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More on Muses

Started by Matt Snyder, September 30, 2003, 06:52:41 PM

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Matt Snyder

In between work, life and editing articles for Daedalus (just wait 'til you read Greg Stafford's awesome answers in the Q&A!), I've been tinkering with Nine Worlds. Mostly, I've let it simmer for a while, trying to figure out the changes suggested by Ralph and others in an earlier thread.

As I indicated there, I've come around to Ralph's suggestion that each Muse be an indicator of certain behaviors or situations. In effect, they become somewhat like a horoscope sign for your character, granting your character a bonus whenever conflict involves that "sign" in any way.

For example, the Mars Muse indicates that your character is destined to become involved in issues and conflicts involving violence and anger. Whenever violence, rage or anger is involved in a scene, your character's Muse is activated, and you gain bonus cards. Easy, right?

I really had to come around to this way of thinking, shedding what I hope is my last obstacle and pent-up simulationist tendencies (an aside: as a personal development issue, Nine Worlds has really helped me figure out my own tendencies and presumptions as a designer, but what a struggle!). I was thinking of Ralph's suggestions in such a way that they defined a character's behavior. That's not what he was suggesting. The Muses would only indicate the character's involvement in a situation.

Even so, I still had the problem of "leaving out" other cool behavior. For example, there might not be a Muse for a certain kind of behavior in the game. The kicking-and-screaming simulationist inside me said I couldn't create a reward system that left out perfectly viable behaviors for the game. Then, finally, I realized that I could never come up with 9 Muses that rewarded all behavior, and that so long as I thought the existing 9 types were compelling, the game was complete on its own. It didn't need to reward all human behavior and character choice, it just needed to reward relevant behaviors and choices.

But then I went one step more, and I was sold. I was thinking about Muses such that the Eternal who ruled a particular world defined the Muse. Therefore, raging Ares, Primarch of Mars, is the guy who says, "Yep, all Mars Muses are anger and violence, which I adore. Let's go kill stuff!" So, anyone with a Mars Muse has to deal with issues -- one way or the other -- according to Ares' decree. (The "one way or the other" clause is crucial, of course. You may side w/ Ares, you may not.)

But, if an Archon can manage to successfully challenge Ares, thereby becoming the Primarch of Mars himself, well then we have something really interesting going on. That character now decrees just what Mars Muses mean. So, let's say Bob the Archon player character defeats Ares in a challenge for primacy of Mars. He wins, and Bob's player decides that he wants the Mars Muse to be all about deceit, lies and illusions. Fine. Done deal. BAM! Everyone with a Mars Muse is no longer incentified in conflicts involving violence and anger. Now, they are incentified for conflicts involving deceit, illusions, etc.

"PCs can really change the setting and the game!" I thought. "Wow, that's what I wanted." (Thanks Ralph, Gordon and all the others who discussed this.)

Ok, that's all well and good, and I was excited to sit down and figure out what the "baseline" Muses were. Problem is, I'm having a hell of a time figuring out appropriate terms for a couple of the world Muses. As you can see below, I'm stuck on the Moon and Hades muses, mostly because I decided Artemis and Hades are too bland and mysterious as presented in myth to make things interesting. Further, I'm not 100% ceratain the others are effective and playable. What I need are some consistency in the how the Muses are presented, and the terms / words players write on their sheets so they know when Muses should be active in a conflict.

Here's what I've got:

World Primarch "Behaviors"

Earth Prometheus Curiosity, discovery
Moon Artemis ??? (Punishment? Innocence?)
Sun Apollo Reason, thought
Mercury Hermes Cleverness, Shrewdness
Venus Aphrodite Lust, love and romance
Mars Ares War, violence and anger
Jupiter Zeus Dominance and command
Saturn Kronos Hatred, destruction
Hades Hades ??? (greed?)

I'm eager to hear your ideas! What I'm thinking now is that I've got to flesh out a bit more of the setting details of the Moon and Hades, and therefore also the personalities of Hades and Artemis, thereby better defining their personalities and "behaviors."
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra

Mike Holmes

How about the drive for Immortality for Hades. Not neccessarily actual Immortality, but representative Immortality. Doing works of some sort. Just a thought.

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Matt Snyder

With some inspiration and good ideas from folks in record time, I've come up with a rough solution to my problem, and I present that solution in the newly updated character sheet PDF.

