Posts Tagged ‘Planescape’

Wanted: Partner in crime

Fastaval now less than a week away. I am chief of the Info this year which means I have plenty to do answering emails, organizing and packing my own stuff (I’m leaving Monday to go set up for the con). With all this on my mind, there is one more thing I can’t help thinking about: whether I should write a scenario for Fastaval next year.

On one hand, I would really like to. I am thoroughly engrained in the organising side of Fastaval’s twin crews of the organisers and the creatives. But I feel that I should belong as much to the creative side of things, something my experience writing both my contribution to the Empire 40k and Antihero has underlined. On the other hand, I don’t think the way Antihero was created is the best way. Antihero was written in a sense of: “Oh, shoot – deadline’s around the corner!” Writing it was also in many ways a lonely process, as I am not currently in an environment where I often run into other role players, let alone people with an interest in scenario writing. That will, hopefully, change before the next scenario writing season comes around in earnest, but it has still helped me come to one important conclusion:

I want a co-writer.

I want to write my next scenario with somebody. Both as a measure to help the writing process along – I find it easier to do that kind of thing if I’m obligated to someone other than myself – and as a way to help me develop my understanding and style of roleplaying. In other words, I want someone who knows something about roleplaying and scenarios. Not neccesarily a veteran (though it could be), but someone with a perspective that complements my own – alike enough that we can agree on a vision, different enough that we will bring something different to the process. I want someone who wants me to challenge them as much as I want to be challenged by them.

So, what do I want to write? Good question. I guess I would like to write something different than both Under My Hive and Antihero. I might want to write a more classic kind of scenario. Both UMH and Antihero have been indie-like storytelling games with the GM in a very pulled-back, mediating kind of role. While that is the kind of game I often like to play, I also like many other kinds of game – like the more classic scenario with a strong GM and a story for the players to go through. I might like to try something along those lines. Maybe a scenario with very loose constraints and a lot of player interactivitiy. It might also be a GM-less thing. I haven’t played a lot of GM-less stuff, but both UMH and Antihero have had very weak GMs, and for Antihero, I considered whether the GM was actually necessary (there is actually a version provided in the scenario in which the GM plays a main character). So why not try to take the plunge, and do without a GM?

Another kind of scenario could be the retro scenario. It seems that dungeon revival is the hot retro fashion these days at Fastaval, with scenarios like Dungeon, Lydia’s Funeral and Kristian Bach Petersen’s Reservoir Elves, Magician: Impossible and Apocalypse Drow in the lead. Maybe it’s time to be avant-garde retro and make a bloodsucker revival that can show today’s kids that you don’t have to glimmer to sparkle. White Wolf just came out with the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th anniversary edition, and this year’s “Whole Con” is Dancing with the Clans, a game of Camarilla Disco. How about “Fear and Loathing in Lasombra” or some similar ironic nostalgia about the hottest games of the late ’90ies? I have a feeling that there is a Vampire/chick-flick crossover just waiting to happen – “Legally Brujah”?

I have also been doing a few “Fictioval” scenario previews that might be turned into actual scenarios. Like Kthulhu Kindergarden (kiddie investigators in an Arkham daycare facility). Or how about Love in the time of Chess, a sad game of chess prodigies using chess as a mechanic?

Continuing on the retro from before, it seems that half the blogging community has fond memories of Planescape. Maybe it would be an idea to bring Sigil to Fastaval. Giving the setting an indie motor and sending the players off to some corner of the Planes.

What to do?

So, if you might be interested in a partnership for next Fastaval, don’t be a stranger! Write me an email, or approach me at Fastaval, and let’s see if we can come up with an idea we can both agree on. It could be some of what I’ve mentioned above, some of what I have mentioned earlier on this blog, one of your ideas – or something we come up with together!

