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By MartiniPhilosopher (Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 11:49:57 AM EST) (all tags)
Departing a bit from what I was going to write about this week due to a bit of inspiration that hit me late Sunday night.

One of the things that us gaming nerds like to do to keep the creative juices flowing is to attempt to have some constraints or limitations on the imagination. In this particular instance, the Forge likes to have the occasional contest or challenge where the participants create their game or system on a single page of paper. I've kept this in the back of my mind for a while now as something I should try to do.

Update [2007-7-19 11:57:56 by MartiniPhilosopher]: My wonderful wife has decided to host the file on her website. Linkage. If you do end up playing, please let me know how it went. -----------------------------------------
This is the sixth in a series of blogs attempting to record the design history and decisions I have face when making my homegrown role-playing game system. Only today's has almost nothing to do with it.  :)

The movie which supplied the inspiration was a J-Horror flick by the name of Pray. An odd film about a couple of would-be kidnappers snatching a young girl from a schoolyard playground and holding her for ransom. Gruesome and paranormal events follow them to the abandoned school that the lead male went to as a young boy.

The movie and the genre in particular have several thematic ideas which are somewhat different from what I would consider traditional storytelling. The foremost is that the ghost or spirit that is haunting is the main character or the driving force for the main character.

It was this twist of perspective that supplied the main impetus for the creative burst experienced earlier this week.

As my wife and I watched the movie, I began to wonder about what one could do with genre of J-Horror, role-playing game wise. Victim class games have been around for ages and can be pretty fun and that seems to be a pretty good fit with J-Horror because in most of the ones I've seen, almost everybody dies. As I mused on that thought a question perused itself. What if, instead of playing people experiencing the paranormal or supernatural, one were to play the things doing the paranormal/supernatural activities? At which point the rest of my brain lit up.

Playing "Evil" in games can be fun on occasion. Those games that have set "good" and "evil" conventions that is. And part of the fun of RPGs in my opinion is the ability to simulate things that one cannot do in real life without serious consequence. Think about it. A lot of RPGs center around combat and at that, often combat to the death. Around these parts that is often called "murder" but it is the one part of games that many really enjoy. And part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that it is all "make-believe" -- that you can walk away from it without having to worry about being arrested. Horror films and books are much the same thing. Getting the flight or fight portion of the psyche fed and not getting in the way of real danger.

I had to try it out. I was compelled to attempt to make this genre into a game. By what? I have no clue. All I know is that I have a happy brain for the last couple of days because of it.

It was at this point that the challenge came up. I didn't want to get too distracted by this and mess up getting my other stuff ready for GenCon. So I decided to see if I couldn't do this as a "one page" type of game. One page, in this case, means that all of the rules needed to play fit on a single letter-sized sheet. Sometimes a further constraint of being front only is specified, sometimes not. In this case, not. There were a lot of ideas I just could not let go of.

The real work on making it began as I tried to sleep. It took a while to get it to shut up and let me rest, but as soon as I woke up it started to chatter at me again about the awesome stuff it came up with while I was asleep.

First things first. Players need to have a reason for doing what they're doing. For most games it is the exploration and glory and money that results from adventuring. That doesn't work so well with ghosts and spirits. Typically, you find things like Revenge or Justice being the motivations in a horror film. And there is the motivation, both in game terms (to be kept secret from the other spirits) and for the players. Along with "Vengeance" and "Justice", I added the "Message" idea -- that the spirit is here to give a warning or advice to the haunted. Not everything is motivated by self interest, even in horror movies.

Next up was the things that the players got to do. The stuff that would let them haunt. I came up with six abilities. These are (in no particular order) Illusion, Telekinesis, Manifestation, Possession, Animation, and Silence. Limiting each character to only three selections (with the idea that ghosts have specific things they can do and to help motivate players to work together in some situations) I decided that they would also have a rating to illustrate how powerful the spirit was in that particular area. Ten being a good number for such thing was chosen to provide the point pool. No real reason there. It seems like a good number to split up.

The mechanic is simple. The characters will attempt to create fear in their victims through whatever means the players can come up with using the powers chosen. Both the players and the GM playing the victims will roll d6 dice and total them up to see if the scary things are scary enough. If so, the player gets an award of "fear points" to use in their next scaring attempt and the victims' "fear meter" goes up. If not, the player has fewer points to work with next time and the victims' meter goes down a point or two.

This goes on until all of the victims have been forced out of the haunting area or until they're all dead.

I like what I came up with. It is limited in the rules but at the same time gives the players and GM enough structure to have fun with. It doesn't tell the players how they have to do their haunting and it doesn't tell the GM how they have to judge the actions of players. So, yeah, as I have admitted to a friend whom I sent this to already, it can be used to create a huge gross-out game. But if that is what the players want to do, that's what the players want to do.

PM me if you would like a copy. Sorry in advance about it being in Word format.

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Beauty in the eye of the beholder | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Supernatural motivations by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 01:41:20 PM EST
Very cool concept. Would you mind if I mentioned this on the horror blog I write on the side?

One of the re-occurring themes of J-Horror is people mistaking the motivations of the various supernatural creatures around them and, often, making disastrous choices based on their misunderstanding. Think of The Ring, where the ghost is mistaken for the victim. In The Grudge, some ghosts are heralds but the movie is structured to make us think they're the bad guys.

Perhaps the players could get points for fulfilling their "motivation." Players would win by carrying out their own mission while simultaneously thwarting the missions of others. The kicker would be that each player would have to bluff about the true nature of their mission - messengers would have to pretend they were seeking revenge, so on and so on. This would capture some of the feel of mystery that J-Horror likes to capitalize on. Part of the game would be trying to puzzle out what the other ghost were really after.

Just an idea.

Sure by MartiniPhilosopher (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 02:54:37 PM EST
If you want to, I can send a copy to post. I'm not very concerned about copyright on the thing.

The players do get a bonus of double the points for the encounter if they are able to fulfill the motivation. The Victims have what I termed the "Fear Meter" and the "Flight Score". When the player is successful they get points equal to the Victim's Fear Meter.

And they are supposed to keep the motivation secret from everybody but the GM. Not sure why I decided that when I was writing it up, but it seemed like a good thing to try and do. As you suggest, I may have been thinking that the mystery of it all can also be a part of the fun for the player.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

[ Parent ]
Not sure why I decided that by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:22:01 AM EST
Because the GM is God?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Well... by MartiniPhilosopher (2.00 / 0) #4 Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 03:36:06 AM EST
It's one of those things where my own personality shows through in play in that I don't like having or playing with characters that have secrets.

I was once involved with a Chill game from the old Friday Night Group in which character secrets was a large part of it. Not only was the secret that my character got rather tame (had a problem with gambling before getting involved with the mystery seekers) but because of what it was I felt that there was no good reason to keep it a secret. After the few weeks of playing my opinion of player secrets not enhancing game play was rather re-enforced.

This game being an experiment, seemed like a good place to try that player secret thing again, but with my own conditions on it. So, like I said, I'm not sure why I decided that. It just seems like the right thing to do given the genre and stories that the genre likes to play in.

I thought about it some more last night, and I may end up changing so that even the doesn't GM know what the motivations of the players are. That way when the GM is making up the Victims, they will have the freedom to do whatever they want to and not feel the compulsion to tailor the Victims specifically to the group.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

[ Parent ]
Beauty in the eye of the beholder | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback