Sunday, November 8, 2009

Answering the "Power 19" (1-5)

Mythology isn't finished, not by a long shot. I shouldn't be surprised if it takes a year or more before it's getting close. But Mythology is well and truly started. I'm starting this blog as a part of the process of building it. In my wildest dreams, this might become a very popular system, but I will be completely happy if I just get it done.

I've been struggling to work out how best to start answering questions that readers might have. Who will my readers be? What will they want? I'm not quite sure! So I've decided to duck the issue, and answer a set of questions from the Socratic Design blog, called the "Power 19".

1.) What is your game about?

This is a bit of a troublesome question, because the best answer is always going to depend on what aspect of the game the reader is most interested in! I'll start out at a basic level and more experienced / curious readers can find more information in other posts, or to other more specific questions.

Mythology encourages its players to explore fantastical realities where the things which are only myths in the real world come to life. Players will get to play the role of an exciting hero, doing great things. The world setting is designed to allow the storyteller / games master to set up adventures of virtually any kind within the fantasy genre. These adventures might stretch from ancient myths, such as undead kings in great pyramids, blood-sucking vampires, vengeful and capricious gods and great barbarian warriors, to modern interpretations now a part of popular culture thanks to games like Dungeons and Dragons. It is an opportunity for players to take on the role of someone different and exciting: a hero, a thief in the night, a great wizard or a powerful ruler.

The game isn't rigidly about anything, because no two groups of players are alike. Mythology provides just enough rule and structure that it can be rightly called a game, but hanging from that has to be a rollicking fun storyline that captures the player's imagination.

"Mythology" is about heroic characters, each with a unique ability, doing great deeds. It is about emphasizing the awesome, whatever that means for you. The basic plot I'm currently using to help guide development is centered around four characters who leave their peasant lives to search for adventure, excitement and someplace they can fit in. Indeed, I'll be posting an element of this story now and then, to give a taste of how I see the Mythology world and how the character types might work together.

2.) What do the characters do?

Anyone who has done much roleplaying realises that different players want different things. Every person will play their character differently and get something different from the game. Some care about the characters fictional identites, others love the atmosphere of the game, some want to enjoy the glory of victory. Some don't care much about the fictional creativity, and really want to feel like they're 'winning' by creating tough, strong characters. So, the characters will do whatever the players want. Any intelligent game needs to recognise this and take a back seat.

The basic game books provide what most roleplaying games provide. That is, Mythology provides game rules for competitive and structured play. However, unlike many systems which are available, Mythology seeks to include enough natural differences between the character types that there will be other kinds of interaction which are important. The character group isn't necessarily like a team of top fighters, finely tuned to eachothers abilities. The different character options complement one another, but they all have their own identities also. Characters are not Swiss Army knives.

Kerala, the current 'working name' for the central world of "Mythology", is a fantasy world. It is full of warring tribes, fantastical creatures, dark gods and powerful magic. It has towns, hamlets, cities, oceans and great unexplored lands. What the characters do with this setting has more to do with how you like to play the game.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

The players manage their characters choices and developments, against the backdrop of the Mythology world setting and according to the storyline laid out by the storyteller or the plot book. The storyteller / GM is pivotal to the game of Mythology. This role is variously called the Games Master, Dungeon Master or storyteller. It is their job to be most familiar with the rules and to bring forth developments in the game world. The other players take on the role of a single character instead. This manner of game playing makes a lot of sense one you have tried it a couple of times. The chances are if you're reading this, you already understand this division, and I will concentrate on what the character-players will do.

The players will be given a story, and then given some free choice in their interactions. The outcome is a mixture of the storytellers interpretation and a random element. In order to reflect the characters varying abilities, they have a set of numerical statistics which dictate their capacity for fighting, running, negotiation or casting spells.

The players make some choices, role a few dice, tell some stories and experience the thrills of being able to achieve superhuman feats. A lot of the motivation and flavour of the characters is reflected in the character types which are available, so I expect that people will come to enjoy this aspect of the game.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The setting is dripping with atmosphere, and is totally in keeping with the character archetypes. It would be difficult to separate the two. However, the world setting is still under very active development and it's hard to pre-specify how that's going to eventuate. In order to build this up, I'm going to write a number of short stories set in the world of Kerala, from the point of view of a few groups of people and different character types, and let this guide the world development.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

The character creation strongly re-enforces the emphasis on 'awesome' and the shift away from 'work'. Character creation is basically a matter of picking your archetype, then maybe 5 minutes of work and you're good to go. Most of the effort goes into the early levelling up, so you can start your session with a fairly 'naked' character but still build it into something great. A few key talents, motivations and flaws are all you need to start fleshing out the details and the rest writes itself. Players definitely don't need to spend a lot of time writing themselves into the world or metagaming to get the most out of their statistics. Every option is balanced, every choice is valid, and all the characters will have their time in the spotlight.

Of course players will no doubt eventually want to start with higher-level characters, or bring in a more detailed character background. This is of course totally fine -- just build a starting-level character and level it up the appropriate number of times.

Something I'm considering at the moment is the use of a common 'level zero' where the characters are undergoing a kind of magical awakening, where they can take the abilities of each character class out for a spin in some way, learn about the setting and storyline, then pick their character type after the first session. This is probably going to be a website-only option because I'm worried it will blow out the streamlined approach I would like to take to the basic rules.

That's all folks, until next time...

Okay, well I hope that provides a little bit of information on what the game might be like. My plan is to intersperse generalist posts like this one with more specific posts on aspects of gameplay, analysis of combat and things that might be of more interest to experienced gamers. Please do leave comments and if there are a lot of questions on any one topic, I'll make sure to cover those aspects in more depth in future.

Until next time, may your gaming be excellent!

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