How low can "low stakes" be and still be compelling for RP?



  • I'm reading through the Sagas of the Icelanders RPG and contemplating whether that sort of theme (settlers in Iceland ca. 900 trying to just stay alive and occasionally fight one another or their Norwegian cousins) would translate at all to MU*ing, given the penchant for more elevated "lords and ladies" aesthetic when it comes to fantasy or medieval-ish games.

    Is "trying to make sure your pet goats survive the storm while your neighbor seeks to take your land" a compelling enough plot for a handful of characters (rather than, say, being the "downtime" scenes in between more epic drama)? Or is that sort of genre likely to become boring quickly?


  • Pitcrew

    That is 100% dependent on the writing skills and engagement of the people you are saving the goats with.



  • My incredibly jaded 2c is that that sort of thing would not attract enough people.

    The only niche that seems to exist for 'medieval' style RP is lord & ladies stuff where players will essentially 100% turn the game into "Pretty Princess Royal Weddings : The MU".

    My personal concern here would be how interesting of a character could you really make where you're playing an /RPG/ and the most interesting thing going on is 'protect your goats from the snow'.

    That just feels like something that'd be a 'slice of life' type scene on a bigger game. Like somebody on Arx who is a farmer might have 1 random scene where they're fixing up the barn with a family member or something. It's not exactly...moving?



  • I'd play the Hell out of that level of game.

    That should be a hint: this game will be as popular as plague. (Nobody likes the things I like.)



  • Listen to the collected works of Ronnie James Dio when you design it.


  • Politics

    @fatefan said in How low can "low stakes" be and still be compelling for RP?:

    Is "trying to make sure your pet goats survive the storm while your neighbor seeks to take your land" a compelling enough plot for a handful of characters (rather than, say, being the "downtime" scenes in between more epic drama)? Or is that sort of genre likely to become boring quickly?

    Someone taking your livestock or land is pretty "high stakes" for a peasant.



  • @Ganymede That's true. I worked from the assumption that the far-more-popular "nobility" default character perspective would view such a situation as low stakes.

    However, if the game's focus is on peasant farmers, then it becomes very much a matter of (potentially) high drama.


  • Pitcrew

    @fatefan The Realms Adventurous (Pendragon game) tried to do the more 'your goats survive' level of play when it started out (characters were knights, but the... lowest, shittiest, 'your farm pays for your armor and horse and that's it' level of knight), but a LOT of people bucked theme and went for frilly L&L. I think it maybe could have worked, but staff wasn't very big on enforcing anything so you had people basically playing in completely different themes.


  • Pitcrew

    Man, if you read the sagas of the Icelanders -- the actual sagas, not the game, I mean -- 'someone stole my goat' is pretty much cause for three hundred pages of "And then for the next fifteen years, these three families regularly decided to BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER AND HIS ENTIRE LIFE TO THE GROUND."

    Do not steal a man's goat, bro.



  • Unless the game is about viking hobbits, I do not see any way this could be L&L when the mares are gnarly ponies. No L&L and no dungeons = no playerbase.

    What about a game set in 19th century rural Sicily, Albania or Corsica? Same goats and sheep. Plenty of drama, politics, hereditary feuds and bloodshed. There could be mystical elements, the advent of technology or both.



  • @kitteh said in How low can "low stakes" be and still be compelling for RP?:

    @fatefan The Realms Adventurous (Pendragon game) tried to do the more 'your goats survive' level of play when it started out (characters were knights, but the... lowest, shittiest, 'your farm pays for your armor and horse and that's it' level of knight), but a LOT of people bucked theme and went for frilly L&L. I think it maybe could have worked, but staff wasn't very big on enforcing anything so you had people basically playing in completely different themes.

    Realms was neither goat squabbling (6th Century enfeoffed 'lords') or L&L. It was between them (Pendragon rpg 510 to 520 AD bridges the hypertimline up to 11th century early L&L style play and chivalry of Arthurian romance in the literature) and the players choose one or the other then took pot shots at each other to be right on theme. Our focus was knightly adventures, we didn't want to keep dealing with non relevant squabbles such as what brand of paganism was celebrated, what style of linen dress was being worn, or should homes be closer to dirt squabbling enfoeffed farmers or 11th century manors. Lack of theme understanding is entirely my fault.

    If I went dirt squabbling goat herder, I'd go 866 York, politics amongst the hirths for who controls what as Ivar moves on with Amlaib to harass Ireland and Scotland. Seeing if players could work together to reach Danelaw with Alfred (886 rl).


  • Coder

    This sounds deeply interesting to me. Fuck Lords & Ladies which I have no interest at all in. Save the goats, man. The goat is LIFE.

    Not even joking a little.


  • Pitcrew

    Coming out of lurking to say that I'd totally play some guy in a village just plotting to usurp everyone's goats.


  • Politics

    @fatefan said in How low can "low stakes" be and still be compelling for RP?:

    However, if the game's focus is on peasant farmers, then it becomes very much a matter of (potentially) high drama.

    This is what I like about Fifth Kingdom. Sure, there are Lords and Ladies, but you can also play common folk. There are battles to be won, faeries to interact with, and beasts to slay. All this is far more compelling than oh my, monsieur count, yes, i would love attend the spring ball on your arm.

    But if you like that, I'm pretty sure you could have that RP too on Fifth Kingdom. Mostly, I just see a lot of action, challenges, and sleeping around liberally because my PC is like that when he's drinking, which is all the time.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede is it cool in-setting for women to sleep around, too?


  • Politics

    @Kanye-Qwest

    God, I hope so. My alt is a raging dude-bro, insofar as those could exist back then.

    Certainly, my PC doesn't give two shits about people sleeping with others of wedlock. That's because he's willing to roll around with any lady.

    Dude-bro, see. That's what makes Mr. Turtle funny.

    That said, it is old-timey. There should be some hang-ups, but this is before the Christian Puritanical streak really set in. With pagan religions around, promiscuity isn't an issue unless there's some sort of marriage bond. At least, that's my understanding.

    Also, I don't think staff cares too much.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede That's cool. It's my own personal hangup, the setting enforced double standard. Not because of the setting aspect of it, so much as what players (in my limited experience in mushes) do with it. Yikes. Glad fifth kingdom is humming along and having fun!


  • Pitcrew

    I think the setting would do alright. Survival horror or just plain survival is a popular theme and this is essentially that only in a historical setting. I kind of want to do a similar idea but as an RPI as I think mechanics are important for the survival theme.


  • Pitcrew

    If someone actually intends to do this and needs help with source material, let me know. I can point you to my favorite site for lazy Viking research which looks like it was made by a 16 year old with a Geocities account -- probably because it's about that old -- but is maintained by a woman who does fabulous work distilling an enormous amount of documentation into short, easily readable articles with clearly noted references. While I use it for SCA reenactment nerding, you could probably use it to flesh out a wiki with all the cultural information players would need.


  • Politics

    @Kanye-Qwest said in How low can "low stakes" be and still be compelling for RP?:

    That's cool. It's my own personal hangup, the setting enforced double standard. Not because of the setting aspect of it, so much as what players (in my limited experience in mushes) do with it.

    I think that if there is any double-standard, it is mostly presumed. I'm sure some courtly ladies don't approve of men sleeping around, but doubly-so for women. And I'm very sure some of the ladies of the court aren't pleased with that double-standard, and would rather live their lives free and happily.

    And my PC is totally counting on that, see. Hurr hurr.


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