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Author Topic: New game: Nine Worlds  (Read 11394 times)
Matt Snyder
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« on: October 24, 2002, 09:20:01 AM »

I'm working on a new game called Nine Worlds.

Please feel free to check out my initial, somewhat scatterbrained thoughts in this thread in the Indie Game Design forum: New Game: Nine Worlds ... initial thoughts
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2002, 08:10:41 AM »

I just made another post regarding Nine World's mechanics.

Check it out on the Indie Game Design Forum: Nine Worlds: Initial mechanics explanation
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2002, 06:03:18 AM »

How's this coming along? I'm interested in this one!
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2002, 07:37:49 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
How's this coming along? I'm interested in this one!


Actually, it's coming along very well. I've received some preliminary art sketches (the book will have 12 interior pieces and a full-color cover piece), and I continue to hack away at the design. I'm shooting for a format similar to Dust Devils (available either as PDF or "garage-band" print edition) with 36-48 pages, or more.

I hope to have a free playtest version prepared in Jan. or Feb., which I'll announce here on this forum when ready.

I don't have many new details to divulge just yet (well, I do, but I'm holding onto a few until the playtest is ready). I likely will, however, post some game design issues here or in Indie Game Design sooner or later.

Please stay tuned, and thanks for your interest.
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2002, 07:29:21 PM »

I would enjoy being considered to playtest this one. I am looking forward to a game which may eventually overthrow my Mage addiction altogether. This looks fun consistent, and not anything like dealing with explaining how this is coincidental vs. vulgar or any of that crap.

How do the Demiurgists keep all of this a secret from the populace, by the way? Is it just all done on another but concurrent plane of reality? Do humans sometimes stumble on to the truth?

How did monotheism come to exist, let alone flourish, if there always was a pantheon of Eternals? Was that part of an agenda?

What do the characters *do* in this game? Why are they empowered? Is it only to fight the titans? Do Eternals sometimes use them against other Eternals in power struggles?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2002, 08:37:16 AM »

Here are some questions about Nine Worlds posed by Spooky Fanboy both above and in a private email. The answers got a little carried away, but this was good thing! Thanks for your thought-provoking questions, SF!

(EDIT: One last bit of warning -- this is pretty stream of consciousness stuff, and the first time some of the ideas are seeing "daylight" beyond my cluttered brain. There are bound to be inconsistencies and/or questions, and I encourage everyone who dares read this long-winded answer to call me on 'em!)

1) So, how did monotheism develop? Was it a deliberate smokescreen, an
accident, something else?

I've been giving this of yours some serious thought. Here's why ...

My initial reaction was to simply say, nicely, "It doesn't matter. The game's too 'small' to worry about answering every issue and paradox it might present."

However, while I think it's true I can't answer many philosophical questions the game might present, this question deserves some thought because it's tied to the larger issue you inquire about in quesiton three.

That is, how does the rest of the world operate while all of this "true" reality is going on? Or, as you put it, "How do the people of Earth remain clueless about all of this?"

Before I offer a (poor) answer, I must make this one observation. Nine Wolrds, unlike Mage for example, is not about deceiving humanity and operating under the guise of a arcanum or masquerade. The key conflicts for characters will not be "saving" humanity from its clueless life, nor about bending the collective unconscious of humanity toward the "truth." Instead, the game is about WHETHER an Artisan should alter existence to better his plight. That is, when conflict rears its ugly head, should an Artisan change the rules so that he comes out on top? That's what I'm far more interested in for this game.

Now to my (poor) answer. Here's the deal: In some fuzzy ancient time, the Eternals ruled reality -- the legends we know as Greek myth are largely true. However, over time, their power began to wane. This is because of the titan Prometheus, who inspired humanity with the fiery spark of creation. Over time, his inspired souls began changing the rules -- casting the universe in their image. The mortal Artisans Daedalus, and Homer and Plato, and many subsequent shapers, clouded the rule of the Olympians.

In time, they became extremely hubristic, shaping a kind of myth of their own. They recast the "true" gods into an image of their own. One god, one ultimate shaper who guided their creative hands. To the rest of humanity -- those "untalented" mortals, the truth about the world became lost (and who could blame them). They took willingly to the universe these sometimes misguided Demiurgists presented.

The result is that humanity stumbled through its recorded history believing what disparate Artisans told them (After all, if an Artisan says it's so, it likely is -- they can change things to make it so!).

Then something happened. Many Artisans -- like Da Vinci and Franklin and Edison-- saw themselves as Prometheus -- giving to the rest of humanity the means to "shape" reality with a powerful tool: Science. With the predictability of science, humanity could control its world. And so, especially at the onset of the industrial revolution, the Artisans had a problem.

