19 Questions: Stranger Things
Sunday, February 05, 2006These questions are courtesy of Troy Costisick, and his blog.
1.) What is your game about?
Supernatural action-adventure featuring bigotry, hatred, understanding and compassion.
2.) What do the characters do?
They have prophetic dreams about people in crisis, seek out those people, and resolve the crisis (for better or worse).
3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
Players: Create a half-human, half-demon Stranger and choose the elements of his or her Dream. Confront the elements of the prophetic dream in the world. Judge the situation, and act to create change in the lives of the people in crisis.
Directors: Flesh-out the dream elements into characters and situations. Reveal the dream in play.
Everyone playing may change roles from Player to Director during or between sessions, depending on group preference.
4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is the sprawling, gothic City of Forgotten Gods. Humans and Demons must live in close proximity in the City, which is the last haven against the Wild. The City creates a pressure-cooker situation in which the two peoples must confront each other -- with hatred and fear, or compassion and understanding. As hybrids of the two peoples, the Strangers are caught in the middle.
5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
During character creation, all the participants map out (by consensus) which traits are considered "human" and which are considered "demonic." This creates a stereotype for each people, which are then challenged or reinforced through play.
6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward?
The game rewards thematic play, with a focus on Color, Character, and Situation. It provides a constant cycle of traded narration, so off-the-cuff creative descriptions are expected. It also rewards good flagging and flag-framing by Players and Directors.
7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
The game ties the reward cycle to the resolution of the dream crisis. The Stranger must confront the dream, and in doing so must confront the human/demon crisis in the city. This confrontation and resolution of the crisis results in empathy for the Stranger, who then changes as a result.
PCs are rewarded through Relationships (which grant more effectiveness and additional author power) and through Empathy (which are bonus traits that grant effectiveness). PCs also change and shift along the human/demon spectrum as play goes on.
8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
Players have ultimate authority over their Stranger and her relationships. They also choose the elements of the prophetic dream that will then make up the Stranger's new crisis situation. Players narrate all failed rolls for their Stranger.
Directors have ultimate authority over the NPCs. They create the crisis situations (and NPCs) using the dream elements chosen by the players. They frame, start, and end scenes. The Director narrates all successful rolls.
9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation?
The players choose the elements for the situation that their Strangers will confront. Since they had a hand in its creation, they are engaged in its outcome from the start. All players are always participating, either controlling a Stranger, Directing a scene, or contributing suggestions and Color as audience.
10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
A conflict can be called by any player. A conflict resolves stakes created and agreed upon by all participants. The player who calls the conflict names a trait of one Stranger that will be tested by the conflict. Then a d10 is rolled and compared to the Stranger's Number (2-9). For human traits, the d10 must roll above the number for success. For demon traits, the d10 must roll below the number for success.
There are additional mechanics for multi-roll conflicts, re-rolls, and injury.
11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
The human/demon split is part of every roll. Assigning traits to human or demon sterotypes during pre-play helps the players create the atmosphere of ignorance and misconceptions that exists in the City when the game starts. Strangers must resolve their prophetic dreams. Dreams don't resolve until the people in crisis have confronted their fears and desires. They can only confront their fears and desires via conflict rolls, and only Strangers can make conflict rolls. So by necessity of the resolution system, all the crisis must funnel through the Strangers.
12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
Strangers gain effectiveness via Empathy and Relationships. The Number can also shift as a result of play, moving towards human (lower number), demon (higher number) or a midpoint.
13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
As the Stranger gains empathy, traits are added to a special re-roll pool that is neither solely human nor demon based, but a blend of the two. Relationships also grant re-rolls. A character with empathy for his fellow people, with connections to those around him, is more effective than a detached loner.
14.) What sort of effect do you want your game to produce for the players?
Creepiness (it's a game of supernatural and occult trappings, after all).
A sense of pride in taking the flags offered by another player and creating something they really enjoy.
The thrill of important stakes riding on the bounce of a die and the resources spent to win it.
Some understanding of fear, ignorance, bigotry, and compassion as it relates to the real world.
15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
Names and places, particularly in the form of the illustrated map tiles that make up the City. Why? Because these things are used as a menu of Flags for players to choose from when presenting material for the Director to run with.
16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
The map tiles. They are instant, powerful Color for the game, and are a great resource for Flags.
The human/demon split for traits and how they relate to a Stranger's Number. Also, the idea of a changing Number and Empathy traits to reflect the events of play.
The Dream Sheet, which is like a character sheet for the Director to use for creating situations on the fly.
17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
I think this game addresses bigotry and compassion very directly. Not sure if another game has done that, exactly (though it does share some thematic similarities with Polaris, Dogs, and Trollbabe).
18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
POD books via Lulu, hopefully sometime in March or April.
19.) Who is your target audience?
The indie gamer scene and people interested in RPGs who are just starting out. Hellboy fans. Andy Kitkowski.
Well... that took way too long. But it's a pretty good questionnaire. I can see some things in a better light now. Also, I can see that my game is pretty much doing what I want it to do now, which is a nice feeling.
What do you think? Anything up there pushing your buttons, one way or the other?