Initial Thoughts

I’m trying to create a game that produces stories in the “epic fantasy” genre, stories like JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, or Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth.

My first thought is that I want world and character creation to be a sort of reverse-oracle mechanic. I want various discrete themes and ideas to coalesce into evocative characters or facts about the world (somewhat inspired by what I’ve heard about Shock, although I haven’t read that yet). So you might get “small”, “responsibility”, “inheritance”, and “ring” and come up with Frodo Baggins. The various discrete words will be nodes positioned in some kind of 2D space, and the connections between the nodes that constitute the characters will be somehow meaningful (for example, you can measure the length of the line created with your dividers to generate some stat).

Next, since changing the world is central to epic fantasy plots, you can take those characters and figure out which of their stars are on the rise and which are in decline. This will pin the different characters to specific story roles, such as Representative of the Status Quo (must be destroyed or transformed at the end of the story), Agent of Change (actively pushing for the world to be changed), Catalyst for Change (advocates for the world to be changed, but acts through others), Bridge to the Past (some holdover from what the world was like before the status quo was established). As examples: Frodo is a Representative of the Status Quo (idyllic life in the shire, departs world by end of story), Sauron is an Agent of Change (wants world to be dominated by evil), and Gandalf is a Catalyst for Change (convinces others to act to bring freedom to the world).

I’m not sure how to work it in yet, but a Burning Wheel style concession system might be involved somewhere. It’s pretty clear to me that the player running Gandalf was pushing for “freedom for the world”, but the Sauron player did a “yes, but magic leaves the world” on him.

I think there will also need to be a way to dynamically generate new side characters during play. One of those methods may be to create “dark mirrors” of existing characters so they have some identical traits and some opposite traits. Saruman is a dark mirror of Gandalf (they’re both wizards, but one stays in one place and the other wanders). In the Sword of Truth, the Mord Sith are dark mirrors of the Confessors.

Obviously none of this is fully baked yet, but these are my initial thoughts.

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