How To Write A "New-Age Mythic" Game
Step 1: The Theme Of The Game Is The Character You Play
In most games, the theme is related to either the setting or the genre. So in D&D, you can play any kind of heroic fantasy character. In Star Wars you play characters within the Star Wars universe.
But in an NAMG, the theme of the game is that you all play characters of a certain nature, be it wizards, rats*, or second-hand life insurance salesmen. This is typically a "species" of some kind, but it can be a role.
* I put this in as a joke, but I have since found out that a certain well-known company does in fact have a supplement which allows you to play a rat.
Step 2: Call It "Something: The Something Else"
...where "something" is the type of character you play.
The "Something Else" doesn't really have to have any meaning at all, and is primarily there because you generally can't trademark the "something" on its own.
It's difficult to trademark a word like "Wizard" because it is an everyday word. But you could trademark a phrase made up by yourself, like: "Wizard: The Magical War".
Step 3: Set It In A World Almost Like Our Own
Crucial step this. Your NAMG will not be set in a fantasy or future-fantasy setting. It will be set on Earth, either in the present day, or in the near-future.
Except that it's not quite like our Earth. It's close enough that the players will have some familiarity with the setting, but different enough that they will still have to buy "guidebooks" you publish for each geographical area.
On the surface, it is our world, but below it, hidden from the normal people (that's basically everyone who isn't one of the "something") is a parallel society.
This society has its own rules, its own rulers and its own places. The members of that society (e.g. the "something") know the real truth of the world. The rest haven't got a fucking clue.
The beauty of this is that is allows players to fantasise that this real world, is actually the world of the NAMG, and the "something" are actually out there, thus making the roleplaying experience more real. Of course, the disadvantage is that disturbed players might actually start to believe that the real world is the world of the NAMG, and thus be led into making truly horrific fashion mistakes.
Step 4: Have Some Overall "Purpose"
It's not enough to just create a setting where characters strive to achieve whatever the hell kind of goals they happen to have. This isn't Traveller.
There must be some kind of overall purpose to the game. The "something" don't just happen to exist. There is some significance to their existence. (That's significance with a capital 'S').
You can't make this too over the top. The players must believe that the characters they are playing are really, really important. The more ludicrous and preposterous the premise, the better. And if you can tie it into existing myth or religion, possibly in some kind of distorted manner, that's even better.
But we've probably been giving too many rules, and not enough explanations. Let's start constructing our example game.
NOTE:- The purpose of the example shown is to satirise the tendency of certain companies to take perfectly normal, perhaps even mundane, cultures, peoples, legends and details, and significantise them with a capital S (i.e. assign them a cosmic level of significance). We have chosen to use a particular group as a vehicle of that satire. It is not intention to in any way attack that group.
Step 1: The Characters
In our game, the players will play members of the Homo, an ancient people who have coexisted with the rest of humanity since the dawn of time.
Step 2: The Name
We will call our NAMG "Homo: The Buggering".
Step 3: The Setting
This is a world just like our own. But take a wrong turning late at night, go into the wrong bar, and you will find a world strangely different. It will be full of men, but not men like you know. They're witty, and charismatic, and they seem to understand the arcane rules of clothing colour combination in a way you thought only women could. And come to mention women, there don't seem to be any round here...
Step 4: The Overall Purpose
Okay. Let's take some stuff from the bible, spin it through 180 degrees, and come up with something really stupid.
In the beginning was the void. And it was without form. Obviously, it was a void. Anyway - following a phased six-day implementation strategy, God was responsible for the creation of the universe, the world, and man.
Sorry. Been talking to too many marketeers. Let's try again.
God made the world, and us. It took him six days.
On the sixth day, he created people, two of them, so they wouldn't get lonely. They were identical of shape and form. He called the first Veadame and the second Edameva. So that they might have somewhere to dwell, he created a paradise he called Eden. Veadame and Edameva lived happily together at first. They shared tasks. Neither was in charge. They were equal, without conflict.
Then the serpent came. God had told them never to eat the fruit of the tree at the centre of Eden, but the serpent tempted them.
(I'll skip the long boring details of what he said. If we were doing this as a NAMG we'd have a comic strip at the front to explain all this crap, but we aren't and we haven't, so I won't bother).
As you might imagine, God was not terribly amused by this turn of events, and he realised that humanity was not yet ready to live as co-dependant equals.
So he merged Veadame and Edameva, then split them again. Now they were man, Adam, and woman, Eve. Adam would hunt, and build things, and sulk when they fell down three hours later. Eve would cook, clean, bear children, collect berries and water, make clothes, operate the photocopier...
