I came back from my holidays last week with a desire to start working on my Lost Heroes RPG again. I think I worked myself into a rut last time, but learning a little about design over the holidays seemed to have opened the way again.
There was something that, I think, +Greg posted just before the holidays, asking for RPG designers to say what the characters do, not what their RPG world is about. It got stuck in my head. (I’m paraphrasing because I can no longer find the original post – four weeks of G+ stuff is just too much stuff to wade through to find it).
There are some subtle themes of conflict in the premise of Lost Heroes and I was leaving a lot of work up to the GM to use them. It occurred to me to make it more explicit. To give it a _face_. When you have someone (or a group) to fight against, it’s much more obvious.
I don’t want to spend time here regurgitating the metaphysics of Lost Heroes world, except to say there is the Veil. The Veil is home to spirits and is like a form of ether that flows in tides all around. It keeps the Gods and more powerful supernatural out. But it also oppresses the supernatural that exist in the mundane world.
The Veil in part represents the conflict between the supernatural and the mundane world. Mundane/normal weighs heavily and even burns the supernatural (via the Veil). The PCs, who are Chosen of the Gods, are especially powerful which causes waves in the Veil. This can cause the mundane world to react, unknowingly but not explicitly. But there is no explicit mundane “enemy” though. Mundane world is as it is. There are no shadowy groups of supernatural hunters employed by the church or government and if they do exist, they probably know so little about the supernatural that they are easily ignored.
But what if there was?
The PCs are powerful beings, being Chosen of the Gods and so on. What if them forming a group and simply existing in the world caused a reaction in the Veil and created spirit-like beings that watched over the PCs and kept the PCs in line (or at least keeping the mundane line). I only have scribbled notes about the idea, but potentially as you pick your supernatural gifts during character creation, you drop a few points into this “shadow”. The player or the GM could then build up this spirit being. They could merge it into one being for the entire group or one for each PC, whichever is more interesting for the players.
These beings could control mundane forces by, for example, influencing large bureaucracies, controlling people who are asleep, controlling the dead or objects. They could stop magic out right. They could even have their own mortal agents (probably the mad) to act for them. Their purpose is simply to keep the sanctity of the Veil and therefore the mundane world. The PCs could have supernatural battles in underground car parks or cast magic while buried in the mountains and they wouldn’t care, but try to convince the entire world that Zeus is real by a demonstration of your power… this would cause these spirits to react quickly and unforgivingly.
And they can have personalities. They may even approach the PCs and offer deals or ways for the PCs to atone for problems they caused. These would make excellent story hooks and force the PCs right into the mundane world. They could force the PCs to take mundane jobs, or achieve some goal not using any supernatural powers or to hunt down a serial killer (who could be supernatural or not).
Is this an interesting idea? Would it add flavour to the setting or is it just over the top?
Starting to get back into writing for Lost Heroes but the first thing I do isn’t writing. I end up re-evaluating everything in front of me – I’m currently working on a character creation guide and despite having actually written up the rules for creating Magic Practitioners, I’ve decided to remove all mention of magic and non-Chosen types (including Magic Practitioners) from what ever thing I make public. I’ll keep the stuff I wrote, but this creation guide will be specifically about the Chosen only.
That isn’t really a radical change. I’m just moving some of the stuff aside. And it was something I had already considered for a while. But then it lays the seed of a change much more fundamental.
I am of the opinion that in game design, mechanics should follow flavour and setting and help re-enforce it or expand it. But I’ve always felt that the current power-system of Lost Heroes does not do that. I’ve invested a lot of thought and design effort into it, built elements of the system around it, but it always felt a little disconnected from the rest of the setting and the other rules which all otherwise have their place in relation to the setting. I did have a design goal way back when I started, not to have a distinct magic system but one that shared it’s core with the basic power system. That however I think is holding back a more refined vision of the RPG.
Currently a character can have gifts and faults, some of these are mundane and some supernatural or divine. Chosen with different Patron Gods will have different gifts and faults. Then there is abilities. There are psychic abilities, which have their place within the setting (a good example would be visions), and then there is the supernatural and divine abilities. These are powered by the character’s passions. Magic then aligns with these abilities (instead calling them paths), using the basic same rules but with a few extra restrictions and some broader concepts, example; Magic always takes time but Abilities are instant, however Magic can be used to create magical items but Abilities cannot. And so on. Abilities have ratings which can be increased via experience points and I’ve built them up using the mythos and elements of the setting.
But I felt they never really reflected the source idea of Lost Heroes. While characters in mythology often gain powers, they don’t work like abilities. They don’t get supernatural skills as such but learn specific tricks and powers. It’s not really something that’s part of the theme of the setting. I think I pulled the ideas for abilities from existing RPGs and martial-art based fantasies where characters only purpose is to train and build on a supernatural martial art (including all the flashy light shows).
I’m considering ripping out abilities completely, replacing them with just a set of gifts and faults. This suits the setting much more, as in the characters are human but have some advantages. They don’t have these supernatural abilities that would make them truly distinct (i.e. alien) to human characters. They are simply different. Another angle on this is to wonder how that these sort of supernatural abilities would affect how one would sees the world. It’s not just gaining an alien sixth sense, but also a new limb to control the world within that sixth sense. It would be not possible to describe how or what that would mean to some without it.
Magic of course can still use the stuff I devised for abilities, but I shall put it aside until later.
The question then I have is, does this make sense from a player perspective?
The current gift system in Lost Heroes allows for tiered gifts and faults. Some gifts and faults can be stacked up to three times, increasing their scope or power. But there is no gift or fault tree. Players can buy new gifts, learning them from gods or other supernatural beings. But anything then with an ability is not a player character and can’t really be. Does not having powers-based skills like abilities weaken the system?
Well okay, back from the French country-side. Three week holiday. No internet. Loads of sleep. And I’m feeling invigorated, though being back at work is quickly sapping that. Still, I did a ton of work on Lost Heroes. A ton, I mean. But I don’t really have anything yet to show you.
I’ve been working on the character creation and the I’ve got the nuts and bolts down and started into detailing each of the different gods, which got me excited about the project again. It’s going quite slowly however and since arriving back, work has stopped (simply because other stuff has taken priority for the moment).
But I also have plan. Yes another plan.
One of the problems I have with this character creation process is that I allow the creation of three different character distinct types; the Chosen (of the gods), Magic Practitioners and Valiant Mortals. It’s quite a convoluted/confusing mess, I’m glad that I have the three basic threads down, but I think I want to focus on the core of Lost Heroes. That’s the Chosen. The playtest character creation guide that I’ll put out will detail how to create Magic Practitioners and buy Magic Paths, but I’ll focus on just the Chosen with no Magic (they’ll still have gifts and supernatural abilities) for any games I run.
I love the types of Magic Practitioner characters you can created but it really makes everything complex and I think Valiant Mortals are ignored to an extent.
And then there is the second part of the plan, after I do this character creation guide, I want to try and run a few games with a group of players I know and have gamed with before. I haven’t played or ran a game in months sadly so some organisation will be required. Depending how that goes I hope to seek out others to play test with, but that’s off in the vagueness of the future.
So fingers crossed. To the future we go!