Best mechanics for... Belief shapes Reality

edited October 2008 in Story Games
Hi.

My group is flerting with Planescape but we cant stand AD&D rules. Not that we find AD&D bad - we just find it doesnt fit with what is, for us, the central theme of PS - the power of belief / belief shapes reality.

So were looking for systems/mechanics that fit with the theme Belief shapes Reality.

- - -

So far we found 2 contenders...

"Mage: the Ascention" fits the theme very well, but its too rules crunchy for us. We want something lighter.

"Unknown Armies" rules also fits the theme somehow, but we are not fond of percentile systems.

So, any suggestions?

Comments

  • edited October 2008
    There was a lot of discussion back in the day about running Planescape with Sorcerer. The idea being that Humanity was your ability to apply your ideology in healthy productive manner. As zero Humanity you're a perfect believer but the idea has taken precedent over application, congratulations you and everything you care about slips away into another dimension.

    That interpretation makes "shaping reality" hard though. You either do it the hard way (i.e. the way we do it in reality) through application and outreach or you do it the Sorcerous way (summon Demons to force reality to your will) or you do it the Catastrophic way (let your Humanity slip to 0 and take you and everything else with you into your perfect plane of choice, See Chanel Gods for a similar mechanic).

    I don't know if that would be interesting to you. Given your previous choices it seems you want something a little more insta-gratification. I believe and ZAP this happens. Sorcerer isn't designed to do that.

    Jesse
  • Gestalt is built upon using your spiritual fortitude to change the world around you, often retroactively, while enduring ripples of paradox. Unfortunately I don't quite have it written up tight enough to ashcan it quite yet, but it's been through an internal playtest and it might suffice. What are your goals for the beliefs shaping reality paradigm, exactly?
  • Shameless plug alert

    I'm designing Principia specially to address questions of changing the social order in a way that's wrapped up with what the character do. It's not so much belief changing reality on a one-to-one basis, but rather a bunch of people with strong beleifs trying to change reality, and reality changing, but not always the way any one character would want. Planescape's pretty much exactly the kind of setting I'm buidling for: competing factions with different views of reality struggling to realize their visions. If you're interested, I can send you the relevant mechanical section from Principia in a PDF. It's designed to sit on top of TSOY, but can be adapted for a lot of other systems too.

    End Shamelessness
  • Isn't that what Solipsist is about?
  • Posted By: JarrodGestalt is built upon using your spiritual fortitude to change the world around you, often retroactively, while enduring ripples of paradox. Unfortunately I don't quite have it written up tight enough to ashcan itquiteyet, but it's been through an internal playtest and it might suffice. What are your goals for the beliefs shaping reality paradigm, exactly?
    Okay, I'm already drooling over Filip's Illumination!, but I can spread that around for another game or two. Count me in as interested also.
  • Yes, that's Solipsist. The whole point of Solipsist is that your belief shapes reality. Like, that's the game.

    Graham
  • And yes, I've already drooled over Solipsist, and will continue to do so.
  • edited October 2008
    I think the theme in Planescape is the basic "consensual reality" found on Mage the Ascention, where the individual has more power ... 1) the more in tune with the collective consensus he is, and 2) the more raw willpower he has.

    But in PS, differently from Mage, there is not a monolytical collective consensus, because there is NOT only one world - instead there are an infinite number of worlds/planes/bubbles, each with its own particular consensus.

    - - -

    Wow, Solipsist seems really cool. Thats just what I wanted - a simple system for emulating the concept (though I will look into Illumination, Gestalt and Principia too ).

    Someone already played Solipsist over there? Care to share your impressions?
  • Hey Vinicius

    I think Solipsist is exactly what you're looking for. I may biased, though, as I published the book.

    David has some APs linked here. It also got reviewed (very positively) in Knights of the Dinner Table #141.

    Oh, the good news for the future is that David, who wrote Solipsist, will soon be taking over the publishing as he gets himself set up as a publisher.

