6 characters zig zag, a PDF game

edited May 2019 in Directed Promotion
This is a pretyy damn fast game I play when the opportunity arises. It could be a Levity @rgrassi fast game because it's so fast :
Easy, 2-6 players.
player 1 picks a protagonist (a person or maybe a group of persons)
P2 picks an antagonist
Next player picks a virtue : that which is good to have and bad not to
Next player picks a temptation
Next player picks a helper (person or event)
Next player picks a reason : the sad but true reason why, in our reality, (put here the name of your protagonist)s can't do nothing about (antagonists and temptations) with all the (virtue and help) in the world.
The goal is to get something ripe for a story, but that could go one way or another

I made this as a PDFast R-ship map creation assistant for a folktale version of my game. It ends up very similar to Tales of Entropy "enemy of my enemy" cast drafting procedure. Only better ;P Because it passes painlessly into theme territory and concepts as characters.

Changed Pdq>pdf as Pdq existed already ;)


  • Fun! Kind of reminds me of the “It’s Not My Fault!” deck of cards that Evil Hat sells.
    You might want to use a different name, though, because there’s already a well-established RPG system called “PDQ” (and In fact I clicked on this thread because I thought it was gonna be about that.)
  • There is something really interesting and promising about this setup, but I'm not 100% sure I'm understanding it correctly.

    Can you give an example of how you use these elements to make an actual framework (especially the "reason")?

    And am I right that it's just a procedure for generating a premise for a story?
  • edited April 2019
    I don't understand the framework questions. The 6 characters tree is all the framework there is. It's already quite tight, really

    Players draft characters. An abstract character could be "greed" or "peer pressure". Foucault style : "peer pressure" is not a group of high schoolers. It's in everyone of us. A Reason example ? Harm can't be undone, Social status gap, Magical thinking is delusional, etc.

    And yes, we leave it at that : no setup means we can play walking or working. I'll work the next iteration of my game rules up from there.
  • This is great!
  • If you like the idea, try it. Slap a "game" label on Greimas actantial model and see which of your friends like folktale semiotics :P
  • PDF seems even more confusing! I spent a few minutes looking for a link to a file...
  • @DeReel , I fail to see "the game" part, unless the game is the character creation.
    I mean, after the creation, which are the procedures used by the players to actually create fictional content?
  • This game stops at character creation. But it gives a world, a situation, and a dozen possible stories.
  • So, what's an example of something this game produces? I'm having trouble getting it just from the directions (in particular with the "tip" that characters can be themes or ideas, instead).
  • @DeReel , looks interesting. With your permission, we can setup a fast game and make it available for download on Levity page.
  • edited April 2019
    Heya, rgrassi ! I'd be glad to do this.

    You can get stubs for a lot of simple tales. The teen band and the greedy producer, a shiny knight tempted by vain glory, etc.
    Every choice can add a different spin, a la Imagine. Try to imagine your answers after 1.
    1: a primary producer

    We got this
    2: a subterranean toxic
    3: friends
    4: an urge to grow higher and dig deeper
    5: springtime
    6: wider scale predatory economy
  • That example for illustration really helps. I just find your "directions" text hard to understand. Let's do a few forum rounds of this, perhaps? See it in action?
  • edited April 2019
    If you want. Any other player ? The picking order changes if we're an even number, but more important : we can sort of "adapt/direct" our choices to the next player.
  • OK, we'll be 2. I let you give the instructions as you understand them.
  • Interesting idea! First one of us starts by coming with a character. Except it can also be a group of people or an abstract concept (which I’m not sure how to use).

    So now I should ask you to start, I believe!
  • edited April 2019
    It's a group of suburban teenagers with weak parental monitoring.
    (You're doing well. The abstract concepts are better suited - yet not compulsory - for virtue, temptation and reason)
  • Great. So now I choose an antagonist.

    Could I do an abstract theme or concept here?

    I’ll say:

    A new wave of industrial automation developed by Omnicorp, Inc., threatens to erase any realistic future for youth today.
  • edited April 2019
    Oh yeah.
    I feel we're not talking robot clones in the open, but we could throw some fantastic machines in the basket without betraying your intent. Which suggests uncovering what the nefarious Omnicorp is really up to and capable of...
    And unemployment as an over extending shadow... that's a faceless villain alright. A good metaphor. And a potent kick !
    Waiting for instruction.
  • Ok, next I am supposed to ask you to name a virtue.

    What is something that is good to have and had not to?

    (The purpose of this step is less clear to me, as I can tell when I try to write anything other than your original directions. Maybe it’s “what could help our protagonists succeed against this opposition?”, or maybe it’s more like, “what virtue is most of value in this story’s world?”)
  • edited April 2019
    The phrasing is vague enough that it could be always having a knife in your pocket, friends, wits, salesmanship, always have a solid breakfast, etc. Value is a very good word you used for defining it. See how in folktales from different places and periods, there are the strangest values.

