Sunday, June 21, 2009

CA and me

The obsessive quest for definition continues.
I've decided/realized that yes, it's absolutely, positively fine for a game that mainly supports one Creative Agenda can (probably will) have rules that are, or appear to be, related to another CA. It came to me as I was thinking about an example of a movie in which tactics and strategies of the characters are frequently relevant to the plot, but the movie's still "about" something else.
Last of the Mohicans comes to mind. So does Braveheart. Hell, only action movies can get away with lots of bloodshed and battle scenes without there being something "else" going on.

Silly of me to not see this, in hindsight. So - in Braveheart, we'll say the Premise is "We don't have to beat them; just fight them". Thus, rebellion is not so much about winning as it is about not giving up. The flip side of it is that the rebellion is an expression of this stubbornness, the desire to live with dignity; that's why we're fighting. At this point, it's quite similar to the RPG Orkworld - "humans have the numbers; dwarves have the [weapons?]; elves have the magic; all orcs have is courage, and that is enough". That's an excerpt from an old promo for the game. Whatta premise, eh?

Anyway - naturally, the Scots still want to win their battles, not just fight them. They devise tactics of all sorts, they fight their hearts out, and so on. Rules for combat, even fairly tactical combat, would not be terribly out of place here. But the fighting isn't the point; the point is the Scots have to prove to themselves that they have dignity, that they have ethnic pride, trying to recover that which the English took from them. I dunno; if you have other ideas, that's cool. I'm shooting from the hip, here. What you need *besides* combat rules is some kind of mechanic(s) that injects hope, courage, dignity, pride, or plain old grit into those mechanics; furthermore, this isn't just "flavor" - it has to be the thing that drives play. And it does - after getting their asses beaten at Falkirk, the Scots lose their champion. He goes off to get tortured and executed in London for being a traitor to the crown. Looks bad, eh? Well, Stephen the Irishman goes with Hamish to see their buddy off; following the emotional route of the film, it is because they do this, and arguably because he's betrayed by Robert the Bruce, that the Scots can finally win the day.

In some kinda game terms, it's arguable that our two brave fighters have just recharged their Pride pools, and can now bust out some serious victory in the final battle at Bannockburn. The film, through this lens, is not about the war alone - especially with the early establishment scenes showing the pathos and misery of the Scots, it's about the clans learning to hold their heads up high again.
Now, a game that covers only tactics and Pride would be pretty thin, and it wouldn't really offer much in the way of options for the players - you can fight, and you can gain Pride by suffering outrages at the hands of the English.
But if you put in some stuff about alliances between different factions (join the English and sell out; trust no one but your own clan and see how far it gets you), some meaty mechanics on how one goes about gaining Pride (and losing it), and so on, then you've got something. I suppose, in terms of mechanics, the focus must mirror the focus of a film - Braveheart's plot doesn't dwell exclusively on the battle scenes, but rather has a lot else in there about betrayal, loyalty, love, lust, family, obligation, and dignity. *These* are the things that you build the game around, and the battles, scraps, and rows could be "payoff" scenes - situations in which you fire off the shots you've loaded through non-battle "development" scenes.

Wow, that got out of hand really fast. I think I want to reboot Mask of the Emperor as, say, something like Caste Warfare: a Game of Rebellion. Neat! More to come.

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