Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fleurs du Mal, and my RPG playing

I have decided to create a new personal website. It was more than time for that: my current website was created in 2000, and only slightly changed afterwards. It uses frames. That's right, frames. I wrote it in plain html, there is no CMS, and it was so annoying to keep up to date that I more or less stopped updating it years ago. So now I'm building a new site using the Drupal CMS. I have it more or less set up, and all I have to do is add content. (Click here for a preview. Don't link to it; the URL is going to change.)

Because of this, I am searching my hard drive, and finding unfinished products everywhere. One that impresses me is Fleur du Mal, an adaptation of Clinton R. Nixon's brilliant (and mostly free) RPG The Shadow of Yesterday. One of the best parts of TSoY is the way you gain experience. All characters have "keys" that describe for what kind of stuff that character gets experience. All keys also have a way you can buy them off, and buying them off gives you even more experience, which you will then generally use to (among other things) buy a new key. This way, the player decides what is important for her character, and also has a reason to strive for character transformation.

For instance, take the Key of the Pacifist:
  • Gain 1 XP for every adventure in which your character does not commit any violence.
  • Gain 2 XP every time your character does not commit violence even though it causes her minor harm or inconvenience.
  • Gain 5 XP every time your character does not commit violence even though it causes her great harm.
  • Buyoff: Purposefully harm another sentient creature.
Choosing this key will make you eager to find situations where pacifism will get you into trouble, and it leaves open the possibility of whether you will cling to it or not. Fantastic.

Anyway, I wrote a supplement (which I then forgot about and never tested) called Fleurs du Mal.

A decadent ruling class has dominated the people for centuries with their malevolent magics, while they chased after mental and physical gratification, played deadly games of intrigue and betrayal, and tried to forget their desperate, secret craving for love. But now society is in turmoil, for many among the commoners have suddenly developed a resistance to the manipulatory powers that made them into obedient slaves. Revolution sweeps the city and angry hordes bent on revenge have surrounded the Emperor's vast castle where high and low nobility alike have taken refuge.

Outside, men and women are struggling with their new-found sense of self-worth, while opportunists of all sorts attempt to divert the revolutionary energies into channels of their own devising. [...] Inside, fettered by habits too ingrained to set aside, the nobles still hatch their deadly plots and indulge their perverse cravings. The claustrophobic social setting, the abrupt loss of power and the constant threat of the vengeful hordes just below the windows only seem to increase the intensity of their activities: the plots become deadlier, the lusts more demanding, the pain of others less and less a concern.
Here are some of the keys.

Key of the Aloof Protector: There is an adolescent or adult person whom you would protect at all costs, because you believe he cannot fend for himself. Gain 1 XP every time you act to protect that person. Gain 2 XP every time you ensure that the person thinks of himself as weak, helpless and dependent. Gain 5XP every time you make sure the person remains dependent on you because "it is best for him". Buy-off: treat the other as an equal.

Key of the Masochist: You love to escape the responsibility of choice by submitting to the will of your master or mistress. Gain 1XP every time you are hurt or degraded by your master and accept it in good grace. Gain 2XP every time you have a difficult decision to make and your master makes it for you. Gain 5XP every time you follow a command by your master even though it obviously dangerous or detrimental to yourself to do so. Buy-off: Disregard a command and make your own choice.

Key of Morbid Fascination: You are obsessed by the idea of death, and wish to experience it as closely as possible without actually dying. Gain 1 XP every time your watch someone die. Gain 2XP whenever you kill someone or have someone killed in order to experience their final moments. Gain 5XP whenever you arrange for yourself to have a near death experience, losing all points in all your pools and being unable to refresh them for twelve hours. Buy-off: see someone you love die.

Key of Grief: You still grieve for a terrible loss you have suffered, either of someone's life or of someone's love. Gain 1XP every time your grief makes you act more humane. Gain 2XP every time your grief makes you act less humane. Gain 5XP whenever your attachment to your grief makes you forego a possibility of overcoming it. Buy-off: learn to cope with your sorrow.

You know--I want to play this stuff! But here is the problem: I'm hardly playing RPGs anymore. I did a few sessions of D&D the last year, but that is hardly an RPG of the kind I'm talking about--more a board game, in many ways.

The difference between RPGs and IF is that you can play IF on your own, so whenever you have some spare time, you can play. But RPGs need the commitment of a group of people, and it's hard to get a bunch of people all together repeatedly without too much time between the meetings. At least I find it hard.

But I need to find a solution.

5 comments:

  1. I don't know if this solution will work for you, but I've had some success roleplaying over the internet, via chat rooms, TeamSpeak, and in the case of D&D, a program called MapTool to handle the battle grid part. It helps with scheduling when you don't need everybody in the same room.

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  2. Vivienne Dunstan24 October 2009 at 23:27

    I've also roleplayed online, through web forums, playing Call of Cthulhu. Roleplaying (pen-and-paper) the traditional way around a table wouldn't be an option for me for disability/illness reasons. But online playing puts me in touch with other people very well. This way I play at a slower pace than round a table (everybody gets a chance to post their actions every day or two), but we run through scenarios and have a good time.

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  3. "Choosing this key will make you eager to find situations where pacifism will get you into trouble, and it leaves open the possibility of whether you will cling to it or not. Fantastic."

    Oh neat! I really must spend some time looking at what RPGs have been doing in the past decade or so. There's intelligence there, and a lot of take-home value for the prospective I-F author.

    Would you happen to know any good sites that discuss such spiffy rules? (Not for my participation, I'm just looking to read some informative articles and such.)

    -R

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  4. "All keys also have a way you can buy them off, and buying them off gives you even more experience, which you will then generally use to (among other things) buy a new key."

    It's funny how people lay into a gamist insestuous reward loops, where you kill stuff to get strong so you can kill more stuff to get even stronger...

    So what does a nar game do? Well you buy off keys so you can purchase even more keys so you can buy off even more keys...

    A gentle, friendly LOL at narrativism... :)

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  5. Nothing wrong with pacing content, whether it's tactical challenges or character-driven antics.

    Those keys are hot. I do hope you'll share them all with us eventually. I have a friend I could sell on the "Sci Fi Les Miz" concept in a second.

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