Character sheet (PDF File)

At the bottom, you'll see three keywords for each Muse. These words are meant as the "launch point" for characters to employ their Muses in conflict situations. I'd type more, but I'm trying to get this printed off for my group's second Nine Worlds, with plans of a long running campaign in store!
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra


Sweet.  And you know, you've set up a great thing with the Primarch-defines-the-Muse aspect, because now you have a built in way to incorporate the Titans directly into the muse Kronos...they merely have to set themselves up as a Primarch

And who says you can't reward every viable human behavior.  If a player really wants his behavior to be Malice and Vengeance, alls he has to do is find a Titan who has those traits and help install said Titan as a Primarch somewhere. there's a muse about Malice and Vengeance.

Maybe its time to replace that slut Aphrodite with the Wisdom and Strategy of Athena as Primarch of Venus.

The entire pantheon of heroes and demigods of Greek Myth can have such traits assigned to them...traits that would be elevated to the status of Muse should they ever ascend to the Primarchy.  Or screw them...I'm an Archon...I'll become Archon myself and invent my own muse.

Taken further the small comets and planetoids and such might have mini localized versions of Muses.  Small pockets that lack the power and prestige of one of the 9 worlds.


Not too bad. You seem to have covered a lot of the basic human and epic motivators here. A few comments and suggested additions.

Pluto & Hades - magic as well as greed. Given the Hadean pantheon (Hecate, Erebus, Nyx, etc., etc.), I think this is his bailiwick.

The Moon - Artemis is a huntress and athelete and a total bitch. Perhaps links to athleticism, the hunt as well as punishment/vengeance might work. Perhaps preservation as well, since I get the impression that Artemis would really get behind something like Ducks Unlimited.

Word of warning though - I suspect that once you start letting this move beyond your playtest group that you'll see a  lot of Mars muses.

And another thing - given the set up, I can see folks chosing complimentary muses (Mars, Mercury and maybe one other) for the same goal, either for the same PC or a group of PC's.

QuoteWorld      Primarch    "Additional Behaviors"

Earth      Prometheus Endurance, Perseverance - Given Prometheus history, it makes sense.

Moon         Artemis       Atheleticsm, Vengeance, hunting - see above.

Sun            Apollo        Healing, Scholarship, and Vengeance as well. Given the myths and his use of his arrows to cause plagues for slights, it seems to make sense.

Mercury      Hermes      Cunning, Guile, Treachery, Trade and Theft - given the role you've pitched for him (super merchant), as well as his mythic roles, they seem to fit.

Venus      Aphrodite      Beauty - I think it seems to fit, but I'm not sure how it fits as an action. Perhaps the use of beauty?

Mars         Ares         Can't think of any others.

Jupiter      Zeus         Leadership, Duty - given Zeus' other roles, they do fit in.

Saturn      Kronos      Fear/Terror - given their role in the game, it seems to make sense.

Hades      Hades        Magic, Death, Greed and Wealth - see above.

That's it for now. Take care.
Bowden "Trey" Palmer | trey DOT palmer AT Golf Mike Alpha India Lima DOT Charlie Oscar Mike
Exos integro, sugiliato curatio, y femellas amo cicatrix.


QuoteWord of warning though - I suspect that once you start letting this move beyond your playtest group that you'll see a lot of Mars muses.

Pehaps. One aspect I'd like to see emphasised about Ares though is his portrayal in the Illiad. More of an enraged brawler than a finesse fighter. Not the brightest, and generally a bully who becomes a bit of a baby when stood up to. Nor is he particularly loyal. This is the nature of war on Mars.

By contrast, I'd be tempted as an Archon to seek to seek to elevate Athena to Primarch of Mars. Now watch warfare on Mars change.

Matt Snyder

(EDIT: Sorry, Ralph, I hit EDIT instead of QUOTE there, and nearly wiped out your cool post -- that Athena notion is cool. Anyway, I think I recovered your post. Here's mine.)

We had a great playtest session last night, and it was very insightful to watch the new Muses in action.

Regarding the Mars Muse as common -- I think only one player chose a Mars muse, and it was used only once. Earth and Mercury, however, were used VERY often. There was lots of discovery and deception going on (even some sacrifice, which was a squishy one when I wrote it).

