Author Topic: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying  (Read 352 times)

AsuraFiend

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Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« on: May 10, 2017, 04:27:28 AM »
I'm going to be soon running what I hope will become my first long run (as in more than a few sessions) PbtA game, and making it a hack... my very first one. So, very much an experiment (I've released things for Fate in the past, but this is new to me).  I'm both having fun working on it, and finding it frustrating in some ways.

It's a Dying Earth subgenre setting, but, I pull inspiration from a lot of different sources beyond that subgenre's namesake (truth be told, I have only read a little bit of Vance's work by that name, but, am making a point to continue reading more for this, though, I'm not sure I actually want it to become the main inspiration source since there's so many RPGs that take A LOT from it, and many other directions to go with the Dying Earth/Dying Worlds idea.)

Here's the basic premise:

Reality is fraying away at the edges, as entropy wears away at it like waves erode away the shoreline.  The Lost Worlds and the cities of the GodKings remain, and these divine tyrants rule with an iron fist, defining the very nature of the real within their domain.

Into this eroding existence you were born; surrounded by a fantastic and terrifying world beyond your control. But, then a single event changed you; you became as terrifying and wondrous as the world that surrounded you, and saw reality for what it was; a story nearing its end as the candlelight dies. But must it end? Can you continue the tale, and thus reforge the world? What risks will you take to do so? And what will you become in the process?


So, it's about people, who were human (or at least humanish), living in a world where reality is falling apart at the seams, and becoming increasingly weird. Most people can do little about this, except perhaps in large, focused groups, but, your character had an Event happen to them which Changed them. The result is that they become, well, think, mystic mutants of a sort, all capable of doing certain reality warping things via in character narration (reality responds to their storytelling, because it's so degraded the line between reality and fiction is blurred in the setting itself). Their Origin (how they became what they are) further colors particular... superpowers, or magic for lack of a better term. Depending on their usage of their abilities, they may eventually become entropic monsters, or inhuman GodKings.

I'm thinking of having characters created with playbooks much like standard PbtA ones, and then they also pick an Origin, which is basically "what event Changed you?" and that determines how their weirder abilities and traits manifest. It's sort of like a secondary, more simplified playbook that they get to add Moves from, sort of vaguely like how Dungeon World has race specific Moves.
I was actually just going to have the Origin Moves be the only ones (outside the basic ones, and a few others all PCs can use), but, the more I worked on them the more they felt like cool extras that help further define a character (and also emphasise that they walk the path towards becoming increasingly something else), but not really a whole basis for a character on their own. I shall still have to see how it plays out though.

The difference between these Origins and DW's races though is, that, they really are separate from "Class", and there's a list to choose from for each Origin, er... race. This separate race and class thing is very common in other RPGs (it makes me think of templates from D&D), but, I can't think of another PbtA game that does this.  I'm wondering, if this really not "kosher" to do, or is there perhaps another PbtA game that has done this sort of "pick your superpowers from here, but use this for your main Playbook"?
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 04:42:08 AM by AsuraFiend »

cromlyngames

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2017, 07:03:45 AM »
I guess it comes down to - for each Oregon and play book, how many combinations make sense?

If one focus on stat 'poetry' and the other on stat 'literature' would you ever pick that combo over two focusing on the same stat or niche?

Then, consider a slightly dysfunctional group where one person optimises and the other dosent. The power in balance between the characters can harm the game.

So for me I'd figure out the obvious combinations and just merge them to avoid this. But with careful balancing it could work.

AsuraFiend

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2017, 07:24:40 AM »
Yeah, that is a thing, and, I guess has to come out during actually playing it largely.

It would be very hard to merge the playbooks and Origins together with the way they are starting to shape up, it would probably end up being better to just go back to ditching having the more typical playbooks all together, and just have superpowers/magic/whatever, but, so far that feels like it isn't the direction this game needs to go (of course, I could change my mind later).

A question: when people start taking Moves from other playbooks as part of their advancement (I've not had a group which did that yet), does it tend to undermine how fun the game is for people in some way?  That seems like a kinda similar concept to me.

AsuraFiend

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2017, 07:15:48 PM »
oh, so, I just discovered Uncharted Worlds, it looks like it does something that is at least in the spirit of what I'm going after... well, that is on my list. The concept still looks like it would need a lot of careful testing, but, I'm happy to find something that is headed in the right direction best I can tell.

