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Author Topic: The Supernormal  (Read 3582 times)
Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« on: May 16, 2003, 06:54:36 PM »

I very recently started work on a surreal espionage setting called Conspiracy Practice, but hit a artistic quandary when thinking about the more "exotic" elements.  I wanted to preserve the "all-to'real" feel of the system and the concept, but adding in ghosts or ancient civilizations would shift the game too far from the concept.  I decided to approach the issue from a different angle, to include analogues of existing genre concepts rather than the genre concepts themselves.  Here's my approach:

1:  Don't follow the myths.  While a lot of stories have real origins, those stories have been through centuries of social propriety and artistic embellishment.  And when the modern age came, marketing got hold of them.  By now, everything is jumbled enough that the connections can only be made too late.  Prime sources are reliable as to facts, but not as to interpretations of the facts.  I had to develop my mythos from scratch, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and it is mine.

2:  Explanation guidelines:  Rather than including a totally seperate idea for each concept, I've establish a number of categories and subcategories of how the supernormal elements are included.  They cover a wide range, and when I see an idea I prefer to put it into something already established.  This makes adding new things very easy.  Furthermore many categories are empty of game elements, or even now concepts rather than names.  This results in my mind ranging far wider than it would otherwise, and also makes it less likely for ideas to need cosmetic surgery instead of a massage.

3:Once I knew how to create, I needed to work on how to present.  I decided that from the start the elements would be low-powered.  Thus the term "supernormal" -- they're exotic, and supposed to be, but they aren't in charge of the game or setting.  These things are parts of the social scenery the same way homeless people and rich art collectors are to us -- players certainly know this stuff exists, but they don't need to think about it too much unless they run into it or somehow use it.  And in the former case they have a chance to win, and in the latter case they have a chance to lose.

4:  The last element was the feel of them.  A precise and academic text would make them cold and rigid, but I didn't want to gratuitous prose one finds in many other games.  I found the way in the middle.  Ordinary people feel awed or scared when we think very hard about our concepts of the supernormal.  And that's simply what's leaked over the centuries.  Those who have the real facts know enough to be *really* awed, and *really* scared.  Furthermore in absolute terms their knowledge is only slightly greater than the general public's, and they know it.  Such a feel isn't found in every "supernormal" element, but it's found in enough that the characters will take a threat or tool from the supernormal *seriously* rather than discarding it.

How does that sound?
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Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2003, 06:51:40 AM »

Here's one of the five current main categories of the supernormal phenomena in the CPU.  It's intended to be the analogue of modern conspiracy theories and anti-alien paranoia, keeping the literary themes inherent in these iodeas while avoiding the neuroses of those who hold them.  Again, I'd really like any comments or advice you may have.  The other four categories, to be detailed later this week, will be Pscience (the paranormal and occult), Applied Theology (mythology and magic), Epocalypse (fantasy-type monsters and powers) and finally Suppressions (facts of anthropoloy that are kept from the common people because if they became known they ask far too many questions for everyone else's own good).

Dimential Science

By the 1920s, Einstein and certain colleagues had moved past the theory of General Relativity to something even more magnificent and grand that would take the new methodologies emerging from quantum mechanics and integrate them into the theories.  The result would have been mindstaggering, opening aspects of reality that no one had ever imagined previously.  And by 1924, they had designed machines that generated interdimensional effects.

Then the aliens came.  They simply appeared, not only to the scientists involved in this work but to all of the most powerful people in the world -- the ones who *really* made the decisions.  Simply put, we were going to be in big trouble.  The new technology would be one of the creation and manipulation of boundaries -- removing the walls that make one second seperate from the one before and after, and the structures that say that two different places are actually separate, and the ones that kept the various parallel histories from bleeding together.  But the process could not be controlled with humanity's current understanding.  It couldn't be controlled with what the aliens understood either.  Over time effects would build up, and the result would be destruction of local reality.

The aliens didn't expect anyone to take them at their word.  They provided the complete theory of dimential science, and their conclusions were corroborated unanimously not only by all the math done by the greatest minds in physics then alive but by everyone who has been permitted to look at the presented concept in all the decades since.  They didn't expect anyone to believe this warnng was given out of altruism, because it wasn't.  It was because if such manipulations happened often enough across the multiverse, all would shatter and all would die.  And by the same danger the aliens couldn't police our understanding by themselves short of planetary genocide.  Humanity's leaders had a choice -- either protect the universe, or die.  How we controlled ourselves was our own affair, but violations could not be hidden by the nature of the physics.  The destruction mechanisms had been spread all over the galaxies tens of billions of years ago, and destroyed a few asteroids as proof their efficiacy.  And the mental contact with the aliens removed any comprehension of doubt that they would carry out their threat and that they took the danger we posed *very* seriously.

So the leaders met, and chose the way of secrecy.  Whenever any hint of this knowledge was derived independently, the discoverer was neutralized however convenient.  There were some natural flaws in the separations, these are contained and blocked off however possible and all knowledge again suppressed.  Any travellers who come from other realities, which  includes unscrupulous members of the same civilization that gave the warning, are slain before they can destroy.  There are embassies across the flaws, but these are kept utterly secret from the normal population.  Among the spies who fight for the world, even the most dire of enemies will join together to stop anybody whom comes anywhere near the truth either through sheer misunderstanding or dark malice.  Techniques are used which in the full game wouldn't even be considered, the rules don't apply to other universes.

So, I need opinions.  I need to know what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be broken.  I also want to know if I have an appropriate writing style for this, providing proper intensity while not belaboring any of the points.
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Emote Control
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2003, 11:50:51 AM »

You have my apologies for the lack of art in the previous post.  In literary terms the concept is excellent, but it was applied with all the grace and subtlety of machine gun fire.  I'll need to focus on it more, to produce a worthwhile version.
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Jeffrey Miller
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2003, 10:05:02 AM »

Quote from: Emote Control
HAgain, I'd really like any comments or advice you may have.

...

So, I need opinions.  I need to know what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be broken.  I also want to know if I have an appropriate writing style for this, providing proper intensity while not belaboring any of the points.


Well, I'd give this thread if you haven't already.  You're prsenting some interesting flavor text, but I'm not sure what you want comment on.  The premise of any given game, while interesting, isn't as interesting (to me) as the system or mechanics that attempt to support both the premise AND the goals.  

Have you thought about what the goals for this project of yours is?

Examplis Gratis:  For my latest game Blackbirds, I wrote down the following:

Code:
Game Goals:
- pirate game
- should stress archetypes, but be flxible enough to allow players to create their own ideas
- quick to play, more focused on telling stories lasting 3-5 game sessions
- telling stories
- players end to be moral people, and won't play an immoral character without a few slips into acting nicely. find a way to introduce moral dilemmas and to allow for non-shwashbuckly types of actions to be equally rewarded without getting preachy
- use card system
- model comunal property and infighting - get "pirate culture" into the interactions of the players themselves


So this doesn't tell me or anyone else much about what the game is about, but by setting down what the requirements, I can judge how closely my setting, rules, mechanics, and whatnot are hewing to what I think I want.  I occasionally go back and review the goals, and see if they're still the same as I originally came up with - are they still apropriate?  has something in playtest or in te writing inspired me to move in a new direction?  Will this rule or mechanics support, hinder, or detract from a game goal?

RE your writing, it seems perfectly servicable and accessible, but really it depends on your audience, and again - the game and it goals.  If your premise is to have a quick to pick up game, you have to write in smaller words, not because your audience is less smart, but because large words imply a certain complexity and depth-of-thought that might not work when attempting to learn or explain a game system in 15 minutes.

-j-
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Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2003, 12:13:54 PM »

I've been pondering how to replace the concepts for the last couple of days, and I think I've found the problem. I was focussing on showing enough respect for the players that I gave them real threats to fight, but the respect should go to the characters. The assumption of the post was
that *unless* there is threat to the entire world the characters not will have nothing to do but they won't bother to do anything themselves.  And to produce multiple credible threats of sufficient relative power levels -- Shadowforce Archer's doing it, L5RPG is doing it, but I can't do the same. I don't have the training, I don't have the time, and quite frankly I don't have the talent.

