Famine I

My ongoing game design will be called Famine. This is the first of many posts.

I don’t design every project the same way. I’m not built that way. Some designers are craftsmen and tackle everything with the same verve and personality. I wish I could do that, but… well, now I’m just repeating myself.

In this instance, I am starting with an idea that arose from watching the movies Chronos and Let the Right One In (ostensibly the same film). In this game, the players are drawn by some kind of Hunger (ironically, I’ve not seen the film, The Hunger — but don’t worry, I will before this is over).

So. I’m going to start with my design objective. What I know so far is that I want the players to be “undead” in a constant state of hunger. But not the new-age vampires that have become so popular (twice now) in the last 20 years. At this stage, they are just some kind of generic undead (ghouls, revenants, whatever) that must feed to stay alive. I know I need a conflict, so that means two stats (at least) in opposition to one another and perhaps a player at the table who will always play your foil (conscience, forces of nature, and so on).

Hunger of course will be one stat and Willpower another. Because the players are undead, they’ll need some sort of Power Score as well to indicate how easy or hard it is to do something. I don’t want to rely on this kind of design crutch too early, so I may hold off on that. By virtue of being undead, maybe they can do things that are really cool already. We’ll see.

With this kind of game, mood is everything and in order to really capture the ever-present fear of starving, I’m want the players only rolling dice in the most dire of situations. When the dice come out, that means things are bad, or about to get much worse.

Success and failure should be WIDE extremes.

Invariably, the players are going to grow more and more hungry as the game goes, so failing should happen more often than success. Which means a game with a d6 (for instance) would probably have a 5-6 as a success on a single die. Already I’m seeing the value of a die system like the one from Jovian Chronicles, so I’m considering borrowing what I need from that.

We also need something for the players to do. What is the crisis? What is the thing in front of them? If I were designing a traditional RPG with a GM, this answer is very easy. The players are hungry and it’s the GM’s job to keep them hungry. Possible, but it’s lazy design. And I don’t intend to go that route just yet, especially with such a cool nemesis angle above.

Hungry creatures might have favorite places to hunt, food stores, and a warren to hide when things get dangerous. Without copying too much from the WoD, I think those three things could also make interesting stats on a character sheet. Or communal stats that everyone must protect.

I think I have enough ideas to get started. I just need to write up some notes, make a character sheet, give it a quick run through, and then figure out how a scene works.