My entry in the intro game idea sweepstakes

Since both James have recently argued for an intro boxed set (here and here I’m going to be contrary and say “no, it isn’t”.

What we need is an RPG S&T.

It was James Edward Raggi IV who got me to realize it:

Now I’m envisioning a game book in the form of a magazine, 128 pages, with everything in it, and the Mentzer-style tutorial intro as an attached (centerpiece pull-out?) item. Attach a covermount CD with various optional rules and adventures and idea-builders and maybe historical essays on role-playing and different methods of playing.

Okay, first, imagine all those computer, art, and music mags with DVD ROMS on the cover, especially the ones from the UK (go to the bookstore and check them out if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Imagine his 128 page magazine as one of those.

Re-arrange the content some. Each one has that intro Mentzer booklet in the center, matching the theme of the issue (we could use LL, BRPG, Four Color (the original Marvel had a similar booklet), Mutant Future, and the Star Frontiers clone). The rest of the magazine has a printed version of a bit more than BD&D…maybe levels 1-6, 1-2 full adventures, and those historical essays, an idea builder or two, an interview (every issue needs an interview…learn from music mags), a book column, and some ads.

The cover DVD ROM can have all of the free RPGs from the old school movement and maybe some others (Computer Music has a consistent and growing studio of computer instruments they recycle each much), new adventures, previews of comerical games, a podcast, and so on.

Put it out quarterly and sell it at the major book stores.

The hard part is dice. I’d say that pullout HAS to be d6 only. One, polyhedrons can be off putting. You might be able to include die but even if you can a dice roller can be on the DVD ROM and a pointer to “buy some D&D dice” which most bookstores carry for the full game would be great.

The mags I’m talking about cost $12-$18 here in the US. I think this is doable.

Score one for the old school…

One of the players in my Friday game surprised me when he accepted a spot in it. He’s very much a modern RPG kind of guy. As in playtesting work on games like Noblis.

A few weeks back he said he wasn’t really getting into it and might drop out but would give it a few more weeks.

Today he emailed me saying he’s thinking of running B/X with mostly my houserules (but some mods). Would I be interested in playing?

First Steps to Alignment

In a space setting where the major currents are the silent war between two groups of metaphysical warriors modeled on the Jedi and the Sith seen from the back of a sandworm with analogs of Greek Oracles, Bene Gesserit, Mentats as non-aligned (or both aligned) metaphysical players the Law/Neutral/Chaos system of OD&D seems to be a poor fit. Expanding it via Good/Neutral/Evil doesn’t seem to help.

I was looking for an idea of what the Imperial position would be and considered “anti-life” but not in the sense of death but in terms of the Anti-life Equation of Jack Kirby’s New Gods comic. Knowledge of it allows one to dominate others by removing free-will. At the end of the Wikipedia article on the topic (linked above) I found this note:

The Anti-Life Equation is similar to Nietzsche’s Aristocratic equation, Good = Humble = Powerful = Beautiful = Happy = Loved by God.

For those unfamiliar with Nietzsche one key idea is social evolution from a Master morality to a slave morality in society. A slave morality is the Judeo-Christian morality of charity, faith, and sacrifice. The Master morality is one that values wealth, strength, health, and power which is also, interestingly enough, a good summary of the Classical (Greek and pagan Roman) virtues. Interesting notes for a game with a heavy Greek mythological patina.

Another Nietzchean idea is “the will to power” which can be variously interpreted to mean internal power (self-mastery) or external power (ruling, being a master). A key idea in Dune is maximizing human potential, which fits very well with the first interpretation. If we take both interpretations and filter them through the Greek heroic virtues the Imperial clans see themselves, through their ability to master both themselves (metaphysics) and others (the metaphysics the Clans call “anti-life”) as the natural rulers of everyone else.

So my Imperial alignment is “The Will to Power” but what would the Hidden Clans be and how do I give that a mechanical importance.

