Time, Trust, & Betrayal(Forgiveness?)

edited November 2018 in Game Design Help
I've been thinking about a superhero game about friendship, and what that means.
Imagine something like Watchmen, but if Ozymandias was once your dearest friend.
Oh, and instead of the parallel pirate story, the story includes a Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, well into their golden years.

I lost a couple of friends(by "lost" I mean they are dead), that I used to spend hours upon hours playing games with.
I thought it would be nice to make a game that is about time, and how it effects friendship, and how friendships change.

This idea started out with me thinking along traditional rpg lines(GURPS/Champions), but none of those games really address friendship, and they're clunky. It started with me wondering what it'd be like if I asked my friends, who are now well into their forties, to make three separate characters, one character for each different time period. I even wrote down a couple names for Apocalypse World-style playbooks.

For whatever reason, it stopped there. I wasn't sure if a game that would be unfamiliar to my old friends, would be the best route to take. I mean, if it's a game that attempts to be a love letter to a specific group of friends, why not attempt it with them in mind?

I'm thinking a game in three parts, one about the formation/coming of age/origin story, the second part- the break-up, and the third part - a reformation or transformation?
Maybe not told in chronological order. A bit like Microscope, but about friendship, and lack thereof.

I was thinking it'd be neat to have different branches for each character depending on what happens. So, the the first age, each character has three branches to choose, or three branches that get checked or not, as play happens. Three hard choices to make. All these branches, effect real change to a character. I want to show how time complicates, how one action can create ripples that have a greater effect.

Ideas?


Comments

  • Looking at 'Follow' might be a good starting point.

    http://www.lamemage.com/follow/
  • I know this is sortof out of left field in terms of relevance, but consider looking at Dialect, which is absolutely a game about how something (in this case, a language) changes over time:

    https://thornygames.com/pages/dialect
  • edited November 2018
    Some threads :
    Happy Lives, by Adam McConnaughey
    And, How things work out, by Alan Moore.
  • edited November 2018
    DeReel said:

    Some threads :
    Happy Lives, by Adam McConnaughey
    And, How things work out, by Alan Moore.

    Moore/Veitch - I think Will Eisner did something like that? I guess, that's always a good bet, with comics.
    Didn't Contract with God take place in the same building?

    I think it'd be tough to pull off the whole story as coincidence thing. I mean, it's a worthy cause, but maybe it takes for a game to be played multiple times for there to be coincidence? Maybe sitting down to a game, for three different occasions, would help play resemble story structure? I mean, directing toward coincidence during play often doesn't feel like genuine. I don't know?

    I think having players create three different versions of characters, could create a sense of coincidence? But it'd be more elegant to let that happen in play, maybe prompted through player materials?

    I'd like the game to be played in the present tense, and mostly first person, because I think that's where the magic in rpgs come from. Or at least, the magic I enjoy. I think too much past tense describing can feel fragile and dishonest, while the present is maybe... trickier, but it feels more lively.

    Happy Lives seems to be more reminiscing and less living.

  • moconnor said:

    Looking at 'Follow' might be a good starting point.

    http://www.lamemage.com/follow/

    Are there any Youtube videos I can slog through to get the general gist?
  • edited November 2018
    Airk said:

    I know this is sortof out of left field in terms of relevance, but consider looking at Dialect, which is absolutely a game about how something (in this case, a language) changes over time:

    https://thornygames.com/pages/dialect

    I don't want friendship to be The Obvious Thing that a game directly addresses
    Yes, it's about friendship and time, but it's filtered through these characters. I'm not super interested in theme, without character's point of view.
  • Nathan_H said:

    moconnor said:

    Looking at 'Follow' might be a good starting point.

    http://www.lamemage.com/follow/

    Are there any Youtube videos I can slog through to get the general gist?
    There's not much gist to get. Here is a game of Follow:

    You pick a Quest. This is a mission from the large list at the back of the book. They're all a bit vague and support many angles -- the classic one is "The Dragon" being played as mice out to defeat a cat.
    Everyone makes two characters -- a main character and a secondary character. Secondary characters just have names and descriptors. Main characters have those, plus something they want from the Quest and something they want from the main character on their left.
    You pick a "challenge" from the list included with the Quest. This is something you need to do on your way to the goal.
    Everyone sets one scene and you freeform through them.
    When everyone has "lead" one scene, you put some colored beads (black and white) in a bag based on whether each player thinks the characters have done what they needed to to overcome the challenge, and whether each player's character is happy with the course the fellowship has taken.
    Then you draw two beads from the bag, and what color they are determines whether the group succeeded at the challenge and whether any characters are lost or betrayed. If they are, you figure out who and why and those characters are out.
    Repeat for a 2nd challenge, and a 3rd, but the 3rd determines whether you complete the entire quest or not.
    Then you do an epilogue.