These keywords were tough to come up with. The reason I had such a hard time with Hades and Artemis is not because I find those mythic figures boring (I did, foolishly, call them bland, which they are not).

However, consider Pilgrim's suggestion of magic as one of Hades keywords. If indeed a Hades muse operates when "magic" is present, then a player invokes the Hades Muse any time a player operates using Hubris. That is, magic occurs in the game when players employ Hubris to resolve conflict.

However, there are fewer instances among the rest of the Muses that are comparably activated by The Choice. For example, the Venus keyword betrayal isn't activated simply by choosing Hubris in the way that Hades' Magic would be. Betrayal could occur "under" Arete or Hubris, both. Magic, however, could not. Therefore, Magic is problematic as a keyword.

Similarly, I toyed with "transformation" for Artemis, since she seems to be constantly be changing people into beasts. But, again, this means we have a key word that very much mimics the Metamorphosis Urge, whereas other keywords aren't especially tied to a single Urge.

(There are some gray areas here. Reason might be considered to happen only when Arete is used. Similarly, Violence might be considered in action only when using Chaos.)

The keywords are more about behaviors than they are about things (like, weapons) or phenomena (like magic). Artemis' keywords aren't about Bows, but they are about, say, sympathy or revenge.

Back to the playtest . . .

Here are a couple things I learned. First, Muses are employed very frequently. It's quite easy for players to argue that, say, Curiosity is at play. They used it often. In fact, Muses (several at a time) are so frequently used that I'm considering some limitations. Don't get me wrong, I do like the snowball effect of theme, much like the addititive power of Sas in the Riddle of Steel. One limitation we used lat night was capping Muse ratings at 9. This is logistics issue. In two sessions, one player easily garnered 12 Muse points, losing none (clearly, I need to crank up the difficulty!). With such high Muses, he not only handily beat an eager fellow player with good ideas, he also nearly ran out of cards frequently.

Another issue -- previously, Muses were such that they could be "completed." If you had a muse like "Vendetta: Seeks to kill Proteus for stealing his identity," the Muses was "completed" once you killed Proteus. Duh. When that happened, you retired the Muse and had the option of taking a permanent ability increase or earning a Talisman.

Now, however, Muses don't really resolve in that manner. We had one player complete his Pride point check off (he used Hubris five times successfully in two sessions). He immediately earned 5 points in his Pride Pool (which I need to add a box for on the character sheet -- remember, you can't use Pride from the check marks until the Muse has been judged). So, his Muse had been judged by Fate. However, we struggled to figure out how he could then earn a Talisman or a permanent ability bonus.

Two ideas there:

1) You use Pride/Valor to "buy" bonus or Talismans

2) Once a Muse is judged, that Muse may only be used in conflicts with the relevant virtue. (So, if you check off five Pride points on a Muse, then you can only use that Muse when you're employing Hubris.) Then, you can decide to keep using the Muse, or have it reduced to 0 and use those "deleted" rating points to buy ability increases or craft Talimans.

Clear as mud? Sorry for the somewhat disjointed brainstorm. Still thinking on that one, but overall the session went spendidly.

Some other anecdotal fun moments: One player defeated an enemy archon by causing him to have a stroke in the middle of an argument (it was a literally heated argument in a jungle village in Mexico). It was funny and cool at the same time. Another player, who is an old "sea dog" of an aeather captain, came in to pick up the stroke victim and the other PCs, disguising his Greek galley-style aethership as a beat up ambulance. They players thought this all up, with only a general understanding of the setting specifics. It was great!

Another really fun moment was in the previous session. One PC, who works for Prometheus, was charged with helping another PC named Joel awaken. He turns himself into "electrons" to travel via phone line to where Joel manned a large radio telescope in Mexico. On the way, he decided he wanted to learn a lot about Joel. So, he "hacked" his way into government data banks, eventually destroying a vast portion of a government network in a "duel" with goverment security programmers, but not before absorbing every bit of data on Joel (he used Cosmos to build up his Arete, reflecting his memory gain, then Chaos to cover his tracks). He then converted himself to radio waves and really messed with Joel by "whispering" Joel's name a la radio waves as Joel scanned the stars via headphones for signs of alien life (working for SETI).
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra