Author Topic: Sarcastic story hook  (Read 5778 times)

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Offline Drul Morbok

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Sarcastic story hook
« on: March 28, 2012, 04:49:31 PM »
Hey everybody,
sitting at home an doing "theoretical GMing", I came up with some kind of story hook...it might be a bit of a parody of D&D 3rd, but I hope it can also offer some diversion without ridiculizing the game: (Spoiler warning for everyone with a GM reading it...and it's just a rather hasty translation, not meant to be of high quality):

First I have to do some background description, since I don't use Khoras as world - I just like spending my time in it  ;D
It could be a lighthearted side anventure, but if I ever get to find players, I'm gonna make it the story hook for an adventure to be taken serious.
The bigger the adventure, the bigger the hook: The players enter some new sort of community that is in uproar, or will soon be. It could be a remote community or a whole country, depending on how influental you want the adventure to be for the whole campaign (if any).
Esentially something that might be called "scienc" was right here: Someone was convinced that within the world, there were "things that happened, beholden or not, and things that only happened if either". The first he called "scientific", the latter "magic" - feel free to invent specific names, maybe I also will, but it boils down to that destinction. He claimed to be able that for everything that might happen it could be decided whether it was scientific or magical. By what he called "beholding everything". So he was soon known as The Beholder.

One day, he developed some kind of device:
A flattened hemispherical stone, about 7 meters in diameter, 1 meter high at its edge and one and a half in the center. On it, everything was possible, at least for him. He found some way to emulate everything he could think of...you could think of it as illusions performing the job of a  holodeck....with the classical rule of not being able to take anything out of it...but there is no deus ex machina, there is no speach analyzer that always knows what you mean after saying one sentence. Its user has to translater everything he wants to appear on the stone into machine code so to say. Its creator was the only one able to use it, and most likely the only person in the world to grasp it. He uses it to make all things happen that he can imagine and tries to learn about the real world by performing experiments on the stone.
The flattened top of the stone is of another color than the rest, giving the stone the appearance of an eye. (feel free to insert the pun that he believed that truth lie in the eye of the beholder, or wait for it to dawn on them. Or just forget about the eyes if you don't like such puns...).

This rather reciprocal learning actually produced remarkable results. As I plan it, The Beholder's work had great influence on the whole society, he essentially developed some formal notation that was unheared of...it was rumored that a actually might be able to unify all magic writing systems or perform some other equally epic task, but I guess you could shrink it down to anything between a new magic item or spell.

But than came a group tha called itself "The Heroes" and slew The Beholder. It is rumored that they were guided by a lunatic from the woods who was convinced that The Beholder was "his most favoured enemy" and he had to "slay any of them"...
Everyone is upset and would like the player to stop those monsters before they do any more damage - come on, after all this is THE opportunity to have 'em slay those creatures you hate most: D&D Heroes ;-)

Well, the players could chase down a group of deranged parodys of roleplay and that's it.
But it's not how things happened in my planned game: It's a completely different story, it just uses this hook...Nobody actually killed noone...the Heroes set out for it, but soon headed for another mission.
Something else happened, coincidietally  ;D at the same time..but not right now, enough writing.
Hope you enjoyed reading until here,
Drul
« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 04:51:38 PM by Drul Morbok »

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Sarcastic story hook
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2012, 03:33:29 PM »
So would this be the beginning of a humorous, tongue-in-cheek kind of spoof campaign? That could be brilliantly funny. And yes, lots of opportunity for really bad puns. This would work particularly well with experienced gamers who have been through many campaigns together and who know each other really well. I've had similar ideas for short adventures but never really went through with it.

If you ever do anything with this hook, you'll have to let us know what happened and how it went.
David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras

Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: Sarcastic story hook
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2012, 09:35:32 PM »
I intend to run it as a deep-immersion roleplaying world with some tongue-in-cheek humour in the style of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett  ;D

The reason I mention those two of all authors is because I think they tell about our world within a fantasy/SciFi world and terminology - and are so great at it. I'd like to adopt what I like about them.
Maybe first of all I should add that the german translation of the monster name "beholder" is a common german term, perfectly suitable among others for academic talk about science and magic...even roleplayers might hear it and not jump to preconditioned conclusions.

The campaign has not yet started, but if anyone is interested, feel free to read some rough sketches of the first session as planned, an I'd appreciate any comment whatsoever. This is my first ambitious campaign, so I'd really liked to be forewarned of inconsistencies or contradictions:

First of all, the players do not originate from the game world. For my world, I invented some strange geologic phenomena. The players will have their character story within any word they like. In D&D terms, they start as commoners without "hero class" and will learn everything in-game, so they could come from a fantasy world as well as from our world. The may know each other or not.
One day, each of them literally sinks into the ground, or more precise, the ground sinks around them, starting as an indentation, forming a hemispherical hole, and finally a spherical cave/bubble with a diameter of several meter, enough not to worry about air, there's enough illumination by lichen or something else I'll think of. The walls show a pattern of stone and earth that seems to move upwards, allowing for the conclusion that the cave is sinking....moving horizontally...upwards...opening again in the game world.
hat's where the character story ends and the game starts.

