An early post to Eva Marie’s blog: her notes for a game she called “RPG”. It is included because it gives some insight into the design of the VRAIN/IO. It is very similar to the “Wyrd” she describes. It also seems to have informed some of the IO Software, in terms of how Avatars are represented and how conflict is resolved: although the actual system is much more complex, the basic mechanics of “bets” and “bids” is essentially intact. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the system she describes in which multiple narrators collaborate to create an Alternate Reality is also the essential nature of the VRAIN/IO, since the ARs created by both is the product of many minds melding together. The VRAIN also models and renders its reality by making use of the collective processing power of all the minds (organic or otherwise) connected to it. This would seem to be an extension of the “turn-taking” idea presented here, since not all the minds connected to the VRAIN are being actively used by it at any given time. However, when they are, their roles are collectively quite similar to the one described here.
This is a Reality-Play Game. It is a game in which the players imagine and inhabit another reality. They imagine themselves as characters within a story set in that reality, and together they write that story as they tell it to one another. Many of the sorts of stories I like to tell are full of Magic. I think that getting together with some friends and making a world together, then travelling within it, definitely qualifies as Magic. It’s not slingin’ fireballs but hey, I’ll take what I can get. But there’s a catch: in order to get a group of people telling a good story, you need structure, both to provide something to build on and to keep the story focused. In RPGs these often take the form of elaborate systems of rules attempting to model all aspects and possible permutations of reality, which is clearly an impossible task given its complexity. It seems to me that while some rules are necessary to define the character’s strengths and weaknesses and the reality in which the story takes place, what is really needed are social rules to guide the unfolding of the story and the transference and extent of narrative power.
The system I have created draws much inspiration from the basic Monsters & Magic system, though it has influences from many others, and of course my own ideas. It is an attempt to create a universally useful and usable RPG system. That is, one that can be used to tell all kinds of stories in all kinds of settings. Furthermore, its rule system shall fit on a single sheet of paper. It is clearly an impossible task, but I shall try anyway.
All characters have six basic characteristics: Strength, Speed, Stamina, Senses, Smarts, and Spirit. There are also six kinds of polyhedral dice: four-sided (d4), six-sided (d6), eight-sided (d8), ten-sided (d10), twelve-sided (d12) and twenty-sided (d20). To create a character, first assign one of each of these types of dice to each characteristic. Then assign the numbers one through six as a bonus to each. Then, create the character’s personal characteristics, and assign 6d4, 5d6, 4d8, 3d10, 2d12 and 1d20 between them. These characteristics can be of any number and given any name, the dice can be assigned in any combination, and they do not all have to be created before play. If a player has left-over dice, or dice gained through experience, they can use them to create a new characteristic or alter an old one during play as long as it makes sense in context.
All players share the responsibility for creating the story. All players can influence the reality of the game through the actions of their characters, but at least one person must take on the role of the “Wyrd”. This is the person (or people) who has no characters. Instead, they adjudicate and interpret the rolls of the dice and narrate the result. They are also often the one the others will turn to for a description of a scene, or to play a minor character. Finally, they keep track of any logistics or calculations not specific to a single character. It is a difficult, but magical and (dare I say?) sacred position. However, I recommend that players take turns being the Wyrd, rotating regularly. This gives everyone a chance to play both roles, and prevents burnout on either side.
Dice are for resolving narrative conflicts between players. When two or more players disagree on what should happen in the story, each one “bets” any number of the dice they have in characteristics which are relevant to the situation. Then everyone involved rolls their dice, and the player with the highest total wins. For more complex challenges, break it down into smaller chunks, and each side “bids” sets of dice, with the highest total winning that exchange. In both cases, the Wyrd narrates.