Monday, February 4, 2008

Lurching Back to Life

Have I completely wasted my time since the last flurry of posts? No, not completely, though perhaps more than I'd care to admit. I have spent some time with some more traditionally rewilding activities, which I think I'll report on soon on Anthropik. And, I have (1) built up my RPG experience portfolio, and (2) practiced what I preach by beginning (and this past Saturday, resetting) a Savage Worlds campaign, using the Savage World of Solomon Kane setting: "Beyond the Elder Peaks." It involves the early history of Jamestown, and pulls the characters into the territory of the Allegwi; my brother plays a Jacobean super-spy that he described as "the seventeenth century Solid Snake" (from the Metal Gear video game series), so I think he's created a good mythical role model for himself there, and Giuli rolled up Virginia Dare, the original American rewilder. The movement from Jamestown into Allegwi territory ties in our cultural mythology as Americans, our origin myths like the Puritans, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke, and Jamestown, the "Noble Savage," and even parallels my own family's travels, having once lived very near Jamestown, and then coming home to Pittsburgh. As mythology, I feel very pleased with it, and you can read more about that on the Obsidian Portal site if that interests you. As a game designer, I've enjoyed getting a chance to branch out and try something at least a little different.

But now I feel like I really do need to get back to the Fifth World, though I feel another round of heavy-duty research should come next. With this round, I picture the game's mechanics revolving around a bowl full of beads (the matter and energy, "life force," mana or orenda of the land, if you will), with players taking beads from it and throwing them back in, hopefully creating a gameplay occupied with questions of balance, and the conservation of mass/energy, and perhaps even some land-wide problems if the bowl becomes too depleted? But as I said, I want to do some research into questions of animist worldview before getting too far into mechanics. Specifically, I need to take a look at:

  1. Skill, specifically the concept of "mana," and similar concepts, which I suspect will provide me with my best basis for how to handle skill in the game.
  2. Awareness, and where that comes from. I plan to read a lot of Tom Brown on this question, and I suspect that this will tie in pretty strongly with the relationship system.

Some other game ideas I've come up with:

  1. A lot of story games include a collaborative setting creation system, which I find interesting, but how does that fit into the Fifth World as an open source setting? And, with so many pernicious, ignorant stereotypes, misconceptions and outright misinformation about "primitive" peoples, does such a system ask for those stereotypes to come on in, make themselves at home, and become glorified and entrenched by the game? I want the Fifth World to provide an experience to counter those stereotypes, not reinforce them. But what if we had cultures defined in the wiki where they could receive attention from anthropologically-minded contributors, but then we have mechanics for groups to collaboratively create their own villages and bands? I think that idea just might work out. I normally harbor deep suspicions about myself when I find myself doubting the ability of a group of people to come up with something good on their own; it goes against my anarchist grain. But I don't think this really questions people's ability to figure things out for themselves, so much as it questions our ability to really understand how thoroughly civilized thought has poisoned the well. I know I can't accomplish the goals for the Fifth World directly, it has to come from emergent play. So how can you expect anyone else to figure all of that out on their own?
  2. The idea of tracking relationships with beads on a string has really hit home with me. This will likely make it all the way to the final draft.
  3. Tracking skills according to angles on a circle doesn't seem to work very well, but I still like the idea of the character sheet primarily taking the form of a medicine wheel. Perhaps concentric circles, representing tree rings or the energy potential orbits of an atom, and perhaps combined with four rough quadrants, might give me a better direction.

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