Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is MI:666 going off the rails?

Thats the question that I have been asking myself as I have been diligently expanding and combining my omniverse ruleset and my MI:666 setting. The process has been quite simple. Slip the two pieces together so that they run smoothly. Edit in any new terms or rules clarifications. Change all of the examples to MI:666 referenced material rather than generic action cinema. Et voila! Le Roleplaying Game!

However, when I look at it, it seems so ... lifeless? There's something wrong somewhere in the core of it and I cannot put my finger on it. It could be that familiarity has bred contempt but I'm not sure thats the thing. It shouldn't be that the genre is something that I am turned-off by, because it certainly isn't. It might have been that I was doing it without any real end-product in sight, but thats clearing bollocks as I have a two session playtest and then a game at GenCon lined up. So thats clearly not right!

I was listening to a Fear The Boot podcast this morning and I heard something that I thought might have been it. One of the presenters said that Call of Cthulhu was 'the last game on the market that wasn't following the hero fantasy model'.

One of the things that I have beefed up in this rewrite of MI:666 is the role of the devils as tempters and manipulators, and thus the role of the PCs four 'triggers' - Love, Hate, Desire, Fear. So if you succeed in accomplishing one of these triggers instead of getting back 1 Flux you get back your Destiny of Flux (Ok, this is really making sense to about a half dozen people!)

I have also added in a Secrets mechanic which I think is pretty cool. Each player has a sealed envelope that they are given at the beginning of the game and in that envelope is a really important campaign secret. In the game of infernal cat and mouse, devils are willing to betray their secrets if they can corrupt the players. So on the envelope is a list of actions that the players must fulfil before they can open it - betrayal, lying, destruction, greed, avarice, death, murder, whatever. If they want the secret, they push themselves further towards the grasp of the devils.

I'm wondering whether the initial concept of 'omniverse' - an emulation of blockbuster cinema with explosive character development - is suited to this darker, more moody setting? I think it is, but it just needs that extra something to make it gel together. It will come.

On the flipside, and to be fair this might well play into the indecision as well, I have about 101 ideas for Duty and Honour! After the playtest there were a load of things that needed tweaking but nothing very mechanical - it was more about bringing more awesomeness to some of the character traits and talents and generally applying that first playtest shine to the game.

I've been on a bit of a Sharpe-fest of late and I can see now exactly what needs to be done to make the game a true emulation of the source material. Party construction is key - 1 Officer, 1 Sergeant, everyone else Privates or Chosen Men. A little guidance about creating adventures and about the format of such and some rules for running the odd larger skirmish and it's pretty much a ruleset that I could run a campaign around. Tomorrow.

Well, lots of work to be done over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully by the end of it I will have come out with something more than passable!



Anonymous said...

You know, you are the sterotypical "locomotive train" style designer.... really.

You get one idea, you run with it, you do a shedload of work for it and push it forward, and then the next good idea that comes along, you're completely derailed by.

I think you seroiusly need to put all that other stuff to one side and concentrate on Mi-666, the very fact that you're more interested in Duty & Honour sounds like it's actually depressing you about Mi-666.

As for the things you've discussed(and I'm being harsh for you for you're own good here...):

Secrets mechanic which I think is pretty cool.

I don't at all, I think it sounds pretty toss actually (yes, I'm holding back, as you can see).

The system is good.

Listen to this very carefully Neil:

You have written a good system, really, yes, it is both interesting and novel... It doesn't need weird gimmicky features, really, it doesn't!


Message recieved and understood? :-)

So if you succeed in accomplishing one of these triggers instead of getting back 1 Flux you get back your Destiny of Flux

This sounds powerful, but I think will only really be found in playtesting wether it actually is too powerful, or exactly what is needed. I think possibly, given the present rules set, that this may be quite fine, but only testing will really tell.


Vodkashok said...

Whilst I value the input, I think you're wrong *g* And here's why.

I haven't even opened the D&H file since the day before Cottagecon. Everytime I have thought that I have the same thought. 'No. That gets done AFTER I have done my other game. Thats first. This is second.'. I have made commitments about the game to both yourselves and myself and my artist buddy, so they need to be followed through.

It could well be that I have changed what my normal practice would be when I do this sort of thing. If I am doing anything creative I plunge myself into the genre and let that immersion brew whats needed. So if I am running a SF game, I will watch SF and read SF and browse SF websites. I haven't been doing this with MI:666 as much as I would normally do so what I could be facing is a creative reaction to that lack of focus that I would normally create when I am doing something. (And yes, that does mean that I went nearly a year subsumed by urban fantasy when reffing Buffy, God help me)

So yes, I agree that if I did pick up D&H and want to do something with it, I would put it down again. Point is, I haven't picked it up!!

As for the Secret mechanic, well, you hit the nail on the head there. I have a good system, but system and game are not necessarily the same thing. The generic system that lies beneath a game can be sound, but it is how it is applied to the setting and the genre that makes a good game. For example, Pendragon is essentially Runequest/5 but it has been modified to make it work in the way the game requires.

Thats the way I seem Omniverse and MI:666 - the omniverse mechanic is a very cool one (although I am finding out everyday more and more games that I appear to have had a mental linkage with whilst writing...) but it says nothing to the MI:666 setting. If asked the question 'what is your game about?' the answer would, on face value, be 'uk agents fighting the forces of Hell' but in the end the game is really about secrets. The secrets the players are protecting and the secrets that they need to know to 'win' the battle. Why is what is happening happening etc.

There needs to be some way to represent this within the game that cannot be ignored. Like the Traits in Pendragon, or Humanity in Vampire or Sanity in CoC. Sure, it seems a little 'gimmicky' at first glance, but offering the players a literal Faustian bargain is VERY in-genre.

View it like this - if your character was in this situation, how desperate would be have to be to lose his virginity if that meant knowing the secret to saving the world?

Which likes the triggers/passions/questions of doom in with this - if you say your LOVE is your daughter and the devil says I will tell you what you need to know to save humanity if you let me take your daughter to Hell, you have conflict, drama and hard choices there and then. WHAM! Moreover, because you know what these criteria are, you can (within the 4-7 sessions the games are supposed to run) direct your character towards that aim or away from it. Your choice.

As for the flux get back, sure, thats something that has to be tested. One point simply isn't robust enough for someone to take the Triggers seriously when in fact they should be the major drivers for the game, alongside the Aspects/Facets/Destinies.

I appreciate the comments tho - blunt as always *grin*


Vodkashok said...

Actually, I'll add a caveat to all of that. What might be useful re; D&H is for me to actually purge the stuff that has built up since CottageCon onto my laptop and get that mental garbage out of the way? That might help.


Vodkashok said...


You'd be amazed what you can achieve in an hour lunchbreak...

Anonymous said...

Is the problem not just a lack of persepective? You're not in a position to be able to step back and objectively judge whether what you're creating is any good or does what you want. Couple this with entirely natural peaks and troughs in your creativity and inspiration and I'm sure you're experiencing something that all but the most egotistical of creators go through. You won't really get an idea if MI:666 works until other people read and play the finished product. Even then, if it doesn't work quite as well as you'd intended, won't you still have acheived your ambition? To the best of my knowledge you aren't creating this with the intention of launching a rp-ing empire.

The secrets mechanic is fine but personally, I would offer it as 'bolt on'. Allow the game to be played with or without it. It will put some people off if they can't play without it and it'll also reduce the potential shelf-life of the game in a indie-rpg kind of way.


Vodkashok said...

Yeah, I sorted of nailed it yesterday down to trying to work through being tired rather than approaching it with a fresh and clear mind.

That said, looking at what I have now, you are absolutely correct - it's at that stage where it needs to be slapped onto the table again and played rather than constantly editted and fiddled with.

Appreciate the comments guys. As always, they inspire focus in me.