    I found it really easy to run as a GM, actually, and I had a lot of fun with it. The world around the characters fluidly changes to match the Obsessions and Limitations of the PCs really organically. I had 3 players at a game of it at GamesExpo UK in June. That number of players worked very well.
  • Hi vini_lessa, I don't know if you are in the US or Europe, but if you are on the UK side of the channel I'll be running Solipsist at Dragonmeet in London at the end of November, so you could try it there.

    If you are further away then there is a demo pack I can send you and a preview on the website (http://www.solipsist-rpg.com/cms.downloads), whisper me if you want me to send you some of that stuff
  • edited October 2008
    Speaking of Illumination, I playtested it from the beginning and it's finally taking shape. But I'm a friend of the designer so what can I know?
  • Hi vini_lessa, I don't know if you are in the US or Europe, but if you are on the UK side of the channel I'll be running Solipsist at Dragonmeet in London at the end of November, so you could try it there.
    Im from Brazil. hehe

    But thanks anyway. Im looking at the material in Solipsist site. Very interesting so far.
  • Solipsist has a rather wacky base setting, I'd find it difficult to run as anything but comedy without some heavy preparatory thinking. However, the mechanics seem rather interesting, and provided that you're not going to do the basic milieu anyway, rather interesting.

    Perhaps the central notion of the game is that the mages with the power to change reality need to balance between their wishes and fears and magic in a way that allows them to act constructively in this particular world instead of slipping off into a reality of their own. In Mage they had these... Marauders? Guys who'd given up on consensus reality altogether and gone into the void to live in a world of their own? That's much more in the fore in Solipsist, so much so that it's really the largest danger the characters have arrayed against them. They don't really need any skill or power to affect huge changes in the world, the only thing reigning them in is that doing too much will separate them from reality instead of changing the reality itself.

    Using Solipsist for Planescape would be pretty difficult because while both have this belief -> reality thing going on, Planescape doesn't really concentrate on all-powerful guys who shape reality on a whim. As the setting is depicted, the reality-shaping is more of a color thing and lots of GM fiat - at least nothing I've read about Planescape treats the belief thing as an operative method for getting anything done in the game. I could imagine a Planescape campaign that was all about slowly propagandizing local community to make the town slip into another world, but that's the exact opposite of what Mage or Solipsist do: in those games you're not doing real-world politics to shift the local metaphysical balance, but rather shifting the metaphysical balance to affect the local politics. It's the exact opposite process!

    Mage, on the other hand, would work with Solipsist pretty well, I think. I'd probably add some sort of illumination score to depict how the young mages begin thinking that their magical paradigm is real, only to shed it slowly through a couple of sessions, coming to realize that it's been their own will all along and nothing else. A sort of a throttle on the insanity that is the starting point in Solipsist as written. Without something like that you simply wouldn't get any of that occult stuff in the game, as it wouldn't matter a whit.

    Yes, that Solipsist -> Mage is something I could get on-board with. Solipsist already has rules for corrupt mages... no chance I'd remember what they called that in Mage, but there were some sort of outer gods you could sell your soul to in exchange for power. Solipsist has a vaguely defined Shadow force that works like that, pretty much. As it already also handles reality-shaping wars between mages, it does almost everything Mage did... hmm... would need some sort of rules for rotes and consensus-based mundane skills such to satisfy my thematic interests, but those are simple to add, really.
  • edited November 2008
    Using Solipsist for Planescape would be pretty difficult because while both have this belief -> reality thing going on, Planescape doesn't really concentrate on all-powerful guys who shape reality on a whim. As the setting is depicted, the reality-shaping is more of a color thing and lots of GM fiat - at least nothing I've read about Planescape treats the belief thing as an operative method for getting anything done in the game
    Belief power in Planescape is achieved though affiliation with the philosophical factions. Each rank within a faction gives the believer a power related to its philosophy.

    I think its a not so good rule, and even contradicts the very setting (the books explicitate that power comes from belief, not affiliation with organizations).

