So I'm working on a side project best described as "Firefly in a weird alternate version of the 16th century Ottoman empire with wagons instead of spaceships influenced by renaissance esoterica and Islamic folklore." For those of you with an interest in the full setting/premise pitch, it can be found HERE .
Characters in The Dark Roads form the crew of a Thunderer caravan who go from fortress-city to fortress city along obsidian roads built across earth long ago during the war for heaven trying to stay ahead of the Sultanate's Jannissaries and make a semi-honest living doing whatever jobs come their way. The crew is supposed to be a Firefly, Farscape, or Wagon Trainesque loving but dysfunctional family made up of misfits, rogues, and crooks.
Right now I'm working on character creation and have come to a bit of an impasse that I hope you folks will be able to help me out with. I'm trying to include, as part of character creation some sort of mechanical decision that does the following simultaneously:
Defines a character's "place" in the caravan. Not necesarily their job, but the part they play in the social dynamics of the crew. It's helpful to think of Joss Whedon shows here to get an idea of what I'm talking about: how Kaylee or Xander are the "heart" of their respective bands of misfits, or how Buffy and Spike or Inara and Mal's sexual tension and mutual snarking define them.
Encourages them to act the part. HX from Apocalypse World and it's ilk does a great job of showcasing connections between characters, but barring Dungeon World most of these mechanics don't actually encourage exploration of those relationships during play. Which is one thing that I'm especially interested in.
Helps define the structure and properties of the wagon itself. Uncharted Worlds, an AW hack for FIrefly is doing something similar with it's careers granting special ship parts, but I want something a bit different. I just have this image in my head of a wagon filled with tense and adversarial relationships being heavily armored and fitted with wicked spikes, while a wagon filled with sarcasm and witty repartee is light and quick, mostly made of wood stolen from the forests of the jinn and bedecked with warding sigils. You know, that sort of thing.
Does so with a minimum of fiddly bits. I've toyed with players asking questions of other people's characters and narrating "establishing scenes" that describe their relationships, as well as tokens that people can give to other players to give them bonuses and narrate aspects of their characters relationships but both of those struck me as too complex and fiddly. I want something simple and elegant, not a complicated subsystem that will be continually referenced during play.
If possible, I'd also like this same mechanic decision to encourage teamwork between crew members, with the choices the crew makes at this stage effecting the outcome of such team ups. Something like comrades in arms being more effective at laying down covering fire for one another, while lovers would be a great at putting themselves at risk for their beloved.
So with those design goals in mind, I'm looking for raw unfiltered ideas from you guys, gals, and folks of non-binary gender persuasions. If you can think of an idea or mechanic you've seen, developed, or (better yet) played with that you feel encouraged this sort of behavior and had these sorts of mechanical effects let me know. I don't care where it comes from: ttrpgs, video games, computer games, board games, your drug-fueled late-night musings on the nature of reality. I just want to be able to get over this hump, get past this writers block, and be able to write the rest of this gorram game!
Thank you in advance for all of your thoughts!