Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges



  • The Game Stagnancy and Activity thread was really useful to me in helping me understand something I'd seen but couldn't articulate yet about 'successful' MUs. The idea that they have what that thread ended up calling a tight theme, but I'm going to refer to as a 'focus' so the two things are not blurred while I'm working on the idea.

    For my own project I sat down and tried to figure out what was theme, what was a focus and what the setting would allow and encourage players to do within the theme and focus. A quick overview of the setting can be seen here.

    This what I have thus far:

    Theme: Shadowrun meets classic pulp.
    Focus: Survival in and of the city.
    Setting: Manhattan in a permanent Art Deco age.

    IC Challenges:

    Mistrunning - Retrieving artifacts and supplies across the tunnels and bridges and the celebrity lifestyle that comes with it.
    Urban Exploration - Many buildings, basements and tunnels are in ruins, home to monsters and loot.
    City Politics - Getting between Tesla and City Hall can be dangerous. Or the Nightfolk and the Fairies. Or the block unions and the guilds.
    Gangland and Mystery Men - The gangs of the city and those who combat them when City Hall doesn't.

    Obviously, players could choose to indulge in all or none of those challenges, as they see fit. The theme leaves a lot of room open for service people, business owners and hangers-on, but the focus of the game in general will be surviving the dangerous environment of the city itself while providing for personal and collective survival. (Via mistrunning, exploration, etc.)

    I think I have enough flexibility in the setting and theme that the focus of the game can change over time, if the player's actions move things that way.

    Does this seem solid? Am I missing elements that might make it better? Is the the focus still too broad? Or the challenges? Feedback and critique is good. (Also, 'This is a really dumb idea for a MU* and I'd never play this' is an acceptable critique. I'm still not sure if the idea is too far away from what's popular to gain players at all.)



  • You're going to want to include, in each theme file, a broad 'hook' to fit a decent group of players and concepts, and have it so the various hooks can interact with another hook, preferably in a open-ended way, with some specifications as suggestions. My suggestion is to take all four of those IC challenges, and chain together individual segments from one of each together into a four point hook as a theme point. I say this because an open city environment without an express action motor (a war, a factional battle, etc.) needs a cog-like machine to function (some sort of economy system, but one that comes in the form of game theory IC interests).



  • I don't think it's a dumb idea at all. Though, I do have a suggestion for you.

    You're going to have to make a choice, and while neither is a perfect choice, only one will be right for your game:

    PVP or PVE

    Are you going to allow the players to faction-up and decide to war against themselves, or are you going to provide the players with a target to rally against?

    When going into putting together a theme, pay close mind to the trends of MUers and how they approach PVP/PVE.

    PVP allows players to faction as they choose and tends to create pockets of roleplay. Also, due to the risk of players getting upset, factions on a PVP game tend to avoid each other until absolutely necessary. People tend to get upset when one faction becomes popular, and when this happens, they tend to throw their weight around. A good example of successful PVP factioning are the old Star Wars games centered around Empire vs Rebellion.

    PVE can have player-led factions, but will require the game-runners to provide the players with information that keeps the setting relevant. If players have nothing to do, they'll usually end up sticking to relationship roleplay and playing house, which will leave you with a semi-decent population of roleplayers, but your proactive, theme-building, DOING SHIT roleplayers might taper off. So, if your focus is going to be PVE, you have to be prepared to do 2 very important things:

    1. Provide very good information as to how this PVE works. WHO are the bad guys. WHY are they being found. HOW are the PCs threatened by them (and after doing this, be prepared for people trying to solve the problem in one scene. Be strong)
    2. You're gonna have to be proactive. Tend to your garden. If the PVE bad guys are something you throw at the PCs when there's nothing else going on, interest will be lost. So, be prepared to have a loose outline for stuff that bad guys might do, and keep it loose. If the PCs fail, you have to be able to dance with their failures and not railroad a story.

    So, a setting is great, your setting works just fine, but when it comes to original themes, your main task is finding a way to help others invest in the setting through either available information or immersive RP. Then, make sure you have a game plan as to how the PCs are going to congregate.

    PCs are like farm animals. You need to give them drama and tasks to perform or they're just going to end up taking up barn space and fucking a lot.



  • @Chet Good stuff. and yeah, that sounds like something I need to do, thanks for the idea!

    I am also planning on putting together 'quick' character creation as an option where the new player can just select a broad category (gunner, duelist, combat mage, medium, for examples) and get pre-genned skills and stats without having to wade through a complex character generation their first time around.

    @Ghost

    I want to allow for the possibility of PVP, but I think PVE is probably more stable in the long term. To that end, the idea is run events twice a week or so with big, global threats but not a ton of depth, in addition to whatever more intricate plots we have going on. Kind of a monster of the week scenario, but magnified to a larger threat. Zombies from the tunnels, giant vampire bats from the abandoned skyscrapers, that sort of thing.

