A bit of tech for starting a campaign

I started thinking about what my ideal game would have, and I’ve been forming a list as I think of things.  Maybe someday I’ll put it all together into a game, but for now I’m going to post things as I think of them.  This particular bit of tech comes from these list items.  My ideal game would:

  • Mechanically support external elements that poke at internal conflicts.
  • Support Character Centered Paradigm play.
  • Support campaign style play. 
  • Empower the players to choose themes for the campaign.

So I started thinking about ways to do this, and this is what I came up with.  I’ve tried to keep it system independent, so that it could be used as a way to start a variety of traditional games, and as a way to provide subject matter fuel for ongoing campaigns.

At the very beginning of pre-game prep, before character creation proper, each player constructs a one-sentence character concept and picks an internal conflict.  Then the other players create a game element that provokes this internal conflict in some way – a Foil.  A Foil has some maximum number of details it may contain, depending on how detailed a situation is desired.  Five seems reasonable, ten seems pretty detailed.  For each detail a player adds to another player’s Foil, they get a point.  A player can veto a particular detail suggested for their Foil by spending a point.  In this case, the player who suggested the detail is awarded no points.  Then each player decides on a condition which will indicate that their Foil is no longer relevant to their internal conflict.

Once each player’s Foil is fully detailed, the players begin to build the current situation.  One round of the situation building process works like this: each player suggests one aspect of the current situation, and bids up to 3 points to make it happen.  Any other player can veto the suggestion for an equivalent number of points.  If the suggestion is not vetoed, this aspect becomes part of the current situation and the player who suggested it spends the appropriate number of points.  At the end of the round, if any player still has points, another round commences until there are no remaining points.

Finally, each player forms a goal related to the current situation, and the players agree on a condition which signals the end of the current story arc.  Over the course of the story arc, players earn points by accomplishing their goals and reaching the condition that makes their Foil irrelevant.  If that situation also resolves their internal conflict, the player earns a point and chooses a new internal conflict.  When the story arc concludes, the group creates Foils for any character without one, and the situation building process recommences.

I haven’t yet worked out the exact details of what is worth how many points and so forth, but I expect some ideas about that will come from playtesting.  Of course, this system isn’t for everyone.  It’s specifically tailored to support a style of play I enjoy, which others may not.  But maybe it’s worth a shot just to see if it results in more useful character backgrounds, supporting cast, and character goals for the GM to play with.

EDIT: This also seems like a way to let the GM focus on plot (as they often want to), instead of situation, at least at first.

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