However, my ruminations also called back to me why Conspiracy Practice was conceived in the first place. It's in the espionage genre, and that's how to approach the issue. The characters in CP aren't paladins, they're *spies*. Their purpose is to gain information desired by their superiors, and take whatever actions their superiors decide the information warrants. And a similiar way of looking at things holds for the supernormal. In Conspiracy X, or Delta Green, or Black Ops, the point of the player's conspiracy is to deal with something that is different from humanity in kind rather than degree.  But in CP, the Revolution exists to deal with other human beings, and operately covertly is their reason to exist.

The point of this is that the Game was neither created by or because of the supernormal elements. Rather the various groups, over years or decades of gathering information on each other, have occasionally stumbled across things that had their origins outside of what is referred to as the "real world". The groups have investigated these when found of course, but only relativley small number are actually focussed around anything haveing to do with the supernormal. The Game is about the destiny of mankind, which presents the Revolution and most of its enemies with more than enough to occupy their time.  In most cases they are certain something supernormal exists, but beyond that details are scant. Details will be scant in the text as well, producing the feel that these things may have a comprehensible answer, the question itself is beyond the agent's grasp.  Not because he can't understand it, but because he could *never* imagine to ask it in the first place.

The idea is that the characters will sometimes have to deal with  supernormal things, but the real focus is on what's normal. By their standards.
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Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2003, 02:17:30 PM »

The goal of Conspiracy Practice is to create a modern setting, one worthy of the modern world.  It's not a setting of black and white, I respect my players too much for that.  But I'm also not putting in the concept of "shades of gray", because if I'm creating a world I don't want it to be a gray one.  I want a world of reds, and greens, and purples, and all the colors of the rainbow along with the ones that didn't make the cut.  There is good and evil -- but the good is not defined by the fact it battles evil.  It is defined by the fact that it creates more good.
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For it is beneath the cloud occulted moon,
That into our own souls we delve,
For while we need light to others,
Within the dark we see ourselves.


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Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2003, 02:43:25 PM »

Put another way, if the characters are going to be protecting the world shouldn't they also be working to make that world a thing worthy of protection?  The world of Conspiracy Practice is one that isn't more action packed or gloomy than our world, but it isn't less either.  The conspiracies exist, governments are not always their tools but are in the Game themselves.  And the goal is not to run the world, but to influence it for one's own desires.  And one group in this realm of the shadows that shadows cast is dedicated not to evil, or even to themselves, but to all that is good and rational and to the dignity that comes with being human.  They are the Revolution, they fight not just a world conspiracies but the very world itself, working to improve it for all and to improve the people as well.  And they expect to be on it forever.

That's what the author's notes will read, put at the end of it when published.  Putting them at the front would creep people out.  And furthermore, I mean to produce a universe and system that don't need the theme to exist, they can exist on their own and still be grand.
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For it is beneath the cloud occulted moon,
That into our own souls we delve,
For while we need light to others,
Within the dark we see ourselves.


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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2003, 05:43:49 PM »

I think you have a well enough defined overall concept in terms of themes. But what do you envision play looking like? Are characters supernormals on missions? How do they go about making the world a better place?

Mike
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Emote Control
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2003, 07:19:34 AM »

A good analogy for missions is James Bond -- not the movies, but the original novels written by Ian Fleming.  The Revolution sends its Agents not against foes like VIPER or Doctor Destroyer, but rather such foes as independent criminals and threats which the authorities of the area are unable (or unwilling) to deal with themselves.  They face vast conspiracies as well, as vast as the Revolution is but devoted to evil, and these are the true threats to the world.  The supernormal is intended to be "background" rather than the point of the game itself.
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For it is beneath the cloud occulted moon,
That into our own souls we delve,
For while we need light to others,
Within the dark we see ourselves.


Note: To limit spam, please contact me via Private Message rather than e-mail.
Emote Control
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Posts: 23


« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2003, 09:52:17 AM »

Before someone asks the question of "if the supernormal is so small why was it the first thing posted" I'll answer it.  My first conception was that the characters were "supernormals", but shortly afterwards I realized that was the wrong way to go.  However designing terrible foes of a purely organization and social nature is obviously harder than making up supernatural ones, and the same goes for supreme mastery of mundane skills, and those parts aren't ready to be put up yet.
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For it is beneath the cloud occulted moon,
That into our own souls we delve,
For while we need light to others,
Within the dark we see ourselves.


Note: To limit spam, please contact me via Private Message rather than e-mail.
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