I haven’t given up! Over the weekend, I was a bit under the weather, and my current technology setup requires me to go out of the house to post, so I stayed in and brainstormed a bit instead. If I’m to meet the goal of 8 games in 31 days, I can’t really afford to stay on one idea too long, so while I tinker with the questing game off-stage, I’m going to move on to one of Tore’s suggestions: agents of destiny.
Like John’s suggestion for the questing game, this concept explicitly lends itself to an episodic format. Each person’s case is treated like a standalone encounter, just as they would be in a television serial (as befits the inspirations Tore mentioned in the prompt). There is, of course, room to have these cases intertwine with one another – those who meddle in fate tend to see the things we call “coincidences” on a regular basis due to their occupation – but that can be appended later. For now, let’s think about how to structure this game.
Because apparently I’m That Guy Who Makes Card-Based Mechanics, the first thing that came to mind was using playing cards to designate a target’s current fate and the intended fate that the agent is trying to accomplish. Each suit represents one of the four offices of destiny (an idea I’m shamelessly stealing from Exalted: Sidereals, because I liked it): I’m going to set the four offices as all positive things, because no agent wants to find out that they’re responsible for starting the next genocidal dictator on their path. (There’s probably some interesting pathos and drama to be had there, but I’d rather err on the side of caution in my choice of material, thanks.) Clubs stand for leadership, Diamonds for prosperity, Hearts for love, and Spades for heroism. There’s an implied notion that the agents themselves might be aligned with one of the four offices, which we’ll put a pin in for later; my gut reaction is to buck the normal trend of creating a “splat” for each office and instead making them skills that agents possess at varying ranks.
Thus, at the beginning of each case, word comes down to the agent from their mysterious overseers, telling them that a particular person is to be put on the path toward one of these four outcomes. The conflict comes about because they currently have a different fate, and the agent’s job is to remove the influences drawing the case in that other direction. The implication here, of course, is that there are other agents of destiny at work to further this alternate agenda, because it makes sense that the only forces that could contend with a person who has influence over fate would be other persons who have similar influence. (Again, shades of Sidereals, but also of Continuum.) Are these rogue agents from your own organization? Is there a shadow fate bureau out there acting as adversary to your own? Maybe there are “fate spirits” that have their own inscrutable plans? I think the most interesting approach to this question is to leave it unanswered: it is what you want it to be. What matters is that you have a two-pronged puzzle to solve: creating events to start your own desired domino chain in effect, and dismantling the obstacle of the current fate.
Now, we don’t need to go fully down the Sidereals road and have agents kung-fu a person’s destiny into them, but they should be able to do some cool things. And just like that, WHAM: it hits me that I’ve already got a framework that I could tweak, in the form of House of Cards. This could easily be a standalone but companion game in that same milieu, with fate agents’ powers comparable to the Archetypal powers that Bearers wield, but collected under the auspices of the four bureaus instead. As tempting as that thought is, I also realize it potentially breaks the rules for the challenge – that could be a much longer game than eight pages! But we’ll see if we can make a standalone version. Agents’ fate-manipulation powers will be necessarily generic for the time being: the simplest way to do this is to make each of the four suits an extraordinary ability to weave that kind of fate for oneself. An agent with a high speciality in Diamonds, then, can just wrap themselves in the trappings of prosperity when needed, while an agent with a great Spades skill radiates palpable courage to appear as whatever role model others find most inspiring.
There are one or two other loose ideas bouncing around in my head, but that’s a solid start. More fiddling to come!