    "could help the protagonist" is a bit biased, "Value" will help anyone who has it, and typically makes for an interesting antagonist.
    I don't like the "of value in this story's world" because it will often be understood as "people in this world say it's of value" which is totally off-track. It will appear as a value to the listeners of the tale, here in meatspace.
    Something like "what Value does the story want to promote" maybe ?

    Anyway, as we're touching education and automation : Autonomy is key.
  • Sure, that makes sense. So now I need to come up with a temptation.

    This is kind of the flip side of Virtue, right? What’s something that would best be avoided in this story?

    I’ll say:

    “Some scientific discoveries have been hidden from public view and are jealously guarded by the corporations, lest they destroy society.”

    Is that clear enough? (I’m thinking they are thematically related to autonomy, but that detail would only come up later in the hypothetical “story”.)

    Now you must come up with a person or an event which would or could help our group of teenagers.

  • edited April 2019
    These discoveries give the kids double reason to debunk Omnicorp.
    You chose a very detailed formulation. It gives you control and heavy firepower. A more "internal obstacle" like "keeping secrets" or "holding back precious informations", that could be applied to any sentient PC or NPC, would be more versatile, virus-style.

    Because this is a modern story, the Godmother will be a free lance journalist / hacker.
    This is beginning to take a very precise shape.
  • Great. So this next part is a little confusing to me. I think I’m supposed to complete this statement (below). Is that right?

    “The teenagers can’t do much about Omnicorp’s takeover of the markets or the secrets they control, no matter how much autonomy they might gain, and even with the help of the Godmother/journalist, because _________.”
  • edited April 2019
    Well, you can also put on your grey beard and frowned eyebrows, and your pessimistic reasonable jade glasses.
  • Well, ok. I'll take that as a "yes".

    Perhaps a better name than "reason" would help here; that one doesn't really help illustrate the category.

    Could I say something like:

    ...Omnicorp has recently installed a politician they have brutal blackmail material on as the head of federal policy?
    ...a new strain of a highly-contagious and debilitating virus is about to send humanity into a new Dark Age?
    ...the teenagers hate themselves even more than they hate The Man?
    ...their parents aren't looking after them because they're all either seriously ill, suicidal, or both?"

    None of these seem quite right.

    I find this one difficult.

    What would you say?
  • edited April 2019
    I say you're trying to write a story, which is not the goal.

    The sentences are close to good Reasons, you just need to make them gnomic propositions : every kid has parents (or tutor or social services), corps have politician, teenagers have self hate.

    Oh, I see where the drift came from : all the (antagonist)s. All the Omnicorps win, all the teenagers in the world lose. It was written in plural, as in generic and gnomic.

    Also the world of the Reason is our world (reality), as opposed to the world of Value (fiction). "Value can prevail in the story, but Reason prevails in our reality" is what the grumpy old man says to finish the game.

    How would you phrase that idea to get that spin ?
  • My characters are : a group of suburban teenagers with weak parental monitoring, autonomy and a free lance reporter/hacker.
    You gave yours unwieldy names. What monikers would you use for them ?
  • I'm not sure I understand you here, DeReel.

    Why must the propositions be gnomic? Why is writing a story not the goal?

    What are we trying to phrase to get what spin?

    What are we looking for monikers for?
  • edited April 2019
    Some gap ! Reason, Value, Helper, Temptation are all player characters (some more abstract than others ). We are not writing a story. We are creating 6 player characters.

    Let's debrief:

    1° Your first character is fantastic :
    "A new wave of industrial automation developed by Omnicorp, Inc., threatens to erase any realistic future for youth today. "
    We could call it Omnicorp. We could also call it "automation" or "industrial wave", or "no realistic future" to stress this or that aspect of the character, but it doesn't change what the character is.
    In a story with this character, you will be able to assert that "one of the teenagers' dad just lost their job to a machine", or "this scene was broadcasted to Omnicorp's omnipresent video monitoring network", or "educational program changes in weird and terrifying way", or even try to push "universal timeline disruption : no more future".

