Monday, February 11, 2008

Roleplaying in 20% time

We just completed an interesting game... I thought of it just before tonights regularly scheduled Sunday session and I thought I would give it a try. The premise goes something like this: 'We stand at the twilight of Humanity. The great engines of creation are grinding to a halt and the universe is coming to close. All hope is not lost, however, as the legends tell us that in the last moments of life, the Great Dreamers will come to humanity again, and they will use their power to save us one last time, to bring humanity to a new era of prosperity and life.' The premise is that each of the players (and the GM) are one of the Great Dreamers, one of the people who brought some aspect of the universe into being. In our crew we had:

  1. The Dreamer of the Stars - Me - who brought the stars into being and let humanity play amongst them

  2. The Dreamer of Shadows - Nikita - who brought shadows and darkness to the universe

  3. The Dreamer of Ambition and Ruin - Ghen-ki - Who brought humanity's drive to better itself, and the fact that that very drive leads most to ruin

  4. The Dreamer of Harmony - Keith - Who let the animals and creations and things of the world exist as part of a group, who created civilization

  5. The Dreamer of Perspective - Jes - Who gave everything a place in history, and let them know it.

  6. The Dreamer of Consciousness - Steve - Who created thought itself

Together the dreamers came to the convocation and, as has been decided eons ago, they brought with them their proposals for the new universe. For the Dreamers were not to save this life, but were to create the world anew, and allow humanity to play there. Practically, how this worked was I signed up to run 5 games, each of the other player's world designs. Each person in tern would think of a world, I would generate an adventure, they would generate characters, and we would play for about 40-50 mins in the world. So, for this game, we had 5 times the worlds and 5 times the character generation. Despite how that might sound, it actually turned out really well.

I was very concerned going into this about a couple of things. First and foremost was the buy-in from the players. If I had lost them in the setup or scared them off with the creativity requirements, the game would've been a non-starter. Fortunately, we're all friends and we all bought into the game. Secondly, was thinking up 5 interesting and compelling plots, on the fly, for 5 different settings. Also fleshing out those settings, making them real. We had one snafu with the settings, but other than that it went very well, and even that one, I thought wasn't terrible, I just didn't do a great job with it.

If any of you have read 'The Golden Age' this adventure idea was based off of the Universe creation contest that is held in the first book. It was one of the best pieces of an incredible series, and I wondered if that could be reproduced in roleplaying.

So on to the worlds:

  • The first world was from Ghen-ki. He gave us a world with humanity just beginning to diaspora out into the stars. He gave us great world-ships where humanity would travel in hollowed out planets. I started everyone off in just about modern day. Richard Fine, a very rich entrepreneur had secretly hollowed out the moon and was going to take as many people as he could get to come along. The players each made a semi-modern day character who would leave their entire life to go on a trip to the stars. The game went from trying to get past the millitary that was trying to shut down the shuttle launch that was getting the characters to the moon, and quickly moved to the moon. On the moon, we blasted off after some words from Richard, and then visited a couple of worlds, leaving small colonies in our wake. On the third world, an alien ship was encountered, which proceeded to assault the moon. Just before the moon lost all atmosphere and everyone died, the characters got nano-disassembled into computer-based beings. After that, everyone decided that we would need to build and armada of ships to fight the alien menace. We left the universe just as the alien armada, and the human fleet of planetoid warships began their epic clash.

  • The second universe was from Nikita. He envisioned a world were your shadow was just as much you as you were yourself. It could interact with things, you could pick things up by their shadows, and in general crazy shadow and light based things were possible. To this description I added the City of the Great Sheik Yusef. This was a city that was under seige from 'The Other', and we would be joining the player characters as members of the honor guard of the sheik, attempting to get the sheik's son Darien out of the city while The Other finally sacked the city. There was a lot of detail with the crazy world, as the city changed its shape through out the day as the shadows moved, and there was a ton of stunting around the projection of shadows and its effect on fighting therein. The plot went something like: the characters are all standing guard, the notice freewalkers (shadows freed from their physical bodies) moving like a wave across the courtyard and coming to the Shadow Palace. After a great battle, they rushed the son Darien by order of the sheik out of the castle by way of the Dark Ways. In the Dark Way, they were ambushed by a man that looked a lot like a younger sheik Yusef, and were about to barely fight him and his demonic shadow minions off. They then took the son to the hill people were they raised him. After about 20 years, the son gathered them to him, and took away their aging physical bodies and left only enternal shadows to aid him in his quest to take back his father's city. Eventually Darien and the players stormed the city. As the game came to a close, we left the characters run down the Dark Ways after the new honor guard trying to save the son of the old sheik (and thus, time itself is a mere shadow of what has come before)

