some Actual Play to report from. Currently I'm working on the playtest manuscript.

First, what the title means. Second, a few words on how I came upon writing a game like this. Third, the infamous Power 19.

"Noch ist nicht aller Tage Abend" is a common if a little old-fashioned saying in German that translates to: "It is not yet the evening of all days." It means: Cheer up, look ahead, we stand a chance, we can still make it. "Aller Tage Abend" translates to "The Evening of All Days". You get the figure.

Why the hell do I write this game, when I've got BARBAREN! in the pipeline and much work to do on that one as well? I have been stuck with BARBAREN! for a long time. I still like the game and want to finish it, but I have been thinking a lot about my gaming lately and come to some conclusions. And while I was thinking about my "perfect game", ATA took shape in my head. Now I'm all jazzed about it and I figure I should not waste this energy. Plus, I have a chance to get one of the hottest RPG illustrators in Germany signed in on the project, which is key, as you'll see if you continue reading.

Now for the Power 19:

1.   What is the game about?
The game is about hope and despair, and it is about loss. It's about truly human drama in the face of total horror and devastation. It's about the question: When the end of your world is on the line, what will you do with your life?

2.   What do the characters do?

The characters try to get by in a hostile world on the verge of total catastrophe. They try to avoid losing the one thing/someone that they still care about. They are trying to do something sensible with their lives while they still can. They evolve through the conflicts they engage in through pursuing their personal goals and beliefs. The characters may oppose each other, work together, or both. There will also frequently be scenes with only one character present.

3.   What do the players (and the GM) do?

The players explore the SIS. The SIS is supposed to capture most of their attention. They are negotiating the SIS the traditional way: By playing their characters. However, immersion is not a primary feature, and author stance is encouraged. The GM is playing the world, reacting to the players' actions, and setting up interesting conflicts to challenge the players' resolutions.

4.   How does the setting reinforce what the game is about?

The world is collapsing. It is a colorful and magical world full of wonder and beauty, that is destroyed by a violent sun that is turning magically super-quickly into a supernova. Earthquakes and eruptions, radioactive radiation, and climatic catastrophes mirror the disturbances of the spiritual/magical balance. The many dangers and horrors of the world will eventually force the characters to make sacrifices. There are dozens of mad cults that all have their own interpretation of what's going on and how to respond to it, which the players will judge wrong or right. Also, there's quite some color detail in the setting to provide a solid base for exploration, but it's still relatively open compared to many mainstream settings. There will be no official metaplot; the end of the world is up to the GM.

5.   How does the character creation reinforce what the game is about?

Aside from a few stats to determine the character's abilities and personality, each player picks someone or something her character has already lost, someone or something the character still retains but is afraid of losing, and a certain belief the character has regarding the reasons for the end of the world and how to respond to it.

6.   What types of behavior does the game reward and/or punish?

The game does not punish behavior, unless you count death by stupidity. It rewards seeking conflict and pursuing and/or changing the character's goals and belief. It also rewards paying attention to the SIS and delivering good acting and description.

7.   How is behavior rewarded and/or punished in the game?

Personality traits similar to the spiritual attributes in The Riddle of Steel provide extra dice for conflicts if involved, as does clever use of SIS elements or good acting/despription. Pursuing and/or changing your belief grants advancement points, as do any conflicts. There is also a Fanmail-like award of advancement points by fellow players.

8.   How are responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in the game?

The oldschool way.  I mean it. Players play their characters, GM plays the world. I have my own view on where credibility derives from in this constellation, though, and plan to communicate this firmly in the rules text. Credibility always needs positive reinforcement through the SIS. The already established SIS is the main tool for any further negotiation, assisted by the rules.

9.   What does your game do to command a player's attention, engagement, and participation?

Purposefully very little. I'd rather not command the players to anything, but expect their willingness to engage, participate, and pay attention by their own effort. Play rewards these things through return in fun, but personally, I don't like procedural rules that require the players to get involved in a certain way.

10.   What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

My resolution mechanic is focused on resolving a task at hand or a short-term conflict, but not necessarily a single action. The stakes are always very straight effects in the SIS. The system uses a pool of d6 derived from one ability plus one personality trait (if applicable). The circumstances of the SIS are reflected through bonus or penalty dice. Some good acting and/or description may grant extra Bonus dice. Bonus and penalty dice are always awarded by the group, not the GM. Successes (i.e. dice that come up 5 or 6) are compared to the opposition's roll. If there is no opposition, one success suffices. If the outcome of a roll effects a character (PC or NPC), it is usually tracked through currency (temporary reduction of abilities). This may result in the death of the character.

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

I am making the SIS matter (as in probability), by including the characters' ability and the established circumstances, and reflecting effects thereon. I am also making what the character cares about matter through including the personality traits. And I am encouraging good acting/description to harvest some color details.

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

Advancement points can be spent on improving abilities or personality traits. Personality traits can also be "sold" for advancement points and replaced by new ones. You can also change your belief. All this can be done at any time during the game.

13.   How does the character advancement reinforce what the game is about?

The changes in belief and personality traits reflect how your character develops through the course of the story. The advances in ability and personality traits make the character more effective, which is a reward to the player for seeking conflict and pursuing the character's belief, as well as generally making play fun to her fellow players (which are the three sources of advancement points).

14.   What sort of effect do you want the game to produce in (or for) the players?

Ideally, I want the players to vividly imagine the shared fiction, to care about it, to be thrilled and moved, fascinated and captivated by it, and to remember it as something precious and special. I am talking about real intensity here.

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

The different cults, for they represent ways of dealing with the upcoming end of the world. The various spiritual/magical aspects of the world, for they contain with symbols that reflect what is happening to the world and the people. Also, the funky magical devices are to provide the game world with a unique flair. Same goes for the handful of quasi-human species, that I will build upon a petty analogy to different monkey species, with chimpanzees representing normal humans.

16.   What parts of the game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

I am really most excited about whether the game works the way it is supposed to. I have a clear picture of the kind of play I expect, but it will only work if the players "get it", which hopefully the color, currency and reward system will take care of. I can't name a special part. It's the whole thing. Either it will produce my "perfect play", or it will fall apart.

17.   Where does the game take players that other games can't/don't/won't?

It's not supposed to. I know exactly where I want to go, cause I've been there using other games. Only this game hopefully takes you there more reliably, and adds some new and fascinating color details into the bargain to get you interested.

18.   What are your publishing goals for this game?

A neatly illustrated, truly spectacular hardcover that will cut through the German market like a knife through butter. Well, I'm obviously euphoric. But honestly. This thing needs to be looking really good. Why? Because I want the players to be fascinated and intrigued by the color of the game world, and some good illustrations do a much better job at that than any fluff prose you can imagine.

19.   Who is your target audience?

All the role-players that are playing near-freeform with a system that doesn't really support their style of Bricolage negotiation, powerful imagination, and gripping character drama. All the role-players that really dig juicy new settings and beautiful illustrations.

Damn, I was planning on refining this and posting it only after I get the playtest manuscript done. But the urge to post it right away is overwhelming. This forum is called "first thoughts" now, after all.

- Frank