Planescape meets S/Lay episode 1: The characters

I have talked about making Planescape hacks of indie games. This post and the one or two to follow, contain my attempt at a hack of Ron Edward’s S/Lay w/Me. Or rather, this isn’t so much a hack as a “mission pack,” I guess – I don’t change any of the rules of the game, I just suggest appropriate ways that the Planescape world might fit the (very world independent) system of S/Lay w/Me.

S/Lay shortly

S/Lay is a a swords&sorcery storytelling game for two players. One person will be “you” and the other will be “I,” the “you” controlling the protagonist of the story, the “I” controlling the Monster and the Lover. “You” start the game by stating who they are, where the story takes place, and what the protagonist’s Goal is. “I” then decide the nature of the Monster and the Lover. In order to make this game work with Planescape, then, what is needed is some new protagonist concepts, and some new locations.

The protagonist can vary a whole lot. Looking at the ones in the book, they are all written around a contrast, indicated by a “but” in the description: “I am a young warrior, fierce and feared, but my hair is grey.” Most of them are constructed like this: “I am a [type of person], [description], but [sentence about me].” Only one falls outside of the template: “I am lamed and sick, but my iron will commands even the dead.” The types of person varies a lot, but they have the common denominator of implying hardened, tough and able people.

I am thinking that for the hack, I will make characters from all the factions in the book, and add some for some of the planes. It would be most typical S&S to have only humans, but I think for Planescape, some almost-humans are acceptable – in a very wide sense of that word.

The locations in the book are stated in a single phrase, often very generically: “The cemetary that is also a city.” A lot of them imply beauty and civilization, but all of them contain a hint of something sinister and dangerous.

For the hack, I may write them a little longer than the ones in the book, as I’ll want to tie it to specific places in the setting. I will probably try to avoid some of the Good planes, as I don’t think the whole concept of the “monster” would fit too well there. Apart from that, I will try to get as far about in the cosmology as possible.

Who are you?

Ok, so here goes. First the characters:

I am an Athar, out to spite the Gods, but I still have faith / I am a Beliver of the Source, certain of better things to come, but I can take care of myself / I am a bleaker, living a life I know has no meaning, but my laughter is warm / I am a Doomsguard, a believer in decay, but I am compassionate / I am a Dustman, living among the dead, but I only kill when I must / I am a Taker, my eyes calculating, but I don’t care much for wealth. / I am a wizened Guvner Lawyer, but I know how to fight dirty. / I am a Hardhead, crusading for Peace and Truth, but I have vices. / I am a Mercykiller, out to punish the guilty, but I can be gentle. / I am an Anarchist, and I live to free the enslaved, but I cannot free myself. / I am a Signer, bending the world to my will, but I long for company / I am a sensate, feeling everything around me, but I can be callous. / I am a Cipher, in tune with myself, but my face is gaunt and hollow. / I am a Xaositect, riding the chaos of the world, but my mind is focused.

I am a tiefling, decended from fiends, but my bearing is noble. / I am a Githzerai hunter, grim and brooding, but a fire burns within me. / I am an Aasimar, bearing the marks of celestial ancestors, but my attire is less virtuous. / I am a mighty mage, bending the planes to my will, but I can still see wonder. / I am a seasoned freelance, having served both Heavens and Hells, but I am my own master./ I am a veteran from the prime material plane, a stranger to the planes, but I can rely on my instincts.

Here are the characters. I am not entirely satisfied with them. Not all of them are quite concrete enough, being a little too much about the ideology and the general idea, and less about how they appear in the story – Edwards’ character are very viceral. I do think I achieved that a bit more in the non-faction oriented. Oh, and I could have gone on, but this is where I chose to stop. Feel free to suggest additions or alterations below.


Next time, I’ll take a look at some locations.

Rediscovering Planescape

This weekend, I visited my parents with the mission of going through those of my things that are still deposited there. Among those things were a number of roleplaying books – including some boxes of old AD&D settings. Oh, nostalgia! One of them in particular made me feel nostalgic: Planescape! The Planescape setting always struck a chord with me. The visual expression is very, very good, and apparently won it an award when the setting first came out in 1994. Apart from that, I like the feel of it. It has the same kind of “anything goes” feeling that many science fiction settings has, but with weird magic in stead of technology and science. Here, you can go straight from encountering modrons on Mechanus to chatting with Archons on Mount Celestia to being killed by the Lady of Pain in Sigil.

There’s also a great intellectual baggage in the setting. All the Outer Planes are manifestations and metaphors for a mentality or ideology, like the structured, Lawful Neutral Clockwork Plane of Mechanus, where the plane consists of cogs, representing the lawful nature of the plane. Or the desolate Gray Wastes, representing hopelessness and depression. Part of the setting is actually that the planes will change to reflect the attitude of those in the area – and if the inhabitants of a certain area of a plane start to think more like they do on a different plane, that place will move to that other plane.

This makes ideology and philosophy very important in Planescape – and of course that means that people take it seriously. Which again  means that several “factions” exist, particularly in Sigil, trying to promote their view of the world. And which faction you join will affect you greatly.

Like I’ve said, I really like Planescape. The thing I most DISlike about it, is that it is written for AD&D. I can see how it fits into D&D, but taken on it’s own, I really don’t think it is best suited for Dungeons&Dragons. It is a game that takes place on a cosmic and a personal scale at once, and where weirdness and ideology is more important than the “realism” of D&D. On the other hand, I think it’s perfectly suited to an indie mentality. It can tell stories on a personal scale, of people coming to grips with their place in the cosmos and trying to find out where they belong ideologically and philosofically – in a very literal sense: Am I a person of order, at home amongst the modrons on Mechanus, do I feel most comfortable around the decay on the Quasielemental Plane of Dust, or is my home in bustling Sigil, right where people from all planes clash and mingle?
At the same time, it tells stories on a cosmic scale, of wars and intrigues spanning worlds, if not multiverses, involving gods and fiends and armies of the most alien beings imaginable.
And so, I would like to experiment with adapting some Indie games to the Planescape world. A few ideas:

In a Wicked Age: Quite obvious. You need to write an oracle fitting to the planar theme, but you already have the theme of ancient gods, strange spirits, devious fiends and mighty heroes. All you need to do is give it a gloss of planar paint.

S/Lay w/me: Similar to IaWA – you just need to make some options appropriate to Planescape. Settings such as “An abandoned world, once the home of a wicked and depraved god,” or “Regulus, the bustling yet rigidly ordered home of the Modrons.”

Fiasco: I’m sure many a Planescape playset could be made for Fiasco. How about “…in the bustling city of Sigil” or “…amongst the scheming devils of the Nine Hells”. The first could deal with members of the different factions trying to make their way in the city (or maybe people from the Prime Material Plane just arrived there), while the second deals with devils trying to rise (or fall, I guess) in the hierarchy of the Abyss.

The Shadow of Yesterday: In many ways, I think TSOY is ideally suited to a campaign set among the planes. The different Factions and alignments can be represented as Keys, and you can easily make characters of different, strange, wonderful or dangerous creatures, be it githzerai, modrons, archons or halflings. The concept of ascencion also fits well with the planar theme – becoming one with the planes, or perhaps ascending to godhood (which is actually the basis of one of the factions).

Primetime Adventures: It’s almost too easy to mention PTA – anything can be the basis of a PTA campaign, just as long as you could make a tv series about it. Some ideas could include:
“Sigil City Blues” – a series about Harmonium coppers dealing with Sensate harlots, Anarchist terrorists, stiff Guvner judges and lawyers and eager Mercykiller executioners.
“Pelor’s Angels” – A group of female adventurers, travelling around the planes to do their good god’s bidding
“Band of Baatzus” – A group of fiends are sent off to battle the Tana’ri on the desolate plains of The Gray Wastes.
Others can no doubt be found. For instance, I have a feeling that it would be possible to use Apocalypse world for something interesting here, but I know too little of Apocalypse World to say.