Well, what other wills can we think about? The will to live, to serve, to survive, to achieve, to master, to transcend, and so on. Hold that thought.

In thinking about classes and abilities it’s been clear to me that traditional Vancian magic is inappropriate to this setting. I had decided to represent them by either using the OD&D/AD&D psionics, importing force powers from the various Star Wars RPGs, or some combo of the two. While I’ll take some notes I’m going to hold off given a reworking of the Eldrich Wizardry psionics rules is in progress. One thing I wanted to do was to find a way to insure that Imperials, Clansmen, Oracles, Sisters, and Muses took different powers.

Now I have it. Alignment will be replaced by a system of wills. A character will select one or more (probably two, three at the most) compatible wills from a list (both with each other and class). Each will gives access to certain psionic powers and some powers require a combination of wills. Characters with drift will find their powers failing yet or, as appropriate, having different effects.

Of course, as always, the devil is in the details but I think I’ve got the basic framework in place.

A Tentative Literary and Film Canon for The Mythological Space Setting

Inspired by Scott’s Hyperlinked Literary Canon for The World of Thool.

Literature Available Online

The Oresteia by Aeschylus (note: the books is called “House of Atreus” which is an alternate title for the three plays as a group)
Electra by Euripides
Iphigeneia in Tauris, and Orestes by Euripides (they are in the larger work referenced)

Films

Literature I Don’t Have But Would Like to Find

Some Social Positions of the Late Imperial Era

Some notes I just jotted down for my Mythological Space Setting

Immortals: The legions of the imperial families are composed of large clone regiments and smaller companies of natural borns. While the families would like to stick with purely clone armies the seed DNA degrades over time and clones of clones tend to be inferior. Thus, the small natural born companies allow new seed DNA to be found in the form of exceptional warriors. Selection for cloning is a high honor and the chosen are Immortals, formed into special crack regiments and not only cloned and personally rewarded but their families are rewarded onto three generations. It is not unusual for the family to place a second Immortal in that period and each noble house has a group of semi-permanent Immortal lines (the oldest know line has been able to place an immortal at least once every three generations for 29 generations).

Oracles: Metaphysics whose vision is of little day to day utility but able to engage the flow to see forward in time to possible outcomes. Trained in temples on a handful of planets there are too useful to the Empire to be wiped out despite fear of their ties to the Hidden Clans.

Muses: The grand advisors, Muses are trained in memory, calculation, and integration of knowledge. Separate from the Imperial Houses, the Hidden Clans, the Sisterhoods, and even the Merchant Guilds they are sought by all (except the Sisterhoods) as advisors. Their schools claim Muses have no agenda but merely exist to provide inspiration.

What’s interesting to me is how writing these notes create so much more information. Both the descendants of Pylades/Solo and those of the Leia/Electra now have names (the Hidden Clans and the Sisterhoods) and the later are expanded (I know know there are three Sisterhoods, one for each of Agamemnon’s daughters). The Muses (pseudo-Mentats whose name came from a RPG.net thread) had appeared and immediately displaced the Sisterhoods in part as a Bene Gesserit analog but also creates a mystery of “what is their agenda”. I have no idea where the Merchant Guilds came from but I needed someone to provide another purchaser of services from the Muses.

Of course, all these names and expansions are tentative but I think it’s a grand example of how just writing brief descriptions of three things creates new details and directions.

Three’s the charm…

I’m generally not good about writing actual plays (blame the ADD, it’s a great excuse for stuff) but “City States of the Apocalypse” had its third session last night and this is the first time I thought the group really got into a grove. Before last night I figured one player was gone but I think I gained some time for things to “get better”.

In fact, it’s going well enough some ideas I’ve had dancing around for other campaigns, such as the weird Stars Wars scenario I wrote about earlier and some even less well formed ideas for supers, are getting notes taken. I have a feeling of creativity I haven’t felt as a GM in years. I want to record as much as possible.