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Author Topic: [Sudden Light] The Power 19  (Read 4486 times)
Paul S
Member

Posts: 25


« on: June 17, 2006, 10:49:07 AM »

I've recently (today) changed the title of my RPG in progress.  "Epiphany" is now "Sudden Light," until someone else points out that that particular name has already been taken.  :-). 

In my first thread , I explained that this RPG is envisioned as an eventual product of a graduate class I'm taking, "Improvisation and Creative Writing."  In short, I have three weeks to produce this game (a considerable chunk, given the fine work that has come out of the 24-hour RPG Project), along with journal entries demonstrating how improvisational techniques and theory gained in class exercises have shaped the process.  Again, in posts on the Epiphany thread, I proposed a rough outline of the game, as well as introducing some basic improv. vocabulary that will help shape my process.

I've also decided that facilitation of discussion would best be served if I follow the Forge pattern and split the reflections up into different threads.  I'll contain my improv. reflections to one thread, while I'll split my designs into different threads.  Please forgive some repetition with earlier thoughts.


Sudden Light, The Power 19

1.) What is your game about?**
This game is about struggling to break through lies and illusions to achieve meaningful truth beyond the lies and machinations of mundane reality.  Sudden Light is a game of little stories and characters and their encounter with Big Truths.

2.) What do the characters do?**
There is one character in this game, the protagonist played by a singular player.  This character lives their everyday life, amid the promises and snares of the sublime and the mundane forces of the universe.  The protagonist will, through a My Life With Master endgame type mechanic, ultimately receive an epiphany and will pierce the veil that covers their everyday experience.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**
Standing against and competing with one other stand the forces of the sublime and the mundane, played by 2 opposing GM's.  The GM representing the forces of the sublime will attempt to wake the protagonist out of their apathy, while the GM representing the power of the mundane will attempt to draw the protagonist into deeper webs of deception and bondage. This RPG is to be played with 3 players and attempts an inverted relationship in contrast to traditional RPGs.  There is only one character, while the other players compete with one another to seduce the protagonist to their vision of reality

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

This game has no mandated or prescribed setting.  The goal of the game to led one character, regardless of setting/background constraints, toward awakening to truths of the world around them.  Larger questions of setting, however, are extremely important for this game.  Before the game begins, working together, all players involved determine the Truth and the Lie of the setting.  The Truth is what is hidden by mundane reality, while the Lie is the status quo of the world, blinding the protagonist to deeper truths.  These truths could be secular, mystical, or religious in nature.  A fine pop culture example of a Truth and a Lie would be that "reality, as the Matrix, is a computer generated dream world" vs. "reality is the observed world in 1999."  To continue this example, elements of the Truth that the Sublime GM might control would be Trinity, Zion, the Oracle, etc., while the oppressive Mundane forces might include the Agents, the Machines, the Architect, etc.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
The protagonist will have one trait: Will.  All other Aspects of the protagonist's life, such as abilities, addictions, friends, possessions, memories, are controlled by the Sublime and the Mundane GM's, and rated on a numerical basis as to their importance in the protagonist's life, effectively taking a traditional RPG character sheet and dividing it between three players.  A beautiful and devoted lover might draw the protagonist toward the Sublime (and will be controlled by the Sublime GM), while the protagonist's addiction to pain-killers might drag the protagonist toward the mundane.   The competing GM's will use these elements of the protagonist's life to push him or her to the point of realizing the Truth, or closing themselves off to the transcendent.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
Thinking this one over....

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
Again, I'm considering this one as the actual mechanics of the system haven't completely jelled.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The competing GM's will alternate framing scenes and role-playing all aspects of the scene concerned with either the Mundane or the Sublime, while the protagonist player take on the traditional RPG notion of character.  Resolution of conflicts will be determined by blind bidding between the Sublime and Mundane players.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?).
Every bit of the system will be centered around telling the story of a singular character.  Competing GM's will attempt to bring the protagonist to their "side," while the protagonist player will have a great deal of spotlight attention.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Resolution will be centered around a bidding mechanic, with each side in the struggle wagering power tokens, derived from their respective Aspects.  I see this system as diceless.  Both GM's will secretly bid tokens by placing them in a shared container and the protagonist will draw the results.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
Each person must take what fate has dealt them, although they can choose amongst possibilities and possibilities for obtaining truth, perspective and transcendence often clash with the everyday concerns, status quo assumptions, and pragmatic ways of living in the world.  These themes will be reinforced by competitive bidding whose economy is based solely on the Aspects, divided amongst the GM's, of the protagonist character.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
This game will be designed for play in one long session, or several short sessions and much like My Life With Master, will have endgame mechanics for the protagonist  to reach Epiphany.  As such, advancement mechanics will not be included.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
N/A