    2° Your second character works great, provided we don't water it down :
    “Some scientific discoveries have been hidden from public view and are jealously guarded by the corporations, lest they destroy society"
    a) The "natural" tendency would be to flatten your proposition and look for a person or a group. The character could be Omnicorp R&D division. This would be uninteresting in two ways : first because it wouldn't acknowledge the way you presented your character and default to stereotypical bad guys, a sort of "normalization", which is not what you brought. Second and foremost, what agency would such a character give you ? It would just double your first character : 1° Omnicorp 2° some Omnicorp division. Duh.
    b) Way more interesting in my opinion, is to follow the exact wording of your sentence, what you brought. The discoveries themselves are the character. In an Akira way, the hidden secrets would attract my characters (notably the journalist) like insects to the flame and burn them in some way. The secrets could ALSO fuse part of your organization whenever you feel it's convenient (a "fall guy" scheme), and redeem the boss when it's revealed the whole conspiracy was for the greater good. Wicked.

    3° The hic is the last character, Reason. I don't know what character you want, and what tone you aim at. You, in turn, don't know what sort of character Reason is.

    a) Let's go through your propositions and see, not the story, but what agency would the character give you.

    - With "Corruption / blackmail" you can do things that Omnicorp can do + you can have blackmail come from elsewhere : between the teenagers, parents, journalist, city officials, etc. Handy but not ground breaking.

    - With the Virus, you just double the hidden discoveries. I don't see much benefit in agency. But maybe it's a trick from your part and you have a plan of using the virus for a face-heel turn, and need the extra oompf to not only burn, but take over my characters. I don't know.

    - With Teen angst, you plant an obvious yet powerful internal obstacle. Nuff said.

    - With Ill and suicidal parents, you gain more direct control of the parents (but only for things that Omnicorp character could pressure them to do anyway, I feel). I'd reshape it to a more general "Dysfonctional parenthood", to throw parents and social services back in the race, as a strong external obstacle to the teenagers AND preparing ground for some sort of "I am your father" moment in synergy with either Omnicorp or the Secrets (or the journalist if you want to mess with my characters in convoluted ways). With a vaguer "parenthood", you could have this AND a bit more, with cajoling parents, family obligations, and whatnot.

    b) Now what did I intend Reason to be ? The gnomic sentence is there to capture what Reason is about. Reason is sort of the evil witch of Reality rearing its ugly head in the fantasy world of the protagonist. In this case : "Certainly, I, as a player, wish these teens had weak parental monitoring BUT, you could say, let's get serious : this is not going to happen. Parents and social services exist in reality, and that will be a hindrance to your play." In other words, you're not breaking my character agency if you make a distinction between weak parental monitoring and letting kids craft bombs and run away.
    Reason's sad truth is Sad, but it's also True. Now, do you really think teenagers with weak parental monitoring have in fact ill or suicidal parents ? In our reality ? You could hold it, YMMV, and you'd get the character you want, but I don't think that's what you meant. I think you were very far in the stance of "writing a story". All you have to do is in fact to pick a character that will bring my protagonist's ideal aspirations down to earth. In this light, I feel the Virus doesn't fit the bill, because it's totally contingent on the fictive situation. In other words, I see nothing real or true in the Virus description.

    Sorry if I take over too much, but after such a communication chasm, I felt the need to suture some.
  • Unconscious inspirations : Tales of Entropy, Sloppy Ensemble Cast Creation.
  • DeReel,

    I initially missed your rewrite of the post, not realizing you had added some much in the edit! This is really helpful - not need to apologize! You tend to be very brief in your posts, and it's great to see you get more in-depth with your ideas.

    This explanation is really helpful, and gets me more excited about your "PDF game" (you really need to change that name, though! For starters, no one will ever be able to find it online...). Some wonderful thoughts, and much to ponder. Thank you!
  • Yeah, I keep editing. I want to avoid double post and try to make the message clearer without altering its spirit.
  • edited April 2019
    Nevermind the name, given on fool's day. The game's not ready, but please tell me...
    ... Which character would you pick ?
    ... What bit helped you understand Reason / Value?
  • What do you mean about picking a character?

    As for understanding Reason/Value, let me think on it. I’m not 100% sure I know exactly what makes a good Reason just yet, but I’ll think on it further.
  • You only picked 2 PCs : Omnicorp, Hidden discoveries. Then you gave 4 propositions (blackmail, virus, self hate, suicidal parents) for a third but you didn't go through this choice. So I am unsure if you understood the procedure correctly.

    No hurry ! Also anyone can interject if they find they have a good formulation. That will be less work for me ;)
  • Hmmm. Understanding that you're imagining these as abstract "characters" who are pitted against each other helps put it into perspective a little bit.

    "Reason", then, is a "character" who opposes the protagonist, the Virtue, and the Helper. Is that closer to your understanding of this process?
  • edited April 2019
    Yes, there are 6 characters,
    3 characters on one side (protagonist, value, helper), 3 on the other (antagonist, temptation, reason).
    3 characters that are closer to being persons (protagonist, antagonist, helper), 3 that are closer to being abstract (value, temptation, reason).
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