    That's pretty much the entire game. The book explains it better and has tons of quests and challenges and great stuff in it, but the actual rules are super simple.
  • Airk said:

    Nathan_H said:

    moconnor said:

    Looking at 'Follow' might be a good starting point.

    http://www.lamemage.com/follow/

    Are there any Youtube videos I can slog through to get the general gist?
    There's not much gist to get. Here is a game of Follow:

    You pick a Quest. This is a mission from the large list at the back of the book. They're all a bit vague and support many angles -- the classic one is "The Dragon" being played as mice out to defeat a cat.
    Everyone makes two characters -- a main character and a secondary character. Secondary characters just have names and descriptors. Main characters have those, plus something they want from the Quest and something they want from the main character on their left.
    You pick a "challenge" from the list included with the Quest. This is something you need to do on your way to the goal.
    Everyone sets one scene and you freeform through them.
    When everyone has "lead" one scene, you put some colored beads (black and white) in a bag based on whether each player thinks the characters have done what they needed to to overcome the challenge, and whether each player's character is happy with the course the fellowship has taken.
    Then you draw two beads from the bag, and what color they are determines whether the group succeeded at the challenge and whether any characters are lost or betrayed. If they are, you figure out who and why and those characters are out.
    Repeat for a 2nd challenge, and a 3rd, but the 3rd determines whether you complete the entire quest or not.
    Then you do an epilogue.

    That's pretty much the entire game. The book explains it better and has tons of quests and challenges and great stuff in it, but the actual rules are super simple.
    Do characters grow, change, God I hate to use the word mechanically, but is the change that happens to characters an in-game activity, like choosing a different path?

  • I like the idea of a character sheet that hints at future hard choices, like buying off Keys in TSoY, but then it leading to a different version of the character to play in Act Two. Like if you choose to do this instead of this, then in Act Two you play this version of playbook, or maybe you fill-in a playbook as you go along? Maybe your playbook is split in thirds? I like the idea of not-choosing as a choice that could get checked off as well. Failing to choose.

  • Here's some names I jotted down for playbook ideas.

    -The Doomed
    -The Unchanged
    -The Backwards (oldboy/manman/boyman)
    -The Child
    -The Distant(The Possible Narrator?)
    -The Elephant(in the Room) The Problem/The Thing We Need to Address But Won't
    -The Troublesome
    -The Betrayed
    -The Transformed/The Shifted/The Shifting
    -The Doomed, declining wo/man, becomes man/other, then simply other

    Just random thoughts, but I like the idea of a friend transforming to a point beyond recognition, like a man becoming a machine or an alien symbiont switching bodies. The death as transformation angle. Contrasting closeness with alienness.

    I guess, sometimes the doomed is the elephant?
    I like the idea of a character, much like Doc Manhattan, but one that remains unchanged. Like if Doc Manhattan only served as a narrator, instead of having a bit of a character arc, like in the comics. He went from clothed to naked pretty quickly. I like the idea of a narrator playbook being able to do things that maybe the other playbooks can't.
  • I like the idea of a super-person that ages in reverse, physically, or maybe experiences time in reverse. Like a character out of joint. Again, to contrast the other PCs. A Benjamin Button character. A character that ties in closely, with the theme of time.

  • Perhaps the playbooks could be super simple? Just a name and a move or ability; then at the end of each act, you change playbooks based on what occurred. For example, if your PC died, then you have to pick 'The Transformed' or 'The Legacy' for the next act and play either a different version of the character or the hero who takes up their mantle after they fall.

    With a basic framework of rules that govern what happens in each act and maybe some game economics to track things like fame/infamy, influence and power-level, there would be enough to shape the players' decisions and the characters' fates across the story.
  • You could have each character have three roles they play: Who you Were, Who You are Now, and Who You Will Become. Each is a mini-playbook, that governs who they are in a different time period. So the game builds in naturally how people change over time. And each archetype has different relationship options, so how you relate to other people flows naturally over who you are at each time period.

