27 September, 2009

Brigaki Djili (Sorrow Songs)

To maintain a tradition of unpronounceable game names, I'll be working on a project called "Brigaki Djili" for my entry into the Stockade's game design contest.

Brigaki Djili is actually a term from a Romani dialect, which is fitting for a game about gypsies. It's direct translation is "sorrow songs", so the game will be about revealing the past. Sort of like gypsy fortune tellers who reveal the hidden past instead of looking into the future.

At this stage, the very raw basics of the game follow the notion of a group who commune with one another through dance, ritual and sacred herbs. Each tapping into an all knowing communal conscious to reveal the actions of a single individual in the context of a forgotten story. The role of the GM is that of a lone traveller who has asked the group to reveal a story lost to the mists of time (or deliberately hidden by the "powers that be".) The group weave together their narrative, and the GM asks occasional question to prompt the story into specific directions.

I guess I'm trying to develop a focused version of "A Penny for My Thoughts" with some heavy input from "Baron Munchausen", a dash of influence from storytelling games such as "Everway" but with the flavouring of a tarot deck to reinforce the gypsy feel. The aim is something very immersive, where the players take on the role of communal storytellers who are in turn trying to reveal the past through their communion with ancestral spirits.

I'm worried that this step of removal from the actual story might be a break in the immersion for some players, but I'm hoping that the mechanisms of the game will be subtle enough and elegant enough that the flow of storytelling will be magnified rather than impeded.

I've really been inspired by Baron Munchausen, Penny and games like Chronica Fuedalis where the game is written as an in-game artifact. So that where I'll be aiming with the text.

According to the challenge specifications.

The inspirations I'm using are:
"Gipsy/Gypsy" - The core context of the game.
"Yarn" - In the form of spinning a yarn or telling a story.
"Ball" - In the form of a dance, because I see the game as being focused on movement and cycles. Almost like the way a game of Uno moves around a loop, but incorporates reverses, skips and other conventions that toy with player placement and interplayer interaction.

I tried to work in the inspiration "Chromosome" by applying benefits to specific gypsy families, or allowing character to channel specific ancestors through affinities of blood, but I think this might be pushing the envelope a bit far.

The game stars I'm aiming for are:
"Iron" - I want the character sheets to be something simple, no real attributes because gypsy storytellers wouldn't care about "strength", "dexterity" or things like that. Instead, The character sheet will be like the handkerchiefs used in gypsy dances, carefully folded at the start of play, gradually unfolded to reveal their complexity and to reveal tarot card symbolism hidden within. This would represent through play the characters within the narrative revealing who they are. I'm still trying to work out a good way to accomplish this.
"Hat" - The wearing of metaphorical hats could be applied to many roleplaying games, and as a big fan of props in my games I could easily incorporate them into this game. But most of my games tend to require a lot of accessories before they are playable and I'm trying to break out of that pattern. I think that if
"Boot" - The way I'm using the movement of players with respect to the storytelling circle intricately links to the concept of the "ball" and dance.
"Wheelbarrow" - Unsure at this stage how much resource management will play a role in this game. It's certainly an aspect that has played fairly heavily in previous designs I've developed.

So I'm looking at about 7 stars at the moment.

As for Bonus Stars...

If I get my wife Leah involved in the design process, I can probably claim a "Cobber" bonus star, or maybe get her to proofread and edit the text for an "Opal" star. Then, hopefully over the course of 12 months I can drum up enough support for the game that I might get an outside blind playtest (thus earning a "Boomerang" star), and I'll definitely make sure that I get the game to Every Gamer's Guild and Eyecon (for the "Digger" star). I don't know if I can get someone else to post about my game so I can't be sure about the "Cooee" star, but I'm using at least one inspiration, so "Ned Kelly" is in the bag...

I don't think the game really unites two or more inspirations in an unexpected way, and I certainly don't use all six inspirations (I think the core vision would actually suffer if I did try to incorporate more at this point.)

Still, as long as the project is finished in the way I hope, there will be at least 10 stars and the final result will be in line for the "Tall Poppy".

Now I've just got to wait for it to be cut down.

So my game has been revealed, now to start the hard work of making it a reality.
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