This universe they knew to be true -- the one they could traverse via the Ether -- changed. It became "stuck" in time, unable to keep pace with the rest of humanity's creations and discoveries. Humanity's love of science and a predictable world sapped the power of the Eternals, and the Ether -- the medium of the gods -- became a chaotic, reckless place. Artisans, especially those new to this world, found that the technologies they brought with them failed. Etherships, which worked with a kind of technology of their own, would not operate with the new engines created by a humanity embracing the industrial revolution.

So, humanity's progress continued, and its skepticism increased. Therefore, the Eternals' grasp on their domains diminished bit by bit. Stuck in between the two were the Demiurgists (who are anything but a unified force or philosophy).

Then all hell broke loose -- literally. In the depths of Tartarus Cronus and his fellow titans sensed the leeching of power from the Eternals who had imprisoned them. They rebelled, tossing their Hecatonchires guardians into the pit, and escaping into the worlds. Their aim was Saturn, Cronus' former domain. And Earth. Their ambition was to rule again, as the had before the Eternals, in a paradox of primordial chaos and barren creativity.

So where does that leave humanity today? Completely unaware that their empowered, often greedy, selves are fueling a cosmic war. In general, humanity believes that it is its own god, its own creative master, and its own worst enemy. The "supernatual" effect keeping the rest of humanity aware of what's really going is its own hubris. It has turned a blind eye.

2) How do people get picked to become a Demiurgist? Can a Demiurgist ever
get kicked out?

Becoming an Artisan is something of a mysterious process. In large part, people are Artisans because they are. Not very satisfactory, huh? They are exceptionally creative souls, and Prometheus himself roams the Earth "waking" them from their slumber.

No, a demiurgist cannot ever get kicked out or lose powers or whatever. There's nothing to get kicked out of. They are an idea, and cannot become separated from that idea.

However, here's a counter question -- can an Artisan shape himself BACK into a clueless mundane individual? Can he use his powers to wish away his powers?

The game will leave that kind of question to the players. That is, I'm not interested in offering up an immutable cosmology in which players cannot do things. I'd much rather leave a question like this up to the players, because they could quite conceivably reach a point in their game sessions where answering this paradoxical question might make the game that much more interesting and entertaining.

Spooky Fanboy also asked:

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

What do the characters *do* in this game? Why are they empowered? Is it only to fight the titans? Do Eternals sometimes use them against other Eternals in power struggles?


What they do is struggle to find their role in the cosmic clash. That means that, yes, absolutely, the Eternals pit anyone and everyone against each other in their squabbles and fueds. This is often where the players find themselves -- stuck between the contradictory whims of the gods, and pitted against the terrible ambitions of the Titans.

The Demiurgists are empowered precisely because "existence" or Fate compels them to be the balancing force in the universe. In total, they are more powerful than either titan or Eternal, but they are all mortals individually. Isn't reality a sick, sick joke? ;)
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Matt Snyder
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"The future ain't what it used to be."
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J. Backman
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2002, 12:54:35 AM »

Thanks Matt! It was great to read some more about 9 Worlds -- seems it's beginning to take shape nicely.
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Pasi Juhani Backman
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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2002, 06:48:09 AM »

Quote
The key conflicts for characters will not be "saving" humanity from its clueless life, nor about bending the collective unconscious of humanity toward the "truth." Instead, the game is about WHETHER an Artisan should alter existence to better his plight. That is, when conflict rears its ugly head, should an Artisan change the rules so that he comes out on top? That's what I'm far more interested in for this game.


Surely you know how most players are going to answer that question, don't you?

Quote
So where does that leave humanity today? Completely unaware that their empowered, often greedy, selves are fueling a cosmic war. In general, humanity believes that it is its own god, its own creative master, and its own worst enemy. The "supernatual" effect keeping the rest of humanity aware of what's really going is its own hubris. It has turned a blind eye.


Ah! which makes for a big question: Should an Artisan reveal the Truth to humanity? If you do, they become aware of the consequences of their actions...but they become vulnerable again to the manipulations of Eternals and the direct threat of the Titans. After all, if everyone believes the monster under the bed is real, how many children are going to... disappear? That could be why most Demiurgists haven't spoken up.

Curious: how do Artisan/Eternal/Titan conflicts appear to humans? Do they automatically "dumb it down" to something that fits the rational framework they've built?

And one wonders at the role Prometheus plays in all of this. Is he a genuine altruist? Is he jockeying for postion of being the One and Only Eternal? Is he in the role of Hubris, playing a cross between Mephistopholes and Nyarlathotep by giving humanity access to all these shiny toys...thus giving them enough rope to hang themselves and pave they way back for his brother and sister Titans?

