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I've noticed a recent gaming trend toward esoteric "concept" games--it's not a big trend, but games that have characters like Neil Gaimen's Endless, games based on childhood terrors, rather than simple plot structures.

Here's a thought, which might be half-baked, but whatchagonna do.

A game where the principle characters are narrative structures--plot tropes given sentience.

So, character "races" might be "Dragons", forces interested in the Heroic Quest, the Champion story in its many forms. "Harlequins," forces based on the endless variations of the romance story. And so on.

Each of these would draw their power from reiterating their central mythic structure. The concept of the Romance, True Love, et cetera, grows with each person that, after trials and tribulations, finally gets hitched (or at least settles down into a long-term partnership with a person of the appropriate gender and orientation). And the more people that believe that True Love *Can* Conquer All, the more people willing to go along with the story, and the force that feeds the Harlequin species is stronger.

So, each of these forces of narrative causality would want to guide people to become champions, to believe in true love, or to accept the moving job that's beyond their capacity, and invite their bumbling friends along. They could take human form to manipulate the world directly, but have a non-focused "omniscient narrator" form to help steer events.

The enemy? The Postmodern Myth, the existentialist view that there is no rhyme or reason to human life, that meaning exists only where you can find it, and that Harry can meet Sally, dump her, and have a series of meaningless relationships that leave him broken and alone at the end of his life.

So, active conflict, transcosmic characters that have a desperate need to work with human beings. I'm pleased with this idea.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 25th, 2004 09:19 am (UTC)

Would you mind if I borrowed that idea for a game I plan on possibly running once I get enough players?
Mar. 25th, 2004 09:28 am (UTC)
Borrow idea? Sure, more power to you, let me know how it plays out. Please don't post it to the internet or do anything that would, on the off chance that I ever get off my tail and publish, interfere with that. Yer an artist, you know the drill :)
Mar. 25th, 2004 10:22 am (UTC)
*chuckles* I was actually considering using it in a Tabletop dice/paper/pencils game...so the only people exposed to it are my usual gaming troupe...and they won't put it online at all, except to throw something in their LJs like "Yeah, my character in [insert name of future game here] did this and this and this in last night's game."

Mar. 25th, 2004 10:27 am (UTC)
Eh, that was just concern for my (c), you know. I've been toying with ideas relating to this theme (and a dice system that's A) slightly cinematic in flavor and B) hasn't to my knowledge been used, if you want to trade ideas via e-mail.
Mar. 25th, 2004 09:23 am (UTC)
I'm imagining a character model for the enemy: A bearded man in flowing red robes, seated on a throne-like chair. Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, except he couldn't actually be a Cardinal, of course.

Using a prime icon of postmodernist literature appeals, somehow.
Mar. 25th, 2004 09:29 am (UTC)
Oooh. Clever. My literary knowledge kind of falls apart past the Victorian era (except for Pulp, which exept when influenced by Lovecraft tends to be less specifically post-moderny.)
Mar. 25th, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)
Could I play someone along the lines of the narrator in Camus's The Stranger</> or possibly an almost direct opposite, the residents of Sartre's No Exit (1)

(1) The Stranger</> is about a man whose life is ultimately meaningless, and who sees himself as simply existing for its own sake, not allowing himself to be effected by the goings on around him, even though they are the things that would drastically change anyone else's life. No Exit is about 4 (I think 4; it has been years since I read it) people who have died. They may be in Paradise or the Pit, but it ultimately is only what they make of it. One is in Hell, because he (or maybe it was she) chooses to be. Camus is ultimate meaninglessness, kind of like the opening verse of Kohelless (one of the prophets of the Old Testament), Sartre takes that and adds to it 'so you are charged with providing meaning, and making your existance one of reason and value'.

Mar. 25th, 2004 02:32 pm (UTC)
That would be a post-modern creature and a manifestation of your habits of playing Autumn People, unless the GM wants to include the opposition. I don't see a problem with that sort of thing in an ethically gray game, though. Btw, you forgot your /u...
Mar. 25th, 2004 04:01 pm (UTC)
Damned </U>!

Both very post-modern, but in some ways philosophically opposite. Sartre could easily be a good ally to some of your 'good guy' characters, since his is a world of possibilities, not nihilism.

And do I really play antagonist characters that often? (I assume that is what you mean by 'of your habits of playing Autumn People,')
Mar. 26th, 2004 05:56 am (UTC)
Point--the postmodern philosophy doesn't deprive life of meaning, though it does tend to deprive it of metaphore. If life is devoid of external meaning, one must find one's meaning internally, empowering humans. However, whether that philosophy is positive, negative, good, bad, it is in strong opposition to the idea of a sentient narrative strand, who would believe that patterns, designs, higher ends--external, not internal, meaning--is necessary for humanity. Postmodernism/Existentialism tend to emphasize free will and self-determination. These are things that characters in a story--and a self-aware plot would see ALL people as characters in a story--don't have.

Yes, you play antagonists a lot.
Mar. 26th, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)

While I see that as empowering, now that you cage it in such terms, I do see why it is almost antithetical (I hope I used the word correctly) to the game.

And I never realized that I regularly play antagonistic characters.
Mar. 26th, 2004 10:33 am (UTC)
I'd hate to see any side in this as good or bad--while the protagonists, from a storytelling perspective, would be interesting, they'd basically be parasites, killing free will to suit their own ends--even if that end is Happily Ever After, manipulating others is still ethically dubious. The opposition is practically a good guy--just ask it. Shouldn't humans be free to rise or fall by their own hand?

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )