Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your Own Personal Blipdoolpoolp. Part 1

Shifting gears a bit today, I thought I’d share how I’ve been wanting to develop a way to create and grow a player’s relationship with their PC’s deity, and to have a plan for this generally in my game. Initially, I wanted to do this just with clerics, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I can see opportunities for non-cleric PCs to have personal relationships with their chosen gods as well.

Towards this end (with apologies to any religious readers!), I first thought it would be interesting to examine delusional insanity, or "progressive systematized insanity". If I compared a character’s growing relationship with their deity using progressive insanity as a framework, I thought I might be able to extrapolate a usable outline for how to measure a PC's progressive ability to communicate with their gods (I know, a little crazy itself). If there was a fairly clear, symptomatic line, I thought I might be able to devise level breaks at which various things were possible. So for example, if only late stage loonies hear voices in their heads or experience full blown hallucinations, then correspondingly only very high level characters would have their god speaking or appearing to them directly in some manner. I’m no psychologist though, so if this is possible I’ll leave the task to someone else. Also, the fact that Joan of Arc was credited with having experienced divine visions as a petite fille of only 12 years old seems to deter any notion of PC level progression necessarily relating to the ability to commune with the gods.

I still think of Bruce Galloway’s take on all of this and how logical an approach it is to something so irrational. I had also hoped to standardize the ways in which communication between PCs and their gods occurs in order to set player expectations and hopefully meet their demands for fairness in such exchanges. Now though, I’m not sure that this is possible or even desirable. After all, the gods work in mysterious ways. Though not all gods are as fickle as those in the Greek mythos.

So stepping back from that goal a bit, it still might be useful to devise and prepare some techniques to convey the occasional message from above. The prerequisite to this, of course, is knowing how the gods speak to us, or rather, to our PCs. It seems nearly anything can be attributed to being a sign from above. It would be useful to outline a number of ways in which people have traditionally been said to experience communication from or even with their deity. I won’t presume to try and address the entire subject properly here - I’m just hoping to get the ball rolling by writing some ideas down and maybe stimulating some further thoughts of my own on the subject.

A subtle method of communication from a deity can be found in the form of a dream. Intangible and easily forgotten upon awakening, a dream allows for the possibility of divine communication in any of the more concrete forms found in a wakeful state and more. That is, a dream may be of a simple scene, a recreation of the days events, or a fanciful but possible future event. It can also be filled with fantastic or magical imagery.

The problem with dreams in our games though, is that merely mentioning to a player that their PC had a dream implies that it holds some meaning worth noting. This is the exact opposite of how we know dreams to work - that they probably don’t mean anything and that they’re certainly not worth mentioning to anyone else. Except perhaps to a shrink or lover. If I’m going to be using dreams as a resource in my game, it might be best to understand them as only worth mentioning precisely because they must be portentous.

I don’t like this. I would prefer a dream’s appearance in the game to not be so predictable, but the only way to mitigate the problem this sudden appearance raises would be to make reference to them more frequently, closer to how we experience them outside of the game. It could be a lot of fun, requiring myself to make sure that every so often I mention to a player what their PC dreamt last night. Oh the random tables I could make. The players might even begin to assume that all of their characters’ dreams have meaning. Maybe they’d be right - maybe all dreams do.


JDJarvis said...

I've noticed players treat the dreams and visions their PC's experience as being very concrete. They seldom consider if the dreams are caused by madness or hostile influences trying to trick them into misdeeds. Granted this may be because GM's seldom describe things that don't matter.

Talysman said...

How about asking players of sleeping characters to roll a d6 when they wake up? You can then roll a d6, and any player's roll that matches means they remember a dream -- which might or might not be "real".

christian said...

I love dream realities in games. In Changeling, the dream realm is incredibly important, with a whole set of rules to govern dream shaping, examination, dream travel and so on.

The thing is, dreams are a core component of the game and play a role in every single session, if only to remind a PC of a source of anxiety in their life. "Sam, you had that dream again, the one where your Fetch is making love to your girlfriend." "Man, I hate that one!!"

I think that if you bring dreams up frequently and establish rules and rituals for interacting with them, then they can become a great source of wonder for the PCs. Eventually they will come to see the hum drum dreams from the prophetic ones.

Let us know how it all works out!!!!

Zak Sabbath said...

I have a system for fortune-telling which might work for dreams.

The fortune comes--then, at any point, if the conditions implied in the fortune are right (i.e. if it's a tuesday and your fortune is "You will meet a wizard on a tuesday") then either the DM or the player can "evoke" the fortune, and then it comes true (and a wizard shows up). Then it's gone and can;t be used.

If the fortune is bad ("you will fail a test of strength when the moon is full") , then a player could evoke it pre-emptively on purpose (trying to lift a heavy rock for no particular reason during a full moon) so that the DM doesn't get to evoke it later when the stakes are high.

The same could work with dreams: describe the scene, and the next time the PC's in a situation like the dream, the PC or DM could make it happen.

ze bulette said...

@Talysman: I’m thinking of something like what you suggest, although I might have them make a saving throw instead. The advantage being that with the latter they get better at remembering any important or at least supernaturally derived dreams as they gain in experience, and also that it might keep them on their toes since they don’t know what they’re saving against. I’d probably wait until later in the game to tell them that they suddenly remembered their dream if their roll succeeded, so they won’t necessarily or immediately make a connection. This, or some combination of a roll to see if the dream was actually of any import (also scaled against their level) as well as a saving throw to remember.

@Zak: I love the fortune telling idea and am going to borrow that at some point down the line when it comes up, thanks for sharing it. Players have an even greater expectation of a fortune teller as a game hook than they arguably should for a dream (even though in practice as JD notes above, they’re probably held in equal regard). Here though, I’m trying to develop a way to scale the interaction as the PCs progress in level. I also like leaving in doubt whether the dream is even worth considering.

Zak Sabbath said...

@ze bulette

James will probably be mad at me if I don't now add:

"Like that fortunetelling idea? All this and MORE in Vornheim:The Complete City Kit, coming soon from LOTFP!"

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