As I embark on this mad task of creating eight short games in a month, let me share with you the first three suggestions* I received. Tore Nielsen provided me with two ideas:
“A game that deals with the idea of an insidious/subtle reality taking over, and makes resisting it and going along with it equally interesting.”
“Hmmm, maybe a game inspired by TV shows like Reaper or Dead Like Me, only with the characters being handmaidens of fate and must try to get certain peoples’ lives to conform to Great Narratives (star-cross’d lovers, good man redeemed, etc.)”
John Lewis, meanwhile, gave me this prompt:
“A game where the characters have the ability to create quests for other characters and where levels are only really useful for the creating of quests to give to other characters. Something episodic and casual, the universe matters only slightly.”
I’m going to start with John’s suggestion, because he’s throwing me a rather heady mix of mechanical elements wrapped up in a deceptively innocuous pair of statements, and I like to dig into a new design on the mechanical end pretty quickly**. We already have a subversion: “level” is redefined away from individual might and toward having some kind of sway over another character’s adventures rather than your own. This suggests a social game. Further, my mental image of the giving of quests defaults to the standard fantasy trope of being summoned before a powerful lord or lady and charged with a quest.
However, from my work on Corona, I’m not sure I want or need to again explore having one player be directly more powerful than the others, but also sitting at home waiting for their hired minions to succeed at the quest, even if this position rotates. If one player is going to control a powerful noble in this game, then all of them are.
Hmmm… But if they’re all roughly equal in power, how do they give each other quests? It would have to be an agreement within the social power structure: the powerful adventurers only have “level” at the forbearance of their peers, making it a status consideration rather than one of personal prowess. Failing a quest, or just going on a boring one or even being boring about your dragonslaying, then becomes a faux pas that dings your standing within the coterie of other powerful adventurers.
But since you’re all off doing your adventuring, the only evidence of your deeds becomes your ability to recount them and recount them well. Sounds like The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen*** to me. That’ll be my starting framework, with some significant tweaks. There will have to be some kind of way to reflect the actual relative “level” of characters to meet John’s requirements, since in Munchausen the players’ alter egos are mechanically of equivalent social standing regardless of the puffery of their titles. Further, I have an inkling that this conclave of adventurers crosses alignment lines; the idea of Sir Hubert the Paladin having a yearly drinking and storytelling meeting with Ebonskull the Necromancer amuses me greatly. More on this after some fiddling.
*I actually received one or two other early suggestions that I have to leave out because they weren’t something I’m actually in a position to produce: one a licensed game, and one a board game. They were good ideas, but not ones I can do anything about!
**Plus, Tore’s a good friend and I want to brainstorm a little longer on his suggestions in order to do them justice.
***If you don’t know this game, you should. It’s fantastic. It is, like so many fantastic things, not in print, but copies may be currently obtained via Amazon.