(alright they're weren't any photocopiers in the garden of Eden, but they must have included the genetic programming in there in advance, 'cous women just seem to understand photocopiers)
...and try not to laugh when Adam's shelves fell down.
Men were given the vigour, the aggression, a certain degree of spatial awareness skills, and an ability to have fun whilst being ignorant of the suffering of others.
Women were given the compassion, the intuition, the emotional stability and the common sense.
(Some people have suggested that women got the shit end of the stick in this deal. They're probably right.)
From that point on, there were men and women. But it was not supposed to be this way for ever. One day, when humanity had gained enough maturity, it would return to the unified state. There would be no men, and no women, just people.
At the beginning of time was an Eden. So too at the end of time would there be an Eden. The memory of what had been needed to be kept alive. So God created the Homo.
The Homo would live among mankind. Through oral history, and cultural practice, they would keep alive the memory of what had been, and the knowledge of what was to come.
They would do this through an activity, a ritual, that they termed "The Buggering".
Step 4a: Contradict The Purpose
Later on, you should bring out other games that are set within the same universe, but whose purpose contradicts the purpose in the original game. (E.g. if the characters in one game are correct in their view of the whys of the universe, then characters in the other game must be wrong).
Step 5: Powerful Nemesis
Linked in with the overall purpose, should be a people or race or entity who are striving against whatever the purpose is.
Step 6: Have Groups / Tribes / Clans / Sects / Guilds Etc.
You should create a number of groupings within the setting, with each character belonging to a single group. The choice of group influences not only the character's role within the setting, but also the personality, abilities and objectives of the character.
There is one very important reason why you should have separate groups. It enables you to write a players guidebook (often termed a "splatbook") for each separate group, thus increasing your sales manyfold. And when you've done that, you can even write a book for characters who don't belong to a group (you need to define a special name for such characters, as they kindof make a group in themselves).
First you need to decide what your groups will be called.
At first the Homo were united. But over the millennia, they split, into separate lifestyles.
Then you come up with the groups themselves (you want at least half a dozen, preferably more). We won't bother coming up with a complete list of Lifestyles for the Homo. But here are a couple of examples:
Butch: The Butch are the warriors of the Homo. They tend to dress in leather, and sport bushy moustaches.
Fay: The Fay are the artists of the Homo. They are creative and intuitive, and often work in the theatre or advertising.
Step 6a: The Dead Group
There should always be a group who no longer exist, and are now shrouded in myth and legend.
I was tempted to do something here about the ancient Greeks... but perhaps not.
Step 6b: The Evil Group
There should always be a group (in our example a "lifestyle") who are actively working against the "purpose" described in step 4. (Preferably, they should be working for the enemies described in step 5).
Not sure about this one, but they'd probably be in the "closet", and working for various right-wing political parties and "pro-family" groups.
Step 7: Extra Powers
The characters - who are after all members of the special race or people - should have more and better abilities than normal people. Basically you want munchkins to be able to just ignore all the "angst" and "purpose" and "moral conflict" built into the setting, and instead power-build combat-monsters.
Well we've already said that the Homo are more charismatic and have more taste than is the norm.
Step 8: No Advantages Or Disadvantages
Many games have some concept of advantages and disadvantages that can be used to flesh out a character. This is not the case for a NAMG. You should not include any such rules in your rulebook.
They go in the Players Guide which you will release three months later.
Step 9: Make The Character Sheet Crap
Don't worry about the character sheet in your standard rulebook being particularly useful.
You can always publish a better one in the Players Guide, and better ones still in the splatbooks for the various groups.
Step 10: Use Archaic Terminology
When you are writing your rules, the last thing you must do is call a spade a spade. The thesaurus is your friend.
If you want to have an attribute which measures strength, do not call it strength. Instead, find an obscure word, not used in everyday conversation since the 17th century, and use that instead.
Step 11: Don't Call The Party, The "Party"
Never call the party, the "party". Think of a posh name to use instead.
Step 12: Catchy Phrases
Come up with some catchy phrases to describe the game, something poetical, possibly from the Keats era.
Step 13: LARP
At some point release an LARP version using Paper Scissors Stone...
Step 14: The T-Shirts
Don't forget to release T-shirts with obscure images from the main book, which by second edition will have the dodgy (but possibly grittier) graphics in it removed and the marketable ones inserted.
Step 15: The Second Edition
And finally, the second edition. Make sure that the first edition includes enough mistakes and limitations that you are able to produce a second edition just a few years after the first.
Copyright © 2002 Critical Miss Gaming Society