Also, in regard to Artisans contributing to monotheism: Can their powers cut backwards through time, so that it always seems that things were just as they are now?

Quote
Becoming an Artisan is something of a mysterious process. In large part, people are Artisans because they are. Not very satisfactory, huh? They are exceptionally creative souls, and Prometheus himself roams the Earth "waking" them from their slumber...The Demiurgists are empowered precisely because "existence" or Fate compels them to be the balancing force in the universe. In total, they are more powerful than either titan or Eternal, but they are all mortals individually. Isn't reality a sick, sick joke? ;)


Could an Artisan prolong his/her life indefinitely? Can their power cut backward and forward across time? You mentioned Hubris before; is that the balancer in this game? How does it work?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2002, 01:06:55 PM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Quote
... the game is about WHETHER an Artisan should alter existence to better his plight. That is, when conflict rears its ugly head, should an Artisan change the rules so that he comes out on top? That's what I'm far more interested in for this game.


Surely you know how most players are going to answer that question, don't you?



Ahh, but it isn't so easy. All supernatural actions threaten Hubris. This is a Bad Thing, and it's the game's way of demonstrating that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Is there a better way than just destroying or altering the natural order?


Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Ah! which makes for a big question: Should an Artisan reveal the Truth to humanity? If you do, they become aware of the consequences of their actions...but they become vulnerable again to the manipulations of Eternals and the direct threat of the Titans. After all, if everyone believes the monster under the bed is real, how many children are going to... disappear? That could be why most Demiurgists haven't spoken up.


Ok, but how does one convince humanity of the Truth? Changing creation is one way, true, but it's an extremely hubristic way. Extremely. Doing it "naturally" takes a whole lot of time and effort. And, just as you've suggested, doing  so may not be the best of ideas.


Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Curious: how do Artisan/Eternal/Titan conflicts appear to humans? Do they automatically "dumb it down" to something that fits the rational framework they've built?


Pretty much. There isn't (yet) need for a mechanic for this, though. On Earth (the only world where this issue matters), titans and their kin (things like the Hydra) are careful about where and how they tread. Afterall, they need to control humankind, ultimately, to achieve their ends. Freaking humanity out in the mean time isn't always the best of ideas. This happens, of course, in small incidents. None of which convinces humanity of anything but "news of the weird."

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

And one wonders at the role Prometheus plays in all of this. Is he a genuine altruist? Is he jockeying for postion of being the One and Only Eternal? Is he in the role of Hubris, playing a cross between Mephistopholes and Nyarlathotep by giving humanity access to all these shiny toys...thus giving them enough rope to hang themselves and pave they way back for his brother and sister Titans?


Oh, wouldn't you like to know?!? Actually, these questions inspire me to leave that open to the players. If indeed Prometheus is a megalomaniac with devious plans, great. Go for it, players (and GM). If he's a trickster, great. If he's the wise old man (a la Obi Wan and Morpheus) great. All these make for interesting takes on the game.

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Also, in regard to Artisans contributing to monotheism: Can their powers cut backwards through time, so that it always seems that things were just as they are now?


Yes, however, again, EXTREMELY hubristic. In other words, don't bet on it. Time is a river with which no beings really want to mess with. One of the reasons Cronus is such a bad boy.

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Could an Artisan prolong his/her life indefinitely? Can their power cut backward and forward across time? You mentioned Hubris before; is that the balancer in this game? How does it work?


Back to nasty hubris again. Here's the deal. When you perform significant deeds (in other words, generally resolvin conflicts in means that defy the natural order of the world), you earn hubris. Hubris is actually a good thing in that the more you have, the more magically powerful you are (it determines how many cards you draw for magical resolutions).

However, once your Hubris rank exceeds your Arete rank, you've got problems. You're tempting fate, and one slip and you're wiped from existence by invoking the wrath of the Furies. In other words, when your Hubris out ranks your Arete, you can perish. Not go to the underworld. You become chaos. Oblivion.
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Matt Snyder
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2002, 01:08:15 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder
Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Quote
... the game is about WHETHER an Artisan should alter existence to better his plight. That is, when conflict rears its ugly head, should an Artisan change the rules so that he comes out on top? That's what I'm far more interested in for this game.


Surely you know how most players are going to answer that question, don't you?



Ahh, but it isn't so easy. All supernatural actions threaten Hubris. This is a Bad Thing, and it's the game's way of demonstrating that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Is there a better way than just destroying or altering the natural order? That's what players have got to consider. Doing amazing, magical things jeopardizes one's character's existence, yet likely increases his power simultaneously. Call it playing with fire -- true if we're thinking of the Prometheus fire-bringer metaphor!


Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
Ah! which makes for a big question: Should an Artisan reveal the Truth to humanity? If you do, they become aware of the consequences of their actions...but they become vulnerable again to the manipulations of Eternals and the direct threat of the Titans. After all, if everyone believes the monster under the bed is real, how many children are going to... disappear? That could be why most Demiurgists haven't spoken up.


Ok, but how does one convince humanity of the Truth? Changing creation is one way, true, but it's an extremely hubristic way. Extremely. Doing it "naturally" takes a whole lot of time and effort. And, just as you've suggested, doing  so may not be the best of ideas.


Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Curious: how do Artisan/Eternal/Titan conflicts appear to humans? Do they automatically "dumb it down" to something that fits the rational framework they've built?


Pretty much. There isn't (yet) need for a mechanic for this, though. On Earth (the only world where this issue matters), titans and their kin (things like the Hydra) are careful about where and how they tread. Afterall, they need to control humankind, ultimately, to achieve their ends. Freaking humanity out in the mean time isn't always the best of ideas. This happens, of course, in small incidents. None of which convinces humanity of anything but "news of the weird."

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

And one wonders at the role Prometheus plays in all of this. Is he a genuine altruist? Is he jockeying for postion of being the One and Only Eternal? Is he in the role of Hubris, playing a cross between Mephistopholes and Nyarlathotep by giving humanity access to all these shiny toys...thus giving them enough rope to hang themselves and pave they way back for his brother and sister Titans?


Oh, wouldn't you like to know?!? Actually, these questions inspire me to leave that open to the players. If indeed Prometheus is a megalomaniac with devious plans, great. Go for it, players (and GM). If he's a trickster, great. If he's the wise old man (a la Obi Wan and Morpheus) great. All these make for interesting takes on the game.

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Also, in regard to Artisans contributing to monotheism: Can their powers cut backwards through time, so that it always seems that things were just as they are now?


Yes, however, again, EXTREMELY hubristic. In other words, don't bet on it. Time is a river with which no beings really want to mess with. One of the reasons Cronus is such a bad boy.

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Could an Artisan prolong his/her life indefinitely? Can their power cut backward and forward across time? You mentioned Hubris before; is that the balancer in this game? How does it work?


Back to nasty hubris again. Here's the deal. When you perform significant deeds (in other words, generally resolvin conflicts in means that defy the natural order of the world), you earn hubris. Hubris is actually a good thing in that the more you have, the more magically powerful you are (it determines how many cards you draw for magical resolutions).

However, once your Hubris rank exceeds your Arete rank, you've got problems. You're tempting fate, and one slip and you're wiped from existence by invoking the wrath of the Furies. In other words, when your Hubris out ranks your Arete, you can perish. Not go to the underworld. You become chaos. Oblivion.
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2002, 07:05:25 AM »

Quote
When you perform significant deeds (in other words, generally resolvin conflicts in means that defy the natural order of the world), you earn hubris. Hubris is actually a good thing in that the more you have, the more magically powerful you are (it determines how many cards you draw for magical resolutions).

However, once your Hubris rank exceeds your Arete rank, you've got problems. You're tempting fate, and one slip and you're wiped from existence by invoking the wrath of the Furies. In other words, when your Hubris out ranks your Arete, you can perish. Not go to the underworld. You become chaos. Oblivion.


And game mechanically speaking, how does one provoke the misstep that will send oneself to Oblivion? Is there a botch or bust mechanic? Assuming yes, how does that work?

Now in a game-setting sense, how do Demiurgists know that they are/ have become Demiurgists? Is it a life-changing event, or do they always know? Is there a special quest they have to undertake? Is there a Council of Artisans to guide them, or is it hit-or-miss DIY training? Do they run into Prometheus or The Eternals often? And just what is the common consensus on the origin of The Eternals? Pretty much how it was in Greek myth?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2002, 09:48:30 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

And game mechanically speaking, how does one provoke the misstep that will send oneself to Oblivion? Is there a botch or bust mechanic? Assuming yes, how does that work?


If I'm reading you rightly, there are no botch or bust mechanics. I take it you mean fumbles and or "criticals"? If so, the game has neither.

What happens that puts you into oblivion is simply that you cannot manage "damage" from conflicts. This may indeed be actual physical harm. It might also be some other means by which an opponent affects you. Typically, an Artisan can sacrifice something (Arete, usually) to "stay alive". However, once you've reached the point where your Hubris outranks your Arete, you've got precious little to stay alive with. I'm still hammering this bit, but basically it's when you run out of the game's currency. This is earned in "Tricks" then kept more permanently in your Arete and Hubris characteristics.

