This runs so counter to the idea of most modern "indie" RPGs that I love it.
In many indie games, the idea of a linear narrative is anathema. There are plenty of forum regulars who believe there is no real potential for character development in a preconceived story, where the GM leads the players through the plot with pacing moderated by die rolls and player intuition.
Yet Walkabout is a game about spirituality, and spiritual concepts are eternal constants; they may gain significance within a culture or belief system, or they may fade away into shadows when the paradigm shifts. ...but they continue to exist in the collective subconscious.
All deep and meaningful talk, but what does this have to do with a light-hearted game about post apocalyptic monster hunting?
I've thought a bit about Ian's comment here (and a few others that he has made over the past couple of weeks). I think they've tapped into something that I wanted from Walkabout, but something that I was having some trouble identifying.
My main agenda for Walkabout is to create a game about investigation and restoration. The wayfarer characters might have to fight unbalanced spirits, but this is not a game about combat. They may have to destroy a human who is responsible for spiritual imbalance in an area, but first they have to identify what the problem is, who is causing it, how it is best resolved, and how to prevent issues like this occurring again.
In a world where everything is twisted, how do we know what is right? How do we know that the wayfarers are restoring things to a balanced state rather than twisting them into an even more imbalanced parody?
If spirits are creatures of habit, following specific cyclical paths through their existence, then the characters need to learn what the correct paths are. Perhaps they need to act as mentors, allies, sidekicks and adversaries to the spirit heroes. They need to learn the one true path for a spirit, whether that path is a physical journey across the land or a metaphysical journey of transformation. They need to remove the obstacles that should not be present, and need to replace the obstacles which should be hindering a spirit's journey.
Imagine they are journeying through Jerusalem, following the "stations of the cross".
In the black forest they might have to assist a red hooded girl on the way to her grandmother (perhaps the wolf spirit has grown too strong through a tainted source of spiritual power), or they might have to teach a predatory wolf spirit how to attack a grandmother and how to disguise itself in her clothes (perhaps the spiritual grandmother has become imbalanced and needs to be taken down in order to restore the cycle).
In Australian aboriginal mythlore, the legends give meaning to the events of daily life (as is the case in most religions and mythic cycles), those who don't bother the learn the meaning of the symbolism confuse the purpose of the tales. Lorekeepers might relate the tales of spirits and talking beasts to explain a morality tale, the clerics of the church might teach the same morality tale through the apocryphal lives of their saints. Both the lorekeepers and the clerics teach the same lessons, but the clerics of the church see only the dressings of the tale...dismissing the talking beasts and spirits as primitive folklore.
Both the clerics of the church and the lorekeepers/shamans of the tribal societies believe that the heroes of their morality tales are immortal (some ascended from humanity as saints or walking eternally through the dreamtime, others born immortal as angels, demons or natural spirits), in much the same way that the Greeks and Romans believed in the transcendence of their heroes or the immortality of their gods. Each of these figures embodies a concept.
In Walkabout, the beliefs are made manifest.
When belief is tainted, the immortal concepts associated with them also become tainted. When the spirits are tainted, the protectorates of territory or associated concept become similarly tainted.
A spirit of death might not be popular, but it has a job to do. If someone causes the spirit of death to no longer claim the souls of the departed, the citizens of a town might live longer, but at what expense. If nothing dies, the carrion spirits grow weaker, the nutrients of the deceased are not returned to the soil and the fertility of the region dwindles. The cycle grows stagnant and the ripples of this stagnation filter across the land.
A spirit of knowledge might reveal the truth, but some truths are best left unknown.
Spirits have duties in nature, they are destined to perform specific tasks. Some may be appear to be good, others may appear to be evil, they merely have roles to play; once they no longer play those roles correctly the deviation in their actions cascades across reality. The primary purpose of lorekeepers and shamans was to ensure the stories were remembered correctly, and therefore reinforce the purpose of the spirits...thus ensuring the balance of spiritual energy.
A savage dingo spirit may have been slaughtered by survivors who didn't realise it's true purpose in the scheme of things. They only saw the way it killed their animals...they didn't realise that it was culling the weak and diseased from the herds. Now the wayfarers need to convince another dingo spirit to come to the area, knowing full well that the beast is scared of also being killed by the xenophobic humans...or perhaps they need to teach a new young dingo spirit how to hunt.
Every part of the country has it's own tales, and its own spirits embodying those tales. New arrivals bring their own tales and spirits, and it is through the mingling of these voices and energies that the world moves forward (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). But with the loss of the shamans, the wayfarers have to relearn the tales of the past to correct the balance for the future.
But I'm starting to ramble...I'm not sure if I'm refining the concept now, pushing it in an unintended direction or diluting the pure energy I started with.
Still more thought required.