    I'm not sure what I'd do to prevent people from holing up. The only games I've seen that have avoided the problem are the ones without private spaces, like the BSG games and the late 'The 100' mush.



  • @Collective I think having a game plan for this, even if it's just a loose one to start, really helps.



  • For an experimental quick character gen, consider a dual-class system, with different categories for each class, although the classes would be the same in a congruous faction. (A medium would be the same as a mage, for example, but medium would perhaps be a 'genome' category, perhaps for a Nightfolk, versus mage, that would be a 'pathway' category, for a pre-creation origin). So you could mix and match for a unique result each time, if you get my meaning. A mage medium would be a mentalist, or a thief (Kender?) gunner would be a bandit.


  • Pitcrew

    I wish I had something constructive to add, but instead all I can offer is encouragement. This looks like an incredibly cool setting and I'm looking forward to when it gets going.


  • Politics

    So is this like steampunk (as opposed to cyberpunk) Shadowrun?

    I'm totes down.



  • @Coin Kinda dieselpunk (which is to say the aesthetic is more late 20s and 30s than 1890-1910) but yeah, that's basically it. Snazzy suits and beaded flapper dresses, lightning guns that can be tucked into a garter, elves and werewolves, jazz and booze and fight scenes by Yuen Wu-Ping with a soundtrack by Benny Goodman. And that's just the club scene. :D



  • @Collective Hard for me to give anything but extremely broad advice that I'm not sure will be useful, but lemme give it a shot. Your 4 major IC challenges, the Mistrunning and Urban Exploration are super dependent upon active GMing, which isn't really a bad thing, but since that's so manpower intensive I'd think hard about making sure those 2 things result in a ton of hooks for your second 2 challenges- city politics and gangland/mystery men.

    Because a lot of the game will be everyone reacting to the things done by active GMing, and then trying to create story about it, you need to make sure those latter 2 categories have enough meat so people can make their own fun off of it, otherwise imo you'll run into cases where people have trouble finding things to do because it is very funneled by the first couple categories, and since those are manpower limited you might have trouble accommodating them.

    Frankly I don't think you need to worry about ideas being too niche or anything like that. If you are telling fun stories, people are going to come and play. The trouble will be only being one person and only being able to tell stories for so many people at once, and making sure the stories you tell create other stories that everyone can have fun with.


  • Politics

    @Collective said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Coin Kinda dieselpunk (which is to say the aesthetic is more late 20s and 30s than 1890-1910) but yeah, that's basically it. Snazzy suits and beaded flapper dresses, lightning guns that can be tucked into a garter, elves and werewolves, jazz and booze and fight scenes by Yuen Wu-Ping with a soundtrack by Benny Goodman. And that's just the club scene. :D

    AWYISSSS DIESELPUNNNNNK.



  • @Apos

    The manpower thing is definitely front and center in my mind.

    I'm thinking one partial solution might be a Plot in a Box system that would work something like this:

    PCs get together (a minimum of two) and then hit the command that generates a random plot, with skill challenges and/or combat adversaries pulling from a list. There will be some canned 'GM narration' and some RP cues as well as a skill challenge or first combat round. There would be a pause for RP, then the players could use a command to continue to the next challenge or round of combat, etc.

    At the end, staff would get a notice with a recap (and possibly log link). They would reward the participants with XP, IC McGuffins and/or plot tidbits.

    It wouldn't remove the need for plot staff and people to run PRPs but it would lower the burdens of those people and let folks run their own adventures of whatever challenge type they want with rewards and little in the way of hassle.


  • Politics

    @Collective said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Apos

    The manpower thing is definitely front and center in my mind.

    I'm thinking one partial solution might be a Plot in a Box system that would work something like this:

    PCs get together (a minimum of two) and then hit the command that generates a random plot, with skill challenges and/or combat adversaries pulling from a list. There will be some canned 'GM narration' and some RP cues as well as a skill challenge or first combat round. There would be a pause for RP, then the players could use a command to continue to the next challenge or round of combat, etc.

    At the end, staff would get a notice with a recap (and possibly log link). They would reward the participants with XP, IC McGuffins and/or plot tidbits.

    It wouldn't remove the need for plot staff and people to run PRPs but it would lower the burdens of those people and let folks run their own adventures of whatever challenge type they want with rewards and little in the way of hassle.

    So it's like a hybrid of a MUSh and a MUD, in that sense.

    I'm not against it, as long as STs can still choose to run things "long-form". I DO love the idea of automatized stuff like that for "short-form" plots. I especially would love to use it for things like, for example, Werewolf Sacred Hunts in Werewolf: The Forsaken. They're things you need to do periodically and not doing it cvan have adverse side effects. I think having a system like this one would be cool, because it would require rolls and stuff, but not be necessarily as time consuming as running the entire thing.



