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 Post subject: Thinking of running something experimental
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2015 6:55 am 
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Vagabond
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Tolkien wrote somewhere: it's easy to make up a world where the sun is green, it's more difficult to come up with one where a green sun makes sense. Anything new is a challenge, but let's try and see what we can do, eh?

The campaign I have in mind may have to be played on some other site, or perhaps we can do it here after all. It's experimental in several ways. One is that I've never GMd a campaign before, only shorter adventures. I have, however, played in a variety of things and know exactly what I want to change in the way games are usually run. The idea of an experiment is to try something new, and any kind of result is a success. I want the players to be the scientists in the experiment too, though, not just guinea pigs. So the game will have some rules for characters, for conflict resolution, but not many rules on what a player may and may not do.

I said that I want to change a number of things. The most important change is that me and the players, everyone has to think outside the box. Because if only some do, then the rest will sit inside boxes, and it's too difficult to knock on them and try to communicate. So kick out the assumptions, just kick them in the ass!

Here are the specific differences from the usual I want to try.

Play like you're drunk. You know the crazy shit people order online when they've had one too many? Why do they do that? It's because drinking frees them for a while, lets them do what they really want to do. When you are drunk, you're not really stupid, in fact you're excellent smart, but it seems otherwise to those who look on anxiously, worried about propriety, and money, and safety and so on. In the case of games people worry about levels, rolls, character survival, relative power vs. PC and vs. NPC, having enough magic items and spells, and is my weapon big enough, and am I writing my character's conversation "in style." People also have expectations and ready ideas about what a story is or how games are played, or what for. Many have a very definite idea of what "fun" is, and when the features don't match, they conclude that "fun" is not be had. I say "they" here, but a lot of that applies to me, too. Try to let go. It's an experiment!

Unknown setting. In this campaign, neither players nor characters will start up knowing where they are. And some characters, if the player prefers, may have no idea of who they are. This is not so that people can spend the rest of the game discovering a mysterious past. It's so they don't have to drag the past behind them. But you can have a regular - or exceptional - background from any planet, time period or species that you care to invent. The only limitation is, no archetypes or masks, no Count Dracula or a zombie. Just real, flesh-and-blood humans and inhumans, from somewhere.

Pitching ideas to the GM and back. I want the players, once they get a look around, to start pitching me ideas about features in the world. The setting has very few limitations I want to insist on. Everything else is fine, if you can make it interesting. So if you come up with a tower of bone that tries to lure travelers inside and describe it in a way that sounds fun, or if you want there to be a blue-furred bunny, I'll try to work it in. And contrariwise, I may suggest things for your characters you haven't thought of, like a tattoo where you didn't expect any, or a long-lost aunt. You don't have to agree, but that's how things are built on both ends. And it can all be changed too! The aunt may die, the tattoo may turn into a cancer. Or you may decide to have your character die in the middle of the journey, and I'll give you another one on the same level of "power." This approach is different from collaborative story-writing in that challenges will be handled through mechanics and role-play. Outcomes will never be decided by mutual agreement. (Two people can write up a joke, they can't decree that the joke is funny.)

Anti-naturalism. This is neither fantasy nor sci-fi just so that anything may go in that we want to go in. So if an NPC suddenly jumps a hundred feet into the air, you shouldn't complain it can't be done, because you don't know all there is to know about the world. Maybe God lifted him on high! The same goes for schools of magic, weapon types, vehicles, chemical elements. Feel free to investigate everything, of course, just don't think of the world as a definite catalogue. The idea is to always expand it and play with it.

Uneven detail. Some things will be described in more detail than others. The players can do this too in what they write. You don't have to put in "he answered, rubbing his hands and looking as if" etc just so you have a proper post. It's exhausting to try and cover every base. Let's try to focus on what interests us.

It's a journey. The world is such that the characters need to be constantly on the go. There is a reason for it. This march, and where they head off to, is what really defines them.

It's there to be ruined. The universe exists so you can leave your dirty footprints all over it. Not the real one, but this one does. So don't hesitate to set your character against what you find there. Object. Impose. Waste people's time. Be bad.

Change the mood. The world as I conceived it is an awfully dark place. Not horror, but a few givens in it may just as well be horror. But what I realized is that players can turn it around. You don't have to keep indulging the mood I was in when I came up with the place. If it feels like comedy, so be it!

Junk the moral compass. Feel free to try whatever you like. There are consequences for everything, in the world and inside your soul, but, just as in real life, there ain't no karma. Of course, if a character starts gouging NPC's eyes out, that probably means the player has some unrelieved tension in his/her loins, let's be understanding of that. But unless someone is clearly wrecking the game, I'll allow it.

Do it, then deal with it. Most games imply that you need to feel for a permission from the other players and the GM before attempting something bold and abandon the idea if they are against it. That's called harmony in them. In exchange for being at all times subject to the GM's tacit or explicit approval, players expect he'll bail them out with a deus ex machina when their characters are in a tough spot. Here I'd like us all to act out what we want with confidence and face the consequences. Do it, then deal with it.

Accept and move on. When something happens that isn't perfect or satisfactory, put that down as a feature of the world, of the story and people in it, and move on.