    - - -

    One simple mechanic would be to create a stat named "Vision" ou "Belief" or somthing describing, in a short expression, your particular vision of how reality works. Everytime the character acts according to it in significant ways, or makes the world around act according to it also in significant ways, he gains points. If you act against your vision, you lose points. The more point he has, the more immersed in his vision he is, and the more he can impose it on reality. Then, each tents of points you accumulate, you get stronger in your vision-imposing power. It should be very freeform, with each player designing its own powers.

    So for example, lets pick an chaosman ... (in planescape, a chaosmen beliefs that any attempt to impose order, structure, law, etc. on the universe is faded to fail. The universe is chaos.)

    ...so upon reaching 10 points in its vision he could, say, develop some kind of pattern recognition capacity. He can see and find things in chaos. Be it in trash bins, old newspapers scraps, traffic noise, confuse dreams, tv static, etc.

    ...upon reaching 20 points, chance, luck, opportunity, starts to favour him. He stumble on a rock and falls facing a 100 dollar bill; he fall from a roof and - what a luck! - a sand truck was just passing below, etc.

    ...upon reaching 30 points.... well, you got it.

    What do you guys think of this mechanic?
  • Ah, yes, there is a mechanic for getting belief powers in Planescape! I totally forgot that faction stuff, probably because those powers seemed pretty weak and inconsequential, kind of throw-away color stuff. Also, it's downright bizarre how you only get powers from the factions, which are pretty weird and particular philosophies, instead of getting them from simple things such as, say, belief in the values of your particular alignment. So saying that belief shapes reality in Planescape is kinda true, but considering that a Fireball shapes reality so much more, I'd give latter the pride of place. Hmm... in general, I have to say that even the whole analysis of placing the crux of Planescape in the belief theme is somewhat misplaced, looking at the materials of the game. Sure, you get those towns that shift from one plane to another because of a philosophical shift in the people, but that's not any sort of ultimate solution in the setting, any more than dragons being flying creatures is. It's just background weirdness. Not that an individual group can't take that particular and make it the central tenet of their game, of course!

    As for the mechanic you suggest, it seems like it'd reflect what you're trying to do pretty well! We don't really know enough about your particular group's preferences and goals, but I could imagine something like that to be very suitable for a group that likes light rules. Who gets to give out the points can easily be figured out based on what the group wants to encourage, too: if you suspect that the players would go hunting after the vision points, you can always let the GM dole them out a bit like experience points, or if you want to encourage the players to invest in each other's characters, you could let the players reward each other whenever their character acts according to his belief system.

    One thing you might consider is how characters might have points in several separate belief systems, and how the points could be exchanged between them. If you don't allow some sort of batch conversion, then that'd mean that a character would be essentially stuck in whichever philosophy he follows, and the more stuck the more points they have invested in the philosophy. So if you want dramatic changes of attitude, then it'd perhaps be better to allow characters to sometimes make a drastic shift and move the points from one belief into another. That can always be rationalized as a character with deeper and more acute beliefs being more informed about the philosophical things in general, which then makes them more likely to be able to internalize their new philosophy.
  • Seriously, read the crap out of Solipsist, it's pretty damned awesome.
  • Posted By: jessecoombsSeriously, read the crap out of Solipsist, it's pretty damned awesome.
    That's the kind of quote you should have on your website, David.

    Oh, Mortal Coil does a good job of setting up magic rules on the fly and in its theme document. You might want to read up on that?
  • edited November 2008
    yes, there is a mechanic for getting belief powers in Planescape! I totally forgot that faction stuff, probably because those powers seemed pretty weak and inconsequential, kind of throw-away color stuff
    Yes, very true. I like Planescape setting very much, but rules-wise its one of the worst designs Ive ever saw. Its the perfect example of how not to design a game:

    a setting grounded on the concept "belief shapes reality", with rules that dont do anything to promote that statement.

    a setting that is supposed to be a hub for infinite fantasy worlds, where mortals may have a beer in tavern with mythic creatures, embodiments of abstract concepts, or any fantastic being and discuss philosophy, art, or, like the slogan says.. "the maning of the multiverse", but the rules only allow you to be a Warrior, Thief, Wizard or Cleric, gain experience through monster-bashing, and 90% of it depict things like Armor Class, Attacks Bonus, monster stats, etc.

    a setting that have planes supposed to personify abstract ideas (grey wastes - apathy; pandemonium - madness; Ysgard - glory of war; beastlands - instinct, impulsiveness; limbo - chaos; mechanus - order; carceri - despai; etc, ) but rules that only care about what spell works in this or that plane.

    etc, etc, etc.
  • Posted By: Gregor HuttonPosted By: jessecoombsSeriously, read the crap out of Solipsist, it's pretty damned awesome.
    That's the kind of quote you should have on your website, David.

