[NAME / 9P] Is Nine Powers Neglecting Any Powers?

edited March 2014 in Game Design Help
Hi again! Much thanks for a recent discussion about renaming my RPG. Feedback strongly encouraged changing the name to Nine Powers with a descriptive byline.

Before taking that leap, I should ask the helpful folk here whether nine is the right number! As I said in that other discussion:

Each Power has a different idea of what "success" looks like. Each oversees a specific kind of dungeon, contest, champion, gift, and monster.

This allows a setting that (at least for biased 'ol me) "makes sense" while still being fantastic. There are reasons why dragons hoard wealth, villages have haunted houses, wuxia-style heroes wander from town to town righting wrongs, and great archers never run out of arrows.

In other words, I have tried to carefully hang just the right lampshades.
The game is not trying to be all-inclusive with a giant salad-bar setting. But it would be a shame if the setting missed/skipped a common fantasy RPG trope that many people want.

For example, the nine Powers oversee nine types of dungeons: isolated keeps, caves full of strange monsters, a fairy-tale-quest Enchanted Forest, wild hunt competitions, dragon lairs, puzzle-like dungeons found in ruins, film noir "grayscale" stories, ice castles, and haunted mansions. Is any important common fantasy RPG adventure location missing from this list, such that you would not be as interested in the game as otherwise?

If you have the time and interest to help, please use the table at the bottom of the game's tables of contents page to skim which lampshades are already in the setting, and let me know if any of your favorites are missing.

Thank you in advance,
David V. S.


  • Strange how there's no terrain associated with each of the Powers, I'd have expected that. Otherwise an interesting setup for a setting; you now have my curiousity.

    Instead of attempting to add to your coverage, I'll say that when I've encountered similar exhaustiveness challenges, I've found it useful to seek formal completion of the task, as opposed to psychological satisfaction with having finished with it. What I mean is that we're ultimately seeking to guarantee to your satisfaction that you haven't forgotten something from your list, so it might be best to set aside any intuitive concerns over it, and instead focus on determining what formal parameters need to be achieved for you to rationally consider the task finished. This could be useful simply because there's always another thing out there to be added to a list of this sort, so genuine universal exhaustion of options won't ever happen, anyway; the only way to achieve completeness is to figure out some other measure than your own sense of security and satisfaction.

    As an example of how this principle of creative work might be applied, I'm working on a game that is heavily about fairy tales, and I wanted to have all fairy tale memes at my fingertips for writing the game. However, instead of attempting to list every unique idea from every fairy tale ever, I instead chose a set of benchmark works and condensed those into my list, trusting that these prior works were good enough in terms of exhaustion. In this case my list consisted of the Aarne-Thompson folk tale classification system and the English-language Wikipedia's "List of Fairy Tales". If something's not on either, chances are I wouldn't have wanted it anyway.

    Another example is from when I was editing World of Near, which is a sort of an anthology of setting material for The Shadow of Yesterday: instead of getting stressed about having every single piece of material ever written on the topic at hand, I decided early on that if it didn't come up in a search of the Forge or RPG.net, or on the first 10 pages of an appropriate Google search, then I didn't need to have it. Again, instead of trying to remember everything I'd ever seen on the topic, I just defined objective parameters for what I was looking for, gathered those materials, and went to work reducing my catch into the final product.

    So what I'm saying is, it seems to me that you have a similar exhaustiveness challenge here: how do you actually know that you've thought of everything that should be on your list? My answer is that instead of wracking your brains for things that should be on the list, you analyze what types of things your list should have, then find the central pre-existing sources for that sort of thing, and comb those for whatever it is that you need. It's much easier to discard stuff from a pre-existing list than to try to think up new elements for a list you're creating from scratch.

    Would TV Tropes happen to have some category or tag for "fantasy tropes" that you could comb to ensure that you've got everything you need and want? Do any other exhaustive sources occur to you that might be used? Have you gone over e.g. the Top 100 fantasy video game franchises, or fantasy tabletop rpgs, or fantasy movies, listing every relevant trope from them, and seeing what elements are common or interesting enough that they need to be in your game? These are the sorts of methods that I might use to achieve satisfactorily exhaustive study of the subject matter.
  • Good advice, Eero_Tuovinen.

    I have not had time to pursue it, but as one example I could search for "D&D setting books".