This might be a very brute force attempt at getting the players involved, but I encourage the players to invent specific reasons and backgrounds.One might have taunted the wrong person, another one, trying to escape persecutors, uttered a wish to "disappear into the ground", and somewhere else, some tribe might send out people of their own by those cave-bubbles.
For me the main aspect is that there will be inexperienced players, and even experienced players might not be quite prepared for the word I imagined. At my first short-lifed attempts at GM, I often ended up thinking that a person grewn up in this world would never have acted like this. More on that later.

When the cave-bubble is reaching its destination (multiples having been merged on their way to join the players if necessary), they'll arrive in some light wood, after some minutes there will be someone coming, a lone person, young male, wearing a gray robe, with a regular pattern of thick rings of slightly lighter gray...they seem to resemble eyes, unless you look directly at them, in which case they look like indistinct blotches. Nothing frightening, and the robed person also comes in friendly greeting manner, albeit a bit cautious and insecure.
He introduces himself as "Your greeter, call me Peter", welcomes them as if it was the most normal thing to do, asking if everything is OK and if they have any questions. There might be a quick exchange of half-sentences and confused questions, and Peter will draw the conclusion that the players are "from the outer worlds". He seems puzzled, mumbles things about not being prepared, asks the to describe the world they come from.
But he will find his countenance suddenly and get all professional, trying to explain. He might be using other terms, here's the essence:

The game world is set within giant "caves", but maybe "bubble" would be a more appropriate term. Actually the soil is of a consistency that might be called viscous. Caves are essentially giant bubbles that rise and sink randomly within the surrounding soil, creating warmer "seasons" when up and colder "seasons" when down, creating more or less earth-like succession of seasons, but at variable lengths.
They also move around horizontally, but never above each other, and sometimes join on the edges for some hours up to a week. It is also possible to send around small cave-bubbles.

At this point the players will surely look around and especially up - and will see pretty much the sky you'd expect in our world. They will ask about the ceiling of the "cave". Peter will explain that the ceiling fell off, therefore there's none.
No matter how the players react, for him it's most natural that that's the way things are.
He will refer to what the players call "sky" as "the outher worlds", calling it an inverse world that was not set in the hollow inside of soil, but on the hollow outside of solid, or something equally bizarre. He'll shudder and beg for pardon for calling it "bizarre", not meaning to be impolite. He will add that it's rare for cave-bubbles to cross that border, so there sure would be some reasons...well, actually the rest is free roleplaying.

The main thing to turn out is that Peter is in an order dedicated to Ret`Mayeb, and here is his story (I also posted this part elsewhere):

Once Ret`Mayeb was Golden Dragon  - NOT a gold dragon from D&D, but rather mystical entity far beyond even the powers of gods, consorting with whole pantheons instead. He was rather inquisitive, and always wanted to find out what motivated those gods, and even more what separated them. He tried to look at the way the gods wanted themselves to bee seen, but this only lead him to the question "Two arms, a head, a torso, two legs. That's what unites them. But they are gods? What's the point of it?"
So he went to the gods and asked.

This question was considered an insult by the gods.
Almost all pantheons united and overcame him quiet easily, since he did not resist. The essentially made him one of them, ripping all off his form except torso, legs, arms and head, and bound him to live on in this body forever.

To let him see his miserable form all time, they ripped off his eyelids and forced him to forever reshape his despicable form in mud and stare at them.
He did so, and still does - in fact is perfectly happy about it. He infuses his questions into the forms, causing reactions and finally a self-sustaining chain reaction. He called those so animated his children, knowing that they could answer his final question. He realized that all the time as Gold Dragon, his scales reflected every question back upon the asker, so all the time he never was able to question himself. But now his children can question him, and in doing so, will one day have answered all questions.

This is no religious theory, this is a well-known fact among all races.

Ret'Mayebism is a kind of scientific religion - they do the wishings of their god by asking questions about the world, by inquiring, by establishing theories and models. They established a standard on units and currency as well as the first consistent form of linear timekeeping. They keep knowledge in stones...another complex topic...creating some knowledge pool, since all stones have instant access to each other.
This includes scientific knowledge as well as herbal knowledge, knowledge about plant growth and harvest, everything.

Their public ceremonies are essentially educational displays of visualized science, and praying is focused on following individual thoughts and conclusions.
The central part of each ceremony is the eye stone on which it is held, some round stone with a flat top with a diameter of about 6m/20ft.

It's main function is best explained outgame by calling myself a bit of a nerd. I'm totally lost at programming or even configuring an OS, but I like the parts about model checkers, logical deduction, that stuff. Given a system as a set of facts and set of rules, is a given expression valid within the system? Inf fact, all about "consistency" of a system.
So in effect, the device performs more or less like a computer, or at least it could be used to do anything a computer can. However, it's not bound to physical representation of e.g. circuits, so it's not restricted to binary system, but can perform on anything you specify. This part of the device is considered mundane - at a level of understanding beyond normal humans, but still human-made. Ret'Mayeb could be called the interface. He is called upon to visualize examples of applied science.

The priests live the dream of every physics and chemistry teacher: They can set up whatever experiment conditions they want, visualize it, and see the perfect example of those conditions.

Peter is one of his followers. It is quite common that all kind of travellers arrive via cave-bubbles, but normally only from other caves. He is interested in further interaction...and so is everyone around.

In effect, the players now are encouraged to find out as much as they want, and especially what they want. If the want to "be a mage", they have to ask around. They will either have to hear an explanation of how magic works - or bring their own.
The main idea is - everybody around will gladly help them, contribute knowledge, hear their questions, ask some of their own. They are very tolerant, since questions and answers can be found everywhere.

Of course I'll also want to play it the other way round: It's here where the players write their background stories. They'd be asked about their professions, the kind of society they lived in - Ret'Mayebs followers follow a strict policy on certain topics like religion, and they will chose an overly formal approach of making sure about how to talk about which topic. If the players seem amused, they will be told that for example dwarfs freely get rid of their excrements and talk about it, but consider everything about food intake a taboo. Even the word "eating" is a word a decent dwarf would never use in public. The eat in single cabins and have an aw full lot of euphemistic expressions for each situation.

One final word for today:
The players will also learn that this is no big society, only an enclave. The cave is huge, some several thousand kilometers across. Another strange geological effect is that the ground is shifting like a slow ocean. Hills form and erode an the rate of up to several dozen meters a year, even moving along like wandering dunes, most about some meters per year, but some rare ones as fast as a meter a day. Stones and big rocks sink into and rise from the ground in a constant dance.
This makes permanent infrastructure almost impossible, so people there are "nomadic barbarians".

There are, however, also some "islands" among that slowly moving soil, lumps of rock and earth that don't sink...there's a story for it, but not, now. They are formins hills with some dozen kilometers across on which all ground is stable. The fact that most of the soil between those hills is grown by tall grass, just above normal human eyeheight, but slightly below "barbarian" eyeheight, makes most people rather afraid of travelling there, so each hill is rather isolated.
The hill the players are now on is called Ret.

The order of Ret'Mayeb only spans a part of the hill - that is, that's where the facilities that involve everyday people are. There are the schools, the libraries, and everyone ling there somehow strives for knowledge in the name of Ret'Mayeb.

Phew, it's late again...if you like, more on it later.
Drul

Uh, just now i noted how long this one got...you're brave if you got until here  ;D

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Sarcastic story hook
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2012, 09:08:11 PM »
Well, I read the whole thing. Not sure I understood everything, but most of it, I think. Anyway, sounds like a fascinating world setup you have created. The only thing that seems to be missing is a central conflict of some kind. Sounds like a paradise in some ways, but you need some type of conflict for a story. Some goal to achieve or some obstacle to overcome.

Perhaps this is just the world setup and you haven't gotten to the plot yet. Anyway, very interesting read.
David M. Roomes
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Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: Sarcastic story hook
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2012, 04:56:50 PM »
Thanks for your comments...I think you're right about the conflict aspect, I didn't mention any.

It's not like I don't have planned any conflict, but those are rather long-term, and not combat-oriented at all. Rather the opposite, I plan to involve some social unrest, interracial tensions, and obscure rulers with unknown goals...leading to situations where the PCs have to prevent that someone is killed - assuming they are good guys.
One day, Ret'Mayeb will fall silent, nobody knows why, but everyone has their own theory, and sadly enough, "know" who's to blame. Authority is dwindling and being repaced more and more by vigilantism and blood vengeance. And of course, some individuals have a very personal interested in further escalating. The PCs should be generally free to decide what the want to make of it.

In some way, I'll put the starting characters in a sandbox and have them complete a tutorial where everything is easy and every step is explained. Than I take them out of the sandbox and put them into the desert.

But maybe I'm overdoing something. I prefer conflicts that don't have a good and an evil participant, but rather involve brother fighting brother over the wording of a text passage.
But now I realize that I no not yet have any conflict that can be solved by combat, without leading to moral implications.

Well, balance is everything, so I think my next personal spotlight should be arse-kicking  :D

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Sarcastic story hook
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2012, 08:42:53 PM »
You should post here and let us know how things are progressing once you get started. I'm curious how this works in actual play. Sounds interesting and I'd love to read some summaries from game play.

Keep up the great work!
David M. Roomes
Creator of the World of Khoras