    And each archetype would have effects on your past and future selves as well: when you determine something about what you did in the past, it changes something about your present self. If your future self talks about making a big mistake, then we will see how that mistake played out when we reach that present scene.

    I would want the game to play out in anachronic order. Possibly just run it as three separate narratives, interlaced with each other. So each scene you choose one time period to set it in and play from there. Each Past scene fictionally occurs after all previous Past scenes, and before any Present scenes. But we might have three Present and Future scenes before we get our next Past scene. Different actions in the game might determine what type of scene comes next (e.g. "When you talk about a betrayal, the next scene will be an earlier scene illustrating that betrayal...").
  • I thought of a way to approach this, but sadly it's only travelling forward in time. Use any game you're familiar with that uses scene conflict resolution instead of action to action resolution.

    The first chapter is the Young Dream, where all characters are friends all pumped up for a joint project that may become something big. Call it a rock band, a student movie, a group of adventurers delving into a dungeon for treasure, etc. Roleplay 3-5 scenes until the project is completed or things go south. A la Fiasco, everyone gets handed a single positive or negative die according to how things went in the chapter and how they imagine the consequences of these actions may be.

    Next each player rolls the die to see how well they fared after the first chapter and how that enterprise affected them. On a roll of 1for a negative die, they died and continue the story using a character related to the deceased one, like a sibling or child. The higher they roll, the better for both negative or positive dice. A high roll on the negative die means their damage control efforts were sucessful and now they are where they started. A roll of one on a positive die means things went good for a while but now the character is back where they started, while a roll of six means the character has been farming off the success and now wants to give another shot at it for all the reasons: more money, glory, etc. Redefine character relationships according to what happened on the first scene and how each character's lifepath went. Feel free to blame anyone for additional drama.

    Second chapter is Scarred Veterans, placed 1-10 years later. Whether things went right or wrong they all get together again. Maybe because somebody wants to try another run of the same or a similar attempt, or maybe they just get together in the funeral of one of the characters. If anyone manages to put together a team composed of at least half of the pcs, you get to play another 3-5 scenes of it. Again, everyone gets a positive or negative die according to how things went on those scenes. Whoever bails out gets to choose either a positive or negative die to find out how their lifepath went after that.

    Next everyone rolls their lifepath die as explained before the third and final chapter: Too old for this. Redefine relationships with each PC before going for another character reunion and play a final scene as you feel it would be best. It can be yet another adventure or project in their senior years, an epilogue where everyone makes an excerpt from their memories regarding the enterprise and/or their relationship with the rest of the PCs.
  • Nathan_H said:

    Do characters grow, change, God I hate to use the word mechanically, but is the change that happens to characters an in-game activity, like choosing a different path?

    No. You literally never write on your character cards after character creation.
  • I'm thinking something like 3 mini games, for each time period.

    An assign hidden resource toward a mission thing, like in the boardgames Coup and Battlestar Galatica, and I guess the pg Follow, might be interesting? With Trust giving a player extra, not-directly-from-another-player resource. Probably a card. Something that could be hidden. It seems like tokens would be too obvious a resource. And maybe instead of it being a pass/fail mission, the cards used act as an Oracle, hinting at the nature of the success or failure. I was thinking that it might be neat to include a Bullshit type mechanic in hidden role games, but I think that might be too much game? Like if in Coup, if you could point to a card and declare bullshit, and turn it over. If you were right you get a resource, if you were wrong that player gets one. Like I said, it seems like too much game for an rpg.

    There's always a temptation to put too much game into these kinds of things.

    The first act is about gaining trust, gaining the trust of strangers. So, giving trust up, like in the Mountain Witch, would be neat... maybe? The first act would be all about bonding, usually over something horrible. I mean, who bonds with another person over some joyous occasion?

    Maybe the Mission structure is different in the first Act, than it is in the Second?
    I know I'd like powers to be scary-powerful and rare in fiction, with maybe some kind of jeopardy mechanic?

    The Third Act should be about forgiveness and transformation.

    I'd like not to have a scene and/or action pass/fail cycle. It'd be nice if I could get a game that's shaped mostly by players deciding on hard choices, through player materials.

    Maybe have part of the game have a pass/fail + oracle thing?