  • @Coin Definitely! Artisanal PRPs and Staff Plots would still be the gold standard (once I stop laughing about using 'artisanal' in this sentence) but the canned ones could give people things to do with minimum lead time and a pace they get to set, even when nobody wants to run a full plot scene.

    I'm thinking of it as 99 percent mush, but with a couple of the more labor intensive things automated to allow for maximum fun. (Like quick start characters, the plot in the box idea and whatever else I can think of and either figure out how to code or get a coder to make for me.)


  • Politics

    @Collective said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Coin Definitely! Artisanal PRPs and Staff Plots would still be the gold standard (once I stop laughing about using 'artisanal' in this sentence) but the canned ones could give people things to do with minimum lead time and a pace they get to set, even when nobody wants to run a full plot scene.

    I'm thinking of it as 99 percent mush, but with a couple of the more labor intensive things automated to allow for maximum fun. (Like quick start characters, the plot in the box idea and whatever else I can think of and either figure out how to code or get a coder to make for me.)

    Man, I would kill for this plot-in-a-box thing, but @Thenomain fights me so hard on that stuff by showing an absolute disinterest whenever I bring it up.

    <.<

    ahem


  • Coder

    I'd put a time limit on how often the plot in a box can be used. Otherwise there will be people who just run the command and go through it with zero consequences to jack their character progression way high.

    Otherwise, not a bad idea... except there needs to be risk to it. If there's no risk of death or meaningful failure then it's just an xp candy shop.


  • Coder

    @Coin said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Collective said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Coin Definitely! Artisanal PRPs and Staff Plots would still be the gold standard (once I stop laughing about using 'artisanal' in this sentence) but the canned ones could give people things to do with minimum lead time and a pace they get to set, even when nobody wants to run a full plot scene.

    I'm thinking of it as 99 percent mush, but with a couple of the more labor intensive things automated to allow for maximum fun. (Like quick start characters, the plot in the box idea and whatever else I can think of and either figure out how to code or get a coder to make for me.)

    Man, I would kill for this plot-in-a-box thing, but @Thenomain fights me so hard on that stuff by showing an absolute disinterest whenever I bring it up.

    <.<

    ahem

    Stop giving me shit to do. Punk-ass greedy Millenial.


  • Politics

    @Thenomain said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Coin said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Collective said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    @Coin Definitely! Artisanal PRPs and Staff Plots would still be the gold standard (once I stop laughing about using 'artisanal' in this sentence) but the canned ones could give people things to do with minimum lead time and a pace they get to set, even when nobody wants to run a full plot scene.

    I'm thinking of it as 99 percent mush, but with a couple of the more labor intensive things automated to allow for maximum fun. (Like quick start characters, the plot in the box idea and whatever else I can think of and either figure out how to code or get a coder to make for me.)

    Man, I would kill for this plot-in-a-box thing, but @Thenomain fights me so hard on that stuff by showing an absolute disinterest whenever I bring it up.

    <.<

    ahem

    Stop giving me shit to do. Punk-ass greedy Millenial.

    Stop offering to code shit for me.

    I mean, don't, but also don't complain.

    Though depending on what the code looks like maybe we can just steal @Collective's (with permission). >.>


  • Politics

    @Lithium said in Working on Theme, Focus and Challenges:

    I'd put a time limit on how often the plot in a box can be used.

    IT'S MY PLOT IN A BOX!



  • I'm using a system I've devised for my little global criminal fiefdom project to drive the plot forward with a minimum of staff help, aside from arbitration and the staff working as an 'off switch' to potentially world destroying player schemes.

    You allow them to pool some sort of IC token made from AP of a various sort, not necessarily number of scenes but perhaps victories, contributions to the game, recruitment of players, and put it towards building their own niche on the game to run the elements that would traditionally require staff involvement.

    I've taken a stat that increases once per scene for each player, in one of six categories, and allowed players to build IC landmarks with it for their own personal holdings, which they can then put into public works for increasing amounts of NPC control. My game requires shifting alliances that are all beholden to a leadership council of active or possibly inactive factional leaderships, with non-PC forces (government forces not beholden to the PCs via corruption), so I've used this particular system. For your idea, you may wish to form something akin to mineral staking outfits for artifact hunting, and factional territory reclamation for your ruin exploration.

    The other two IC challenges, city politics (faction) and gangs vs. vigilantes (low level player politics), would fit into this well, particularly if you don't rigidly wire them into the same thing. You could be in the same faction on a larger scale, but conflict at a lower scale. That would make the kinds of conflict more fluid.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MU Soapbox was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.