  • Third, Jes brought us the backwards world. In this world, rather than making a new universe, the scientists figured out out to reverse entropy, so that the universe would travel backwards towards the big bang. It was a great idea, but hard to wrap our heads around. Eventually we decided that time still moved forward, it was just the the universe tended to order rather than entropy. The players played scientists involved in the construction of the entropy engine responsible for reversing time. After activating the engine, and having a big big party, the characters (especially the youngest) began to wonder what would happen as they aged backwards, youthining towards their birth. After some investigation (for only the youngest children were near this happening), it was discovered that God himself took a hand in the situation. For as the young disappeared, an Angel would appear, and create a new (very old) body for the soul, and place the soul in it. It was also revealed that as the soul experienced death, it would remove some extraneous portion of itself, become more and more pure as we approached the end of the universe. Now that entropy was backwards, your soul gained pieces as you youthined to a new body. When the first player character, the first scientist involved in the project had this happen, the Angel spoke to him, telling him that God intended all things to come to an end, and either he and his companions would work to stop the engine or God would wipe the slate clean. There was much arguing as to what should be done about that, but eventually the engine was shut down (but not before someone shot an Angel, just to see what would happen), and the universe resumed its march to death.

  • From Keith we got a post-apocolyptic cyberpunk world where humanity had been mainly taken over by a mind virus. That virus wanted ultimate order in the universe, so it proceeded to organize and stack the elements of the city, and take over more and more humans. The PCs started the game as members of a tribe of humans just outside BAMA (Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Area, my favorite cyberpunk setting). They each created a character and a strong link. Then I set them to gather supplies for the tribe from the city. Chris, Steve's link, was a scientist trying to figure out how reverse the virus to save his sister, had decided that the only way to investigate the virus was to get someone he knew infected and watch them. He took Alex, Keith's link, and put a tracker on him and then arranged to have him captured by the virus's zombies. Jenna (Keith's character) then proceeded to rescue alex, come hell or high water. At the end of the session, Steve's character sacrificed himself so that Chris could live, and Jenna had discovered a way to destroy the virus, one drone at a time.

  • The final universe (from Steve) was a universe of pure thought. The was a universe were only consciousness existed, and the only thing those minds could do was talk to other minds. This one really gave me a fit... In fact, Steve pitched his idea and then we ran Keith's first because I was having a hard time thinking of what kind of adventure could happen in this world of zero physicality. After the cyberpunk game, though, I had an idea. Basically, I said that as the conscious universe grew, it was inevitable that a group mind, a universal mind, would emerge. Moments before the universal mind formed, erasing all individuality, the last strong individuals gathered to decided what kind of being would be formed. Each person was given 1 minute to pitch their idea of universal consciousness to the others, advocating for one purpose of existence or another. After that we concluded. At this point, despite my time management, we only had about 10 mins for this entire universe, so this was all we had time for.

This was a pretty fun game, but it was definitely challenging. Not just for me (and it was no easy feat), but also for my great players, who had to generate 5 characters and a world each (6 characters if you count the Dreamer itself). We all came through great and everyone had a good time, I think. One thing I'll definitely say is that even though we had a great time, the creativity requirement for the game was so high we were all nearly dead when the final universe rolled around, it was intense, but very rewarding. If any of you players are reading this, thanks for the great game and your patience with it!

I felt compelled to tell this story, but hopefully soon I'll write up a post about the 'Central Library' game were the world literally revolved around books. Or maybe I won't, I may run it at a con...

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