    Stealing it now Gregor :)
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenMage, on the other hand, would work with Solipsist pretty well, I think. I'd probably add some sort of illumination score to depict how the young mages begin thinking that their magical paradigm is real, only to shed it slowly through a couple of sessions, coming to realize that it's been their own will all along and nothing else. A sort of a throttle on the insanity that is the starting point in Solipsist as written. Without something like that you simply wouldn't get any of that occult stuff in the game, as it wouldn't matter a whit.
    As you say, Eero, Solipsist has proven popular with Mage players (at least the Old world of Darkness players, not sure about the NWOD players) because of the idea of playing in a modern world, and yet being able to change it at a whim. I'm told that a lot of the people who have picked the game up have done so because of the similarities to Mage.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenSolipsist has a rather wacky base setting, I'd find it difficult to run as anything but comedy without some heavy preparatory thinking. However, the mechanics seem rather interesting, and provided that you're not going to do the basic milieu anyway, rather interesting.
    I'm interested in the observation that the game inevitably comes out as a comedy. Certainly I've run games that have, so I can see where you are coming from, especially if you mean that it is a surrealistic comedy, where the humor comes from the madcap changes and the mental leaps necessary to maintain continuity from scene to scene. Is that the sort of thing you meant?

    I don't think this is inevitable though. I've run games of Solipsist that were pefectly serious, and it's possible to play it as a horror game, where the corruption of the character's ideal worlds by the Shadow is a constant source of unease.

    It's worth remembering that in Mage other people can easily notice the effects of your magic. Do too much and concensus reality turns on you for being out of line. In Solipsist that never happens. Normal people accept whatever you changed reality into without a second glance, because to them it *is* now reality, in fact the only people who notice the dislocations as reality changes are the characters and the players.

    Realizing this can help make things less surrealistic/comedic because you can play each change of setting straight, with NPCs that also play it straight, even if the world is now something pretty bizarre. And of course there is always the corruption of the world by the Shadow to stop it getting too silly.

    Do let me know if I'm interpreting you wrong though :)
  • Oh, I certainly haven't played Solipsist yet, so I'm no sort of authority on it. It's just that based on reading it I find it strongly geared towards absurdist, almost dadaist sort of content. Perhaps I just have trouble visualizing how you do practical drama in a game where the player characters basically have no limitations to what they can accomplish. The game does a solid job of pointing the way towards something like psychological drama, where the characters are haunted by the base psychological impossibility of their goals, but in practice it seems somewhat difficult to accomplish this reliably, it seems to me. Another factor is that the game is by necessity pretty colorless: comparing to something like Planescape or Mage there isn't really scope for colorful NPCs, imaginative cultures, ritual magic or anything, really, as it's all immediately malleable by the PCs. That puts something of a hobble on trying to texture the setting in any detail, I'd imagine.

    But I haven't actually played the game, so for all I know it's much more flexible in practice than I expect it to. And the core idea is solid either way, so I'm not personally very concerned - if I want to play something where the characters are omnipotent, but have to be very careful in their precarious position, then I know which game to turn to.
  • Yes Dadaist is just the right word for the way it can go, and it's not bad when it does, it can be loads of fun. I ran a game at Conpulsion this year that went a lot like that, it ended with the characters fighting a creepy circus ringmaster in the heart of a giant carnival, with green lions shooting missiles from their mouths. It was very much surreal.

    But I've had games which were much more about the internal struggle, the necessary compromises between the character's dreams and their own limitations, which have enough force to hold the characters back even though they are all-powerful.
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