Archive for September 11th, 2006

September 11, 2006: 8:54 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Catching up on interesting things from around the RPG blogs, Chris “Bankuei” Chinn suggested a one sentence character concept maker:

A (personality trait) (profession) is (personal goal).

For example:

A forlorn air pirate is seeking the City of Gold.
A vengeful princess is engineering the downfall of the Empire.
A nebbish superhero is trying to get a date.
A compassionate necromancer is experimenting to raise the dead, in the good way.
A remorseful god is hoping to undo the tragedy he has wrought.

It’s something that can work across a variety of systems (as Chris points out), it creates characters who are already “in motion,” and it’d be great for NPCs too.

: 8:38 pm: Game systems

Clinton R. Nixon posted about a few interesting new games he found on the 1km1kt free RPGs page, and my favorite of the bunch is Satanic Mills:

An inhuman power hums in the shuttles and valves of a 19th century English factory town. An alien power that lies congealed in the cloth and steel manufactured there. A hostile power that twists bone, robs children of their youth, and turns neighbors against neighbors. It is more terrifying than any unholy spirit, slithering lifeform or doomsday device because this horror is real, grounded in social relations. It is alienation and it is generated anew each shift as men, women, and children toil at the machines.

That’s right, it’s an RPG based on Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation!

In a nutshell Marx’s Theory of Alienation is the contention that in modern industrial production under capitalist conditions workers will inevitably lose control of their lives by losing control over their work. Workers thus cease to be autonomous beings in any significant sense. Under pre-capitalist conditions a blacksmith, e.g., or a shoemaker would own his own shop, set his own hours, determine his own working conditions, shape his own product, and have some say in how his product is bartered or sold. His relationships with the people with whom he worked and dealt had a more or less personal character.

Under the conditions of modern factory production, by contrast, the average worker is not much more than a replaceable cog in a gigantic and impersonal production apparatus. Where armies of hired operatives perform highly monotonous and closely supervised tasks, workers have essentially lost control over the process of production, over the products which they produce, and over the relationships they have with each other. As a consequence they have become estranged from their very human nature, which Marx understood to be free and productive activity. Human beings cannot be human under these conditions, and for this reason the implication was obvious for Marx: Capitalism has to be abolished as much as any political oppression if a society’s emancipation is to be complete. Capitalism is just as incompatible with self-determination as absolute monarchy or any other autocratic system. But while an absolute monarchy limits people’s autonomy by controlling them in the sphere of politics, Capitalism does so by controlling their workplaces and their economic life. A society of truly free citizens, according to Marx, must therefor not only be a political, but also an economic and social democracy.

The rules for the game fill up only a two page PDF, which is pretty impressive given the complexity of the subject matter, so I might be tempted to actually run it if I get the opportunity. Whether or not that ends up happening, I’m darned impressed that someone even thought to base an RPG on something like this.