In this post:
- I outline an idea for a roleplaying game.
- I come up with a bunch of games to research so I'm not flying blind.
I've been thinking about tabletop roleplaying games lately. I've been trying to get some steam into GMing a solo campaign for my wife, but we keep on not thinking to get into it. Maybe we should set a time each week.
Anyway, a couple other ideas kind of swirled around in my head...
- Legend's track-based multi-classing system
- Playing Smash-Up, and getting better memories from selecting decks to combine than putting them into practice
- The suggestion to try building an RPG without combat mechanics
Basically, can I come up with a way to replicate some of the details of Legend's system (humanoid race plus three class features, or monstrous race with feature replacing class feature, either option can freely replace a class feature with one from another class), but divorced from the "combat balance" ideas? Tonally, I want to have the class features represent different pop culture archetypes. Suppose I get together pirates, aliens, zombies, robots, etc... what's a setting that lets them shine without dealing with combat resolution?
Thinking over this, my impulse is to do some kind of high school/college drama, maybe. Or perhaps some other situation with jockeying for status. Or maybe something that's like Haruhi Suzumiya, but with the serial numbers filed off. Having to deal with a god-like NPC would be interesting, but only if the rules transparently dictated the NPC's mood/whims, and the GM's job was just to convey them flavorfully.
Although, if there are legitimate fantasy creatures running around openly, the NPC would have to be comically nearsighted or something, not to notice.
The basic structure I'm thinking of is that the player characters all have various extraordinary abilities, but risk gaining Break when they use them normally. Under some circumstances, things are explicitly unreal, and they can use their abilities freely.
- Elf Wearing A Bandana Or Other Hat
- Orc In The Theatre Program
- Fairy, Insisting That They Are Further Away Than They Actually Are
- Alien (class feature)
- Android (class feature)
- Undead (class feature) (zombies, vampires, ghosts)
- Dragon (class feature)
- Ancient One (class feature)
- Werewolves maybe
- Time Jumper
- Rock Star
Characters would be a class and race, and some further customization: what do they look like, what clubs are they in, how do they know each other...
If I go with numerical stats, there probably wouldn't be strength. More likely:
- ENDurance: your character's ability to withstand adverse conditions
- FASt-talking: your character's ability to persuade people of things
- UNFlappability: your character's ability to deal with outrageous conditions
This has been throwing out some concepts, but I think what I need if I'm going to pursue this is a lot of reference material, and a few gameplay assumptions.
- The masquerade will never actually be broken, but the characters should act as if it could be. This pushes play towards "I’m an actor, and my character is my role. I’ll do whatever I think my character would do." and "My character is the protagonist of a story I’m telling. I’ll do whatever makes for the most interesting narrative."
- This also means that restrictions based on Break should be hard limits that players can look for ways to circumvent, rather than risks they'd be tempted to take.
- Player characters will divide their time between managing the Demiurge, and fulfilling class obligations of some kind, whether that's reporting to superiors, hunting down traitors, performing some form of meditation, etc.
- The race/class stuff is meant to be a flashy starting point that draws the player into designing their character's high-school persona, which should generally be more mechanically relevant.
Gameplay elements to look for:
- Rules-mandated character with specific power dynamics (Maid RPG? My Life With Master?)
- Maintaining a masquerade (Some form of urban fantasy)
- Characters often must do bizarre, demeaning things. Aim for something that amuses the players controlling them. (That sounds a little like Fiasco, but the tonal components are very different. Look for similar games, ponder lifting the scene resolution mechanics in a different context)
- High school setting (I don't know what to look at that I have on hand besides some stuff by Ewen Cluney, who also localized Maid RPG, so I've got lots of stuff to look at here; also, I should probably look into Teenagers from Outer Space, though it sounds kind of different from what I have in mind.)
- No combat mechanics
- In-universe events that alter the rules the players have (sounds like rituals from Chuubo's)
- In a break from the source material, the spotlight should be shared evenly among player characters, rather than having an explicit viewpoint character.
- Arc structure: start at status quo, something happens to disrupt it, player characters must reaffirm it
Actually, looking at how much I wrote down stuff Ewen Cluney was involved in, and seeing stuff from Bully Pulpit, I wonder if something like Durance's planet creation/selection rules could be used to make a custom Demiurge. Like, the initial report showed that dealing with the Demiurge would be no big deal, for reasons A, B, C, D, E, F. Now pick three of those that were somehow mistaken, falsified, or otherwise wrong.
In any case, a few of those I don't really have ideas for, and I feel like my focus in tracking down reference material should be stuff with masquerade support of some kind, and stuff set in high school.
Trying to design a relatively focused game like this seems interesting. I'll have to look into it... maybe sooner than you think... ooooooo