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Now in a game-setting sense, how do Demiurgists know that they are/ have become Demiurgists? Is it a life-changing event, or do they always know? Is there a special quest they have to undertake? Is there a Council of Artisans to guide them, or is it hit-or-miss DIY training? Do they run into Prometheus or The Eternals often? And just what is the common consensus on the origin of The Eternals? Pretty much how it was in Greek myth?


Again, I'm reverting back to my "it's up to you" answer. I will offer some suggestions for what might work well, but it's probably best left to the player group to decide whether they're portraying life-long self-aware prodigies or recently awakened souls who found out they can change their lives the hard way.

There is no Council of Artisans (well, no official one -- Artisans might group themselves, but no one really has any true authority over the others unless it is by supernatural force and bullying). Mostly, the Artisans are on their own -- individuals who often clump together, yet each with their own personal agenda. There is no governing body.

Yes, these folks do intermingle with immortals. They become aware of their presence on earth, and very often curiosity, lust for power or many other motivations impel them to search througout the Nine Worlds. Therefore, they inevitably run into Eternals, spirits, demi-gods, even Atlantis and its denizens, long lost in the Ether.

The common consensus regarding the Eternals is ... up for grabs. Current scuttle butt among the Artisans is that the Eternals and the Titans are something greater even than Greek myth, but that their "Greek-ness" is the means by which they communicated with mortals. A mask they wore, so to speak. A mask they still wear, so the argument goes.

Why did they do so? Because the Earth is the locus of power in the Universe. It's literally an Earth-centric system, so it matters. It IS the center of creation, and therefore holds a important metaphysical gravity. Problem is, humanity rules earth by virtue of its own hubris and ignorance. Assailing earth and conquering humanity isn't the issue. The issue is harnessing the power of humanity, its emotions, its thought, its creativity. Mortals possess a passion, a capacity for tragedy and comedy that the immortals desire -- they need that power to keep the universe dynamic. But, they would like to do it by their own means. (That is, the Titans have a few things in mind if they were in charge, the Eternals have several other ideas).

Now the real question is who put mortals there in the first place and why. Lots of fingers point toward Prometheus as the "who." The "why" isn't clear. Prometheus, as I've said, is a key figure in the game, and pretty much the only immortal champion humanity has. The gods are too fickle to stick up for mortals always. Often, they don't care at all for humans! Prometheus, on the other hand, has some other motivation. Or perhaps no motivation at all. Is he a trickster? Is he God? Is he just an all-around nice Titan? That's something worth exploring in playing the game, I'd argue.
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2002, 09:05:31 PM »

Quote
If I'm reading you rightly, there are no botch or bust mechanics. I take it you mean fumbles and or "criticals"? If so, the game has neither.


Cool! So it's one of those games where either the player(s) or the GM can moderate what happens on a failure?

Quote
What happens that puts you into oblivion is simply that you cannot manage "damage" from conflicts. This may indeed be actual physical harm. It might also be some other means by which an opponent affects you. Typically, an Artisan can sacrifice something (Arete, usually) to "stay alive". However, once you've reached the point where your Hubris outranks your Arete, you've got precious little to stay alive with. I'm still hammering this bit, but basically it's when you run out of the game's currency. This is earned in "Tricks" then kept more permanently in your Arete and Hubris characteristics.


Hmm. I'm gathering from this an all-purpose "Stress" mechanic which lumps frustration in with head colds in with smoke in with wounds, which could be "bought off" by sacrificing bits of your character. What purpose does Arete serve, mechanics-wise? Is it how good you are at your domains, how much experience you get per session, or none of the above? Also, is this similar to the mechanics for Dust Devils?

Sorry to get all rules-mechanicky on you, but I'm thinking about designing a game of my own, and I'm trying to get a good look under the hood. Please don't interpret this as I'm saying that I'm uninterested in the setting! I am very interested, and have almost a dozen ideas I could play with this game.
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2003, 07:38:07 AM »

So, any updates or new information on Nine Worlds you have to share with us?
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2003, 12:46:19 PM »

Quote
Hmm. I'm gathering from this an all-purpose "Stress" mechanic which lumps frustration in with head colds in with smoke in with wounds, which could be "bought off" by sacrificing bits of your character. What purpose does Arete serve, mechanics-wise? Is it how good you are at your domains, how much experience you get per session, or none of the above?


There should be an update here VERY soon. Some very interesting progress was made this last weekend concerning the very topics you are asking about. Mainly Arete and Hubris.
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