    How do you model forgiveness? Trust leading to possible betrayal, that seems easier than getting at the heart of forgiveness. I mean, it's letting go of something. How much of forgiveness is forgetting?


  • Like I said, I'd like to steer away from attempts at polarity. I want this to feel grown-up, and I believe that requires leaving right and wrong, success and failure, tucked away in a toy chest, in the attic.

    Contrast is great for story, but to only focus on success and failure in a story is limiting. I'm much more interested in the why, than in the abstractions of success and failure.
    I'll leave those to another game or story to address. What is success anyway? A feeling?
  • edited November 2018
    Airk said:

    Nathan_H said:

    Do characters grow, change, God I hate to use the word mechanically, but is the change that happens to characters an in-game activity, like choosing a different path?

    No. You literally never write on your character cards after character creation.
    Thank you.

    Do you know of a game that has branching, lateral character change?

    Are there prompts in AW playbooks, that tie in with other playbooks?
    How does Apocalypse World handle switching playbooks? Is this possible mutability built into the game? Like if my Battlebabe stops battling? What happens?
  • "(...) interested in the why" when you read you are not interested in the letters. My stance is that if you care about meaning you don't want to leave it to the rules. People can do the meaning much better. So, I'd work on the discrete, meaningless bits.
    For me it's very clearly a game with time strata, or "lanes", with moves for changing lane. I always come back to the Quarantine move for foreshadowing what the Apocalypse was. A linear story about time ? What a bore.
    What was that thing ? How did it come to an end ? Why did it mean happiness ? The order and object of these questions can do a lot. Fall of magic organises something like that
  • Nathan_H said:

    Are there prompts in AW playbooks, that tie in with other playbooks?
    How does Apocalypse World handle switching playbooks? Is this possible mutability built into the game? Like if my Battlebabe stops battling? What happens?

    Switching playbooks in AW is a standard advancement option of the "2nd level" sort you can only get after picking 5 or so "regular" advancement options. It is meant to represent a big character change, such as when the Battlebabe stops battling or being a babe, yeah.
    It is also one of the options you get when "coming back" from potential death, instead of just staying dead - again, because coming back from the dead is supposed to be quite a big change.
    Compared to most things in AW, this option is handled a bit more vaguely, calling for some amount of negotiation between PC player and MC re: exactly how much of the old playbook is simply copied into the new one.

  • edited November 2018
    If I can add a personal note...

    I know firsthand designing a game as a reaction to a painful event is a viable coping strategy and can result in a really good game. My recommendation is to set your mind on a small design, one you can be reasonably sure to complete within quite a short time: the sense of accomplishment from a completed project is good for you.
  • Rafu said:

    If I can add a personal note...

    I know firsthand designing a game as a reaction to a painful event is a viable coping strategy and can result in a really good game. My recommendation is to set your mind on a small design, one you can be reasonably sure to complete within quite a short time: the sense of accomplishment from a completed project is good for you.

    Thanks. I appreciate it.
  • DeReel said:

    "(...) interested in the why" when you read you are not interested in the letters. My stance is that if you care about meaning you don't want to leave it to the rules. People can do the meaning much better. So, I'd work on the discrete, meaningless bits.
    For me it's very clearly a game with time strata, or "lanes", with moves for changing lane. I always come back to the Quarantine move for foreshadowing what the Apocalypse was. A linear story about time ? What a bore.
    What was that thing ? How did it come to an end ? Why did it mean happiness ? The order and object of these questions can do a lot. Fall of magic organises something like that

    I'm not 100% sure I get what you wrote here. After you quote the me from a couple of hours ago, you then type "when you read you are not interested in the letters". I don't follow you. Yes, I think people are more manifold than game, but I think that addressing theme(meaning)through procedure is worthwhile. I'm taking your use of the word meaning, to mean theme.

    I think that games that play with time are all well and good, but I like the idea of the regular passage of time, at least for most player characters, and for majority of the game's structure. It might be neat to have one character that operates differently than that, but I'm not at that point yet. I'd like play to feel lived in, at least up until the next act/phase/chapter happens.

    There's already a fairly popular role-playing game that does the whole jumping back and forth through time thing pretty well.



  • You got it all right, I just have different tastes.
  • It's been weeks. Where you at ? Have you got a calendar or a schedule or do you find interstitial moments to develop the game ?
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