Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

It was UK Games Expo last weekend, one of the UK’s newest and best games conventions, already up there with Furnace, Conception, Indiecon and Dragonmeet in my top 5 UK cons. I was there as part of the smallpress rpg booth, which this year comprised the Collective Endeavour and our Finnish friends, Arkenstone Publishing and we had a very good con, introducing all sorts of quirky games to all sorts of quirky gamers.

I was meant to be running a new Dead of Night scenario, Djinn, but a lack of players saw it remain in my bag. So I thought I’d post about the premise here all the same.

“Five friends, stuck in the middle of nowhere.
A mysterious relic, a treasure lost to the ages.
An ancient spirit, powerful and vengeful.
Five wishes, one apiece, immeasurably powerful.
What’s the harm in making one? It’s just a wish, after all…”

Of course, the monster of the piece is the djinn, the action taking place 10 years after the wish as the genie comes back to collect his due. The scenario is designed to pitch the characters against one another as much as the monster as cracks appear in the victim’s picture-perfect lives and they scramble to save their own skins. A lot of the set-up is player-driven, based on 5 questions answered during character creation (as suggested by the awesome Scott Dorward):

  1. What is your greatest regret/missed opportunity?
  2. What is the most important thing in the world?
  3. What (or who) would you be prepared to sacrifice in order to save yourself/your way of life?
  4. What are you most afraid of?
  5. What is the one thing that you never want others to find out about?

The players then have a hand in authoring their characters, their wishes and new lives, and then me and the djinn get to come along to kick it all over.

I was thinking about writing it up today and connections began to emerge with another unpublished scenario, Grendel, Alaska, not just with the close-knit community unravelling with the appearance of the monster, but also the mythological/legendary origins of the monster. I’ve got another scenario idea kicking around with a similar theme (something to do with sirens and temptation), and am pondering bundling all these modern updates of mythological monsters together as a little supplement.

Would anyone be interested in such a thing?

Advertisements

Perhaps I should have held off on this morning’s blog post about presenting background, as this afternoon Jeremy Keller has expanded on the notion of Transmissions by bringing the goods to the table and showing us an actual Transmission. A thing laden with promise, I’m sure you’ll agree, pulsing with ideas just ready to be used in the pursuit of story.

A while back I thought a little about how best to present background as part of a roleplaying game and I wanted to revisit that topic with some fresh ideas.

Something Jeremy Keller posted a few weeks back as part of his design thoughts struck a chord with me and is potentially the missing piece of the puzzle that I’ve been looking for – how best to present background and get the players to buy into that.

With regard to his latest game, Technoir, Jeremy talks about the role of Transmissions, which are self-contained capsules of information regarding different aspects of the setting (chiefly different cities), principally as a means to generate plot ideas for the GM. This got me thinking – what if these capsules not only delivered plot ideas for the GM, but also in-game background for the players to easily digest?

(more…)

One thing I’ve been wrestling with recently is the notion of background material in rpgs, and how we can best convey it to a) the reader and b) the player. This has come about because, unlike Dead of Night, a couple of my current projects have background of their own, and I’m pondering how I can get my own ideas about a setting across in a useful and relevant way.

Historically in rpgs, the way this has been done is very much top down. The background was presented via the medium of rulebook and supplement to the GM (and often the GM alone, because, you known, campaign secrets/spoilers abound). The GM would then convey the setting material to the players by some nebulous and unspecified means – perhaps by showing and telling in the game, perhaps by handouts or maybe even by homework of reading vast reams of text.

I used to do this, but inevitably grew frustrated when the players didn’t always pay attention or get onboard with the background – but why should they? They had no buy in, no investment, no connection in their own to the world . I remember Weapons of the Gods strove someway to alleviate this, with aspects of the background that the players could ‘buy’ as their own, almost giving ownership of different areas of knowledge to different players. But in many respects this still wound up with the same problems as the GM imparting knowledge – fundamentally the players had to do the legwork by reading up on all the background to see what interested them in the first place.

Of course, the pendulum has swung the other way somewhat. Many games nowadays don’t have set background at all (or only very roughly sketched background) and instead the players create the background around the table as part of play. Burning Empires coined the phrase ‘world burning’ and the name has kinda stuck. This gets all of the players onboard, investing them in the setting by harnessing and using their own ideas and creations.

But sometimes you don’t want to make up the setting, sometimes you want to play in an established setting that you know and love (but the players might not). What to do then? Is there a compromise? How can you create buy in and investment without necessarily creating from whole cloth?

One of the things I love about TV series such as Supernatural or Buffy is that they have their own mythology, their own way that monsters “work” within the confines of the setting. Movies do that too, but because they’re so focused on a single monster or a single premise, you rarely get to see it develop. There are exceptions, of course.

A demon in Supernatural works in a certain way, dies in a certain way. Likewise a vampire in Buffy. The audience is taught this, expects this, which – later, once this is established – allows the writer to mess with those expectations and create tension and drama in the process.

(more…)