    My concern is that I would read about large-scale cultural-mimicry ideas such as "deserts full of genies" or "castles attacked by ninjas" when what would answer my questions better would be the small-scale ideas such as "merchants guarded by summoned magical creatures" or "serene tea houses or friendly tavern rooms suddenly disrupted by assassins". (Those two happen to be locations I am not thinking need to be among my game's current lampshades. Summoning monsters is a Pandora's box I do not wish to open, restaurants seem to be a location that work for adventures without a Power overseeing it to lampshade certain features.)

    I'll keep thinking about what phrases to search for.
  • edited February 2014
    I find this thread easier to parse via this content from the Powers page:
    Little Humble was created to teach how exceptional focus could reliably produce a life of peace and purpose. Her dungeons are isolated keeps, her contests are sporting events, her champions are Errants, her gifts are serendipity bags, and her monsters are bugaboos.

    Speleoth is the embodiment of the joys and thrills of exploration. His dungeons are caves, his contests are round trips, his champions are Troggles, his gifts are scene recorders, and his monsters are fuses (chimerae).

    Yarnspinner was created to be in charge of stories and histories, to help immortalize great deeds. His dungeons are adventures in the Enchanted Forest, his contests are bardic competitions, his champions are Story Finders, his gifts are annotated maps, and his monsters are witches.

    Old Man River is the patron of setting goals and pursuing goals. His dungeons are wild hunts, his contests are chases, his champions are Bounty Hunters, his gifts are bottomless quivers, and his monsters are fell animals.

    Maw Lute is the patron of music and collecting. Her dungeons are dragon lairs, her contests are treasure hunts, her champions are Buskers, her gifts are panoplies, and her monsters are dragons.

    Futhorc creates safe yet exciting opportunities for ordinary people to adventure and become special. His dungeons are ruins, his contests are zip tag games, his champions are Casters, his gifts are recall rugs, and his monsters are puddles.

    Lamia is the patron of repentance, escape, violence, and young love. Her dungeons are grayscale adventures, her contests are demolitions, her champions are The Hiss, her gifts are absorb stones, and her monsters are insiders (human-faced critters).

    Frosty Kostkey is the patron of Winter and conquest. He is the original machinist. His dungeons are ice fortificiations, his contests are stalkings, his champions are remotes, his gifts are oversprings, and his monsters are cyborgs (clockwork ice beasts).

    Gnash is a being from another star. He elevates ruthlessness. His dungeons are mansions, his contests are last one standings, his champions are inevitables, his gifts are necrotic weapons, and his monsters are the undead.
    A few tropes I don't see here are temptation, seduction, illusion, transformation, mystery, magic, the moon, forbidden powers, the occult, ancient wisdom & secrets, tragically lost or fallen peoples or powers, death, vengeance, resurrection, law & order, freedom & chaos. Most of those are sprinkled in there somewhere, but not necessarily called out as much as other themes are.

    Perhaps some sort of Secret Teacher type could cover some of those bases. Dungeons are mazes or complex traps, contests are puzzles, perception or divinatory challenges, champions are wizards, gifts are spells or secret knowledge, monsters are the fallen or mad heroes who have plumbed the forbidden mysteries too deeply.

    I don't see tombs/crypts/catacombs, or crazy alien weirdness, on the dungeons list. Maybe give one of these to Gnash?

    I don't get how mansions fit Gnash; maybe give those to someone else? Maybe the ice forts have some stately quality to them?

    Much fantasy also has fun with mountaintops, but I bet you could decree that that's where dragon lairs are if you want.

    Any shapeshifters?
  • edited February 2014
    A power I'm very fond of (in fantasy games or otherwise) which doesn't seem to be represented here is telepathic manipulation, or puppeting. Intimidate would work too. I also think it would be nice to have a race of beings that are shunned and ostracised, but also feared, for the ancient but rarely seen and perhaps even mythical power they are said to possess.

    Gash I'm a bit puzzled by. He resembles Galactos slightly, but doesn't appear to have as much focus as the others.

    I like the way you've desribed the above beings rather like Graeco-Roman gods, i.e. Axaros is the god of x, y and z.

    Finally, and yes, this is a bit of a brain dump- sorry- but do any of them exist in the gameworld simultaneously and, if so, how do they get on with each other? Are any of them sworn enemies? That could be useful for the PCs, who could potentially play them off against one another.
  • Thanks. Useful comments.

    There is more to what Gnash wants and is trying to do, catty_big, but I am not putting it online yet since it a plot-related surprise for my current campaign arc that I do not want my wife to read. ;-)
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