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
Reflection on the forces that shape their everyday lives and life-altering realizations that can dramatically change the course of our time here on earth.  While dealing with Big Truths, this game will focus on the life of one individual and their struggle to free (or fail to free) themselves from the mundane reality.  The protagonist will be seen as a character with little power to shape his or her life beyond the ability of free will to make life-altering choices based on their given realities.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
The competitive mechanics between GM's will receive the most attention as they will drive the story forward.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
I'm most excited about the player-GM inversion as well as the competitive aspect of the oppositional GM's as sort of "devil and angel on the shoulder." 

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games canít, donít, or wonít?
Sudden Light centers on the life of a singular character's struggle to come to grips with deep philosophic questions.  It also attempts to, based on the themes of the struggle between the mundane and sublime forces in our lives, to invert the traditional GM-player dichotomy.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
To start, as a free PDF distributed via the internet.  The ultimate goal would be to release the game as a 30-40 page staple bound book with minimal art, such as "Breaking the Ice."

19.) Who is your target audience?
I hope to reach the ultra-niche RPG players interested in blending a strong dose of dramatic philosophy into their games.

-------

Questions for consideration:  As of now, my initial thoughts for the premise of Sudden Light have a strong philosophic leaning, with the protagonist always orientated towards being transformed by an epiphanous revelation of "Big Truth."  Might I want to scale down the parameters for Truth, such as the Truth for an alcoholic being "drinking is killing me and destroying my life" vs. the Lie of "my drinking is under control and I can stop anytime I want?"  Could these very personal insights be considered "epiphanies" by traditional standards?
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oreso
Member

Posts: 67


« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2006, 12:43:31 PM »

its a wierd premise, and not one i would associate with philosophy. Getting the players to agree on the Truth or the Lie would be a game unto itself. So this is all digressy from your premise, so feel free to ignore.

Rather than overcoming lies to reach the truth (where play is merely success or failure) have the characters balancing contrary positions to find their own path (any result is 'success'). Player A uncovers the true nature of things and throws off the shackles of mundane life that bind Player B. Player B abandons the existential angst and lives in the real world, while watching Player A sink into incoherence and madness.

So, let characters form their own path between the sublime and mundane and dont mechanically or flavourfully favour either.

Have a look at Walk the Line for an easy mechanic for this.

Meta: Sublime... /... Mundane
Matrix Example: "The matrix isn't real... /... but it's as real as me"
Lover Example: "They make the world wonderful... /... but I can't live in their world"
Addiction Example: "I have a problem... /... but my next fix will help"

more equivocal examples:
"Fate controls my actions... /... but they are still my actions"
"God loves me... /... but I can't love Him"
"We should treat each other with respect... /... but I'll look after myself"


 
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Roger
Member

Posts: 168


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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2006, 01:42:41 PM »

The GM representing the forces of the sublime will attempt to wake the protagonist out of their apathy, while the GM representing the power of the mundane will attempt to draw the protagonist into deeper webs of deception and bondage.

The protagonist will, through a My Life With Master endgame type mechanic, ultimately receive an epiphany and will pierce the veil that covers their everyday experience.

Hmmm.  It's tricky to write a good, enjoyable game with two players competing against each other when they both know who is going to win.  Not impossible, but tricky.  I'd keep an eye on it in playtest.


Cheers,
Roger
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Paul S
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2006, 02:02:49 PM »

Hmm, I'm surprised that you wouldn't associate these ideas with some sort of philosophy.  I'm thinking most specifically of Plato's allegory of the cave in The Republic as a primary source of inspiration.  I want Sudden Light follow one person's journey to be inspired by transcendent truths to either rise above the banality of the world around him or her or to sink more deeply into the morass of daily life.

Your comments about the difficulties of getting everyone involved to agree the Truth and the Lie are very well taken.  I've been considering several options for handling this part of play.  The first option is to follow a My Life With Master set-up, giving lists of thematic "types" of Truths and Lies and allowing the players to assemble the Truth and Lie through this toolkit option.  The second option, following Universalis, would be to include a bidding token economy, in which the greater influence you have on these starting conditions would mean less influence on development of the story during play.  If I go the route that the game should encourage little truths ("can John realize that alcohol is destroying him?", "will Alice realize that her family's racism is evil?"), this might be easier to construct Truths and Lies, than big truths ("can Neo see that he is the One?," "will Sara see that God is real and wants her to stop her sinful ways?", etc.) if only because it might give more folks better dramatic "handles" to push the narrative forward.

