Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Experimental RPGing: Help, opinions, and insights needed!

Below are some experiments. I've just handwritten them and will type them into this post without editing. Here's what I'm wondering: Is this something you could actually use at the gaming table? Yes, they are descriptive and baroque (that's my schtick, I guess), but could you actually put these elements together and run a role-playing session with them? If not, how much in the way of stats and mechanics would you need? I want this to be completely system agnostic, allowing the judge to interpret the implementation of these . . . things . . . in whatever way seems right. So there is no "right" or "wrong" answer, I just need to know, could you, as a judge, take this and apply it at the table and run a game with it, applying mechanics as needed (and as implied, but not revealed outright, in the segments below). Granted, you'll have to put the pieces together to form some sort of arc or narrative motive. I'm not giving a story, just the pieces. I suppose it could be sandboxed, too. Can you make it work?

Note: I'm not asking you to do it, only asking if you can and if it would be worth your while.

I freely admit to be under the influence of the Brothers Quay, David Lynch, and Jan Svankmajer.

Here goes nothing:

King Leer (NPC):

A lecherous codger whose pinprick of a mind is focused on stripping and overpowering the meekest and most virtuous; a devotee to despoiling the purest of virgin minds and bodies, though incapable of physical consumation. Still, he is consumed with the notion of it all. An empty heart that seeks to empty hearts. His crown is bent, dented, and broken; his scepter is sullied (but which rod of lordly might?); robes ripped apart. He is a charlatan with a silver tongue, fast hands, and eyes that lie in wait to deceive. Money holds no charm for him, but hte lack of it in others does. His current queen hates him.

Sepia Lantern (Artifact/Object):

A porcelain lacework of pearlescent beauty gleams with a bright light, until lit. Enflamed, its ruddy brown glow casts those in its fitful shadows into a flickering series of mod-shifts. It can be doused, if one is in the right state of mind, and if the will provides a way.

How strong is your will this round? Enfeebled? Then how?


  1. Lust: for all at once. Jealous. Possessive. Violent.
  2. Despair: All-consuming, debilitating, unavoidable.
  3. Overjoy: Laughing, shouting for joy, maniacal. You don't need a reason. Reason has fled.
  4. Fear: Of everyone, of every shadow. They all want to hurt you. Scram or scream!
  5. Pride: You are so much better than every one of them. Tell them how!
  6. Jealousy: You need their attention. They cannot, they must not, turn their attention to another. Otherwise, they hate you.
  7. Petulence: You can't be told what to do. And you know they want you to do something, even if they aren't saying so. Rebel! Defy!
  8. Jollity: Everyone is joking. Life is a joke. Death is a joke. Everything is funny!
The Cloud Chamber (Location):

The most holy of holies; the wisp of the will; aether, ether, and the tendrils in-between. Nirvana or numbness? Apotheosis-inducing balm or the introduction of abject boredome?

Only the very wise may discern the shapes of the clouds and predict the winds. But only the very foolish trust in what they see. Mists of potential? Billowing possibility?

Or just one more illusion?

Ride the currents and witness the future. Or what you think it might be.

The Sympathetic Hare (NPC):

The Sympathetic Hare's ears have the wigglies! Or are those Delerium Tremens? The Sympathetic Hare is in tune with you, wants what is best for you. Until he doesn't. You always want him to be on your side, and he wants to be on your side . . . for a time. It's all dependent on your personality. When luck is on your side, he will be your most dependable listener - look at those wiggly ears! He'll help you to hear whatever you want to hear, then, he will tell you what to want to hear. Then, when your luck runs out, you will hear nothing for a stretch. You will want him back. You will yearn for him, crave his presence, but once he's gone, he won't come back. Eventually, you will hear for yourself again, but always with the distant sound of lucky feet thumping a hollow log, and the hollow log is your heart, ever beating in rhythm with the friend you will never, ever see again.

Occam's Razorio (Item):

Straitedge damascus steel with a baroque bone handle betraying its purpose: to betray. Cuts to the truth: physically, on its victim's neck; literally by the incontrovertible truth spoken by the victim about the wielder. The cutter is cut by revelatory truths that she may not want revealed. But Occam's Razorio never lies, and it doesn't care who is listening; only that an absolute truth - previously hidden to all but the wielder - is revealedto everyone not the wielder. The truth hurts.

The Sheet That Will Not Melt (Location):

Parched air over the rust mounds, and in the midst of the tinkling red hills, a blue eye, ice, cold to the touch and carven with curlicues of shaved ice under departed blades. There is no relief from the eye-crusting dryness, despite the  clear (so clear!) presence of water solid. No matter how you try, it cannot melt. Not a drop of it. And you are so thirsty. Beneath the surface, past skaters stare back: Those curious who stared too long at those curious who stared too long. How long is too long? The ignorant need not query. And the only danger is in asking. It is the intelligent found most foolish here; the inquisitive trapped by their own insatiable need to know: Who? Why? When? By what power?

The Butcher Bride (NPC):

Beauty incarnate, carniverous. Crinolene dress, corset, and cutting. Wields a makeup kit, a smooth voice, hazel eyes, and a pair of meat cleavers. She does not take kindly to those that bleed on her dress, hence its incarnadine flush and stiffness. She was once King Leer's queen, until the regicide. After his slaughter, but before his resurrection (and subsequent remarriage to another, then another, then . . .), she left him. On the rare occasion that he sees her, he shrinks. She does not see him. She only sees her unknowable motives. She only sees red.

The Confessional Booth (Artifact):

Here, lies are transparent, the truth a foregone conclusion. Half-truths and half-lies find the greatest possible reward. But the pale gray of twilight, the sickly indigo pre-dawn are both treacherous. Still, maybe, only maybe, but maybe!

Lies bind the tongue for days,
Truths blind the eyes as long,
The middle path of sullied candor:
  1. The tongue hath never been so large a member. Eat not, drink not, speak not: the healthier you are, the longer the tongue lives. You can spare it.
  2. I cannot hear near, but afar, so far afield that infant's breathing is as the sound of a a mighty rushing wind.
  3. I understand your speech, dear stranger, but my eyes are strangers to your words. Speak, I pray you, whatever language and I will hear. Write, and I shall not comprehend, not even my own script, for a fortnight.
  4. I see the unseeable, but to my own kind I am blind. Ethereal boundaries are drawn and known, material boundaries forgotten, for a day and a night.
  5. Silver have I none: All that I have is turned to gold, in truth.
  6. My half-truth giveth the weight of veracity to my next three lies.
_________________

If you dare venture further: Part II.

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