Role-play to succeed. The characters start out as more or less complete blanks. Everyone begins without stats. The PCs are assumed to have the abilities appropriate to their background. So a Roman lanista will know Latin, physical training and, say, know the emperors in his century. A Persian pearl diver woman will be able to attract men (because she's a woman and that's all it takes with us) and dive too, and whatever else the player proposes. So basic success is assumed. To do anything more challenging, YOU, the player, have to describe the specific actions that lead to success. You have to find out how rope-climbing is done or how to get on a horse, and have the character do exactly that every time. We will be reasonable about it, but the more real detail and effort you put in, the better the pay-off. And if you want to convice someone, you don't roll Persuasion, you aim to make an argument that is right for the situation. Enough successes will coalesce into an ability you'll be able to put on a character sheet, like Riding or that same Persuasion. This will excuse you from describing standard-difficulty actions, you then can just write: "I ride." But you still have to role-play anything harder.

Face-off against each other. It is perfectly normal to disagree, break away from, steal, cheat and fight with other characters. It's okay to retaliate, too. You are not the Fellowship of the Ring or a big happy family. You are just people thrown together in a strange place, and choice of company is up to you. Some dicing, probably the system from the Dying Earth RPG, will be used to adjudicate combat and other contests.

Team up with each other. Against a third person, against other challenges.

Not just humanoids. You can be an animal, a fgherg from Ghmerg or a cyborg with a rake arm, just be at least partly alive, for a special reason. This will affect, and restrict, your options. If you want to play a sentient fox, there is a life for you, but obviously you won't be able to sit at a table for a game of cards (unless you are inventive). :lol:

Starting specials. In addition to background basics like pearl-diving or a warm body of interest to cannibals, everybody gets two Abilities already coalesced for the character sheet. There is no list: just invent them and tell me. You can begin with a character unusually skilled, tough or a master of some weapon(s). There are no trade-offs to make or flaws to take in return, enjoy. But you'll see that the world is always bigger than any one person can handle, however strong or smart he is.

Nakeds. For very good world-related reasons and to keep a measure of balance in, everybody begins stark naked. That is, unless you choose some clothing or equipment as a starting special. It can be a dandy suit for the whole body or just an American football player's helmet and nothing else. Feel free to act out embarassment or arousal. Clothing will be quite precious, and others may want to strip the overdressed one... whether he's alive or dead. You can also spend a free ability on a useful item, like a blaster, a sword, a toy terrier or a cell phone (I didn't say they have no cellular coverage there, did I?). Spend both, get two.

50/50 combat. Combat and other conflicts will be 50% role-playing and 50% dicing. That means, you get a bonus for putting in a good desription of how you roll under the other guy and pull at his ankles with the back side of the scrimitar (which shows that you know that scimitars are single-edged, good for you), and no bonus for "I swing at him with great force."

Hit points. Everybody can take the same number of hits, uness you take Tough in the beginning or develop it with frequent descriptions and exercises in-game.

Magic and telepathy. The same as combat, 50/50 on a case-by-case basis. But you have to take Occult Sensitivity or Telepathic Talent from the get-go. It works by describing, and well, what you want to do and how you do it. Neither ability is all-powerful.

Other mechanics can and should come in as time goes by.


Last edited by temnix on Sun Nov 01, 2015 12:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Thinking of running something experimental
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2015 4:40 pm 
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Merchant
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Sounds like it could have potential.
At the same time it sounds as if it could go horribly, terribly, and yet beautifully disastrous.
Consider me intrigued.

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 Post subject: Re: Thinking of running something experimental
PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:34 am 
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Vagabond
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All right. :D Yay, disastrous! You know, it's like with scientists when their test tubes start billowing green smoke instead of purple, or a garage band plays out someone's idea and it goes wrong. Whatever, it's still useful.


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 Post subject: Re: Thinking of running something experimental
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:31 pm 
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Lord
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Time to mess some stuff up! Count me in.

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Current:
LSO: Gallath, Elf Thief- SendHelp
WotL:Ne-Chanz, Minotaur Fighter- Casual Murder
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AD:LitC: Jacen Terro, Half-Elf fighter- HOLD


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 Post subject: Re: Thinking of running something experimental
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 12:57 pm 
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Vagabond
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All right! :) Meanwhile a couple more features I want in it:

Time compression. The players can vote to advance time. The GM will oblige: "six months pass" (or equivalent). Everyone can state what they wish to do, such as earn money in ways currently available or practice to acquire some skills. The downside is that this inaction implies that the characters haven't moved from the spot or tried anything significant in that period, but other forces in the world might well have acted...

Babel, globalist-style. There is no Common in this game, communication follows a different pattern. I'd like people to use whatever language their characters speak, Google-Translated into English. If it's modern English to begin with, you obviously just put in the words as they are, although if your character is a maid from the days of Chaucer, you'll have to try for an imitation of Middle English. Beowulf is right out! :D No, actually I welcome hard-to-understand characters. Remember, everything non-English will at any rate have to go through Google Translation, which can handle most languages, but imperfectly. That's exactly what I want: if you are playing a Frenchman who doesn't know English or that Roman lanista, what the others need to hear from you is French or Latin machine-translated into English. There is a reason for that.

Double mystery. Suppose that you really decide to play a warrior from the Anglo-Saxon days. Probably your version of AEnglisc will not be the real one. It'll be what you, the player, think AEnglisc must have sounded like, gathered from a couple of dictionaries. You might even believe that in those days it was all thee and thou, like something out of King James. You'd be wrong, but rather than telling that to your face or sending you out to learn AEnglisc for real I prefer to keep the error in as a feature. The result will be that you will play someone who thinks he's an Anglo-Saxon warrior... or a lanista, or a Persian pearl-diver. But what are they really?


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