This exercise was taken from wyrmul’s Tales of a Thousand Seas
1. What are the musical themes of this world and its characters? What would the soundtrack contain? What instruments would best illustrate the tone of the world? Create a soundtrack that inspires the emotions of the Story World.
The music should be environmental, but urban, combining the emotional qualities of instruments such as the violin, piano, and guitar with contemporary elements such as R&B, electronica, and drum and bass, pop, and metal. A great example composer would be Shoji Meguro, composer behind many of the recent Shin Megami Tensei games, as well as Japanese electronica artist and composer Shiro Sagisa. Other artists that would be influential would be Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill fame), Marilyn Manson, Imogen Heap, Basement Jaxx, Pendulum, Emiliana Torrini, Aya, Lotus Juice, and Evanescence. It should have a generally eclectic feel, but should also have a real edge to it.
2. What is the core feeling or emotion of the setting?
The game should feel dark and edgy, as a general rule. A loss of innocence is a common theme, as well as general feelings of despair. However, despite this, there is hope in the world, and determination in the face of such oppressive feelings. Even though the characters are aware of their fates, they continue to act against it, if only to preserve the happiness of others around them. In this way, the campaign should convey a sense of responsibility and martyrdom.
3. What is the world-view presented by the game master?
The world view presented is one of moral ambiguity. There are two powerful forces at work in the world- the forces of Heaven, and the forces of Hell. At first glance, this is a clear cut case of good versus evil, but as is prone to happen, there are plenty of situations in which one cannot be sure just which side is supposed to be which. Advocates of Heaven can be as cruel as any devil, and the representatives of Hell may ultimately be as human as any given character, causing the characters and their players to really examine why they believe what they believe.
4. What is the ideal attitude of the players in response to the setting?
Objectivity. While characters are encouraged to react strongly to things, this iteration of Rise is not one in which the characters are encouraged to act as agents of benevolence. The goal of the players is merely to investigate and police the activities of spirits on Earth, and at the core, the game is a mystery game- and as such, staying a little detached and taking in all sides of the situation is advised.
5. What kinds of major conflicts will the characters face? How difficult are the levels of major conflict? Are the conflicts beatable (as in high fantasy) or impossibly dire (as in Lovecraftian horror)?
It’s a bit divided. As mortal characters, the players will have difficulty truly defeating the ghost they encounter, not to mention the myriad of angels, demons, and other spiritual forces that outmatch even the most potent human soul by far. The conflicts are primarily supposed to be handled non-directly. While combat will occur on occasion, it typically should be an act of self defense. While their opponents are not “impossibly dire”, they are certainly not intended to be taken down in your average five rounds. Rather, they are only meant to be held off temporarily while a more permanent solution can be devised.
6. Are there answers to the mysteries of the story, or are the deeper issues left open, ironic, or unsolvable? Are the heroes able to win, only capable of surviving, or able to win but at a high price or through a great sacrifice?
There are three layers of mystery to this game- minor mysteries, which are presented on a once-per-session basis and are expected to be resolved within a single session. These are the meat of the game, serving as the main “encounter” for the cast. There are then larger mysteries, which serve as over-arching plot lines for individual characters and NPCs, which may or may not be resolved, but should at least be outlined enough so that the players understand the true nature of the situation by the end of the campaign. Finally, there are major mysteries, which encompass the whole of the setting. While these may be hinted at and new theories may arise to explain them as time goes on, most of them will never truly be solved.
As far as the heroes being able to win, they can never truly win- they can only hold their ground, and prevent themselves from sliding down the slippery slope as they do what they do.
7. In what camp will the conflicts be based: physical, emotional, political and social threats, psychological threats, spiritual threats? Will the adventure challenge the body, the intellect, or the emotional weaknesses of the character?
Spiritual, emotional, and social, with some physical. The adventures will primarily challenge the intellect, but there will be plenty of cases in which a particularly nasty spirit may take a stab at the psyche of a vulnerable PC.
8. If this adventure was captured in a piece of artwork, what would it look like: color, texture, oils, watercolors, figures, subject…? If this world was captured as a movie, what would the first five minutes look like? Design a series of promotional movie posters that clearly illustrate the tone of the Story World.
Charcoal based, gritty, dark, lots of blurred lines and heavy hues, mostly depicting portraits and urban scenes. As a movie, the film would open with an otherwise normal looking scene out of a person’s life, but there would be elements of cinematography that would suggest something sinister, up until the very end of the scene, at which point something truly horrifying and unexplainable would occur, shattering the peace and showing that, even in the most placid times there is a darkness present.
Posters would show solitary shots of the various PCs as they walk through a large metropolitan area, with the character shown clearly observing as both phantasms and people move about their business, neither group aware of the activities of the other.
9. What is the fundamental philosophy of life adopted by the game master/author? What is the overall purpose of the game master/author when it comes to creating an effect? What emotion or series of emotions does the game master/author want to evoke in the audience, players, reader as they experience the world and its conflicts? What literary devices, images, music, sound effects, props, will best serve these emotions?
Life is what you make it, even in the limited frame of time that one exists. Despite the fact that there are some very cruel inevitabilities, we are born with free will, and we can always stand up to face our own fates. The game will try to create effects that cause both the characters and their players to think a little deeper- about the situation at hand, and about the nature of their world and their lives. It is an introspective experience, and a highly cathartic one, I feel, to contemplate the gravity of death and judgment. This game should evoke feelings of awareness, and cause everyone involved to look inward. Music, lighting, distorted sound effects, and mundane tools taken from the modern world can really help to show the contrast between a world centered on the moment, and a world centered on eternity.
10. Create a chapter of a design bible for the world that contains colors, textures, images, lyrics and collections of written imagery and poetry that capture the emotional content of the Story World.
I have all sorts of things, but those will have to be uploaded later, since they are primarily on the hard drive of my out of commission desktop.
11. Create a piece of artwork that clearly establishes the tone of the game. Compose an instrumental piece of music that establishes the tone. Write the beginning of a short story or novel (up to two pages) whose primary purpose is to establish the tone of the world. Write a diary entry from the point of view of a character inhabiting the world; capture this character’s feelings in response to the world.
Some images of mine that really feel like the game world to me-
- “Swan Song”- backstory for Tibor Gavrilov, PC from the original Rise, written by myself.
- “Sense of Life”- backstory for Alicia Roman, PC from the original Rise, as written by ethersphere
- “The Mirror is Empty, the Mirror is Gray”- backstory for Jody Sondheim, PC from the original Rise, as written by Mamelon
- The intro to Tenants, an adventure from the original Rise, written by myself
- “The Story of Lorna Bellefountaine”, a piece of fiction written to introduce the BBEG of the first Rise campaign, written by myself
12. Use the tone list to come up with a one, two or three word description of the overall tone of the game.
Ominous, introspective, mature, gritty.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
- Valkyrie Profile
- Shadow Hearts
- Silent Hill
- Kagero: The Deception
- Death Note
- Witch Hunter Robin
- Vampire Princess Miyu
- Ghost in the Shell
- The original Rise game, obviously
- In Nomine
- The Chronicles of Aerie
- Call of Cthulu
- Taylor Caldwell’s Dialogues with the Devil
- C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters
- C.S. Lewis’ The Perelandra Trilogy
- Law and Order
- Paranormal State