Thanks for linking to Walk the Line.  I caught that awhile on RPG.net and was impressed by its design.  As cool as that design is, there are a few reasons why that sort of design might not fit my purposes.  Primarily, the Protagonist is not making her own path.  To the contrary, the Protagonist is pulled between oppositional forces (represented by the GMs).  Yes, the Protagonist will be able to choose amongst options, but this choice, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, will align with the Sublime or Mundane forces, tilting the results of the Endgame one way or another.  (Note: even though I changed the name, I think I'll name this Endgame mechanic Epiphany).

Iím also sort of wedded to the idea of competing GMs with one player protagonist caught between them, each taking one side or the other.  On this count, I'm sort of OK with the competition GMs in which success and failures take place.  Obviously, we can't very well have "GM fiat" if two GMs with relatively equal power are struggling against each other for influence over the protagonist.   I'm still working on how this competition might improve narrative storytelling.  Heck, I could be very well wrong and this competition could completely undercut effective collaborative storytelling.  (A guiding assumption of my improv. class is the improvisation is not competition).  I have a felt sense through my years of game play that competition could be harnessed towards the benefit of the narrative, but it could be that my feeling of friendly collaborative competition (is that an oxymoron?) can't be evoked through system alone and might be more of a broader social contract issue.

Rodger, I'm thinking that I'll need to have a mechanic where Truth does break through to the character no matter what (the Epiphany mechanic).  Would this mean that that the Sublime GM would "win" every time?  No.  I'm thinking that, based on the numerical influence gained through play, would determine what the Protagonist does with that truth.  For instance, if the Mundane GM had more influence when epiphany is achieved, the Protagonist could rebel against the Truth, could ignore the Truth, could radically misinterpret the truth, lose his or her mind, etc.  Even though Truth would break through (who would want to tell a story about a character who was completely unchanged through the course of the narrative?), the Mundane GM could indeed win during at every session.

Thanks for your comments.  In writing my responses, I think you've helped me clarify and explicate of few things that have been bouncing around in my mind.
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Anders Larsen
Member

Posts: 270


« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2006, 02:26:48 PM »

This is an interesting concept. The only thing that concern me a little, is that the player does not seem to have much fun. Both because he is the only one that play a protagonist, so he have no one to play up against, and because he seems rather powerless; he will just choose which GM to follow. It may be a good idea if the player have some way of gaining some control and create scenes for the GM controlled characters, so the GMs have to respond to him.

Quote
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
This game will be designed for play in one long session, or several short sessions and much like My Life With Master, will have endgame mechanics for the protagonist  to reach Epiphany.  As such, advancement mechanics will not be included.

The protagonist may not advance, but he does evolve in some way, right? You should properly try to replace 'advance' with 'change' in question 12 and 13, and try to answer them again.

 - Anders
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Paul S
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2006, 02:51:06 PM »

This is an interesting concept. The only thing that concern me a little, is that the player does not seem to have much fun. Both because he is the only one that play a protagonist, so he have no one to play up against, and because he seems rather powerless; he will just choose which GM to follow. It may be a good idea if the player have some way of gaining some control and create scenes for the GM controlled characters, so the GMs have to respond to him.

Hmm, good point here.  In terms of "spotlight time" the player of the Protagonist will have the lion's share because every event, character, etc., is centered around their struggles.  And although the Protagonist is the only PC, he or she will play off of NPC's, situations, and environments, which will be played by one of the GMs just like with any other RPG.  However, the relation of that person, place, thing, memory, addiction, etc. (what I'm tentatively calling "Aspects"), in relation to the Protagonist will determine which GM plays or narrates that role or function.  For example, a Protagonist's devoted and supportive lover Susan would be played by the Sublime GM, while the Protagonist's drug-dealing best friend Eddie would be played by the Mundane GM.  I'd also like to include mechanics so that conflicting Aspects in a scene could diminish one another in a narrative as well as in a mechanical sense (the Susan, played by Sublime GM, convinces the Protagonist to come home with her instead of hanging out on the street corner with Eddie; "Susan" goes from a rating of 3 to 4 on the Sublime GM's sheet, while "Eddie" slips from a 3 to a 2 on the Mundane GM's sheet).

I am also including Will mechanics, so that the player of the Protagonist can influence the story and stack the odds for or against the Sublime or Mundane GM.  However, it is true that stakes will be set by the GM's, although I'd like a mechanical way for the Protagonist player to influence these.
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