Pillars of Strength

15 12 2007

I just watched Gladiator again, which is one of my favorite movies– if not my VERY favorite movie– of all time. Soooo good. That, mixed into an awesome conversation with Shreyas, and some brainstorming with Charlotte, has my head swimming with Audeamus.

There are three bases of power in this game– Personal, Political, and Populus. Personal power is your own honor and integrity; it is drawing strength from within yourself. Political power is your reach and influence; it is drawing strength from your connections. Populus power is your connection to the masses; it is drawing strength from the mob. When you build towers, you build from one of these three bases; when the dice fall, some of them may fall into a different base of influence– but the more you put into one base, the less you’ll have in the other three.

Talking to Shreyas yesterday, he had a massively clever idea about deconstructing the notion of setting— instead of spending pages going over local flavor of the area and other minutae, why not break setting down into sets? Name and describe small, specific places that the game takes place in, with lots of color and points of interest. Maybe mention how many people a set can comfortably hold. He’s really going to town on this for Mist Robed Gate, and I was thinking of riffing off of it for Audeamus.

There are TYPES of sets– nothing specific. Every location in a game falls into this category, and must incorporate parts of the feeling and hooks. Each type of set has a primary base of power and a secondary base of power; the third type is absent. IE, if you’re on a set which is primarily Personal and secondarily Populus, you can’t be challenged on a Political level.

Each set must incorporate three of the descriptors of its type; these sets do not have to SPECIFICALLY be an Arena, or a Market, or what have you. Example: a scene set in a barracks– with the clank of chains and swords, mistrust, and no clear victories– would be an Arena scene.

So here’s the set types I have so far:

  • The Frontier always has inhospitable weather, too hot or too cold or too generally inclimate for Roman sensibilities. It smells of burning pitch and spilled blood. It is always far from home; every comfort feels hard-won. Brutal, cruel, and dark. The Frontier is primarily Personal, and mildly Political.
  • Home is a personal set defined for each character during character generation. It does not have to be the character’s current place of residence; it is the place they hold in their heart as their personal sanctuary. Be sure to define sights, smells, and sounds, as well as a type of weather associated with it. Home is primarily Personal, and mildly Populus.
  • The Market is filled with the sounds of tinkling bells and haggling, choked by the smell of exotic spices. There is nothing here which cannot be purchased for the right price, with the right currency. It is a press of humanity. The Market is primarily Populus, and mildly Political.
  • The Arena smells of death and sweat; there are thousands of people shouting and cheering, warring with the clank of chains and swords. Here, “winning” just means that you lose less than someone else. Nothing here can be trusted. The Arena is primarily Populus, and mildly Personal.
  • The Senate smells of incense; every word and footstep echoes on the marble. It is pure, white, and clean, but behind nobility lurks treachery. As a result, it is just as dangerous as The Arena, and compromise is a necessary evil. The Senate is primarily Political, and mildly Populus.

Hmmm. Still need one which is primarily Political and mildly Personal. Maybe the Temple?