Sestuss

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2017, 04:38:33 PM »
oh, so, I just discovered Uncharted Worlds, it looks like it does something that is at least in the spirit of what I'm going after... well, that is on my list. The concept still looks like it would need a lot of careful testing, but, I'm happy to find something that is headed in the right direction best I can tell.

I think that while you can totally go modular, its important to note what you will be losing and what you will be gaining. A modular approach certainly allows for more player creativity with their character right off the bat. This works better with players more comfortable with making up their own concepts, but can be a little daunting for new players. On the other hand you loose a little of the convenience of character creation, a player only needs one page to create their entire character and it speeds things along quite a bit.

I would also note that you don't loose the ability to make really unique combinations with the single playbook method, the players (and the GM for that matter) just need to be willing to re-interpret the flavor and description text. They usually call this playing against the stereotype, but this is just culture its not written anywhere I don't think. But after a while everyone understands I can play the "Savy" playbook but instead its a "Botanist" or whatever. On the flip side new players have a sterotype to build on, it makes the game feel more approachable.

The difference between these Origins and DW's races though is, that, they really are separate from "Class", and there's a list to choose from for each Origin, er... race. This separate race and class thing is very common in other RPGs (it makes me think of templates from D&D), but, I can't think of another PbtA game that does this.  I'm wondering, if this really not "kosher" to do, or is there perhaps another PbtA game that has done this sort of "pick your superpowers from here, but use this for your main Playbook"?

I think an origin can totally be included on a single playbook. Think of your Dungeon world example, it might feel limiting to you at first, but you can do quite a bit more than that with yours. Once you have a playbook concept you can include Origin options right there, and they can be written in such a way as to give a lot of leeway but still fit with the playbook concept. Like you said you were considering only having an origin, so you could make half the playbook origin options. And if a player really prefers an origin on a different playbook instead you can simply let them take it. No need to redesign the game.

Honestly I would try to ditch the idea that your origin moves and your other character moves are different things, the character concept is one cohesive idea. Some character concepts are about the past, and some are about the future, some are about being an outsider, etc. Think of what defines the playbook and think of options would help flesh out that definition. Look at Apocalypse world, the Hardholder playbook is very different from the Brainer, because one is defined by the settlement they lead, the other by how they go about messing with people. There doesn't have to be one template for character playbooks, in fact they should feel very different and should ultimately serve the fiction your trying to create.

Anyway that's my two cents on modular design (sorry for the text wall). You could also completely do away with playbooks and just have everyone pick two options from a single list. Bam nano RPG style. It all depends on the kind of play your looking for.

Hope that helps.

Sestuss

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2017, 04:44:46 PM »
A question: when people start taking Moves from other playbooks as part of their advancement (I've not had a group which did that yet), does it tend to undermine how fun the game is for people in some way?  That seems like a kinda similar concept to me.

Not usually. But keep in mind, when a player does this they already have an idea of who their character is, they have been playing it and the new option only enhances this. That and you incorporate the other playbook move into your original playbook, meaning the new move is very much viewed through the lens of the original playbook concept.


AsuraFiend

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2017, 05:06:45 PM »
Thanks for the responses! Some great stuff to think on. I'm torn between modular play and strict classes ultimately. But, this got me thinking: I could have a set of totally premade playbooks, just like AW, then, have a chapter devoted to making their own. That way, players can start off just using playbooks that are already there for them until they are comfortable, or maybe want to try something different, and can customize their own (though experience suggests strongly that a lot of players will want to do this right away, others are going to be stuck if they have to).  I could easily list a bunch of Moves grouped in some manner (different than just Moves by playbook, which IS a way to group them) and some guidelines for how to think about combining them or making their own.
This almost is like those books that have a bunch of pregens, and then rules for "here's how you make your own" in a way.

I'm still not sure which idea I like here though, so, I'm just going to throw players at it and observe what the tendencies are I think for a while.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2017, 05:21:53 PM by AsuraFiend »

Sestuss

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2017, 06:24:57 PM »
By the way I like the concept also (which is why I weighed in). I've had a similar concept in the back of my mind for years, I mean i don't know how similar since I haven't seen any specifics of yours. But I hadn't been thinking of it as a game, more of novel concept really. So I'm interested in what you come up with.

AsuraFiend

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Re: Lost Worlds Decadent & Dying
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2017, 05:07:33 AM »
Cool, well, it may be a while but I will have to report on it at some point, or start posting some of the playbooks.
I'm starting to playtest it tomorrow with my group, so, should be fun.  They've been through all kinds of my game experiments at this point over the past... several years now.