13 January, 2015

Developing a GCR story (Part 1)

In my recent thoughts about developing new forms of narrative structure, and my ideas about expanding and supporting existing games, I've been pulled back to Ghost City Raiders. I've seen stories unfold in the framework of campaign miniature wargames, whether those stories are epic tales of nations and cultures developing across strings of grand battles with hundreds of figures on each side, or whether they are more personal tales centered on specific heroes as they engage "skirmish-level" missions. Ghost City Raiders was always intended to pull this concept back even further, perhaps harkening back to an age of roleplaying that might have been, it scales the wargame scenario down to a single figure with multiple agendas controlled by each player. I don't claim it's a perfect system, nor do I claim it's a system for everyone, it's just an alternate quirky way of looking at things. It was always designed to be a modular set, where new character types and scenarios could be added to the mix, but it was also intended to work as a framework for long form storytelling...where a string of three or more scenarios could be joined together as episodic adventures in a longer tale.

I took some preliminary steps in this direction with "", but there is so much more that I could do in this regard, for the purposes of both worldbuilding and expanded game potential.

One of the areas I've been interested in expanding the setting is through the development of inhuman raiders. The game is set in the "Walkabout" oeuvre, specifically focusing on the scavengers and raiders who exist at the edge of the old cities, rather than the "wayfarers" who roam the wastelands trying to restore spiritual balance to the world. As a result, so far the game is very mundane, any monsters and spirits are purely antagonistic foils, and they only occur in a limited number of scenarios. It might be fun to expand the game by offering some of these strange beings as potential player characters within the game. 

Walkabout has a few types of spiritual beings roaming its wastelands, some are more akin to forces of nature, or pseudo-organic blasphemous abominations existing on the edge of time and space, others are closer to animalistic predators, angels, demons, or the fey/kami/spirits of traditional folklore. These last groups are most likely to have independent thought patterns that might approximate human values (in a twisted way), so those are the spiritual beings I'd be likely to start with. These beings are not necessarily more powerful than humans, instead they have a very different range of strengths and weaknesses (but they need to fit into the framework already developed). That's where our tale telling comes into effect. We'll focus on the "Cryptids", creatures that have lingered on the edge of human consciousness and society since the dawn of time. Players taking on the roles of these raiders will need to pass some kind of "rite of passage" to get their thoughts into the frame of mind necessary for such beings. This will work as a barrier of entry to these unusual character types, and will help explain why such creatures are rare in the setting.

The other two groups in the "Walkabout" oeuvre that haven't really been acknowledged as viable characters in Ghost City Raiders are the Outlanders (who live in the midst of the ruins and have often become mutated by radiation or spiritual energies permeating the old cities) and the Tribal groups (who typically stay far away from the cities in their attempt to live a more "natural" life). Once I've finished this look at the Cryptids we might head over to these other groups and devise some stories for them. 

My basic story structure follows. I've tried to make sure there are a variety of goals for the different scenarios, and in each case. There is no specific path through these scenarios, and in many stories there will be certain scenarios that are played multiple times before a resolution to the story is found (in scenario 5). Generally though, the story requires a cryptid raider to gather "stabilizing trinkets" to keep them coherent in the physical world, they spend these to engage scenarios (and stay alive), and when they run out of these they fade into spiritual oblivion. A cryptid could alternate between the scenarios in this tale and other scenarios, but until they've successfully completed this story they'll have to keep paying the "stabilizing trinkets". Each scenario directs to one or more others, typically depending on the result of the current scenario. There are numerous potential paths. 

A Cryptid’s Tale

A 2+ Player Campaign for Ghost City Raiders 
(where one player takes on the role of a "Cryptid")

Scenario 1: A Strange Land - An investigation and scavenging scenario.(A cryptid has become separated from the dreamtime, without gathering some sort of stabilizing trinkets or returning to the dreamtime, they will wither away and die. Play "Weakness" next)

Scenario 2: Weakness - A puzzle and magic scenario (Strange energies flow through the area, weakening cryptids, withering plant life and heightening tensions in the area. Success = find the source of the weakness, move to "Quantum Echo" for the next game, Failure = destroy a stabilizing trinket or one attribute is permanently weakened, play "A Strange Land" next)

Scenario 3: Quantum Echo - An exploration and investigation scenario (Just as there are negative energies flowing through the land, sometimes positive energies also flow. Success = gain a stabilizing trinket, either play "Quantum Echo" again or "Predator and Prey" next as the predator, Failure = play "Predator and Prey" next as the prey)

Scenario 4: Predator and Prey - A hunting and combat scenario (There are hunters who want the cryptid destroyed, claiming they are a devils or monster. Success = play "The Return" next, Failure = Death) 

Scenario 5: The Return - A puzzle and magic scenario (Cryptid enacts a ritual to stabilize their form, either returning to the spirit realm, or remaining in the physical. Success = Cryptid balances spiritual and natural energies, they may either return home or exist in the physical realm without needing stabilizing trinkets, Failure = Destroy a stabilizing trinket, play "Weakness" next) 

The Cryptids

Cryptid 1: Bunyip (Mythic - Place/Billabong) Endurance, Stealth, Survival, Intimidation, Occult, Theology, Empathy, Intangibility, Occult, Fishing, Swimming, Survival

Cryptid 2: Yowie (Mythic – Conceptual /Hunt) Endurance, Stealth, Survival, Intimidation, Occult, Theology, Connection, Focus, Occult, Archery, Hunting, Survival

Cryptid 3: Troll (Mythic – Elemental/Earth) Endurance, Stealth, Survival, Intimidation, Occult, Theology, Deception, Intangibility, Stealth, Endurance, Research, Strength

Cryptid 4: Werewolf (Transformative – Nature/Carnivores) Endurance, Stealth, Survival, Instincts, Multiform, Totem, Awareness, Navigation, Survival, Animal Ken, Hunting, Instincts


Cryptid 5: Sapient Tree (Sapient – Nature/Plants) Endurance, Stealth, Survival, Animal Ken, Hunting, Instincts, Awareness, Navigation, Survival, Agriculture, Herbalism, Splendour

I know that the various abilities are out of alphabetical order, and that certain abilities appear twice in their listings, that;s because I've just pulled the relevant traits from the working notes of "Walkabout". So far this is just placeholder notes, and will be cleaned up shortly.  
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